How One of Russia’s Leading Literary Figures Became One of Zionism’s Greatest Leaders

December 15, 2022 | Hillel Halkin
About the author: Hillel Halkin’s books include Yehuda HaleviAcross the Sabbath RiverMelisande: What are Dreams? (a novel), Jabotinsky: A Life (2014), and, most recently, After One-Hundred-and-Twenty (Princeton). 

Born in the cosmopolitan city of Odessa, then in the Russian empire, in 1880, Vladimir Jabotinsky as a young adult had a promising career as an essayist, playwright, and literary critic—without any particular interest in Jewish affairs. That slowly changed as Jabotinsky was drawn to Zionism, and eventually founded and led the Revisionist movement, the ancestor of today’s Likud. As his biographer Hillel Halkin puts it, he was “a politician who did not want to be a politician.” Halkin discusses Jabotinsky’s life, his talents as an orator and translator, his critique of the Zionist left, and his fateful meetings in 1934 with David Ben-Gurion, who would soon thereafter become his greatest rival. (Interview by David Makovsky. Audio, 49 minutes.)

Read more on Decision Points: