When he was born in Odessa, Russia in 1880, his non-religious Jewish parents named him Vladimir. He was educated in Russian schools and in an Italian university and was fluent in Russian, Yiddish, Hebrew, German and Italian.
From 1898-1901 he was a foreign correspondent for a prominent Russian newspaper and in 1901 he was promoted to an editorial writer.
In 1903 he became a strong member of the Zionist organization and in that year he changed his Russian name into a Hebrew name, Ze’ev.
He was one of the strongest Zionist members and traveled throughout Europe preaching the message of the Jewish return to Zion. In 1906 he was the chief speaker at the All-Russian Zionist Conference in Helsinki, Finland .
He published hundreds of articles in European newspapers establishing the grounds for the eventual establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.
During World War I he organized a Jewish Legion together with his fellow Zionist hero Joseph Trumpeldor and at the end of the war he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services rendered to Britain in the war.
Later he testified before the British Royal Commission on Palestine and laid out before them his plans for the establishment of the Jewish national home in Palestine to be built on both sides of the River Jordan.
In 1925 with rising revolts by Palestinian Arabs against the Jews, he organized a strong military organization known as the Irgun (Irgun Zvai Leumi), the strongest fighting force of Palestinian Jews, twenty-three years before the birth of Israel.
Its purpose was to defend unarmed Jews and to retaliate for attacks by Arabs and by members of the British mandatory police. We all remember the 1947 bombing of the British military headquarters in the King David hotel in Jerusalem by members of the Irgun.
Jabotinsky, the father of the Irgun and the Revisionist Zionist movement, is in essence the founder of the State of Israel, although he died in 1940, eight years before his life’s dream and his efforts for its creation.
He struggled against Dr. Chaim Weizman who ultimately became the first President of the State of Israel. Weizman leaned more to the hope for a state under the Palestinian mandate.He was a “political Zionist” Jabotinsky believed in military action to create the state.Thus, he revised Zionism to claim that the aim of Zionism was to create the Jewish state. The “political Zionists” led by Dr. Chaim Weizman did not agree with that aim.
In his liberal position regarding the Arabs who lived in Palestine and who would live eventually in the Jewish State, he declared very clearly that “each one of the ethnic communities will be recognized as autonomous and equal citizens in the eyes of the law”.
He believed it would be possible for Jews and Arabs to live in the same country on both sides of the Jordan River. Unfortunately, the British government refused to accept Jabotinsky’s plan and they awarded the west bank of the Jordan to the Emir Abdullah who became ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom established on that side of the River. 77% of Palestine was given to Jordan by the British authorities.
Jabotinsky was a philosopher and a fighter. As early as 1903, following the pogroms and massacres of Russia’s Jews, he said and he wrote “It is better to have a gun and not need it than to need it and not have it”.
Organizing young Jews to be militant in their struggle with Arabs, he said “Jewish youth…learn to shoot”.
In 1939 Britain issued the infamous MacDonald White Paper which disavowed the terms of the 1918 Balfour Declaration by limiting Jewish immigration into Palestine to 75,000 Jews over a five year period.
This White Paper was denounced by Jews all over the world as a betrayal of Britain’s promise to the Jews in Balfour’s declaration.
Jabotinsky responded by making a plan for an armed Jewish revolt against the British mandate. Jews, Arabs and British soldiers were killed in the revolt.
But ultimately, Jabotinsky’s revolt led to the end of forty years under British rule and the birth of the Jewish State for which he yearned and toiled all of his life.
He died of a sudden heart attack in the summer of 1940 while visiting a Betar camp of the Revisionist Zionist movement in Hunter, New York.
He was initially buried in the New Montefiore cemetery on Long Island, New York and his body was brought to a re-burial in 1948 in the land of his dreams, in Israel’s national cemetery for heroes and past leaders of the State and Zionist movement, on Mt. Herzl.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky is hailed as the father of the Herut political party led by his disciple, Menachem Begin, and later re-named the Likud party.
His revisionist views on Zionism continue to be the accepted and popular practice for Zionists throughout the entire world.
Vladimir, now called Ze’ev, fought like a wolf to create a Jewish homeland on the ancient soil of Zion. He was the greatest Zionist leader since the death of Theodor Herzl in 1904. Menachem Begin was the second of the greatest. All buried in the national cemetery, Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
Interestingly enough, Benzion Netanyahu, father of prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, was a devoted follower of Ze’ev Jabotinsky even before Menachem Begin arrived in mandatory Palestine. So where did the son go astray?
The father would be ashamed of his son today.
Without any doubt in my mind, the bones of Jabotinsky and Begin are turning over and over in their graves due to the corruption and lies of the political party which they founded.
As an Israeli citizen, I can only hope that they will continue to lie in the peace they so richly deserved.
Their lives and their legacies will remain eternally in the heart of every Jew.