The Herzl Center in Jerusalem was a suitable venue for the last Parasha & Herzl discussion, tying topics in the weekly Torah portion to Herzl.
Gol Kalev, discussed the parallels between Jacob’s struggle and Herzl’s struggle. He showed how Herzl interpreted Jacob’s struggle as an internal one, and how it represents Herzl’s own struggle against the Jews. Kalev, who researches Herzl and Zionism, drew a distinction between Herzl and Jacob when it came to the aftermath on the struggle once triumphant: “Herzl understood that once coming home, a Jewish transformation would occur – we are not bringing the Ghetto with us. On the other hand, Jacob’s risk-aversion, expressed in his cautionary approach to meeting Esav, and his fear of retribution for the Dina rescue operation, could be indicative that perhaps Jacob did not fully internalize his own transformation that occurred once he crossed into the promised land, from being Jacob to being Israel.”
Oded Feuer, Executive Director of the Herzl Center, argued that Jacob first had to go through and internal struggle, before he could face the struggle against the nations, and the same is the case with Herzl: “Do I want to stay a journalist named Theodor, or do I want to become a Jewish leader that will change history.” Feuer pointed to the word “alone” that describes Jacob at the time of his struggle, noting that this was the state in which he made his decision, just like Herzl centuries later: “What am I going to choose, who am i going to be.”
Dr. Yizhak Weisz, author of the book Herzl – a new Reading, agreed that Herzl battle was an internal one against the Jews and challenged the audience to try to place themselves in 1896 when Herzl surfaced his ideas. “We each might have joined the choir against Herzl, saying it looks this is the work of a crazy person,” Weisz argued, claiming this battle continues today: “There are so many distortions of Herzl. Even the person who opened the Herzl conference in this center two months ago expressed things that are the exact opposite of Herzl. It is a disgrace. This is indicative of the identity crisis we have in Israel.” Weisz pointed to Herzl’s triumph in-spite of the opposition back then and the distortion today: “Even the idea of connecting that parasha that occurs 4,000 years ago to Herzl and to today, would sound surreal to some people”.
Suzanne Berns, curator of the Herzl Archives, commented that the distortion of Herzl are overt and clear. “Herzl opened the congress by stating that Zionism is the return to Judaism before it is the return to the land of the Jews. How could people claim that Herzl disrespected the Jewish religion,” she asked and noted that after their struggles, both Jacob and Herzl, insisted on being buried in Israel.
Kalev concluded by taking issue with those who say we should ignore and dismiss those Jews who oppose Herzl and his Zionism: “If we apply the lessons of Jacob and of Herzl, we should keep the struggle and not let go until we receive their blessing”.
Jacob’s and Herzl’s Struggle
Please join us for a discussion linking topics in the Parasha with Herzl
This month’s topic: Jacob’s and Herzl’s Struggle
Based on Jerusalem Post’s Parasha & Herzl articles by Gol Kalev
Sunday, December 15, 6pm-8pm
Herzl Center – Mount Herzl (light rail to Mount Herzl stop)
The event is free. No prior knowledge of the Parasha or Herzl is required
Optional background info: JPost – Parasha & Herzl
Israeli wine & Bamba
Please rsvp: firstname.lastname@example.org