Israeli president set to visit Basel for Zionist jubilee

Political activist Theodor Herzl on the terrace of the Hotel Les Trois Rois in Basel, where he stayed during the First Zionist Congress in 1897 Keystone / Str

The 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress will be held in the Swiss city of Basel at the end of August. Israeli President Isaac Herzog is expected to attend.

This content was published on June 8, 2022 - 17:16

The festivities will take place on August 28-29 in the Stadtcasino and at the Congress Center Basel, the president of the cantonal government said on Wednesday. More than 1,000 Jews from around the world will travel to the city in northern Switzerland. Security costs will total CHF5.7 million ($5.85 million).

The head of Basel police said all events in the city would go ahead as planned, including a public viewing on a central square as part of a federal wrestling festival.

The choice of Basel is far from a coincidence. Basel is considered the birthplace of the Jewish State of Israel, said Ralph Lewin, president of the Swiss Federation of Israeli Communities (SIG). At the end of August 1897, on the initiative of Theodor Herzl, the First Zionist Congress took place in the Stadtcasino’s music hall.

“At Basel I founded the Jewish State,” Herzl said the following week. “If I said this out loud today, l would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in 50 years, everyone will perceive it.”

‘Decisive milestone’

The name “Zionism” was derived from the longing for Zion, one of the ancient biblical names of Jerusalem, according to the Israeli foreign ministryExternal link.

“The Basel congress was a decisive milestone in transforming a popular phenomenon into a political movement, with the aim of establishing a modern state based on the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their historical homeland, just like all other nations,” it said.

In total, ten of the 22 congresses before the founding of the state in 1948 took place in Basel – among other things, the official state flag and state anthem were decided in Basel. “Basel is thus inextricably linked with the history of Zionism and the founding of Israel,” Lewin said.

The event is being planned by the World Zionist Organization in cooperation with the SIG. Workshops, panel discussions and lectures will take place.

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