HaZman - הזמן
About this newspaper
Benzion Katz founded the newspaper Ha-Zman in order to 'combat the [Russian] government's malicious treatment of the Jewish people' and demand equal rights for Jews. In contrast to other Hebrew publications of the time, the paper adopted an uncharacteristically assertive line, and Katz took upon himself grave professional and personal risks in confronting the censorship and overstepping the boundaries of publication. At the same time, he established new professional standards by placing the 'scoop' at the heart of journalistic practice. Indeed, in one of the reasons cited for granting Katz the 1956 Sokolov Prize, the prize committee identified him as 'the forefather of scoops in the Hebrew press'.
Katz – born in Daugi, Lithuania and the descendant of a family of rabbis and yeshiva heads – was in his youth considered a prodigy, and he began his long literary-journalistic career at an early age with the publication of articles on laws of ritual slaughter in the Hebrew press. He proceeded to publish reference books on the Talmud, Halakha, and Jewish history, all before the age of 25. Ha-Zman was Katz's first journalistic enterprise, and he subsequently edited various newspapers in Hebrew and Yiddish (Ha-Am, Petrograder Tagblatt) published for short periods during World War I. During the 1920s he resided for a time in Berlin and engaged in literary and publishing pursuits, in part, through the 'Shteibel' publishing house. In 1928 Katz moved to Palestine where he engaged in journalistic and political writing for the paper 'Ha-Aretz' and later for 'Ha-Boker'. With regard to his political activity and involvement, of particular note is his assistance to the defense in the Beilis Trial in Kiev (1913), as well as his efforts to prove the innocence of those accused of the murder of Arlozorov in Tel Aviv (1933).
The first issue of Ha-Zman appeared in St. Petersburg twice a week beginning on January 9 (22), 1903, and on December 16 (29) of the same year it became a daily publication. As a result of financial difficulties, the editorial staff moved to Vilna (the 'Pale of Settlement') while Katz remained in St. Petersburg and frequently alternated between the two cities. The first Vilna issue of the paper was published on December 1 (14), 1904. At the height of its circulation, Ha-Zman had a readership of around 8,000, but shortly thereafter – and at a time when it was the only Hebrew-language daily in Russia (1909) – its circulation was reduced by nearly half.
Ha-Zman was the first newspaper to print articles on the pogrom which occurred in Kishniev in April 1903, while simultaneously protesting the government's attempts to silence the matter and prevent its publication. The paper's first big scoop was the publication of the exact wording of the Russian constitution after the 1905 revolution, and Russian-language newspapers – including anti-Semitic ones – were obliged to copy the article from the Hebrew paper. In 1906 Katz published – in defiance of a gag order issued by the Russian authorities – the 'Vyburg Declaration' of the exiled Russian Duma, which called for civil disobedience against the Tsar's tyranny. As a result of this action, Katz served a (very comfortable) year in prison in the city of Gori-Gorki, and to Yitzchak Neiditz, a Zionist public activist who offered to post bail for Katz's release, he declared that 'it is not proper to write and run' and that 'each activist and political writer needs to be responsible for his actions'.
Among the central controversies which appeared in Ha-Zman were Shemaryahu Levin's articles against Ahad Ha-Am for opposing Herzl's 'Altneuland' utopia, and Ahad Ha-Am's articles against Max Nordau, following Nordau's offensive article against Ahad Ha-Am which appeared in the Viennese 'Die Welt'. Katz himself was an enthusiastic Zionist and objected to Herzl's 'Uganda Plan'.
From the very beginning of its publication, Ha-Zman engaged in literary matters. The first issue featured an original story by Sholem Asch (translated from Yiddish), critical essays by M.J. Berdyczewski, a feuilleton by E.L. Lewinsky, and an incomplete version of Hayyim Nahman Bialik's 'Bat Yisrael'. In addition to the newspaper, a literary monthly was published in Hebrew under the editorship of David Frischmann, which dealt with literature in general, and not merely Jewish literature (as in the case of 'Ha-Shilu'ach'). A children's publication named Ha-Chaim V'ha-Teva was also published, and in 1906 the editorial staff of Ha-Zman produced a Yiddish-language newspaper named Zeit, in which even vehement opponents of Yiddish participated, such as feuilletonist I.H. Tawiow. The most famous literary work to be published in Ha-Zman was the poem 'Ba-Ir Ha-Hariga' which Bialik published after the pogrom in Kishniev (1903), which, due to censorship demands, had its name changed to 'Masa Nemirov', and several lines omitted. Katz had personal connections with many of the biggest names of the Hebrew literary world of his time (like David Frischmann, Saul Tchernichowsky, and Hayyim Nahman Bialik), while simultaneously nurturing and assisting many of the young writers who found a home for their works in his paper (like Devorah Baron, Y.D. Berkowitz, U.N. Gnessin, and Zalman Shneur) and benefited from his connections in the Hebrew publishing world.
Ha-Zman closed down following the outbreak of World War I when in 1915 the editorial staff in Vilna came under the control of the military censorship. The restriction of the freedom of the press effectively put an end to the paper.
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