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Ahad Ha'Am

1856 -1927.


Asher Zvi Ginzberg, known as Ahad Ha'am, was an influential writer and one of Zionism's leading thinkers.

Source: National Library of Israel, Schwadron Collection.

Born in Ukraine to a Hasidic family, he distanced himself from religion in adulthood and studied diverse fields including mathematics, Hebrew grammar, literature, and philosophy. In 1884 he joined the "Hovevei Zion" movement and founded two years later the Hebrew monthly journal "Hashiloah" which he led as its chief editor.


He is considered the father of cultural Zionism and had a major impact on formulating the secular-national Jewish identity.


In 1889 he published his article "This is not the Way" in the magazine "Ha'melits", which he signed for the first time as "Ahad Ha'am", meaning "one of the people".


This article is his most important one and is considered the founding article of the Cultural Zionist movement.


The movement consists of establishing a qualitative spiritual and cultural center in the Land of Israel, without mass immigration. This will renew national sentiment among Jews in the diaspora, and serve as a point of orientation for all Jews. In this article, Ahad Ha'am explicitly formulated Jewish national identity as a secular identity with an affinity for tradition.


The same year, Ahad Ha'am founded the Bnei Moshe Society. Under its influence, during the Second Zionist Congress in 1898, the decision was made to hold cultural and educational activities in a national spirit, in the Land of Israel, and in the diaspora.


In 1915-1918, in London, he was involved, along with Haim Weizmann, in the discussions that led to the Balfour Declaration. He also had a significant impact on the Technion's creation.


He immigrated to Israel in 1922 and lived in Tel Aviv, where he died in 1927.


During his life, Ahad Ha'am strongly disagreed with Herzl's political vision of Zionism.

According to the Jewish agency's archive, when Herzl’s book Altneuland was published in 1902 describing the Jewish State twenty years after its establishment, Ahad Ha’am attacked and even ridiculed Herzl for its lack of Jewish content. Ahad Ha’am claimed that Herzl had created a "State of Jews but not a Jewish State."


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