First Zionist Congress (Photo: Israel Government Press Office)

This August marks the 125th anniversary of the first international Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. The Congregation was organized, amongst many others, by Israel’s visionary Benjamin Theodor Herzl.

Herzl was a well-established European journalist in the late 19th century, with little connection to his Jewish roots. However, his worldview drastically changed after the 1897 trial of a French Jewish military officer, Alfred Dreyfus. Dreyfus was falsely accused of treason and was sentenced to life in solitude on a small Atlantic ocean island.

Herzl was reporting from Paris on the ongoing trial at the time and was so horrified by the antisemitic case unfolding that he decided to change his life’s course.

Although Herzl never saw his dream of a Jewish state become a reality, he is well remembered for his vision and extensive literature on the matter.

Israel will be celebrating the anniversary of the conference with a ceremony hosted by the modern-day Zionist congregation. President Herzog and other high-profile officials will attend the ceremony.

"This coming Sunday, we will mark 125 years since the First World Zionist Congress in Basel, the same Congress thanks to which we are here," says the Chairman of the World Zionist Organization, Ya'akov Hagoel.

"Herzl managed to bring 208 Jews to Basel for the first congress after 2,000 years of exile and the decision to return home and establish a state in the Land of Israel. The same process that began with him ended with establishing the State of Israel, and we continue to fulfill the same dream of that amazing, wise man and a great leader."

Hagoel points out that "the congress 125 years ago was a landmark, perhaps one of the most important events of our generations, and we are not only going to remember it - but we are going to think about how in the next 25 years we will face the new challenges of the Jewish people."

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