May 24, 2020, Israel
One of the greatest problems in life is that most people do not follow their goals, their dreams, their ambitions. As the Rolling Stones wrote so many years ago, "Catch your dreams before they slip away."(Goodbye Ruby Tuesday, 1967). Ralph Waldo Emerson said the vast majority of men will die without half their dreams fulfilled. Now and then we encounter a dreamer and if we are so fortunate we should try to learn something from him.
The man recognized as the founder of political Zionism, Dr. Theodor Herzl, was such a dreamer. He had a fantastic dream and I use the word fantastic as associated with fantasy, as the dream was a fantasy with little connection to reality; to reestablish the nation of Israel as an independent political entity, as in the days of old. Often after meeting with those he tried to convince he would away and write, "When I left them my spirits were very low. Again my plan appeared to me to be crazy." But then the very inaction and hopelessness of others would motivate him even more and he would write, Today I am again as firm as steel."
Although he was not the first, and every Jew for the close to two thousands years daily expressed the desire to return to Zion, Herzl took action, and that made all the difference. Dreaming is one thing, acting is another.
When we study Herzl as a role model for making dreams come true, we need to study the process. I am not here to evaluate or judge him as a person or as a Jew, but as a Dreamer. What can we learn from this Dreamer?
Herzl did not begin with this dream of a Jewish state, not at all, on the contrary his goal was to be European. His dream was to be a great writer and this he was in the process of achieving. But on the way something happened, he discovered his Jewishness. As Rabbi M. Kahane was to say years later, when the Jew forgets he is a Jew along comes an Anti-Semite to remind him, and this is precisely what happened.
Herzl began to see the rise of Jew haltered all across Austria and Germany. He read a book that deeply influenced him, it was written in 1881 in Berlin by Eugen Dühring, Die Judenfrage als Racen, Sitten - und Culturfrage: Mit einer weltgeschichtlichen Antword - the Jewish Question as a Racial, Moral (customs), and Cultural Question, A world historical view, answer...
Dühring's ideas clearly are an inspiration to the ideas that would later be fully adopted by the Nazis. They were there back in 1881, quite clearly, but few saw them. Dr. Herzl saw them, and he acted upon them. This is what separates the ordinary from the Visionary, the doers from the watchers. Dühring argues that one must look at the Jewish Question as a purely racial question, and for him the Jewish race was without any worth whatsoever (Alex Bein, 1946). He argued that Europe must be de-Judaized. Yes, it was all there in writing in 1881.
Herzl was profoundly affected by this, it is written that it "had the effect upon him of a blow between the eyes." Herzl wrote in his diary, "If Dühring , who unites so much undeniable intelligence with so much universality of knowledge, can write like this, what are we to expect of the ignorant masses?"
This is how a Dreamer/Doer responds, he does not ignore the writing on the wall, he sees a few steps ahead. The Idea of the Jewish State was being born. Certainly the Dreyfus Affair would push Herzl further, but the idea was already taking place. As a student he heard the Jew hatred of Schoenerer, Herzl withdrew from the student union. It can be said that modern political antisemitism was formulated by Dühring and modern political Zionism by Herzl.
Herzl was not a traditional Jew at all and he certainly did not become a "repentant", but he understood that as a Jew he and his people would never be accepted in Europe. Herzl wrote a play called "New Ghetto", the hero was based on himself and called Jacob Samuel. Herzl writes about Samuel's transformation "He belongs utterly to the Jews; it is for them that he fights, and dying, he still sees himself as the fighter for their future.
Herzl was writing about himself.
If we wish to become Dreamers/Doers, we must transform ourselves.
The year is now 1895 and Herzl has become an advocate for his people. He reaches the conclusion that the Jewish people must return to their ancient Promised Land, for there is simply no other way. In his letter of June 3, 1895 to Baron de Hirsch he writes profound words, "The situation will not change for the better, but rather for the worse...There is only one way out: Into the Promised Land."
And now I will connect this dream to Krav Maga, to self defense, to logic, wisdom and survival, for that is what Herzl was writing about.
Herzl understood the truth, unlike others he saw the writing on the wall, the warnings were there and as we know these teachings would soon plunge the world into world wars, chaos, and massive destruction. Few noticed. Herzl understood that now is the time to take action. The time is 1895, the Holocaust would begin in 1933 with Hitlers' rise to power. Herzl's' dream and plan were so fantastic that they bordered on the insane, and so many thought. But Herzl knew his history, he writes, "Do you know what the German Reich sprang from? From dreams, songs, fantasies, and gold-black bands worn by students."
Herzl was referring to the German Empire united in 1871 during the Franco-Prussian War. Before this Germany was not a united state but rather 26 states, most of them rules by royal families. There was Prussia, Bavaria, Baden, Hesse- Darmstadt, Württemberg, etc.
Herzl saw this as an example of what dreams can accomplish.
But what about us? how quickly do we forsake our dreams? How quick are we to say, it is impossible! It can't be done! I will never earn a black belt, I will never open my own school! Herzl understood what was at stake; the life and dignity of the Jewish people, for this he was willing and prepared to do the impossible.
His dream came true and the Jewish people indeed established the State of Israel but more than one hundred years have passed and we are still fighting for survival with enemies all over the word. As he wrote, things are only getting worse. Most of the world is still against us and we struggle daily against terrorism and attacks from other countries with the support of nations near and far. The difference is that now we can fight back. Herzl never promised a utopia, he never envisioned a world free of hatred, but at least in the Promised Land we are a free nation and we can fight back. We can train, we can build an army. These are things we could not do in Europe.
The dojo/training hall is the Promised Land for anyone living in fear of violence, which is all around us. As Herzl wrote, the first step, which took him years to realize, is to understand that things are Not going to get better. "The situation will not change for the better" (1895). If you know someone living in a situation of domestic violence, hoping all along that somehow, miraculously, a person will change and things will "get better", well, it is time to invite them over for a dose of reality, an honest chat over a cup of coffee. Hoping a violent person will eventually change is not a good plan and not one that has proven itself. As I write these words we are just after the Coronavirus lockdown in Israel, in 3 weeks of lockdown at least 6 women were killed by husbands/boyfriends. These women had warnings but believed the man would somehow change for the better.
Training in Krav Maga, self defense, is not a promise that violence will disappear from our lives, it is only a promise that now we have the ability to deal with it, that now, as Dr. Seuss wrote, "Our troubles will have trouble with us".
Bob Dylan called us the "The Neighborhood Bully", sarcastically of course, because after taking it for so long we finally followed Herzl's advice and came to the Promised Land; here we train, here we prepare to be the good Neighborhood Bully.
Over the years I have seen this transformation, an abused individual finally recognizes that no one is coming to save them. They walk into the dojo/Training Hall, and a change begins at once. They have entered their own Promised Land.
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