Hillel Halkin’s books include Yehuda Halevi, Across the Sabbath River, Melisande: What are Dreams? (a novel), Jabotinsky: A Life (2014), and, most recently, After One-Hundred-and-Twenty (Princeton).
Despite the failure of his cultural Zionism, the two main pillars of his thought remain central to Jewish life—and to arguments about Jewish life—today.
The unresolved rivalry between the great Zionist thinker and the great Zionist strategist still shapes the contending outlooks of many 21st-century Jews.
None of the great Jewish arguments that raged in the 19th century—tradition versus modernity, secularism versus religion, nationalism versus universalism—is over with.
Elsewhere than Zion, said the greatest Hebrew poet of the 19th century—until he changed his mind, paving the way for others.
The death of his brother in 1041 moved Shmuel Hanagid, one of Jewish history’s most extraordinary figures, to write nineteen piercing poems charting the rise and fall of his grief.
Did Jews recognizably still exist as a people in the late 19th century? Many questioned it. In his packed and vibrant fiction, the great Peretz Smolenskin proved them wrong.
The second Hebrew novelist was the first to imagine the pageantry and passion of life in ancient Israel—and thereby excited the dreams of emergent Zionists.
In 1819, Joseph Perl published Hebrew literature’s first novel. A riotous satire of the ḥasidic movement, it remains largely and unjustly forgotten.
The two-state solution won’t work, the one-state solution won’t work. Where does that leave us?
Zionism is at once the greatest repudiation of the Jewish past and the greatest affirmation of it.
The Jewish people would suffer no great loss if all the Jews of Europe were to pack and leave tomorrow.