Live streaming
120 Years Ago Today: The First Zionist Congress Meets in Basel GPO National Photo Collection
GPO News

120 Years Ago Today: The First Zionist Congress Meets in Basel

29 August 2017 by Efraim Roseman

On August 29, 1897, the First Zionist Congress, called together by Theodor Herzl, was held in Basel, Switzerland. 



Theodor Herzl addressing 1st or 2nd Zionist Congress in Basel, Aug. 1897-8, GPO National Photo Collection



The Zionist Organization (ZO - later renamed the World Zionist Organization) was thus formed. Theodor Herzl, the visionary behind modern Zionism, was elected the ZO's first president and the Basel Program, a resolution stating the goals of Zionist movement, was approved.


The Basal Program

Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Eretz­Israel secured under public law. The Congress contemplates the following means to the attainment of this end:

  1. The promotion by appropriate means of the settlement in Eretz-Israel of Jewish farmers, artisans, and manufacturers.
  2. The organization and uniting of the whole of Jewry by means of appropriate institutions, both local and international, in accordance with the laws of each country.
  3. The strengthening and fostering of Jewish national sentiment and national consciousness.
  4. Preparatory steps toward obtaining the consent of governments, where necessary, in order to reach the goals of Zionism.


Membership in the Zionist Organization was accorded to anyone who accepted the Basle Program and paid the Zionist Shekel  (the Biblical name given for annual dues).