Now it's Herzl's turn. Last year Israel celebrated the anniversary of its establishment against the background of Tel Aviv's centenary anniversary. This year it will be celebrating the 150th birthday of Theodor Herzl. In honor of the occasion, the World Zionist Organization, founded by the visionary of the Jewish state more than a century ago, is organizing a journey in his footsteps to Paris, Basle, Vienna and Budapest before arriving in Jerusalem in time to participate in the opening of Independence Day festivities on the mount that bears his name. Why all the fuss?

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"Too often the greatness of this man is measured only by the enormous contribution he made to finding a political solution to the Jewish problem," explains Dr. David Breakstone, a member of the Zionist Executive and initiator of the trip, "but there is another facet of Herzl's Zionism that is no less deserving of our awe and admiration: his utopian vision of what the Jewish state should look like."

Herzl a utopian? Indeed it appears so. Even a cursory perusal of his writings reveals that securing a Jewish homeland constituted only a partial fulfillment of his vision. Just two months before he died, he wrote: "I truly believe that even after we possess our land, Zionism will not cease to be an ideal, for Zionism includes not only the yearning for a plot of promised land legally acquired for our weary people, but also the yearning for ethical and spiritual fulfillment."

"It is this aspiration that makes Herzl not only a towering historical figure, but also a contemporary and compelling thinker. He insisted that the Jewish people concern itself not only with finding a safe place to call their own but also that they create on that territory an exemplary society that would benefit all of humankind," explains Breakstone, who is also the founder of the Herzl Museum. And it is this message, what he refers to as "positive Zionism," that motivated him to organize this trip in the first place. "Today the world has an entirely skewed understanding of the Zionist idea," he says. "Israel is portrayed as a military aggressor, and Zionism as a movement of occupation. As a result, even our own young people are oblivious to the humanitarian ideals on which it was founded and that continue to inspire its adherents today."

The Zionist road show he is planning is intended to counter these misconceptions. In each of the cities the group visits there will be a major event with the local Jewish community highlighting the values dear to Herzl that continue to be integral to the Zionist enterprise today. It will open with a gala event at the Paris Opera House that Herzl loved to frequent with a performance by Noa in the presence of Natan Sharansky, Chairman of The Jewish Agency, who spent 10 years in Russian labor camps for the part he played in advancing the Zionist ideal. In Basel there will be a re-enactment of the First Zionst Congress at which the cause of Jewish self-determination was first brought to public attention. In Budapest there will be a special Shabbat service in the legendary Dohanny Synagogue where Herzl celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. Throughout there will be an emphasis on the imperative to strive for the sort of society Herzl envisioned in his utopian novel Altneuland, one that championed Arab-Jewish co-existence, free education through university, concern with the environment, gender equality, and so much more.

"That famous photograph of Herzl on the balcony, dreaming of a better world for Jews and non-Jews alike, it's become an icon for a reason," insists Breakstone. "It's what Zionism is all about." Those on the trip will have an opportunity to be photographed there, too, an experience which he hopes will inspire them to continue dreaming their dreams - and amplify their motivation to engage in fulfilling them as well.
The journey in Herzl's footsteps will take place from April 14-20. Those interested in participating can find more information at
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