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ELIEZER BEN JUDAH : graduated from the gymnasium of Dvinsk

ELIEZER BEN JUDAH : graduated from the gymnasium of Dvinsk

By : Gotthard Deutsch Judah David Eisenstein 1906

Is Assistant Editor of "Ḥabaẓelet."
Establishes "Ha-Ẓebi."
"Ha-Ẓebi" Suspended; Ben Judah Arrested.


born at Luzhky, government of Wilna, Jan. 7, 1858; son of Judah
Perlman—hence his name "Ben Judah." He received his early Talmudic
education at the yeshibah of Rabbi Joseph Blücker at Polotzk,
afterward was graduated from the gymnasium of Dvinsk (Dünaburg), and
later went to Paris to study medicine. He married in Vienna, and
settled in Jerusalem, 1881, where he has resided ever since.

After three years of hard study in the medical college at Paris, Ben
Judah developed symptoms of consumption, and his physician ordered him
to the warmer climate of Algeria. The national idea of the Zionist
movement then absorbed all his thoughts. He wrote a letter, dated
Algiers, Dec. 21, 1880, to the "Ha-Shaḥar," expounding his political
views on Zionism, and taking exception to those of the editor, P.
Smolensky, on the Jewish problem; namely, that Jews can foster their
national spirit and the Hebrewlanguage in other countries than
Palestine. Ben Judah declares that it is only possible to revive the
study of Hebrew as a living tongue in a country almost entirely
inhabited by Jews.

Is Assistant Editor of "Ḥabaẓelet."

In the same strain he wrote in the "Ḥabaẓelet," a weekly paper
in Jerusalem by Frumkin, with whom Ben Judah made arrangements to
become assistant editor. In one article he bitterly complains of the
Alliance Israélite Universelle for encouraging and assisting
Russian-Jewish emigration to America, which he calls the final
burial-place of Judaism ("Ḥabaẓelet," 1882, xiv., No. 2). After his
arrival in Jerusalem Ben Judah met Michel Pinnes, an ardent Zionist
and Hebrew scholar, in whom he found a fellow-enthusiast of his scheme
to make the Hebrew a living language. He made it the language of his
house-hold. The example he set was soon followed by the colonists in
Palestine, and has been successfully introduced in many of the
Alliance schools.

Establishes "Ha-Ẓebi."

In 1884 Ben Judah began to edit and publish the monthly supplement to
the "Ḥabaẓelet," called "Mebasseret Zion"; but it did not long
survive, as his new doctrines were out of harmony with the views of
the editor-in-chief of the journal. Ben Judah made futile attempts to
obtain from the government a firman to publish a Hebrew paper of his
own, and at last he succeeded in making use of Hirshenson's firman,
and commenced to publish "Ha-Ẓebi." His first effort was to promote
the circulation of the new paper among the poor, who could ill afford
to purchase the high-priced "Ḥabaẓelet." The first issue (1885) was
four-page quarto and was sold for a quarter-piaster (one cent) in the
streets of Jerusalem.

The paper contained a summary of general news and particularly Jewish
topics. The editor's principal object, however, was to propagate the
settlement of the Holy Land by the persecuted Russian Jews. He also
endeavored to counteract the zeal of the English missionaries in
promoting Christianity among the Jews in Palestine; and to this end he
helped to organize the society called "'Ezrat Nedaḥim." He combated
the system of the Ḥaluḳḳah, which gave support to the idle poor
preference to the industrious colonists.

"Ha-Ẓebi" Suspended; Ben Judah Arrested.

These attacks naturally called forth strong opposition from all sides;
the Ḥaluẓah faction nick-naming him "the leader of the
At length his enemies succeeded in their machinations. The pasha
suspended the paper for a time and ordered the arrest of its editor.
Even the colonists accused Ben Judah of being prejudiced against them,
owing to his connection with the Rothschild administration, which
subsidized his paper.

Ben Judah may be regarded as the originator of the modern type of New
Hebrew, which he claims is a necessity for the regenerated nation.
Most of his new vocabulary is coined either from the Talmudic
literature or from the Arabic, such as: "penknife" = , "buckle" = ,
"sympathy" = , "reflection" = . His adoption of the era from the
destruction of Jerusalem, by which he dates all his writings, is not
altogether new. See Responsa, "Benjamin Ze'eb," § 50, p. 104b, Venice,

Ben Judah's works are: (1) "Ereẓ Yisrael" (The Land of Israel), a
physical and geographical description, Jerusalem, 1883; (2) (jointly
with Beer Lipschütz) "We-Yada'ta ha-Yom" (And Know To-day), a Hebrew
calendar for the year 5644 (1884) with Jewish historical notes,
Jerusalem, 1883; (3) (with D. Jellin) "Ha-Miḳra le-Yalde Yisrael," a
reader for Jewish children, with notes, 2 vols., Jerusalem, 1889; (4)
"Kiẓẓur Dibre ha-Yamim, etc.," an abridged history of the Jews
their national existence in the Holy Land, 2d ed., Jerusalem, 1894;
(5) "Milon Kelali," unabridged Hebrew dictionary, with French and
German translation, including all New Hebrew words, pts. i. ii.,
published Jerusalem, 1896-1900.