In Hillel Halkin’s masterful portrait of Ahad Ha’am we meet a man whose approach to Zionism hardly reflected his pen name of “One of the People.” An archetypal elitist, this Zionist leader shunned extensive contact with either the Jewish public or the life of practical politics. Not only was the B’nei Moshe association that he founded in Odessa short-lived and of limited influence, but he also regularly abstained from most gatherings of the Zionist Congress. Further distancing him from the activities of the movement, and from the younger generation of Zionists, were the many years he lived in London.
The Failure of Cultural Zionism
To its shame, the movement led by Ahad Ha’am missed the extreme urgency of the Jewish situation in Europe. Thankfully, the revival of his thought in today’s Israel is another matter.