Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky (1880–1940) was a Zionist leader, thinker, author, poet and translator. He was one of the founders of the Jewish Legion during the First World War, as well as the founder of the Revisionist stream of Zionism and the Betar movement.
Jabotinsky advocated hardening the Zionist stance toward British policy and Arab aggression and using military force to advance the establishment of a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan River. He also opposed the socialist views which were dominant in the Zionist movement. His controversial positions attracted many admirers but also earned him many bitter opponents, such as David Ben-Gurion. Due to his political views, he is considered the ideological father of the right-wing political camp in Israel.
Jabotinsky was born in Odessa. As a child, he studied Hebrew with the writer Joshua Ravnitzky, and showed great interest in languages, literature and poetry. As a teenager, he began translating world poetry into Russian, and became a foreign correspondent stationed in Italy and Switzerland. While traveling throughout Europe, he also studied law and wrote plays and news articles. It was during this period that he was exposed to the plight of various Jewish communities and became acquainted with the Zionist idea. In the wake of the atrocity of the Kishinev pogrom in 1903, he decided to devote himself to Zionist activity, and was elected to represent the Odessa Zionists at the Sixth Zionist Congress.
During World War I, Jabotinsky joined Joseph Trumpeldor in establishing the Zion Mule Corps, in which soldiers from the Jewish community in the Land of Israel served in the British army. He later worked to establish more battalions which together came to be known as the Jewish Legion. Jabotinsky himself served in the 38th Royal Fusiliers and saw action in Palestine.
The Father of the Revisionist Movement
As one who believed that the Zionist Organization should harden its position toward British anti-Zionist policy, Jabotinsky founded the Betar youth movement in 1923, and Hatzohar (Union of Revisionist Zionists) in 1925. He later founded the Irgun, and promoted illegal Jewish immigration to Mandatory Palestine. Jabotinsky died in New York in 1940, and his remains were reburied on Mount Herzl in 1964.
Jabotinsky's character, outlook, Zionist activity and literary work are reflected in an abundance of interesting archival materials entrusted to the Library by various institutions and people around the world. Many of the documents are accessible thanks to cooperation with the archives of the Jabotinsky Institute in Israel. A study of the works he wrote and translated, as well as photographs of his life, articles he wrote or that were written about him and many other materials preserved at the Library may reveal fascinating and surprising aspects of Jabotinsky’s personality.