The world renowned author Arthur Koestler in his inimitable concise form, aptly summed up Jabotinsky's career: "Jabotinsky was a National Liberal in the great 19th century tradition, a revolutionary of the 1848 brand, successor to Garibaldi and Mazzini. He was one of the most colorful figures that modern Jewry has produced. He wrote prose in eight languages, poetry in four, translated Dante and Poe into Hebrew, Hebrew poetry in Russian; his publications, under the pen-name 'Altalena' range from novels to studies in comprehensive phonetics. He was idolized by the young, endowed with exceptional personal charm and a brilliant public speaker.
"...In the light of present events, with the Jewish State an established reality, almost every point of Jabotinsky's program has either been implemented by official Zionism, or vindicated by the trend of events."
That Jabotinsky belongs to the entire Jewish people regardless of the opposition to the ideology he espoused was stressed by the late Zalman Shazar, president of Israel, when he wrote that the exaltation and admiration demonstrated for Jabotinsky's "talent and aesthetic was based not on party politics."
"The appearance of a great talent," he wrote, "was accepted as it was intimately connected with the Zionist Revelation, just as it would be a direct exposure to the prophecy of Isaiah: "And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and they counselor as at the beginning: Afterward thou shall be the city of righteousness, a faithful city." (Isaiah 1:26)
"This was a sign that the blossoms of spring appeared and exalted the Divine Presence."
Zeev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky was born in Odessa, Russia, on October 18, 1880, the son of a merchant. His father, who was held in high esteem in the community, died when Zeev was still a boy, and although he studied Hebrew in his early youth he received his academic education in a Russian school. His mother, who in later years settled in Eretz Israel, was a descendant of the famous sage, the Dubner Maggid. At an early age he showed outstanding literary talent, and when he was eighteen, a leading Russian daily, the Odesskie Novosti, assigned him as its correspondent in Switzerland. Later he went to Rome where, while working as a correspondent, he studied law. Very early in life his linguistic genius manifested itself and he easily acquired knowledge of English, German, French, and Italian. At the same time he studied Latin and ancient Greek.
Odessa was at its height as a center of Jewish and Zionist activity; still Jabotinsky grew up steeped in Russian, more than Jewish culture.
Elected as a delegate to the Sixth Zionist Congress, Jabotinsky was deeply impressed by Herzl. Envious of the fluent Hebrew he heard spoken at the Congress, Jabotinsky - who already spoke Russian, French, English, German and various Slavic languages - set about gaining mastery of Hebrew, becoming an accomplished orator and translator.
Jabotinsky's superb translation of Bialik's poetry from Hebrew to Russian made Bialik famous all over Russia. He translated Yehudah Leib Gordon into Russian, as well as other famous writers.
Jabotinsky was an admirer of the writings of Edgar Allen Poe and while yet in high school he translated Poe's famous work - The Raven - into Russian. He translated Dante's works into Hebrew as well as other noted authors.
Famous Russian writers, among them Maxim Gorki, complained that the Zionists "stole" Jabotinsky away from Russian literature where a great literary future awaited him. They praised his linguistic and stylistic talent and saw in Jabotinsky's devotion to Jewish and Zionist politics a loss to Russian literature.
Jabotinsky rose to prominence as a professional journalist and provocative publicist - but first and foremost as a gifted and passionate orator. As a speaker his tone and message introduced a sense of urgency, not always shared by mainstream Jewish leaders, to Zionist deliberations and aspirations.
He traveled widely all over Russia and Europe - lobbying for the Zionist cause in Constantinople following the Young Turk revolution - advocating unrelenting international political activity along with ongoing Jewish settlement in Palestine.
Jabotinsky stressed the importance of learning Hebrew, which he perceived as a central element in nation-building - even serving for a brief stint as elocution teacher for the founding actors of the Habimah Theater, the first Hebrew-language theater troupe, destined to become Israel's national theater.
Jabotinsky's Social Program
Jabotinsky was a great believer in universal equality and individual liberty. His social program was based on the principles of liberalism and social justice as outlined in the Bible.
In his concern for the social order of the future Jewish State he had emphasis on the moral obligation of its founders to ensure that there be no hunger, no want nor deprivation.
Jabotinsky expounded the idea of five "Mems," the use of five Hebrew words that start with that letter: mazon (food), maon (dwelling), malbush (clothing), marpeh (medicine), moreh (teacher).
He set forth these five basic needs for every citizen of Eretz Yisrael as the basis for compassion and justice for all.
Protagonist of Hebrew
As a champion of the national Jewish Renaissance movement, Jabotinsky stood at the very center of the struggle for the Hebraization of the Diaspora and of Palestine. From the beginning of the century he waged a relentless battle for the acceptance of Hebrew as the national language of the Jew. He viewed it as another instrument of normalization and nation-building.
He initiated and led the campaign for the establishment of Hebrew schools in the Diaspora and demanded that the language of instruction in Czarist Russia's Jewish schools from the lowest to the highest form must be Hebrew.
Within a decade a widespread network of purely Hebrew schools was created by the Tarbut Organization of Eastern Europe. By 1928 almost 100,000 children were being educated in these schools.
In 1922, in the heat of a political conflict, Jabotinsky found time to publish, together with Perlman, the first Atlas in Hebrew. When the Betar was created, Jabotinsky made Hebrew a cardinal point of its ideology and insisted that all world Conventions of the Movement be conducted in that language.
Being the linguist par excellence and a perfectionist Jabotinsky aimed high at constant improvement of the modern Hebrew tongue. He insisted that it should not only be written correctly, but also pronounced with loving care, even fastidiously, so as to bring out its inherent nobility. His essay: "The Hebrew Pronunciation" published in 1930, is regarded by experts as a major contribution toward the advancement of the Hebrew culture.
Jabotinsky's last efforts in this field was the introduction of a revolutionary Hebrew textbook in Latin characters "Taryag Millim" which he started writing during his last visit to South Africa in 1938. In the introduction he wrote: "Spoken Hebrew has many elements of phonetic beauty, but that beauty needs careful tending and this is exactly what too many speakers of our language neglect."
Zionist Roots Sprouting in Soviet Jewry
The reawakening of Soviet Jewry to the Jewish identity and heritage and their yearning to return to their ancestral homeland can be traced back to the fact that for a hundred years Russia has been the cradle of Zionism. The first Aliyah to the Land of Israel came from Russia in the last two decades of the last century. Herzl's political Zionism was preceded in Russia by the "Lovers of Zion" movement and the "Bilu" movement aimed at settlement in the Jewish homeland at the time when Palestine was under Turkish rule.
By the end of the last century Zeev Jabotinsky appeared on the Zionist scene, and there continued his Zionist activities until after the first World War when the Communists seized power and Zionism became taboo in Soviet Russia.
For half a century the Communist rulers did everything in their power to uproot Jewish nationalism and Zionism from among the Jewish masses. Thus, a new generation grew bereft of Jewish schools and deprived of Jewish history books and Hebrew textbooks and without synagogue life. Zionist activity was considered a crime and Israel was branded an "aggressive" country.
But in spite of all repressions and anti-Jewish propaganda the Communist rulers were not successful in their campaign to eradicate Jewish thought and love of Zion. The Jewish masses, especially the youth, awakened to Jewish nationalism and Zionism and the desire for Aliyah to the Jewish homeland. Many among the thousands of Olim who arrived and continued to arrive from Soviet Russia acknowledged that the works of Jabotinsky, enshrined in his Russian books, played an important part in acquiring a knowledge of Jewish history and Jewish cultural heritage and instilled courage in the struggle to emigrate to Israel.
For such is the greatness of Zeev Jabotinsky, ever since he first appeared on the firmament of the Jewish people: his words were valid not only at the time when pronounced, but remain like a oracle for burning problems of our times, in the life of our people and of the Jewish state.
born 1880, Odessa, Russian Empire [now in Ukraine]
died Aug. 3, 1940, near Hunter, N.Y., U.S.
Zionist leader, journalist, orator, and man of letters who founded the militant Zionist Revisionist movement that played an important role in the establishment of the State of Israel.
Jabotinsky began his career in 1898 as a foreign correspondent, but his popularity as a journalist led to his recall to Odessa in 1901 as an editorial writer. By 1903 Jabotinsky began to expound Zionist views for the restoration and creation of a Jewish national state in Palestine both in his writings and in his oratory, of which he was a master. During the next decade, he continued to work as a journalist while traveling in Europe and crystallizing his Zionist views, which tended to be uncompromising and political, rather than cultural.
During World War I, he was convinced that the Ottoman Empire, then the ruling power in Palestine, would fall and that in this vacuum the Jews could colonize Palestine if they had demonstrated service to the Allies. He thus convinced the British government to allow military participation by Jewish refugees from the Ottoman Empire.
In 1920 Jabotinsky organized and led a Jewish self-defense movement (Haganah) against the Arabs in Palestine. The British, who then ruled the country, sentenced him to 15 years at hard labour, but this action provoked such an outcry that he was soon reprieved. In the 1920s he was active in many international Zionist organizations, including the World Union of Zionist Revisionists in 1925.
Testifying before the British Royal Commission on Palestine, Jabotinsky gave an impassioned expression of his Revisionist views. The source of Jewish suffering was not merely anti-Semitism, he said, but the Diaspora (dispersion) itself; the Jews were a stateless people. Assigning cultural Zionism a relatively low priority, he advocated the creation of a Palestinian Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan, with continued Jewish immigration to achieve a Jewish majority there, and employment of Jewish troops for self-defense as part of the permanent garrison. In 1940, while in the United States to visit Betar, the youth organization of the Zionist Revisionist Party, Jabotinsky died of a heart attack. His followers, who had already founded the Irgun Zvai Leumi terrorist group, active in Palestine in the 1940s, later founded the Israeli Herut Party.
22 July 2004
Ze'ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky was born on October 18, 1880, in the city of Odessa, Russia. At the age of 18, he left for Italy and Switzerland to study law, and served as a correspondent for several wellknown Russian newspapers. His reports and articles were widely read and soon became recognized as one of the brilliant exponents of Russian journalism. All his reports and articles were signed with his literary pseudonym “Altalena.”
The pogrom against the Jews of Kishinev in 1903 spurred Jabotinsky to undertake Zionist activity. He organized selfdefense units and fought for Jewish minority rights in Russia. Jabotinsky was elected as a delegate to the 6th Zionist Congress, the last in which Theodore Herzl participated. During this period, Jabotinsky was active in spreading the Hebrew language and culture throughout Russia, and the establishment of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, he left for the front as a newspaper correspondent. While in Alexandria, he met Joseph Trumpeldor and, from then onward, worked for the establishment of the Jewish Legion. Jabotinsky was not interested in the creation of an auxiliary unit, and, upon reaching London, took energetic steps until the final confirmation was received in August 1917 of the creation of the first Jewish Legion. Jabotinsky also served as a Lieutenant and participated in the assault of the Jordan River crossings and the conquest of Esalt in the campaign to free Eretz Israel (Palestine) from Turkish rule. During Passover in 1920, Jabotinsky stood at the head of the Haganah in Jerusalem against Arab riots and was condemned by the British Mandatory Government to 15 years hard labor. Following the public outcry against the verdict, he received amnesty and was released from Acre prison.
From 1921 onwards, Jabotinsky was a member of the Zionist Executive and one of the founders of “Keren Hayesod.” After a series of policy disagreement on the direction of the Zionist Movement, he seceded and, in 1925, established the Union of ZionistsRevisionists (Hatzohar) which called for the immediate establishment of a Jewish State.
In 1923, the youth movement Betar (Brith Joseph Trumpeldor) was created. The new youth movement aimed at educating its members with a military and nationalistic spirit and Jabotinsky stood at its head. During the years 19281929, he resided in Palestine and edited the Hebrew daily Doar Hayom while, at the same time, undertaking increased political activity. In 1929, he left the country on a lecture tour after which the British administration denied him reentry into the country. From then onwards he lived in the Diaspora until his death.
In 1935, after the Zionist Executive rejected his political program and refused to clearly define that “the aim of Zionism was the establishment of a Jewish state,” Jabotinsky decided to resign from the Zionist Movement. He founded the New Zionist Organization (N.Z.O) to conduct independent political activity for free immigration and the establishment of a Jewish State.
In 1937, the Irgun Tzvai Leumi (I.Z.L) became the military arm of the Jabotinsky movement and he became its commander. The three bodies headed by Jabotinsky, The New Zionist Organization (N.Z.O), the Betar youth movement and the Irgun Tzvai Leumi (I.Z.L) were three extensions of the same movement. The New Zionist Organization was the political arm that maintained contacts with governments and other political factors, Betar educated the youth of the Diaspora for the liberation and building of Eretz Israel and the Irgun Tzvai Leumi (I.Z.L) was the military arm that fought against the enemies of the Zionist enterprise. These bodies cooperated in the organization of Af Al Pi illegal immigration. Within this framework, more than 40 ships sailed from European ports bringing to Eretz Israel tens of thousands of illegal immigrants.
Throughout this period of intense political activity, Jabotinsky continued to write poetry, novels, short stories and articles on politics, social and economic problems. From among his literary creations, The Jewish Legion, Prelude to Delilah (Samson) and The Five, served as an inspiration for Jews of the Diaspora.
Jabotinsky was fluent in many languages and translated into Hebrew some of the best-known classics of world literature.
During 19391940, Jabotinsky was active in Britain and the United States in the hope of establishing a Jewish army to fight side by side with the Allies against Nazi Germany.
On August 4, 1940, while visiting the Betar camp in New York, he suffered a massive heartattack. In his will he requested that his remains may only be interred in Eretz Israel at the express order of the Hebrew Government of the Jewish State that shall arise. His will was fulfilled by Levi Eshkol, Israel's third Prime Minister. In 1964, Jabotinsky's remains and those of his wife Jeanne were reinterred on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
Source: The Jabotinsky Institute in Israel.
Copyright H. David Marshak, All Rights Reserved