Theodor Herzl, the playwright and literary-critic turned prophet and founder, is the greatest Jew of all. Like Bilbo Baggins, the father of modern Zionism had an unexpected journey. A bearded Viennese of high culture and fine art, he went through a transformation around 1895 – he decided it was time to recreate the Jewish state. With the help of many others, Herzl applied his vast literary skills and his newly-discovered organizational skills, to form a world-wide movement – Zionism.
Through Herzl, the pale-faced, pogrom-stricken, mud-dwelling masses of European Jewry found a cause, indeed salvation. Within two generations Herzl’s dream was realized in the founding of a new, Hasmonean Jewish state – a state of farmer-soldiers, a custodian of her people’s ancient heritage and timeless landscapes.
The best biography I am familiar one is this, by Amos Elon.
Herzl’s project was a project of revival. Of recreation. And this is why his story can teach American conservatives so much. We too aspire for a revival. For the recreation of our state in the image of her Anglo-Western founding. We too begin from a position of a scattered ragtag team of Proud Boys and Young Republicans, Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, Libertarians and Pro-Lifers. Herzl teaches us the dual engine of his success: A political organization accompanied with local enthusiasm. A big dream, an exciting vision, sincerity, and eventually – success.
Herzl’s story also teaches us that large projects are generational projects. Like a starship carrying colonists to a new star-system, the fathers may not live to see the success of their sons. But in Herzl’s words, “if you will it, it is not a dream.”