ha-Mitspeh (Kraków) - המצפה (קרקוב)
About this newspaper
Ha-Micpe, a Hebrew weekly with a religious Zionist outlook, which was considered the unofficial organ of the MiZRaCḤI (Merkaz Ruḥani; Heb. Spiritual Centre) movement in Austrian Galicia, was actually the indirect successor of ha-Magid. The latter, the first Hebrew newspaper aimed at the Hebrew-language readership, having to deal with strict Tsarist censorship, had migrated from the Prussian city of Lyck (today Ełk, Poland) to Berlin, before eventually establishing itself in Kraków, which at that time was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The last editor of ha-Magid, Isaac Samuel Fuchs (Schiff), invited Shimon Menachem Lazar (or Laser, 1862–1932), who had been a regular contributor of articles to the newspaper, to edit the weekly together with him, although he was forced to shut down the ha-Magid in 1903. Following the closure of the newspaper, Lazar could not make his peace with the fact that Galicia would be without a Hebrew language organ, and started to publish — ha-Micpe (Heb. ‘The Observatory’), ‘a weely on all matters of life, for literature, and for the sciences, and for all matters relating to Jewry’.
As common in many serials of his day, Lazar devoted the front page of the first issue to an appeal to the readership in which he elucidated the need for the newspaper, expounded upon his policy and aims as its editor. He commenced with a description of the state of the Hebrew press in Tsarist Russia, in which no newspapers could relate the truth about its Jews because of strict censorship. Notwithstanding the sorrow caused to Jews by their condition, ‘we shall have, in our country that has freedom in this matter [i.e., of the press], a Hebrew newspaper that will forgo from the outset [an attempt] to enter Russia, so that the hands of the editor shall be free and he will not need to conceal the truth between the lines and withhold from his readers the important information and the significant events that may take place every single day throughout the expanse of Russia, in Israel, and in the nations [of the world] [author’s emphasis]’. By comparison with the Jews of Russia, those of the Austro-Hungarian Empire enjoyed more basic rights, which were expanding during the long reign of Franz Joseph (r. 1848–1916). Lazar therefore acknowledged in his preface that his audience included also the Hebrew readership in Tsarist Russia, and not only that of Galicia. He further promised ‘to give to our countrymen a Hebrew newspaper in accordance with the necessary conditions here and according to Western tastes’. The editor continued to characterise and define his newspaper as one that would not deal solely with Jewish and Zionist affairs, but would also bring its readers a summary of the important news of the week that had appeared in the daily press and would interpret them from a Jewish and Zionist point of view. He pledged that ha-Micpe would feature short articles, objectively clarifying the happenings of the Jewish world, as well as scientific articles, studies of modern and ancient literature, and literary criticism. Likewise, he vowed to publish in each issue ‘a nice story or beautiful drawing appropriate to Jewish spirit and tradition, as well as poems from the best of our lyricists. In addition, attention will be given to humourous matters [author’s emphasis]’. Lazar concluded by guaranteeing that the newspaper ‘will appear on time and not behind schedule’ and that it would adhere to a clean Hebrew language.
Indeed, the columns of the newspaper and its contents lived up to both the declarations and promises of the editor and the subtitle attached to the title of his weekly. In the eight-page paper, there was a column dedicated to current events in the two multi-national empires (with an emphasis on events in the Russian Empire) and in the world as a whole, a column that presented news from the Jewish world, news on the happenings in the Zionist world and its institutions, in which emphasis was placed on news from Palestine, a special column dealing with religious and historical Jewish matters, stories from well-known writers, including Aszer Barasz (Asher Barash, 1889–1952) and Shmuel Yosef Agnon (S Y Agnon, 1888–1970), as well as poems. Even though the weekly was considered the unofficial organ of the MiZRaCḤI in Galicia, one easily detects a great effort invested by its editor to imbue it with a non-partisan character and adapt it to as broad a possible of an audience amongst the Hebrew-language readership.
Ha-Micpe appeared regularly each week until the First World War. Afterwards, it encountered difficulties until it ultimately ceased publication at the end of March 1921.
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