Jabotinsky: A Life

Hillel Halkin. Yale Univ., $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0300136623
Increasingly forgotten except by the Zionist right, Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880-1940), the founder of the movement's Revisionist wing, was an ideological father to Israeli prime ministers Menachem Begin and Benjamin Netanyahu. While conceding that, unlike Herzl, Weizmann, and Ben-Gurion, Jabotinsky "never had their power to influence events," writer, critic, and translator Halkin (Melisande! What Are Dreams?) profiles a man who was as much an intellectual and writer as a political leader. Jabotinsky knew eight languages and penned a fictional work, The Five, which Halkin calls "one of the finest twentieth century Russian novels." Yet he also spearheaded the effort to found the first modern Jewish army, the Jewish Brigade, during WWI; was prescient about the Palestinians' fierce attachment to the land; and clashed bitterly with Ben-Gurion. Halkin's biographical pacing is sometimes off; he devotes too much space to Jabotinsky's early years in Rome and too little to the tumultuous pre-Holocaust years. And in an otherwise imaginative and thoughtful epilogue in which Halkin imagines speaking to Jabotinsky today in the Paris café the Revisionist leader used to haunt, Halkin romanticizes him as "the least ideological of all Zionists." These flaws aside, Halkin's work should return Jabotinsky to the minds of those seriously interested in modern Zionist and Israeli history. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/02/2014
Release date: 05/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-300-21001-9
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