MembersZionism – 120 Years of Modern Jewish Revival

August 1897, the First Zionist Congress convened in Basel, Switzerland, with delegates from seventeen Jewish communities worldwide.

By Gershon Nerel |
THE "BASEL PROGRAM" from the First Zionist Congress in 1897 Photo: THE "BASEL PROGRAM" from the First Zionist Congress in 1897

Together with their magnetic leader, Theodor Herzl, they declared that the new Zionist movement aimed to establish a national home or state for the Jewish people in Eretz Israel, the biblical homeland. This assembly solidified the practical steps towards the creation of a Jewish political presence in Zion (Hebrew: Tziyon), synonym for Jerusalem and also referring to the historic Land of Israel.


Initially, it was Nathan Birnbaum, an Austrian Jew, who in the early 1890s coined the modern German terms zionistisch (Zionist) and Zionismus (Zionism). He, however, believed in cultural Zionism, namely Jewish emancipation within the countries where they already lived, as opposed to those who supported Jewish assimilation among the nations. But Zionism was rapidly adopted by Theodor Herzl and his followers as a territorial and political concept, pointing to the ancient Promised Land as the best solution to antisemitism or the “Jewish Problem.”

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