Meet the Herzls
For the last 100 years, parents have been paying homage to Theodor Herzl by naming their children after the leader. A snapshot of six who are reminded daily of the founder of Zionism.
There is no single explanation regarding the origin of the last name of the visionary of the state, Binyamin Ze’ev (Theodor) Herzl. In German the word means “little heart,” but many scholars and genealogists think Herzl is actually a distortion of another Jewish name common in Central and Eastern Europe, Herschel, meaning “deer.”
Whatever the case, the name Herzl turned into a common first name among Jews the world over only after the death of the visionary in the early 20th century. At first the name was given only to the sons of a few Zionist activists, mainly members of the first waves of immigration to Palestine, but became more common with the rise of the State of Israel.
According to Interior Ministry data, there are currently 3,448 people in Israel who bear the name Herzl in its various forms, most of them born around the state’s founding. However, the trend has declined in recent years with only 74 new Herzls named since 2000.
There are also women with names derived from Herzl registered in the Interior Ministry, such as Herzla, Herzliya, Herzlina and even one woman named Herzl.
Many Herzls are well known figures. Among them are Herzl Bodinger, who was commander of the Israel Air Force and Herzl Shafir, former head of the Israel Defense Forces Southern Command, who also served as police commissioner.
On the darker side is Herzl Avitan, who is still considered one of the most notorious criminals in Israeli history. He served 22 years of his life in prison after receiving three life sentences for triple murders. He even managed to escape from prison twice, but died behind bars in 2001 of cardiac arrest.
Herzl Kabilio, a legendary soccer player and singer to boot, and Herzl Hakak − who was born in Iraq two weeks before the founding of the state and who won the World Bible Contest in 1965 along with his twin brother, Balfour Hakak − also enjoy name recognition.