Altneuland - Old-New Land (1902)

In this composition, which was written as a novel, Herzl observes the events in the lifespan of the Jewish Nation in the state that will be established in the future. He calls for the development of the land using science and technology, and he advocates patience and tolerance in all endeavors, including in relations between the Arab and Jewish populations in the Land of Israel. In Old-New Land, Herzl expresses his desire to organize the society according to the principle of mutual solidarity. The motto of the book has become the slogan of the Zionist Movement:

"......But, if you do not wish it, all this that I have related to you is and will remain a fable." (Herzl, Theodore, Old New Land, NJ, Marcus-Weiner Publishers, 2000, Epilogue)

The novel tells about a young Jewish man who is educated, unemployed, and fed up with his life because of unrequited love. A strange notice in the newspaper brings him to a wealthy mysterious man who invites the distraught young man for an adventure. The young man joins the wealthy man as his personal secretary in the latter’s quest to fulfill a bizarre plan: Taking leave of the European lifestyle of vanity, and heading toward a new life on a deserted island in the Pacific Ocean. On their journey to the island, they anchor off the port of Jaffa and discover Palestine as Herzl discovered it during his own visit there in 1898: Desolate, forlorn, and provincial. The travelers observe that the state-of-decline of the land resembles the state of the Jewish nation. Twenty years later, the travelers leave their island home and sail back to see how the world has changed. They return to visit Palestine, and to their surprise, they discover a new world there – the Old-New Land. The land is flourishing and prospering with the strength of the “New Society:” An organized social community that not only serves as a solution to the Jewish problem, but also serves as a light unto all humanity.

This book is Theodore Herzl’s personal doctrine regarding Zion and the returning of the Jewish Nation to her land. There are those who see the book as a utopian essay – the attempt at creating the ideal modern society in the Land of Israel. In addition to sound management and the right of women to vote (which, at the writing of the novel was not found in any European country), this new state also has advanced health services, efficient postal services, scientific-based agriculture, a sea-to-sea canal, and obligatory national service for both boys and girls which supports the national social and health services.

Old-New Land was written in German and was translated into many languages. Nachum Sokolov translated it into Hebrew and called it “Tel Aviv.” In September 1902, Sokolov wrote to Herzl saying, “This is a Hebrew, Biblical, Israeli name…. And it serves as a connection between the new and the old: ‘Tel’ is an ancient ruin, and ‘Aviv’ (spring) refers to blossoming and renewal in nature. As a result, you have a ruin that has come back to life, to a new spring: the Old-New Land.” In 1909, Menachem Sheinkin suggested to the local council of the Ahuzat-Bayit neighborhood to rename their neighborhood “Tel Aviv” in order to eternalize Herzl’s memory. His suggestion was ratified by a majority of votes.

At first, Old-New Land was received with criticism and reservation among the different social circles. As time passed, however, it became a symbol of the hope that the redemption of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel is no longer a question of “if” but rather of “when.”

"Dreams are not so different from Deeds as some may think. All the Deeds of men are only Dreams at first. And in the end, their Deeds dissolve into Dreams." (Herzl, Theodore, Old New Land, NJ, Marcus-Weiner Publishers, 2000, Epilogue)

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