Theodor Herzl 88.
(photo credit: )
The Father of Zionism was also the father of three children. On Wednesday, Theodor Herzl was reunited with two of them, as the remains of his son and older daughter were buried in the State of Israel.
"Today, by bringing the bones of Paulina and Hans, we complete the mission and close a historic circle," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared as the remains were reinterred at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem after 76 years spent at a Jewish cemetery in Bordeaux, France.
Yet Olmert noted that Herzl's wish as written in his will - that he and all of his immediate family members be reburied in Israel upon the creation of the Jewish state - was still lacking fulfillment, as Herzl's second daughter, Trude, was not there. She perished during the Holocaust, presumably at Theresienstadt, and her remains have never been found.
But the gravesite of her son, Herzl's only grandchild, is known, and family members at Wednesday's event urged that his remains also be brought to Israel.
"If we found a way to bring the children, we should make one more step to bring the grandson," said Liora Herzl, a cousin of Herzl and his descendents.
A Jewish Agency official said that a delegation of Jews who are pushing to have the grandson, Stephan Neuman, brought to Israel would soon be visiting the country and that authorities would review what could be done in his case.
Liora Herzl said Neuman was buried in America after he committed suicide in 1946. Hans also killed himself, in his case the day after his sister died in 1930 from complications apparently connected to drug abuse. Hans's suicide and earlier conversion to Christianity were obstacles to bringing his remains and those of his sister to Israel, as many rabbis objected to the move.
In his speech, Olmert praised Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who helped reconcile the reinterment with Jewish law, for his efforts. "The chief rabbi not only performed an act of true kindness for the state's visionary and his family, but also a great act of bringing together the secular public with the religious public in Israel, and made an immense contribution to strengthening the people's unity."
Ze'ev Bielski, chairman of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization, said that the act of bringing Herzl's children was one of "justice."
"In the 44 years that he lived, he gave everything that he had to the Zionist movement," he said. "Now we do justice to him by bringing his children to be with him in Jerusalem." Bielski didn't want to discuss why it took so many years to do this justice, saying only that the reasons "are not important today."
Liora Herzl also didn't want to dwell on the past. "It's a pity that it took so long but that is not the point of this moment," she said. "This is a day that the state and the Zionist movement made the right decision." She wasn't the only relation of Theodor Herzl at the ceremony, as cousins spanning several generations attended.
Two of the youngest were Dana Herzl Fainzack, 11, and her brother Elran, 10, who wore a t-shirt bearing his relative's iconized image.
Asked how they were related to their famous kinsman, they had a minor dispute before establishing that he was their great-grandfather's first cousin.
Dana said it had been important to her to come to the ceremony Wednesday, even though it meant missing a scheduled field trip.
"I can go on a field trip any day," she said. "This is something that happens once in a lifetime." But her brother once again disagreed.
"It doesn't have to happen only once," he pointed out. "They could have a funeral for the other daughter." Or Herzl's grandson.