July 5, 1950 – Knesset Passes Law of Return
Known as the founder of the World Zionist Organization and considered one of the leading fathers of modern political Zionism, Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) envisioned a modern State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Following the Dreyfus affair in France, where Herzl served as a newspaper correspondent, the Zionist visionary became convinced that the answer to anti-Semitism was for the Jewish people to have a country of their own. Observing that anti-Semitism usually presented itself only where large populations of Jews existed, he reasoned that removing the Jewish population from among the other nations would eliminate the problem. It would also enable the Jewish nation to be a light to the nations, as decreed in scripture.
In 1896, Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat – the Jewish State, wherein he laid out his reasoning and vision for a modern State of Israel. He concluded with these words:
“Therefore I believe that a wondrous generation of Jews will spring into existence. The Maccabees will rise again.
“Let me repeat once more my opening words: The Jews who wish for a state will have it.
“We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and die peacefully in our own homes.
“The world will be freed by our liberty, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness.
“And whatever we attempt there to accomplish for our own welfare, will react powerfully and beneficially for the good of humanity.”
Herzl died in 1904, never realizing the fulfillment of his vision. On the anniversary of his death, 46 years later – two years after the establishment of the Modern State of Israel – the country passed the Law of Return. The Law of Return established that every Jew, from anywhere in the world, has the right to immigrate to Israel as long as he or she is not engaged in an activity directed against the Jewish people or likely to endanger public health or the security of the state.
In 1970, the Law of Return was amended to include the child or grandchild of a Jew, as well as the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of the grandchild of a Jew.