HA-MELIẒ (Heb. הַמֵּלִיץ, "The Advocate"), the first Hebrew paper in Russia. Ha-Meliẓ was founded in Odessa in 1860 by Alexander *Zederbaum with the assistance of his son-in-law, A.J. Goldenblum. Zederbaum obtained the license to publish the paper through his connections with the czarist authorities. Ha-Meliẓ was long the organ of the moderate Haskalah movement in Russia, although at times it served the extreme wing of the Haskalah, publishing the writings of M.L. *Lilienblum and J.L. *Gordon, advocates of religious reform. In the literary sphere, Ha-Meliẓ was involved in a bitter controversy concerning A.U. *Kovner and his destructive criticism of Hebrew literature (Kovner also sharply criticized Ha-Meliẓ in his Ẓeror Peraḥim, 1868). Appearing in Russia, where censorship was severe, Ha-Meliẓ defended the czarist regime, but also criticized it surreptitiously. Zederbaum introduced into Ha-Meliẓ the Hebrew journalistic article with all its virtues and defects and attracted contributors from among the best authors in Russia, such as *Mendele Mokher Seforim. After 10 years in Odessa, Ha-Meliẓ was transferred to St. Petersburg (1871) where it appeared until it ceased publication in 1904. As Ha-Meliẓ was pro-Russian, it advocated Haskalah, Jewish agricultural settlement in Russia, occupation in trades, and improving education while fostering traditional and religious values. Accordingly, it held a reserved attitude toward nationalist and Zionist ideals which were gaining impetus in the early 1880s. Only as Zionism grew stronger, and under the influence of A.S. *Friedberg, one of the paper's editorial assistants, did Ha-Meliẓ become the organ of the Ḥibbat Zion movement in Russia. In response to the growing interest in Zionism in the 1880s, Ha-Meliẓ, which had been a weekly, became a semi-weekly in 1883 and a daily from 1886, until it ceased publication. For different reasons the paper did not appear for periods of various lengths, from a few months in 1871–72 and in 1879, to a few years, from 1874 to 1877. Ha-Meliẓ flourished in the 1880s and 1890s, particularly under the editorship of the poet Judah Leib *Gordon (1880–83, 1885–88). Promoting Hebrew literature in Russia during the second half of the 19th century, Ha-Meliẓ published the earliest writings of Aḥad Ha-Am, Bialik, and scores of other Hebrew authors and scholars in Russia and abroad. Ha-Meliẓ also published controversy which, descending to the personal level, bore negative consequences. When Ha-Meliẓ became the organ of the Ḥibbat Zion movement in Russia it published the best nationalist-Zionist journalism. For many years Ha-Meliẓ published various literary collections, introducing writers of all political and religious factions. On Zederbaum's death in 1893, the paper ceased to appear for a few months until it was taken over by Yehudah Leib *Rabinovich, who served as its last editor.
S.L. Zitron, in: Ha-Olam, 7 (1913), passim; 8 (1914), passim; S. Bernstein, Be-Ḥazon ha-Dorot (1928), 74–102; R. Malachi, in: Hadoar, 40 (1961), no. 13–27, passim; Kressel, Leksikon, 2 (1967), 703f.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.