Ahad Ha-am

Ahad Ha-am (äkhädˈ hä-äm) [key] [Heb., = One of the People], 1856–1927, Jewish thinker and Zionist leader, b. Ukraine. Originally named Asher Ginzberg, he adopted his pen name when he published his first and highly controversial essay, "The Wrong Way" (1889), in which he criticized those who sought immediate settlement in Palestine, advocating instead Jewish cultural education as the basis for building a strong people for later settlement. After a traditional Hasidic upbringing, he acquired a broad secular education studying philosophy and literature in five languages (Russian, German, French, English, and Latin). He developed a strong rationalist attitude and rejected first Hasidism and then religion itself; he believed the chief obligation of Jewish life to be the fulfillment of the ethical demands of the Old Testament prophets. He did not view the imminent creation of a Jewish state in Palestine to be the most important goal of the Zionist movement; he saw Palestine as the "spiritual center" for a cultural and spiritual revival of the Jewish people. As editor of the journal Ha'shiloah (1896–1902) he was influential in developing the modern Hebrew literary style. In 1907, he moved to London and in 1922 to Palestine, where he spent his last years.

See his selected essays, tr. and ed. by L. Simon (1912, repr. 1962); biography by L. Simon (1960).

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