History of Zionism and the State of Israel

Since Theodor Herzl convened the first international Jewish congress in 1897, the movement to establish a Jewish state has been called Zionism. In many respects, Zionism has proved one of the most effective political ideas in history. In a short time, this movement established a sovereign state, the State of Israel, created in 1948 and subsequently recognized by most nations of the world. It also built major cities—Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba, and Jerusalem—a social and economic infrastructure, national institutions of culture and education, and democratic systems of government and justice. Today, Israel is home to the world’s largest Jewish community. It maintains a vibrant, free press, a diverse and dynamic culture, and a powerful citizen army. After two thousand years of statelessness, the Jewish people have achieved a vital national home.


Yoram Hazony on Israel, Europe and the Place of Ideas in History

Yet the position of Israel remains precarious. The Middle Eastern context is today no less dangerous than at any point since Israel’s founding. And understanding for Zionism and sympathy for its cause has waned in Western countries as the memory of the Holocaust has receded. Disinformation about Israel’s founding has even undermined support for Zionism in Israel itself, where many academics and intellectuals have consistently argued that historically and philosophically the cause of the Jewish state is not just.

Since the 1990s, Herzl Institute scholars have been at the forefront of reviving Zionism as an intellectual force both in academia and in public life in Israel and abroad. Works of “New Zionist” history and political philosophy challenged prevailing trends and successfully re-established support for the founding vision of Israel as an alternative to “post-Zionist” thought. The Herzl Institute continues this work today, supporting academic scholarship in the fields of Zionist and Israeli history and in the history and philosophy of the idea of the Jewish state.

Works by Institute scholars in this area include:

David Hazony, Yoram Hazony and Michael Oren, eds., New Essays on Zionism (Shalem, 2005).

Yoram Hazony, The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel’s Soul (Basic Books, 2000).