Segments in this Video

Theodor Herzl Series Introduction (02:37)


David Ben-Gurion's May 1948 speech referred to Herzl as the spiritual father of Israel. The Hungarian journalist's writing brought him to the negotiating table with world leaders. Dr. Daniel Polisar will lecture on the challenge of establishing a Jewish State.

Defining Theodor Herzl (04:21)

Polisar explains that Herzl was the thinker, diplomat, and political leader of the Jewish state. He discusses developing a research interest in Herzl's career and lobbying for greater recognition of Israel's founder. The Knesset declared a national Herzl day.

Understanding Herzl's Challenge (03:29)

Polisar discusses how the creation of a Jewish state was unimaginable in 1895. He urges students to examine Herzl's leadership lessons, including recruiting allies, harnessing the power of ideas, building institutions, and negotiating with politicians.

A Fateful Encounter (05:50)

In June 1895, Herzl requested to discuss the "Jewish question" with Jewish financier and philanthropist Baron Maurice de Hirsch. Hear a description of their Paris meeting, including Herzl's criticism of Hirsch's patronage of Argentinian Jewish farmers and Hirsch's emigration proposal.

Birth of Herzl's Leadership (03:09)

Herzl followed up a meeting with a letter promoting his vision of a Jewish state and criticizing Hirsch for interrupting his ideas. The encounter failed; Hirsch died soon after. However, Herzl dates his Zionist activities to their exchange.

Appreciating Herzl's Leadership (03:47)

Polisar will ask viewers to place themselves in Herzl's shoes after his failed meeting with Hirsch and to look at the Jewish world of 1895. Challenges to Jewish statehood included developing intellectual ideas, building political will, and gaining diplomatic support.

The Non-Jewish World in Herzl's Time (09:50)

Learn about geopolitics of the Ottoman, Russian, Austro-Hungarian, German, and British empires in relation to the status of Jewish populations. Five million Jews lived in Russia, mostly in the Pale of Settlement. Herzl gained political ideas while corresponding in France.

Possible Political Zionist Allies (04:42)

The Ottoman Empire was reluctant to allow Jews to settle within its borders. The German Empire was unlikely to convince its ally to do so; the Russian Empire was anti-Semitic; and the British Empire wanted to maintain the Ottomans.

The Jewish World in Herzl's Time (05:16)

In 1895, 88% of Jews lived in Europe, mostly in traditional Pale of Settlement communities where they maintained a Zionist dream. See a demographic map of the area. The Jewish world looked to Western European Jewry for leadership.

The Three Great Challenges Herzl Faced: Intellectual Challenge (07:07)

Herzl had to argue that establishing a Jewish state was desirable and practical. After decades, Western European Jews had finally become emancipated and Eastern European Jews awaited the Messiah. Polisar outlines their demographic and financial arguments against immigrating to Palestine.

Political Challenge (03:00)

Herzl was not wealthy or connected to Jews outside Vienna, and thus unlikely to become a leader. He had to build an international movement but national Jewish organizations were banned in Eastern Europe and Western organizations pursued emancipation, rather than Zionist goals.

Diplomatic Challenge (01:10)

Herzl had to unite Jewish communities into a power in order to negotiate a Jewish homeland with the European empires.

Herzl's Intellectual Assets (03:29)

Many Jews still believed in a Jewish nation in Israel. In Europe, ancient nations that had lost sovereignty were reconstituting themselves. Antisemitism was growing. There were some Zionist activists; the absence of an international Jewish organization was an advantage.

Herzl's Diplomatic Assets (03:39)

Potential allies included Turks, who had international debts; Europeans desiring Jewish neighbors to leave or resettle in Palestine; and Jewish financiers. Polisar outlines how he will address Herzl's challenges in the lecture series.

Summarizing Herzl's Challenges (05:30)

Polisar outlines intellectual, political and diplomatic roadblocks to building a Zionist movement. Herzl needed to create ideas to attract a Jewish following, establish a world Jewish organization, and recruit European powers to pressure the Ottoman Empire to grant them Palestine.

Credits: The Great Challenge of Establishing a Jewish State (00:07)

Credits: The Great Challenge of Establishing a Jewish State

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The Great Challenge of Establishing a Jewish State

Part of the Series : Theodor Herzl and the Birth of Israel
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



To truly understand Herzl’s challenge, we have to unknow everything we know about Zionist history and the modern State of Israel.

Length: 68 minutes

Item#: BVL182973

ISBN: 978-1-64481-791-9

Copyright date: ©2018

Closed Captioned

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