Herzl’s plan for the Jewish state

The Jewish StateThe Jewish State by Theodor Herzl

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Herzl faced the daunting task of convincing his fellow European Jews that creating a new state was possible and laying out the plan to do it. Pessimistic about ending anti-Semitism, he wanted to create a Jewish Company that would sell of Jewish assets in Europe and buy new land in the Ottoman territory of Palestine (which he viewed as a better option than Argentina). Throughout, Herzl showed great concern with the perception of his project by European governments and citizens, arguing that they could validate the new state and that the whole process of Jewish emigration, if well-managed, could actually benefit Europeans. He also argued that a Jewish community in Palestine would be a boon to the Ottomans and the people living there.

It was really interesting to see Herzl try to tackle the question of how a modern, European-style nation-state could be set up to hit the ground running. He wanted the private Jewish Company to set up the housing and infrastructure and serve as a central place to procure labor, with a seven-hour workday as a policy. Overall, he wanted to promote economic freedom in the new state, though he hoped for the seven-hour day to be legally mandated if it worked in the early stages. Herzl hoped for the Jews to develop as a modern people, escaping the deleterious consequences of their time in Europe that limited their economic and intellectual development. He presented this plan as new and better Exodus, now equipped with the benefits of modern (European) culture.

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