One day in 1897, when young Vladimir Jabotinsky was leafing through one of the daily newspapers in Odessa, he was happy to discover an article printed with his byline under the headline, “A Pedagogic Comment.” Apparently, this was his first article ever published. Ze'ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky was 17 years old at the time.
Jabotinsky always loved and respected his journalistic work. “Journalists are the ruling class in the world,” he liked to say, and “There is no other work in the world more splendid than the work of the journalist. The role of the journalist in the field of humanities is like the function of the circulatory system in the body or the role of commerce in international economy.”
The value Jabotinsky attached to writing can be seen in an excerpt from the newspaper Hazit Ha'am (The National Front) where he penned a reaction to the popular slogan: “We have no need for words, give us actions!” The crowd forgets one thing: speaking is also a form of action; perhaps the most powerful of all other deeds. Cities have been and will be destroyed, but what “shouters” (the people of Israel) proclaimed in the desert thousands of years ago is still actual and vibrant. The world was created by the word, and it will be perfected by a word.”
Ze’ev Jabotinsky was a master of the art of writing feuilletons. Most of his feuilletons (short literary composition) dealt with “Jewish” themes, which he treated in a sensitive, intellectual manner.
Jabotinsky would send copies of his articles to major newspapers around the world. He wrote his works with a fountain pen or typed them effortlessly on a typewriter, with a quick, smooth rhythm. Only rarely did he have difficulty finding a topic to write about. Many times, he didn’t even go back to edit his work. His son, Eri, tells that he “would sit and type amazingly fast with two fingers.”
Jabotinsky gained a large audience of devoted readers, who could identify his articles even when he used a pseudonym, by his unmistakably distinctive style. It was characterized by clear content, internal harmony, saying things matter-of-factly while delving into the depths of an issue. He explained complicated ideas in a clear and direct way. His secretary, Joseph B. Schectman, said, “Unlike those who could not see the forest for the trees, Jabotinsky saw the forest very clearly, and his readers saw it immediately, too.”
When he lived in Jerusalem and was involved in the organization and daily life of the yishuv, Jabotinsky wrote tens of articles that were published in the newspapers Hadashot Ha’aretz and Ha’aretz. Here he not only expressed his opinion and outlook on the wide spectrum of topics facing the yishuv on a daily basis, but also on international problems, literary criticism and cultural subjects. His articles provide a window into the development of his Zionistic stance. He stressed the uniqueness of the Jewish yishuv as a crystallizing, nationalistic community.”
Although Jabotinsky was fluent in more than half a dozen languages, he especially loved Hebrew – “the most wonderful of languages, a language of a thousand antonyms, hard and strong as steel, while soft and gleaming as gold.”
We offer a small selection of the hundreds of articles written by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, as potent examples of the larger realm.