Monday, March 31, 2008
Ze'ev Jabotinsky was a Jewish and Zionist author, orator, soldier, leader, and founder of the Jewish Self Defense Organization in Odessa. He was born and raised in Odessa and wrote in some of his works, that despite attending Hebrew school, he felt rather detached from the religious aspects of Judaism. His writings were printed in Ukrainian/Russian papers before he even graduated high school and was sent to Switzerland and Italy to be work as a reporter for a Russian paper. He attended the University of Rome, while in the area, and later became a lawyer upon his return to Russia.
After the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, he joined the Zionist movement. Jabotinsky quickly established the Jewish Self Defense Organization and learned modern Hebrew. He changed his Russian name of Vladimir to Ze'ev, meaning wolf, in Hebrew. He became the leader of right-wing Zionists after Theodore Herzl's death in 1904 and was the Russian delegate to the Sixth Zionist Congress. At a conference in Helsinki, Finland, he called upon European Jewry to help with the liberation struggle of ethnic minorities in Russia. Jabotinsky criticized Russian Jewish leaders for participating in the centennial celebration of Nikolai Gogol, because Gogol was a reputed anti-Semite.
Jabotinksy ended up in Palestine and helped establish defense training for Jewish men, however was thrown in jail for being Socialist and enveloping Bolshevik views. Both of which, were untrue. Upon returning from the 16th Zionist Congress, Jabotinsky was exiled from Palestine under British rule. In the 1930s, Jabotinsky was concerned with the Polish Jewish population, whom he believed 'were living on the edge of the volcano'. He predicted "bloody super-pogroms" would strike European Jews. He pleaded with Polish/Hungarian/Romanian governments to allow a 10 year plan for the evacuation of their Jewish populations to Palestine. They all agreed, however some Jews of these countries viewed this as playing into the hands of the anti-Semites. He also understood that there would be Arab opposition to the emigration of Jews, and drafted a constitution for a Jewish state that held Arabs in an equal light in all aspects of public life. He died of a heart attack in New York in 1940, while visiting a Jewish self-defense camp.
There are more streets, parks, and squares named for him in Israel than for any other Jewish or Israeli person in history. I find it incredibly interesting that stemming all the way from Odessa, a middle-class Jewish kid was able to help pave the way for the modern formation of Israel.