Page 74 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 29

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Balkan nationalism, he experienced a spiritual revolution and
became an ardent Jewish nationalist.
While in Paris, Ben Yehuda was urged to express his ideas on
Jewish nationalism in writing. In 1879 he penned his article
She’elah Nikhbadah
(An Important Question) and sent it to
which rejected it for its radical ideas. He thereupon
sent it to Peretz Smolenskin, editor of
who promptly
printed it. This article introduced Eliezer Perlman to a wide pub-
lie under the Hebraic name of Ben Yehuda.
Written two years before the Russian pogroms of 1881, “An
Important Question” made a strong plea for Jewish nationalism
and Palestine settlement. Ben Yehuda opened his article with an
analysis of the growth of European national feeling under the
influence of the successful achievement of Balkan independence.
He declared that Jews could not remain passive while other na-
tions were asserting their independence. Fervently he asked: “Why
do we not follow the example of all the nations, small and large?
Why do we not exert efforts to strengthen our nation, so that it
does not die out?” The only hope of Jewry and Judaism was seen
in the establishment of a “center for the entire people, one that
will function like the human heart and will pump blood into
the nation’s veins and give it life.” In presenting his prophetic
program for Jewish nationalism, Ben Yehuda also laid stress on
the rebirth of the Hebrew tongue in which he was destined to
play so central and decisive a role.
In Paris Ben Yehuda contracted tuberculosis, which was to
plague him for the rest of his life. Having decided to immigrate
to Palestine, he forsook his medical studies and began to prepare
himself for teaching, particularly of agriculture. His sickness led
him to spend a year in Algiers where he continued to write articles
on Jewish nationalism and to emphasize the rebirth of the Hebrew
language. In his autobiographical chapters
Ha-Halom ve-Shivro
(The Dream and Its Interpretation) as well as in his Prolegom-
enon to his dictionary, Ben Yehuda recorded how he began in
Paris to utilize Hebrew for conversational purposes. During his
sojourn in Algiers he continued to communicate in Hebrew with
the members of the Jewish community and he became convinced
of the value of adopting the Sephardic pronunciation of the lan-
Among the periodicals to which Ben Yehuda sent his articles
was the Jerusalem publication
edited by Israel Dov
Frumkin who leaned to Orthodoxy. Frumkin invited Ben Yehuda
to join him in editing the publication. Thus began his long
association with the Palestinian press which continued with few
interruptions down to World War I. His concept of journalism