A Personal Face to the Father of Modern Zionism

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In this seminal biodoc on the life and arduous struggles of the progenitor of the establishment of the modern Jewish state of Israel, Academy Award-winning director Richard Trank (“The Long Way Home”) presents a compelling and spellbinding portrait of Theodor Herzl; a man who was often shunted aside or patently misunderstood in the annals of history. Produced by Moriah Films, in association with the Simon Wiesenthal Center film department, “It Is No Dream: The Life of Theodor Herzl” puts a personal face, hitherto unknown, on the vicissitudes that Herzl endured in his relatively short, but historically impactful life.

Narrated by actors Ben Kingsley and Christoph Waltz (of “Inglorious Bastards”) Herzl’s angst and unadulterated passion leaps forth from the screen and punctuates our psyches. Director Trank liberally utilizes rarely seen black and white photos, archival articles, and somewhat eerie-sounding music, in this meticulously researched film, which would impress even the foremost scholars of Jewish history.

Born in Hungary in 1860 to Orthodox Jewish parents, Herzl was the archetypal cosmopolitan Jew; a victim of rampant assimilation that marked this era in history. A child prodigy of sorts, at the tender age of eight, Herzl mastered the works of Schiller and Goethe in the original German when his parents moved to Austria where he was raised. It was highly improbable that this young man, a Jew in name only, who was “confirmed” rather than being bar mitzvahed at 13 and who held aspirations for a career in law, would ever entertain the notion of leading a one-man crusade for independent Jewish statehood that captured the imagination of the world.

Focusing his creative energies on writing, Herzl found his niche as a talented playwright, author of novellas and short stories, and soon assumed the role as a full-time journalist for the Austrian newspaper Neue Freie Presse. Assigned to their Paris bureau as a foreign correspondent in 1894, it was there that Herzl’s prescience ignited when he covered the infamous trial of Alfred Dreyfus, a French Jewish military officer, who was brought to trial on trumped up charges of treason.

The age-old strains of virulent anti-Semitism that had occasionally erupted but always simmered under the surface in France and throughout Europe exploded exponentially during the duration of the trial. Witnessing the French populace, united in hatred, and screaming, “Death to the Jew,” Herzl quickly came to the horrifying realization that Dreyfus’s trial, conviction, degradation and humiliation would translate into existential perils for the Jews of Europe. Intensely pondering the Jewish question, Herzl’s epiphany took shape when he became a fiery advocate for a Jewish return to their ancestral homeland of Palestine in order to flee an endemic anti-Semitism that would have catastrophic consequences.

Enlisting the help of Jewish intellectuals throughout Europe, including Max Nordau and Sigmund Freud, the lion’s share of support for Herzl’s dream came from the grassroots movement of Jews from Poland, Russia and other places in Eastern Europe, who had personally felt the brutal lash of anti-Semitism. Outlining his plan in the 1895 work titled “The Jewish State,” Herzl’s trajectory was clear as this transformative process ultimately led him to devote himself exclusively to the completion of his quest.

Offering unique insights into Herzl’s life is Robert S. Wistrich, the Neuberger Chair in Modern Jewish History at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a world expert in the field of anti-Semitism. Others, such as Israeli president Shimon Peres and Swiss producer Arthur Cohn, are also featured as they articulate Herzl’s critical role in the founding of the modern Jewish state. Buttressing the undulating narrative of Herzl’s complicated mission is the poignant narration of Christoph Waltz as the voice of the father of Zionism. The viewer cannot help but to be exceptionally moved by Herzl’s pain, frustration, anger, and eventual hope, as his words sear our soul. Herzl’s own wife vehemently resented her husband’s cause célèbre and asked, “What happened to the man about town?”

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  • http://vnnforum.com DeShawn

    Looks like a Devil to me. Zionism is a form of jewish supremacism.

    • awarthurhu

      "jewigh supremacism" = red flag for neo-Nazi, common term used by David Duke. Very easy to identify neo-Nazi tolls, they out themselves so obviously.

    • Bubba

      You got a real purdy mouth, boy!

      I bet you can squeal like a piggy too!

  • Rothschild

    I have no great love for this man called Herzl; his racist nationalism is dangerous… I say this as a half Jew in the middle of this war between the Jews and the Islamic countries….I would much rather watch a movie about a religious Zionists, such as Rabbi Samuel Mohilever a humble intelligent Zionist… and if the Jews really wanted peace they would open up a yeshiva, and teach the world about the ancient Hebrews; that is open to religious Jews, secular Jews, non Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims.

    I think that's what Rabbi Mohilever and Rothschild wanted to do when they wanted a Zionist country called Israel in the historical past…but…fanatical, racist, Marxist Zionist nationalists, like Herzl whitewashed them, and are trying to rewrite history.

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      Ratchild, Since you consider nationalism dangerous, you are against any form of "palestine" too.

      Happy Eternal Nakba Ratchild!

    • PaulRevereNow

      The historical reality was that Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem supported destitute Jews, during Herzl's lifetime, well before Rothschild was PERSUADED to do so; Rothschild simply didn't care about his starving co-religionists in the Holy Land.(Not surprising, since he thought of himself as an assimilated German Jew) Herzl's crusade showered the light of day on the haughty, condescending attitudes of wealthy European Jews towards the starving Zionists. You don't know history at all.

    • ziontruth

      "I say this as a half Jew…"

      There's no such thing. One born to a Jewish mother or undergone Orthodox conversion is a Jew, and anyone else is a non-Jew.

      "…and if the Jews really wanted peace they would open up a yeshiva, and teach the world about the ancient Hebrews;…"

      Speaking of the ancient Hebrews, did you ever read the book of Joshua? Judaism isn't a branch of humanism, you ought to know.

      "…Marxist Zionist nationalists…"

      Oxymoron. You're either a Marxist or a nationalist (Zionism being the special Jewish case). You can't be both, because anti-nationalism is a core Marxist doctrine. In fact, that's the main reason why Marxists are today at the forefront of anti-Zionism—for being a case where the "rightful course of history" was "reversed," in that a stateless nation regained statehood instead of being dissolved into the Brotherhood of Man™.

      Of course, it is true that a great many of the late 19th- and early 20th-century Zionists were socialists, left-wingers. But this older, nationalist Left, the same kind that FDR was a member of, is different from, and in opposition to, the Marxist, treasonous branch of the Left.

    • ziontruth

      "I say this as a half Jew…"

      There's no such thing. One born to a Jewish mother or undergone Orthodox conversion is a Jew, and anyone else is a non-Jew.

      "…and if the Jews really wanted peace they would open up a yeshiva, and teach the world about the ancient Hebrews;…"

      Speaking of the ancient Hebrews, did you ever read the book of Joshua? Judaism isn't a branch of humanism, you ought to know.

      "…Marxist Zionist nationalists…"

      Oxymoron. You're either a Marxist or a nationalist (Zionism being the special Jewish case). You can't be both, because anti-nationalism is a core Marxist doctrine. In fact, that's the main reason why Marxists are today at the forefront of anti-Zionism—for being a case where the "rightful course of history" was "reversed," in that a stateless nation regained statehood instead of being dissolved into the Brotherhood of Man™.

  • Rothschild

    I'm not a Palestinian; but I do think that criticism of their Islam has turned into a viscous defamation of their spirituality, and I receive the same amount of anti-Semitic attacks, then you Jews over there
    in Israel do, because I am half Jew.

    You Jews are sinning against God (Jehovah) by worshiping things worse then the Idolatry of things made our of metal and stone , but also the earthy idols of nation and race…you are becoming card carrying Nazis… the Nazis worshiped the same gods, idols.

    • reader

      You're half witted, but completely 100% incoherent.

    • awarthurhu

      equates Jews to Nazis and/or apartheid = red flag for neo-Nazi
      rothschild attack on Jews = red flag for neo-Nazi
      siding with palestine / Islamists = red flag for neo-Nazi
      attacking good guys = red flag for bad guy

      • Rothschild

        I am not a Palestinian sympathizer, or Neo Nazi sympathizer…I'm a liberal pacifist….most Jews are not pacifists, but are liberals; but if the Jews became pacifists they could successfully oppose their terrorist neighbors, and the terrorists around the world.

        I used Simone Weil as an example of one of many types of pacifism…all of which could be used to fight terrorism…the Jews, having anything to do with Herzl is dangerous, because Nazism is a form socialism, and with the Jews using that form of Zionism, and Judaism they are becoming Nazis themselves; and also it is strategically not even good for their fight with terrorism, because the Gestapo was easily able to penetrate the communist resistance groups during world war 2, and the current terrorists, the militant Black September like Middle East terrorists simply copy and paste the tactics of the Nazi tactics; of PSYOPS, for example.

  • Rothschild

    This is not only from me but other researchers of opposition to Nazis by pacifists, that believed in non-violent ways to oppose the Nazis in Germany, and by the French Resistance, such as by Simone Weil… How are you super Jews, any different, then a Nazi that would throw me into the ovens because I'm a half Jew…because of your inaction? and not politically correct enough; not a super Jew, so as to be a Israeli citizen, if the…terrorists start knocking on my door, which they have by the way..right out of the movie “Munich” style but without the guns… even though I qualify as one because grandfather is a Jew, I would still be allowed entry by any country, even Israel, when and if the s***t hits the fan, in the US.

    Simone Weil

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simone_Weil

    The Hebrews took for their idol, not something made of metal or wood, but a race, a nation, something just as earthly, their religion is essentially inseparable from such idolatry, because of the notion of the 'chosen people'

    Simione Weil

    • awarthurhu

      pro-palestine person claiming to be jew or US military = red flag for neo-Nazi
      9-11 truther blaming Israel or US = red flag for neo-Nazi

    • PaulRevereNow

      You sound as if you're very uncomfortable with the fact that your grandfather was a Jew; and tell me…what does the insulting phrase "Super Jew" mean?

      • Rothschild

        Well, many on here equate my interpretation of my Jewishness of me as being inferior to theirs; even when I told them, I'm only interpreting it from primarily a historical, political, and social context; but because I'm a spiritual person, that actually likes Judaism (though I will not convert) I'm open to change…so I'm more then wiling to let some rabbis censor my interpretation of the historical and political parts of my history when before, I could even think; when some of my Jewish relatives made it political, by getting into a fight with some of my other Jewish relatives, that wanted my role with the Jews to be social and religious (not spiritual) on a secular level… but it became political, and it was never intended to be political then , and it still political etc., ..so I assume because as most tell me, I'm inferior, that they must be a type of super Jew…. but I'm open to change this belief, once I start actually talking with Jews about this hopefully in Israel. For around two years.

        • PaulRevereNow

          You don't have to agree with anyone politically to convert to Judaism; Judaism knows no political parties.

          • Rothschild

            A five page written document my grandfather had written, concerning me, is amazing…it was meant to be secret, maybe three or four people were ever intended to read it…it specifies, every specific role, others that come into contact with me are to act, even in future scenarios, as if I was some sort of king.

  • Schlomotion

    I will see this movie. It is bound to be informative, but I suspect it will fail as social commentary.

    • reader

      Did you plus yourself for being incredibly profound? Just curious.

  • Suzanne

    Where do we get to see this movie? It sounds very interesting!

  • John

    The movie was playing at the Quad Cinema in Manhattan. Not sure if it still is however. Here is the link to the movie web site:
    http://www.itisnodream.com/site/c.8gLPK4MHLgIUF/b

  • John

    I find it interesting that those Orthodox Jews who despise Herzl for his purported secularism, at one time lauded him as a messianic figure and supported his quest for a Jewish homeland.

  • Bert

    Those with diseased souls will naturally fling garbage at Herzl just as evil will naturally attack good.
    Two quotes from Herzl's writings come to mind.
    "Zionism means coming home to Judaism even before coming home to the Jewish state."
    He wanted the following to be written on his tombstone: "Here lies a man who had too high an opinion of the Jewish People." (A cry of pain for the terrible treatment he often experienced from the very people he tried to help.)

    • John

      Interesting that you mention that Herzl wanted those words on his tombstone. After he was accused of betraying the Jewish people by considering the notion of establishing Uganda as a Jewish state, he rightfully bemoaned the fact that those very Jewish leaders at the World Zionist Congress never even displayed a modicum of appreciation to him to trying to save them from the same fate as Alfred Dreyus. The only reason he considered Uganda is because he truly believe time was running out for the Jews of Europe. He believed that their end was near. It was as if he was watching a drowning man and had to save him.

  • Ghostwriter

    Well,the assorted anti-Jewish nuts have come out for this article:Schlomotion,DeShawn,and the newest one,Rothschild. Their Jew hatred is disgusting as it is tiresome.