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Author photo. Image from <b><i>Zionist work in Palestine</i></b> (1911) edited by Israel Cohen

Image from Zionist work in Palestine (1911) edited by Israel Cohen

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Theodor Herzl was born in Hungary to secular, German-speaking Jewish parents. He's considered the father of modern political Zionism. It is said that he was inspired by the idea when, as a journalist, he was covering the Dreyfus trial in Paris in 1894 and witnessed crowds screaming not "Death to Dreyfus," but "Death to the Jews." Another event that had a great effect on his political thought was the rise to power of the anti-Semitic demagogue Karl Lueger in Austria in 1895. It was at this time that Herzl wrote his play "The New Ghetto," showing the lack of real security and equality of even assimilated, well-to-do Viennese Jews. Herzl grew to believe that anti-Semitism could not be defeated or cured, only avoided, and that it was imperative for Jews to leave Europe and establish their own Jewish state. In 1889 he married Julie Naschauer; the couple had three children, though the union was unhappy. His most famous work, Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) was initially published in 1896. In 1897, he organized the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, at which he was elected President of the Zionist Organization (later renamed the World Zionist Organization). However, Herzl did not live to see the fulfillment of his ideal -- he died of heart disease at the age of 44.
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