cover image The Dream of Zion: The Story of the First Zionist Congress

The Dream of Zion: The Story of the First Zionist Congress

Lawrence J. Epstein. Rowman & Littlefield, $36 (176p) ISBN 978-1-4422-5466-4

In this interesting, if flawed, book, Judaica scholar Epstein (Converts to Judaism) traces the political and ideological paths Theodor Herzl and others took in convening the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897. Epstein offers some background on Herzl and introduces readers to some of Herzl's ideological precursors. He quotes extensively from what he considers the best speech of the Congress, by the largely forgotten novelist Max Nordau, and highlights Herzl's decision to invite as guests a number of Christian Zionists, such as the Rev. William Hechler, chaplain of the British embassy in Vienna. However, Epstein's work contains contentious critiques, particularly in regards to " policy recommendations for the Arabs" then living in what became Israel. He also claims too much regarding the movement's significance ("The Zionist plan to redeem humanity was to provide for the world a model state"). While the book is clearly written and well-organized, Epstein's prose style lacks color and is less engaging than it might otherwise be. Nevertheless, his work makes for an informative introduction to an event that inaugurated modern Jewish political action. (Jan.)