Asher Zvi Ginsberg (1856-1927)

Hebrew essayist, and one of the foremost pre-state Zionist thinkers.

Ahad Ha  
It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. In modern Jewish history one man who really accomplished great things with his pen was Ahad Ha'am. As a writer, he definitely changed the history of the Jewish people through the many essays and articles he wrote. Ahad Ha'am lived in Odessa in Russia where he worked for a tea company, and also in London. He travelled several times to Erez Israel, and finally settled in Tel Aviv in 1921. His numerous works are now collected in four volumes called Al Parashat ha-Derakhim, which means "at the crossroads." He felt that the Jewish people stood at a crossroad in its history and undertook to point out the way which he felt was the right one. "Ahad Ha'am" means "one of the people," and was not his real name. He was given the name Asher Hirsch Ginsberg at birth and took the pseudonym when he began to write. He wanted to show that he was really one with the Jewish people when he talked ahout matters that concerned the whole future of the nation.

When Ahad Ha'am was a young man, Jews were beginning to settle farms and villages in Palestine. An organization called Hovevei Zion ("Lovers of Zion") was urging Jews to leave Russia and establish a homeland in Erez Israel. Ahad Ha'am joined this organization because he too believed in the goal of Zionism --- establishing a Jewish homeland. He soon visited the young settlements and then wrote his first famous essay, Lo Zeh ha-Derekh, in which he claimed that the settlements were doing very poorly and would not draw many Jews to them. Ahad Ha'am held that the first task of Hovevei Zion must be to educate Jews so that they would want to live in Erez Israel. He felt that people would not become pioneers in a strange land where life was extremely hard if they were not especially inspired. They needed some special purpose if they were going to make that great sacrifice.

Ahad Ha'am believed that the reason for settling in Erez Israel and for being a loyal member of the Jewish people must come from Judaism itself. In many of his essays he tried to explain what he thought the meaning of Judaism really was. He taught that Judaism had contributed some great and unique ideas to the world, of which the most important was that complete justice should be everywhere, among all men, and that Jews must try to set an example to all men by living a just life and building a good society themselves. In Erez Israel Jews who were proud of this ideal would establish a society based on honesty and justice. In such a society new life would be given to Judaism. Jewish history and culture would be studied, and teachers would go out from Israel to all areas where Jews lived. In this sense, Erez Israel would be a spiritual center of a renewed Jewish life, and would breathe this life into all the communities of the Exile. This ideal of Ahad Ha'am was very powerful and many Zionists followed his teachings, although others opposed and fought his views.


Entry taken from "Junior Judaica, Encyclopedia Judaica for Youth" CD-ROM

by C.D.I. Systems 1992 (LTD) and Keter.





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12 Apr 2005 / 3 Nisan 5765 0