Theodor Herzl תֵּאוֹדוֹר הֶרְצְל; Hungarian: Hebrew name given at his brit milah Binyamin Ze’ev בִּנְיָמִין זְאֵב), also known in Hebrew as חוֹזֵה הַמְדִינָה, ‘Visionary of the State’; 2 May 1860 – 3 July 1904 was an Austro-Hungarian Jewish journalist, playwright, political activist, and writer who was the father of modern political Zionism. Herzl formed the Zionist Organization and promoted Jewish immigration to Palestine with the goal to form a Jewish state. Though he died before its establishment, he is known as the father of the State of Israel.
Herzl is specifically mentioned in the Israeli Declaration of Independence and is officially referred to as “the spiritual father of the Jewish State”, i.e. the visionary who gave a concrete, practicable platform and framework to political Zionism. However, he was not the first Zionist theoretician or activist; scholars, many of them religious such as rabbis Yehuda Bibas, Zvi Hirsch Kalischer and Judah Alkalai, promoted a range of proto-Zionist ideas before him.
Theodor Herzl was born in the Tabakgasse a street in the Jewish quarter of Pest (now part of eastern Budapest), Kingdom of Hungary, to a secular Jewish family. His father’s family were originally from Zimony (Serbia). He was the second child of Jeanette and Jakob Herzl, who were German-speaking, assimilated Jews. It is believed Herzl was of both Ashkenazi and Sephardic lineage predominately through his paternal line and to a lesser extent through the maternal line. He claimed to be a descendant of the Greek Kabbalist Joseph Taitazak.
Jakob Herzl (1836–1902), Herzl’s father, was a businessman. Herzl had one sister, Pauline, a year older than he was, who died suddenly on 7 February 1878, of typhus. Theodor lived with his family in a house next to the Dohány Street Synagogue (formerly known as Tabakgasse Synagogue) located in Belváros, the inner city of the historical old town of Pest, in the eastern section of Budapest. Read more…