Written by Shlomo Avineri
Review by Ray Taylor

Theodor Herzl, even though he died at an early age in 1904, is widely considered to have been the main influencing force behind the eventual creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948.

At first Herzl had no political ambitions, and he was by no means an independent public figure. But in 1896 he published a pamphlet entitled “The Jewish State” that called for a political-territorial solution to the Jewish question. The following year he convened a Zionist Congress in Basel. Herzl’s phenomenal achievement was that he transformed the notion of a political solution to the Jewish question from an idea debated by a handful of Jewish intellectuals sitting in cafés and writing in Jewish journals to eventually becoming a challenge for the international community.

Avineri includes some wonderful glimpses into Herzl the man. On a visit to Jerusalem he found the Western Wailing Wall, its holiest Jewish site, repulsive because the place was “pervaded by a hideous, wretched, speculative beggary. At least, this is the way it was when we were there, yesterday evening and this morning”.

When the modern state of Israel was founded in 1948, Herzl had been dead over 40 years, but he is extremely well honoured in the number of streets and towns named after him. There is even a Mount Herzl in Jerusalem where his tomb lies. This book contains a wonderful selection of evocative photographs of the period. This book will be of great interest both to the casual reader and the more knowledgeable student of this period.