If it wasn't for this person, we probably wouldn't be engaging very much with the State of Israel, because it most likely wouldn't have existed. That's right, you guessed it, we are obviously talking about... Binyamin Ze'ev Herzl.
Exactly 117 years ago today, on July 3rd, 1904, the visionary of the Jewish State of Israel and the pioneer of Political Zionism, passed away from heart calcification at the young age of 44.
That's right, the person that spent most of his adult life (as short as it was...) spreading the word of Zionism and the soon-to-be State of Israel, died 34 years before the state was established. He didn't even get to see his life project, that he literally gave his life towards, come to fruition (remind you of anyone? #Moses).
We thought this would be a good opportunity to learn a few lesser-known facts about the most famous beard in Jewish history (after the younger Matisyahu of course).
So here we go:
Herzl the Student
In school, Herzl was a grade A student, his grades were high in almost every subject, from German and Maths to painting and singing. In law school, things looked a little different. School-wise he obviously did ok, he did get a Ph.D. after all, but apparently, he had a serious gambling problem. He often had to ask his father to cover his debts.
Herzl in Israel
In 1898, Herzl famously came on a small Zionist delegation to Israel (Palestine at the time), where he met with the German Emperor, Wilhelm II, at Mikveh Yisrael. There is a famous photo of Herzl speaking with the Emperor, while the latter is sitting on his horse. Not many know, but the picture is actually a photomontage.
David Wolfson, the photographer, was so nervous when he took the photo that his hands shook, and he was only able to capture the Emperor's shadow and Herzl's left foot.
In his memories, Herzl didn't hide his disgust with the city of Jerusalem. He referred to it as a 2000-year-old moldy, dirty, full of cruelty, and jealous city. He even stated that all the beggary and poverty around the Kotel (Western Wall), prevented him from feeling any deep feelings at the holy site.
Herzl's Love Life
In his journal from January 10th, 1886, Herzl admits to having fallen in love with a 13-year-old girl. He was 26 at the time.
In 1880, Herzl contracted a disease after visiting a lady of the night. In a letter he wrote to his friend on June 8th, he specifically describes the symptoms of the disease. Although it wasn't a deadly disease, at the time there wasn't an effective treatment yet, so many believe that that might have been the cause of his poor health, which eventually led to his early demise at the age of 44.
In his final will, Herzl demanded that his mother get control of his estate and his kids, not his wife. His wife Julie died in 1907, at the age of 39. His oldest daughter, Paulina, underwent a few psychiatric hospitalizations and ended up in Bordeaux, where she got addicted to morphine and died in 1924 at the age of 40.
His son Hans was as far from Judaism as can be. He wasn't circumcised until the age of 15, after which he became Baptist, Catholic, Protestant, Unitarian, Quaker, and ultimately Jewish again. After he learned of his sister's death, he committed suicide by gunshot.
The youngest daughter, Truda, was hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital after giving birth to Herzl's only grandkid. She eventually died in the Theresienstadt Nazi ghetto in 1943.
Herzl's last descendant, his grandson Stephen Theodor, committed suicide in 1946, by jumping off a bridge on Massachusetts Boulevard.