By Yehuda Glick
President of the Shalom Jerusalem Foundation and former Member of Knesset
This week marks the 115th anniversary of the death of one of the most significant Jews of the last few centuries – Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl.
Nowadays it seems as if a Jewish state for the Jewish People is an obvious thing, but in 1896, when Herzl published his book “The State of the Jews”, there was nothing farther from reality than a state for the Jewish People.
So much so, that the publishing house that Herzl worked at refused to publish the book, as did other Jewish-owned publishing houses.
After Herzl finally found a small bookstore in Vienna that agreed to publish the book, tremendous pressure was brought to bear on him to not go through with it. Herzl stood up to this pressure and was determined to publish the book. Once published, the reactions to the book were not only cold, but met with great scorn and sharp criticism. The Austrian Jewish writer Stefan Zweig wrote that no one in Vienna had ever been ridiculed like Herzl.
The editor of the newspaper “Neue Freie Presse”, where Herzl worked, forbade mention of the book in the paper.
This sharp criticism came from both the Jews and non-Jews, and both from the academic and political spheres.
Today, more than 70 years after the founder of Zionism’s vision was published, it can be stated with certainty that Herzl laid the foundation stones that were used fifty years later for the foundation of the State of Israel, that he is worthy of the title “The State’s Visionary” and that the State of Israel is the fulfillment of his vision.
The State of Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, a modern and prosperous state. The State of Israel currently has over 9 million citizens, 7 million of whom are Jews.
Israeli exports currently stand at about $120 billion a year and are constantly growing. (Ten years ago, in 2009, exports stood at $66 billion.)
The State of Israel has become a world center for high-tech and innovation in the fields of technology, medicine, agriculture among others.
Now it’s time we ask ourselves: What’s next? Where are we headed?
When we open the Tanach it becomes clear that thousands of years ago, the prophets of the Book of Books prophesied the Exodus of the People of Israel from the Land of Israel for a prolonged exile, and the return of the People of Israel to their land. Four thousand years ago, God chose Abraham and assures him that his descendants will inherit this land. Time after time God concludes his blessings to the three patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – with the statement “All the families of the earth will be blessed through you”.
Today, when we are witnessing the fulfillment of God’s blessing to Abraham that his descendants will return to the Land of Israel thanks to Herzl’s Zionist actions and vision – which were the realization of the prophecies of the Bible. Today, in the next generation of Zionism, we must continue to initiate and take action. We must act to bring about the fulfillment of more and more of the words of the prophets, until the end of days and the complete redemption. We must fulfill our destiny and spiritual duty to be “a light unto the nations” and to serve as a conduit to God’s blessing for all nations of the world.
The miracles that take place every day for the Jewish people in the State of Israel will serve as the source of blessings for all the peoples of the world and for all mankind.