I have the flu, so listening to books is one of the better ways to pass my time as I stay at home to recover.
This book is one of the founding documents of the Zionist movement. The impetus for its writing was the persecution of Jews around the world, with Eastern Europe being a prime example at the time. He says nothing of conditions of Jews living in Muslim lands. A number of things stand out in this. For example, he often uses the vocabulary of Proletariat and Bourgeoisie to described classes of Jews, yet his prescriptions are thoroughly Free Market. The Jewish State is to be the mother of all business ventures.
A corporation is needed to facilitate the transfer of the peoples from all over the world to the new homeland. A specific duty of this corporation, however, is to make sure that drunkards and others who are unfit do not land in the Promised Land. This is to be a nation of virtue, beginning with hard work and ending with intellectual enterprises. Hard work, except that there is to be a 7 hour work day. Very French. Or is that American? Certainly this is not Obama's vision of immigration where millions of people are brought in illegally for the primary purpose of becoming wards of the state and clients to the millions of state funded social workers.
Regarding religion, Herzl wants to have a new Jewish temple high on a hill and visible from all around. The Dome of the Rock occupies this position at the moment. His view on religion seems to be a bit conflicted. On the one hand, a religious focus is something that he sees as an important unifying element in the new people that is to result from this adventure. Yet at the same time he wants to maintain strict freedom of religion. Can those goals ever be reconciled?
The government Herzl prefers is an aristocratic one. He doesn't view the peasant Jews of Eastern Europe as being up to the task of self government, while he often refers to the mediocre intellect of the western Jews. Democracy isn't suited to them. In this work Herzl claims that it is inconceivable that the new state would have Hebrew as its language, since it is impossible to buy a train ticket using Hebrew. A footnote in the work claims that Herzl changed his mind on this point when someone proved to him otherwise.
It is certainly amazing to read this and ponder how this vision was realized, albeit with plenty of adjustments, a half century later.
Additional Note: Something that sticks out in reflecting on this book is that there is no reference to God in this entire work. Herzl's world view seems to be strictly atheist: Whatever is to be achieved is to be done by the Jews own volition and industry.