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From Basel to Jerusalem -

The Birth of Modern Zionism and the State of Israel

by Meira B. Epstein, C.A. NCGR-PAA

The desire to return to Zion, the Land of Israel, has never left the Jews since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the exile of the people by the Romans in the year 70 CE. Throughout the centuries, the dream has been kept alive in literature and prayers, and every year on Passover Jewish people say, “May we be in Jerusalem Next Year”. Towards the end of the 19th century, this dream began to turn into a reality, almost single-handedly, through the actions of Theodor Herzl, the visionary of modern political Zionism.
Theodor Herzl's chartHerzl was born in Budapest on May 2, 1860 and grew up in Vienna. He was educated in the spirit of the German-Jewish Enlightenment of the time, which advocated assimilation into the contemporary gentile culture and emphasis on secular studies rather than the religious ones. In 1884 Herzl was awarded a doctorate of law from the University of Vienna. He became a writer, a playwright and a journalist, and later became the Paris correspondent of the Vienna newspaper Neue Freie Presse. Herzl had been concerned with anti-Semitism before, but it was in Paris where he encountered the defining anti-Semitic event that would shape his life and the fate of the Jews in the twentieth century.

SOLAR chart for Theodor Herzl  --->
B. 2 May, 1860, Budapest, Hungary



Alfred Dreyfus' chart

SOLAR chart for Alfred Dreyfus: 
b. 19 October, 1859, Mulhouse, France

In 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus (b. Oct. 19, 1859, Mulhouse, France), a Jewish officer in the French army, was unjustly accused of treason, mainly because of the prevailing anti-Semitic atmosphere and the need for a political scapegoat.

Dreyfus was arrested on October 15, and on December 22 he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The legal proceedings, which were based on insufficient evidence, were highly irregular and doubts began to grow, with rumors of forgery and cover-up of high-ranking officials. The chain of events crystallized into a movement for the revision of Dreyfus' trial, and a petition was signed by some 3,000 people, including Anatole France, Marcel Proust and a host of other intellectuals. 

This was epitomized by the publication of a letter by the writer Émile Zola under the headline "J'Accuse" (“I Accuse”) on Jan. 13, 1898.Dreyfus was ultimate acquitted, but the Affair triggered anti-Semitic demonstrations and riots in Paris and in the provinces. Herzl witnessed mobs shouting "Death to the Jews", and in a dramatic departure from his previous advocacy of assimilation into the contemporary European environment, he was now resolved that there was only one solution to anti-Semitism: The mass immigration of Jews to a land that they could call their own by establishing a sovereign state. Thus the Dreyfus Affair became a pivotal event in the genesis of Political Zionism.  

So what does astrology have to say about all this?

In previous lectures and in an article (NCGR Journal winter 2000/2001), I have identified Neptune as an important factor in the struggle for national identity in general, and in the history of the Jewish people in particular. The role of Neptune in the quest for self-definition and identity is very marked in the natal chart of individual people, usually appearing as Sun/Neptune in hard aspects. In the history of nations it appears as chaotic times when new ideas, ideologies and political structures begin to emerge. This was quite evident in the revolutions in Europe in 1848, that came immediately after the discovery of Neptune (1846) - a period which was called “The Spring of The Nations”.

State of Israel - chart

State of Israel - Declaration of Independence
14 May, 1948, 4:00 PM, Tel-Aviv, Israel  --->

My other thesis is that it is possible to use a modern or later chart of a nation to investigate historic events that preceded that date, if no earlier charts exist (see the article for further explanation.) In the chart of the state of Israel (Proclamation of Independence, May 14, 1948 4, PM, Tel-Aviv) both principles seem to work quite powerfully.

For the Jewish people, Neptune appears at momentous historic times. Two such notable events are the Destruction of the First Temple and the exile to Babylonia in 586 BCE and the destruction of the Second Temple and final exile by the Romans, in 70 CE.



In both events, Neptune was at 23° Aries, opposite modern Israel’s ASC. To add to this, in 568 BCE Saturn was in late Cancer conj. Israel’s MC, and in 70 CE it was late Libra conj. Israel’s ASC.

It also takes Neptune to make a dreamer and a visionary such as Theodor Herzl was.He actually was a mixture of Sun-in-Taurus which instinctively understood the need for the connection with the land, and Neptune-Moon-Venus combination that allowed him to dream when others were still skeptical. He came up with plans for funding and for getting the support of the international political powers of the time. He had a clear vision of this future state, which he laid out in detail in his book Altneuland (‘Old New Land’, 1902). It was to be a model of a technologically and morally advanced secular social utopia and a “Light unto the nations”. (Note his Gemini-Venus conjunct Israel’s Uranus-in-9H). This book had a great impact on the Jewish masses and became a symbol of the Zionist vision for the Land of Israel.

On August 29-31, 1897, Herzl convened and chaired the First Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland. The congress adopted the Basle Program of the Zionist movement, declaring that "Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law." He was also elected as first president of the new organization.

Herzl’s Sun-Pluto-Taurus-sq-Saturn-in-Leo instinctively understood the role of the great international powers and the need to get their protection and support. In 1898 he traveled to Palestine and Istanbul to meet with Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. When these efforts proved fruitless, he turned to Great Britain, and met with Joseph Chamberlain, the British colonial secretary and others. The only concrete offer he received from the British was the proposal of a Jewish autonomous region in east Africa, in Uganda. Herzl proposed the Uganda Program to the Zionist Congress (1903) as a temporary refuge for Jews in Russia in immediate danger of pogroms but was met by a storm of protests, and the idea eventually was dropped.

After the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Herzl wrote in his diary:

     'If I had to sum up the Basel Congress in one word--which I shall not do openly--

      it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish state. If I were to say this today, 

      I would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years, perhaps, and certainly 

      in 50, everyone will see it.'

In true Neptunian inspiration, Herzl also coined the phrase "If you will, it is no fairytale," which became the motto of the Zionist movement. Although at the time no one could have imagined it, Zionism led, only fifty years later, to the establishment of the independent State of Israel.

Herzl died in 1904, of pneumonia and a weak heart overworked by his incessant efforts on behalf of Zionism, but by then the movement had found its place on the world political map. In 1949 (as transiting Saturn and Pluto were affecting his natal one’s), Herzl's remains were brought to Israel and re-interred on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

Modern Political Zionism had its roots in the new spirit of nationalism that engulfed Europe after the discovery of Neptune in 1846, and evolved through the events of WW1 & WW2.

WW1 produced the Balfour Declaration (Nov.2, 1917), which was the first political recognition by a world power of the right of the Jews for a homeland in Palestine. Lord Balfour was the secretary of foreign affairs for the British government, and the declaration was written as a letter addressed to the Lord Rothschild. This gesture resulted not so much from pure moral conviction and desire for historic justice, as from political power games played in the world arena by the Allies of WW1. The details of the stories are long and involved, so we will leave them off here.

Just compare to the future Israel’s chart: Transiting Neptune at 7° Leo and Saturn was at 14° Leo at the time of the Balfour Declaration. Also compare transits to Lord Balfour - born July 25, 1848, Edinburgh, with Jupiter, Sun, Venus and Mars in Leo.

Harking back to ancient times, this Neptune transit is awesome in another way:

In 538, Cyrus II (Koresh) of Persia, who had defeated the Babylonian empire the year before, issued a decree that allowed the Jews to return to Judea and the restore the Temple in Jerusalem. Following that, a large number of Jewish exiles returned from Babylonia to Jerusalem and the Second Temple was built. Neptune was at 7° Leo in that year! Symbolically, both Balfour Declaration and the Cyrus Decree were of the same historic nature: A foreign international power that intervenes and helps the Jews return to their homeland.

In 1922 Britain was granted a mandate to rule Palestine, by the League of Nations. It incorporated the Balfour Declaration and stressed the Jewish historical connection with Palestine.

On Sept. 29, 1923, (as transiting Saturn was passing over the Libra ASC of future Israel) the British Mandate officially came into force.

On Nov. 29, 1947, in the aftermath of WW2, the UN passed the Partition Resolution for the establishment of Arab and Jewish states.

Charts for the State of Israel:

1.        May 14, 1948, 4:00 PM, Tel-Aviv Museum: Ben-Gurion begins to read the Declaration of Independence.  4:32 PM: Ben-Gurion finishes reading, hits the gavel and declares “The State of Israel has Arisen.”

2.        May 15, 1948, 00:00: The British Mandate officially ends. Invasion by the surrounding Arab countries began immediately, a few hours later.

4.   Founder and first prime minister:  David Ben-Gurion, Oct. 16, 1886, Plonsk, Poland.

5.   First President (and scientist):       Haim Weitzman, Nov. 27, 1874, Motol, Belarus.  


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