Who would Herzl have voted for?
In 1902, the founder of modern political Zionism Theodor Herzl published his book The Old New Land in which he set out his vision for a Jewish state in the Land of Israel.
When the book first came out, it was dismissed as science fiction. In hindsight, it turned out to be one of the boldest and most prescient books of modern times.
We’ve all heard of this book, but what does it say? The plot deals, among other things, with an imaginary election campaign in the Jewish state, in which a populist party led by Rabbi Geyer calls for the denial of citizenship to non-Jews. Herzl had a flair for prophecies.
Herzl denounces Rabbi Geyer as a racist who divides the public out of a personal lust for power as he steamrolls the principles on which the state was founded and the true values of Judaism.
He explains that after the centuries of persecution that the Jewish people have suffered firsthand and after the discrimination that they have suffered for two thousand years because of their different race or their different religion, Jews cannot discriminate on the same basis.
In one of the highlights of the book, Herzl describes a fateful campaign rally, where representatives of different parties present their platforms to voters and ask for their support.
Rabbi Geyer’s representative proposes a discriminatory policy against non-Jews. Herzl gives his two cents through one of the book’s protagonists who berates Geyer.
He explains that the path of Geyer and his followers will bring disaster to the country, that people should not be denied their rights just because they are not Jewish, and that freedom of thought, tolerance and l love of neighbor are what make Zion what it is.
In the imaginary election campaign imagined by Herzl, Rabbi Geyer suffers a decisive defeat.
Herzl describes the Jewish state as a tolerant place where Jews, Muslims and Christians, and even “believers in Buddha and Brahmins” live side by side and enjoy equal rights. If you want it, it’s not a dream.
Yuval Noah Harari is a professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and author of the popular science bestsellers Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. century.