Imag­i­nary strolls with Herzl

The Jewish Chronicle - - Judaism -

MANY BOOKS HAVE been writ­ten about the his­tory of Zion­ism and the cre­ation of Is­rael. Bernard Ziss­man’s Herzl’s Jour­ney: Con­ver­sa­tions with a Zion­ist Leg­end (Devora, £14.95) is one of the most read­able. Tak­ing as his method a se­ries of imag­i­nary meet­ings and con­ver­sa­tions with Theodor Herzl, the cham­pion of po­lit­i­cal Zion­ism, Ziss­man re­veals many facets of the long Zion­ist strug­gle and brings us into the present day with con­sid­er­able skill.

One of the most suc­cess­ful de­vices is the au­thor’s con­ver­sa­tions with Herzl af­ter the lat­ter’s death in 1904. Ziss­man takes the Zion­ist leader into the trou­bles and tri­umphs of Zion­ism right up to and be­yond the cre­ation of the Jewish state.

In 1902, in the book Old-New Land, two years be­fore his death, Herzl set out his vi­sion of the fu­ture, with Jerusalem as the cen­tre of a global, med­i­cal and sci­en­tific en­deav­our “for all kinds of char­i­ta­ble and so­cial ven­tures where work is done not only for Jewish land and Jewish peo­ple, but for other lands and peo­ples too.… Wher­ever in the world a catas­tro­phe oc­curs — earth­quake, flood, famine, drought, epi­demic — the stricken coun­try tele­graphs to this cen­tre for help.”

This vi­sion so in­spired the Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Gor­don Brown that when he was in Jerusalem this July, he re­peated it to the Is­raeli par­lia­ment, and went on to pro­pose “a global cit­i­zen­ship corps”. In a prom­ise that Ziss­man will surely re­port to Herzl at their next meet­ing, Brown pledged 1,000 Bri­tish par­tic­i­pants to this corps.

Ziss­man’s own story, which Herzl asks him to re­count, is also of great in­ter­est, re­lat­ing his jour­ney from a war­time boy­hood in Birm­ing­ham to his be­com­ing Lord Mayor of the city. MARTIN GIL­BERT

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