Page:Zionism 9204 Peace Conference 1920.pdf/36

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[No. 162
HERZL

his Jewish State was able, by his fascinating personality, which impressed itself upon high and low, Jew and Gentile, Court circles and the proletariat of the Russian Ghetto, to bring the secular aspirations of Jewry into the sphere of practical politics. He gathered round him the philosopher, the student, the oppressed, the dissatisfied, and the enthusiast, into a sort of Cave of Adullam.

At first he was looked upon askance by the great bulk of Western Jews, who, in easy circumstances and sometimes in high positions, were well on the way to assimilation in the countries of their birth and adoption. Even in eastern Europe, ultra-orthodox Jews viewed his projects with disfavour, because they feared that his schemes were independent of religious ideals, and saw in him a political enthusiast but not a descendant of the prophets. They could not recognize in the courtly and well-spoken journalist anything approaching their traditional picture of a Messiah or even his precursor. Herzl's most famous saying was that the return to Zion would be preceded by the return to Judaism.

 

§11. The Zionist Congresses

Public interest in the movement was also kept alive and keenly stirred by the annual meeting of Zionist Congresses during the holiday season, and generally in Switzerland. These were attended by ever-increasing numbers of Jews from all parts of the world, and flattered both participants and spectators by their resemblance to the parliament of a constitutional State.

The first, second, and third were held at Basle in August 1897, 1898, and 1899. Mr. Sokolov, a publicist of Warsaw, one of the prominent leaders of the Zionists and a member of the 'Inner Actions Committee' at the outbreak of the war, gives the following picturesque description of the Congress:

I still see that odd motley gathering—Rabbis and University professors, medical men and engineers, lawyers and littérateurs. mathematicians, chemists, bankers, merchants, trades-