Who was he: Theodor Herzl was effectively the visionary creator of Zionism, which eventually culminated in the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Herzl originally viewed anti-semitism as a normal factor in societies where Jews existed and he concluded that assimilation would not solve the problem. Although Jewish leaders opposed his conclusions, Herzl explained in The Jewish State, written in 1896, that a socialist Jewish state with national sovereignty was the answer.
As a Zionist, many Jews began to support his efforts, and Herzl convened the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland in August of 1897. At the congress delegates passed the new program of the Zionist movement and publicly announced, "Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law." Also at that meeting Herzl was elected the first president of the Congress.
Herzl held six Zionist Congresses during the period between 1897 and 1902 and advocates were educated and trained in activism and other front organizations, including the Jewish National Fund and the Zionist newspaper, Die Welt, were established.
Background: Theodor Herzl was born Benjamin Ze'ev Herzl on May 20th, 1860, in Budapest, Hungary. Herzl was educated to appreciate the secular culture of the period during the German-Jewish enlightenment. His family moved to Vienna when Theodor was 18 and in 1884 Herzl graduated from the University of Vienna with a law degree. Herzl became a writer, journalist and the Paris correspondent for the liberal Neue Presse in Vienna.
Although Herzl was instrumental in creating the movement to establish Israel, the jury is still out on whether this was positive or negative in the long term for the Jewish people. First, much of the money and political leverage required to create an independent State of Israel in the Middle East came from the Rothschild family. This in turn provided the Rothschilds with a tremendous amount of control over the nation. Second, although the holocaust ended much of the Jewish life and culture in Germany and across Eastern Europe, this became the prime motivator for Zionism and a secure homeland for the Jews.
The Muslim view of Israel, which was created and settled mostly by European Jews, was that this would be just another brief occupation of their lands, perhaps comparable to the earlier Christian crusades and their short-term occupations of Palestine. They believed Israel's occupation, like the crusader's occupation of the Holy Lands hundreds of years ago, would be of a short duration.
Today, although an economic and military powerhouse, this nation, tiny in landmass, is surrounded by enemies and populations puportedly out to destroy the State, if not the Jewish people itself. Few will describe the terrible truth of the Israeli situation, as although it was created with the best of intentions of safeguarding the Jewish people with a nation of their own, the Zionist movement has in fact created a massive Jewish ghetto surrounded by enemies.
Theodor Herzl was only 44 years old when he died in the summer of 1904. Although Herzl did not live to see the nation of Israel established, later his remains were removed from Europe and transported to Israel. Herzl is now buried in the country that he dedicated so much of his life to establish.