This article traces literary depictions of the city of Haifa, starting from its utopian literary prototype in Theodor Herzl’s influential Altneuland (1902), and continuing with later Israeli writing, by Yehudit Hendel, Sami Michael, and Hillel Mittelpunkt. The article shows how the Israeli works discussed set literary Haifa as a stage for examining questions of identity, belonging, and the relations between individual and society, through an emphasis on the complex ties between language, ethnicity, and space. The literary city of these works is compared to the city of Herzl’s utopian vision. I argue that the evolution of literary Haifa is associated with shifts in Israeli collective self-perception: from the utopian mode of thought, in which difficulties and complexities remain invisible, through the gradual turning of the gaze towards the difficulties and fractures in the emergent new society (first within the Jewish society, but then also outside it — among the Arab minority); and finally, to an inability to accept the absence of utopia from the present, leading to escapism and a quest for the longed-for ideal in the pre-national past.
One of the central elements of Herzlian spatial-political thought that has been filtered out of the deterministic historiographical discourse on Herzl-the-visionary-of-the-nation-state is that of travel and tourism, as well as the cultural significance and political context of the representations of travel and tourism in his utopian-political novel Altneuland.
The present article argues, however, that it is precisely through accounting for the notions of travel and tourism at work in Theodor Herzl’s Altneuland that one can appreciate Herzl’s perception of homecoming in its full complexity. The development of this argument is divided into the following three areas: (1) a survey of the expressions of the theme of travel and tourism in Altneuland which have been largely overlooked by virtually all the historians, political scientists and literary scholars dealing with Herzl’s novel; (2) a rethinking of the cultural and political aspects of Herzlian Zionism given the appropriate assessment of the role played by the motif(s) of travel and tourism in his vision of the future Palestine, as well as placing those aspects within the wider historical context of the contemporary development of political territorially-oriented national movements in the Habsburg Central Europe where Herzlian nationalism had emerged; (3) framing discussion on the journey element in the Herzlian Zionism in terms of relevant theoretical discourse on travel, tourism and homecoming, with purpose of drawing through the case of Herzl’s employment of travel motifs some broad theoretical reflections on travel, Zionism and homecoming in the time (and space) of fin-de-siècle multiethnic empires.