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Reviews of Old New Land

Altneuland (Old New Land) is one of the most remarkable books of the twentieth century … Altneuland is a blueprint of the perfect Jewish state, a technocratic utopia, a socialist dream with all the advantages of capitalism, an idealistic colonial enterprise, a model of pure reason, a ‘light unto the nations.’ It also helps to explain the extremism of some of those who rebel against the dominance of what is widely regarded as the arrogant West.

“By the 1920s, in Herzl’s tale, Jerusalem would be transformed into a thoroughly modern metropolis … Arab and Jew would live happily together in the New Society, working in vast ‘co-operative syndicates.’ … Herzl could not possibly have foreseen [the tensions to come], and yet the seeds of tragedy are already buried in this text, which was well meant, deeply idealistic, and in many ways typical of everything that people who feel so victimized by the West that they wish for its destruction find most hateful.”
The New York Review of Books

“This is an old book, a nineteenth-century book, but strangely I find it very relevant to today’s Israel because Herzl talks of a democratic and Jewish state. It is easy to mock his book because he describes Israel in terms of the nineteenth-century Europe, with luxury boats playing Viennese waltzes, taking Jews to Palestine where they all live happily ever after with the Arabs. We all know this didn’t take place but his vision of a Jewish state is something that I personally can identify with. He talks about a liberal, secular Jewish state, a separation between church and state. But it’s not anti-Jewish. It’s a state where even the old temple is being rebuilt side by side with the Al Akhsa mosque and there is also a temple of universal peace and justice. The whole theme of the book is co-existence with the non-Jewish minority in the Jewish state and the victory of the tolerant liberal party over the intolerant right-wing nationalist party. So, this is the sort of Israel I would like to see, in which state and religion are separate, in which liberalism is victorious and in which non-Jews can live happily side by side with Jews. For me Herzl’s book is a contemporary book, a guide for the perplexed and I wish more people in Israel would follow Herzl’s dream. While not turning a blind eye to their cultural Jewish heritage, they would separate between the synagogue and politics.”
— Amnon Rubinstein, Five Books