Habazeleth - חבצלת
About this newspaper
Habazeleth was a Hebrew-language newspaper published in Jerusalem in 1863 (5623-5624) and from 1870 to 1911. It operated for some time as a monthly publication, while in later years it became a biweekly and then weekly publication. A number of issues were published in Judeo-Spanish (during the first two years of the periodical's renewed activity) and in Yiddish (six issues, which were a kind of supplement to the periodical). For most of the years of its existence, Israel Dov Frumkin (1850-1914) was Habazeleth’s editor and owner.
The history of the paper provides instruction on the birth pangs and struggles of the Hebrew press in Eretz-Yisrael/Palestine. In its first year (1863) Israel Bak was the paper's owner and editor; that same year—after only five issues—the publication was forced to close by the Ottoman government (at the very same time Ha-Levanon was also closed; probably both were closed as the result of mutual denouncements). Only after a number of years was the paper's activity renewed, at which time Michal Cohen and Israel Dov Frumkin joined the editorial staff; after four years, Frumkin became the paper's chief editor and one of its owners. Later, in 1877, the paper was once again shut down by the Turkish authorities for five months, as a result of the paper's assertion that the Turkish authorities had stood aloof while Arabs abused Jews in Hevron. In 1883 Habazeleth was again closed, and Frumkin imprisoned for forty-five days, after he wrote an article opposing the American consul in Istanbul. Various editors replaced Frumkin during his travels, and when a replacement could not be found—as happened in 1905—an intermission in the paper's publication began.
Many of the intellectuals and maskilim of Jerusalem and the Jewish Diaspora wrote for the paper. Until 1882, the paper effectively represented Jerusalem's Hasidic and Sephardic residents, and competed with Ha-Levanon—which was also published in Jerusalem and was the paper of the Ashkenazi Perushim. At that time Habazeleth regarded the Haskalah movement in a positive light, supported the Yishuv in Eretz-Yisrael (and therefore often described the security prevalent there), and opposed the reliance of the Yishuv on funds from the halukkah. A large portion of the paper's articles dealt with the Jewish Yishuv in Eretz-Yisrael, and particularly in Jerusalem, and the attitudes towards the activities of Moses Montefiore and the Society for the Settlement of Eretz-Yisrael. The paper led a strong line of resistance to the mission, and also included articles on the Jewish Yishuv in surrounding countries. In the area of education, the paper supported the intellectuals of the Yishuv and called for reforms. For the better part of the 1870s, Habazeleth was the only Hebrew-language newspaper in Jerusalem (although Ha-Levanon, which was at that time published in Paris, represented the Ashkenazi Perushim of Jerusalem).
For a short time in 1882, while Frumkin was traveling briefly in Russia, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda edited the paper, in which he included articles on the Hebrew language and pieces supporting the initial moshavot of the First Aliyah. When Frumkin resumed his editorship of the paper, he drew closer to the anti-Zionist positions of the old Ashkenazi yishuv, objected to the increasing rate of aliyah, described the hardships of the new immigrants, and criticized the Baron de Rothschild’s officials in the moshavot. In the controversy surrounding the observance of the Shmita year, Frumkin sided with those advocating strict adherence, and he adopted a hostile attitude towards his former assistant editor, Ben-Yehuda. In its later years, the paper bore a distinctly Jerusalem-Hasidic orientation, and among other things was published an article objecting to the mourning over the death of Herzl.
Habazeleth is an inexhaustible source of information on the happenings of the Jewish Yishuv in Eretz-Yisrael, and in its pages may be found not only a broad collection of news items, but also many topical articles, financial reports, notices and advertisements from various institutions, and more. The paper also had a literary section in which was published a serial novel, short stories, travel descriptions and feuilletons; many of these were translated from the English and Yiddish press, not always with a citation of origin, and some were published in a separate supplement entitled Pirhei Habazeleth.