The First Zionist Congress


The building in Basle where the 1st Zionist Congress took place  (PHG\1003134)“The first Zionist Congress convenes in Basle, which constitutes the foundation of the World Zionist Organization, and Herzl is elected president. The Congress, in which 197 delegates participate, accepts the Basle Program: Zionism strives to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law.
Herzl, who wants the Congress to appear especially festive, insists that delegates come to the proceedings in formal evening attire. “These people should consider this Congress as the most superior and festive of all,” he says to Max Nordau. The Jewish and general press send many reporters in order to cover this special Jewish assembly.
A painting of the first Zionist Congress, 1897 (PHG\1052657)Herzl writes in his diary: “At Basle I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today I would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.”
There are mixed reactions to the Congress by the Jewish media: few support it, some have reservations about it, while the majority are waiting to see how things develop. The Warsaw daily, HaTzfira, edited by Nahum Sokolow, which opposed the congress, is turning into a loyal supporter. Ahad HaAm’s HaShilo’ah, on the other hand, warns the Jews, and especially the Zionists: “The new enthusiasm is artificial… and its end will bring despair… Israel’s salvation will come from ‘prophets’ rather than from ‘diplomats’.” The Neue Freie Presse in Vienna, where Herzl works, does not mention the congress at all.”
(Mordecai Naor, Zionism. The First 120 Years. Timeline, Articles, Documents and Glossary. The Jewish Agency for Israel, The Zionist Library, 2002, p. 41-42, 239).