Since time immemorial, the Jordan river has cut its path through the desert, turning arid rocky soil into prosperous farmland. Today the river acts as a border between Israel and Jordan, but that was far from the goals of some of Israel’s greatest heroes. Ze’ev Jabotinsky, one of the fathers of revisionist zionism, is remembered for his famous quote, “I devote my life to the rebirth of the Jewish State, with a Jewish majority, on both sides of the Jordan.” Close to seventy-seven years after his death, Jabotinsky’s life work has only been partially realized. The state that he devoted his life toward establishing was eventually founded in 1948, eight years after his passing.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky was born Vladmir Yevgenyevich Zhabotinsky on October 18, 1880 in Odessa. In his lifetime, he was an author, poet and soldier. He was mostly known for founding the Jewish Self Defense Organization in Odessa, as well as starting Zionist Revisionism. He was a founder of the Jewish legion of the British Army during World War I, and a founder of Beitar, HaTzhohar and the Irgun, in then Palestine. He was ordained a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1919.
Sometime before the Kishinev pogrom, Jabotinsky joined the Zionist movement and created the Jewish Self Defense Organization, sensing more pogroms in the future. The goal was to safeguard the Jewish communities of Russia. Self defense and gun ownership were his main goals for the Jewish population of Russia. At this time, he learned Hebrew and abandoned his name Vladmir to become Ze’ev. In 1903, he was elected as the Russian delegate to the Sixth Zionist Congress, eventually taking over for Herzl after his passing.
During World War I, he led the Jewish legion with Joseph Trumpeldor. In 1920, he was elected to the the First Assembly of Representatives in Palestine and founded Keren haYesod, becoming its director of propaganda only to leave the mainstream Zionist movement to create Betar in 1923 with the main objective being the establishment of a Jewish State in then Palestine with the help of the British.
In the 1930s, he became deeply concerned with anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe and prepared an evacuation plan for Jews to immigrate to Palestine. Jabotinsky passed away of a heart attack in NYC in 1940, and was buried in New Montefiore Cemetery. He was reinterred on Mount Herzl in 1964 along with his wife.
On June 13th, the chance to own something that was once vital to Jabotinsky’s survival could be yours. Jabotinsky’s refugee card issued by France will be auctioned off by J. Greenstein and Co. – auctioneers of fine Judaica – in Cedarhurst, NY. It might set you back a few thousand dollars, however, with the expected hammer price to be in the $20K to $30K range. Jonathan Greenstein, president and chief auctioneer at J. Greenstein and Co, has said, “Jabotinsky’s refugee card has been by far one of the most interesting things for me to auction off in my entire career as an auctioneer. It’s a chance to hold something that was once folded and kept in Jabotinsky’s front pocket.”
Up until now, the card has been in the possession of collectors Harriet and Dov Kaminetzky. As a couple, they were acknowledged as dedicated collectors of Holy Land judaica, dating from both pre and post Israeli Statehood. Most of the objects they collected were crafted at the Bezalel School in Jerusalem in the first quarter of the 20th century. After Dov’s passing, Harriet sold most of the collection, much of it through J. Greenstein and Co. Prize possessions that Dov had for close to 50 years changed hands, sometimes for only the second time in the each object’s’ history. Harriet passed away more recently, and the children decided to sell the balance of the pieces, holding onto the most prized possession for last–namely, the refugee identification card of Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
The card was issued by France in 1938 and valid from January 1, 1939 – January 1, 1942. With his original iconic picture and his original signature, the card showed that he was a refugee from Russia and allowed him to live in France. It indicates Jabotinsky’s profession as a journalist, but interestingly did not permit employment.
Greenstein has auctioned off the private collections of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, Harvard Professor Alan Derschowitz, and Sammy Davis Junior. However, because of the rich history of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and that time period, “all those dwarf in comparison to Jabotinsky,” says Greenstein.