Russia/Palestine: Rishon LeZion settlement/Theodore Herzl commemorative token, circa. 1898; copper; possibly maker-marked "J" (on rim); size: 26mm x 32.25mm; weight: 6.8g.
The obverse of this token is a mixture of tha hallmarks found between the larger and smaller original (circa. 1889-1892) versions of this tallion, specifically in connection to lettering design and spacing (see items 0130913 and 0130912 for more details).
The reverse here features a left-facing portrait of Herzl, with his name "Dr. Theodore Herzl" along the left edge, and a Hebrew excerpt of a quotation from the Prophet Yeshayahu (chapter 62, verse 1), "For the sake of Zion I will not be silent [and for the sake of Jerusalem I will not rest, until her righteousness comes out like brilliance and her salvation burns like a torch]" - here, the (non-Jewish?) engraver appears to have accidentally written the Hebrew word "Lema'an" ("for the sake of") with the letter "tzadi" rather than "ayin".
Although this token is not catalogued, it most probably dates to the period immediately after his visit to Rishon LeZion in October 1898. In the framework of his activity to gain political acceptance of a Jewish state in Palestine, Herzl approached leaders of key foreign powers to enlist their support.
Herzl's mission to Palestine in October 1898 was both an opportunity to gain familiarity with the desired homeland as well as a scheduled chance to meet with the Kaiser of Germany who had close ties with the Sultan of Turkey which controlled Palestine. Herzl's mission however was low-key - he travelled with a small circle of just four associates (Max Bodenheimer, David Wolfsohn, Reuven Schnirer and Yosef Zeidner) and his visit to Palestine was deliberately unannounced.
Nevertheless, his arrival was met with excitement and pride in spite of the lack of preparations to greet him; he reached Rishon LeZion (26 October) after visiting the agricultural school at Mikveh Israel, and stayed overnight, visiting with winery, the house of Rothschild's official, and being entertained by Rishon LeZion's symphony orchestra.
The degree of excitement was summed up by the winery's director, David Yudilovich (from his diary entry for 26 October): "5pm... And here approached me a fellow countryman, one of the founders of [the settlement of] Rosh Pina, and he too was part of the approaching coterie, and presents: Dr. Herzl. It was as if I froze, I was seized by trembling and fear. A tremor passed through my body. I didn't know what to do with myself. The whole group entered the large hall. And I stand and am astonished: Herzl is in Eretz Israel?! Herzl is here?! Herzl is here?! And in the official's [of Rothschild] house?!..."
Foreign historiography then and since tended to dismiss the importance of Herzl's visit and underscore the lack of success in enlisting the Kaiser's support, however Herzl's visit rallied the Jewish community in Palestine and the Kaiser, meeting Herzl now for a second time, was quite interested in the Zionist movement, even saying that it contained a "healthy ideology" though he could not give it public backing without the Turkish Sultan supporting it first. In F-VF.
מילות מפתח: סיכות מדליות מדליה סמלים תגיות מוסדות ארגונים ציוניים קק"ל קרן היסוד סוכנות הרצל יהודית רוסיה פלשתינה א"י