Treasure Trove: David Matlow on why some Zionist Congresses were truly extraordinary

This pin was distributed to delegates to the First Zionist Congress, held in Basel, Switzerland in August 1897. Theodor Herzl convened the Congress and designed the logo that appeared on the pin: it had seven stars representing the seven-hour work day that Herzl planned for the Jewish state. (This was a very progressive idea as the average workday in Canada then was 10 hours.)

In 2020, the 38th Zionist Congress was held virtually due to the pandemic.  

Since the last congress was not in person, an Extraordinary Zionist Congress was held in Jerusalem this year, from April 19 to 21 to mark the 75th anniversary of Israel’s independence. The congress was extraordinary indeed.

During a plenary session, a representative of World Likud tried to filibuster to prevent a vote on certain resolutions including one denouncing the Israeli government’s judicial reforms. The next day, Knesset Member Simcha Rothman, chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee which is shepherding Israel’s judicial overhaul, called police to escort him from a room where 100 delegates were protesting outside.

Yizhar Hess, vice-chair of the World Zionist Organization and a member of Israel’s Conservative-Masorti movement, said of the Congress: “Despite the right’s repeated attempts to prevent it, the World Zionist Congress will vote decisively to oppose the regime change legislation, to defend the Law of Return, and promote liberal values in Israel.”

May 2 is Herzl’s birthday. Happy birthday?