The Old New Land

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The Old New Land
Altneuland.jpg
1st edition cover
Author Theodor Herzl
Original title Altneuland
Translator Lotta Levensohn (1997 edition)
Country Austria-Hungary
Language German
Genre Utopian novel
Publisher Seemann Nachf
Publication date
1902
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 343
OCLC 38767535

The Old New Land (German: Altneuland; Hebrew: תֵּל־אָבִיב Tel Aviv, "Mound of spring") is a utopian novel published by Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, in 1902. Outlining Herzl's vision for a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, Altneuland became one of Zionism's establishing texts. It was translated into Yiddish by Israel Isidor Elyashev. It was translated into Hebrew by Nahum Sokolow as Tel Aviv, which directly influenced the choice of the same name for the Jewish-Zionist Jaffa suburb founded in 1909 which was to become a major Israeli city.

Plot introduction[edit]

The novel tells the story of Friedrich Löwenberg, a young Jewish Viennese intellectual, who, tired with European decadence, joins an Americanized Prussian aristocrat named Kingscourt as they retire to a remote Pacific island (it is specifically mentioned as being part of the Cook Islands, near Raratonga). Stopping in Jaffa on their way to the Pacific, they find Palestine a backward, destitute and sparsely populated land, as it appeared to Herzl on his visit in 1898.

Löwenberg and Kingscourt spend the following twenty years on the island, cut off from civilization. As they pass through Palestine on their way back to Europe, they discover a land drastically transformed, showcasing a free, open and cosmopolitan modern society, and boasting a thriving cooperative industry based on state-of-the-art technology.

In the two decades that have passed, European Jews have rediscovered and re-inhabited their Altneuland, reclaiming their own destiny in the Land of Israel.

Major themes[edit]

Herzl's novel depicts his blueprint for the realization of Jewish national emancipation, as put forward in his book Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) published in 1896. Both ideological and utopian, it presents a model society which was to adopt a liberal and egalitarian social model, resembling a modern welfare state. Herzl called his model "Mutualism" and it is based on a mixed economy, with public ownership of the land and natural resources, agricultural cooperatives, state welfare, while at the same time encouraging private entrepreneurship. A true modernist, Herzl rejected the European class system, yet remained loyal to Europe's cultural heritage.

Rather than imagining the Jews in Altneuland speaking exclusively Hebrew, the society is multi-lingual – with German, Hebrew and Yiddish being the main languages and reproducing European customs, going to the opera and enjoying the theatre. While Jerusalem is the capital, with the seat of parliament ("Congress") and the Jewish Academy, the country's industrial center is the modern city of Haifa. In the actual Israel, this role was to be taken by Tel Aviv, a city which did not yet exist at the time of writing and whose name was inspired by the book itself (see below).

Herzl saw the potential of Haifa Bay for constructing a modern deep-water port. However, in reality it would be the British Empire rather than the Zionists which would realise that potential and make considerable strategic use of it during the Second World War. Though Israel would eventually inherit the Haifa port and city, by 1948 the central role of Tel Aviv was established, with Haifa – though a major Israeli city – relegated to a secondary position.

As envisioned by Herzl, "All the way from Acco to Mount Carmel stretched what seemed to be one great park". In the actual Israel the very same area became a giant industrial zone, reckoned the most heavily polluted part of the country.

Release details[edit]

  • 1902, Germany, Hermann Seemann Nachfolger, Leipzig, hardback (First edition) (as Altneuland in German)
  • 1941, US, Bloch Publishing (ISBN NA), Pub date ? ? 1941, paperback (translated ... by Lotta Levensohn)
  • 1961, Israel, Haifa Publishing (ISBN NA), Pub date ? ? 1961, paperback (as Altneuland in German)
  • 1987, US, Random House (ISBN 0-910129-61-4), Pub date ? December 1987, paperback
  • 1997, US, Wiener (Markus) Publishing (ISBN 1-55876-160-8), Pub date ? November 1997, paperback

External links[edit]