The first biography in more than a generation of the father of modern political Zionism and in effect the state of Israel.
Drawing extensively on his diaries as well as his published works, this intellectual biographical follows Herzl's transformation from a private person into the founder and leader of a political movement which made the quest for a Jewish state into a player in international politics. Contrary to the conventional view which saw the Dreyfus affair as the trigger for Herzl's loss of belief in the promise of Jewish emancipation, Avineri shows how it was the political crisis of the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg Empire, torn apart by contending national movements, which convinced Herzl of the need for a Jewish polity.
In response to the wide resonance for his 1896 THE JEWISH STATE, Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897, which established the World Zionist Organization with its representative and elected institutions; this in turn became the foundation for Israel's democratic political system. In his efforts to gain international support for a Jewish state, Herzl met with the Ottoman Sultan, the German Emperor Wilhelm II, Pope Pius X, British, Russian and German ministers, as well as an enormous number of other government and public opinion leaders of most European countries. By the time of his early death in 1904 at the age of 44, Herzl succeeded in putting Zionism on the map of world politics, no longer an esoteric idea held by a small group of Jewish intellectuals in Eastern Europe.
The great strength of Avineri's immensely readable biography is to deliver Herzl in all his tortured complexity and - something not always given its due - the philosophical clarity of his diagnosis of what had befallen the Jews in the modern age and what might be done about their predicament - FINANCIAL TIMES
Turning the idea of Jewish nationhood into an organised movement was Herzl's work of genius, which is expounded by Avineri with scholarship, sensitivity and wisdom - THE JC.COM
What ... Shlomo Avineri, a professor of political sciences at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, offers is a different perspective on Herzl's life. Professor Avineri largely relies on Herzl's own writings, especially his obsessively written diary, rather than so much on secondary sources as many other books do. This device has the advantage of explaining Herzl's thoughts, as well as his actions - INDEPENDENT