Ze'ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky
(1880 - 1940)
Ze'ev Jabotinsky was a Zionist activist, orator, and writer who founded the Betar Movement. He was also a soldier who founded the Jewish Legion
during World War I.
Jabotinsky (born October 18, 1880; died August 4, 1940) was born as Vladimir into a middle-class Jewish family in the Russian
city of Odessa. At the age of 18, he left Odessa to study law in Italy and Switzerland, where he also served as a foreign 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.
Ze'ev returned to Odessa in 1901 where he worked on the editorial staff of Odesskiya Novosti, but the pogrom against the Jews of Kishinev in 1903 spurred
Jabotinsky to undertake Zionist activity. Though he admitted that he "no inner contact with Judaism" and never "breathed the atmosphere of Jewish cultural tradition" during his youth, Jabotisnky took a leadership role in organizing selfdefense
units and fought for Jewish minority rights in Russia. He then traveled the length and breadth of Russia urging self-defense on the Jewish communities.
Elected as a delegate to the 6th Zionist
Congress, Jabotinsky became fascinated by Zionist leader Theodor
Herzl and though he voted against Herzl's "Uganda Plan" for a Jewish national home, Ze'ev was totally taken by the fervor of Zionist activists. Over the next few years, Jabotinsky
was active in spreading the Hebrew language and culture
throughout Russia and soon became the foremost Zionist lecturer and journalist in the country.
Following the outbreak of World
War I in 1914, Jabotinsky left for the
war-front as a newspaper correspondent with the Moscow liberal daily Russkiya Vedomosti. While in Alexandria, where thousands of Jewish deportees from Palestine were concentrated, he met Joseph
Trumpeldor and together they 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.
After 1921, Jabotinsky served as a member of the Zionist
Executive and was 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
of ZionistsRevisionists (Hatzohar)
which called for the immediate establishment of a
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.
From 1939 to 1940, 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
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.
Sources: The Jabotinsky Institute in Israel; Encyclopaedia
Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group.
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