|A founding father of modern Israel, Ahad Ha-am (1856-1927) was one of the shapers of the contemporary Zionist consciousness. His career spanned the era of Russian Jewry's nationalist awakening. During the last decade of the nineteenth century, he was the leading theorist of the Russian Zionist movement. Afterwards, he was overshadowed by Theodore Herzl, who imposed his own stamp on Zionism. With the failure of Herzl's diplomacy and his early death in 1904, Russian Zionists abandoned Herzl's priorities and gradually refashioned the program of the Zionist organization in their own image. More than anyone else, Ahad Ha-am provided the ideological authority for this shift.
Until At the Crossroads, there were no up-to-date studies of Ahad Ha-am. This long-awaited collection includes 14 essays by internationally known scholars in modern Jewish history and literature. The essays range from studies of Ahad Ha-am as a literary stylist, his role in the revival of Hebrew, his political thought and activity, his debates with famous contemporaries about the Jewish future, and the reinterpretation of his ideas by his Zionist disciples. The overall picture presented by this book is a new image of Ahad Ha-amfar less Westernized and far more embedded in the nineteenth-century Jewish and Russian cultural milieu than was previously thought.
Jacques Kornberg is Associate Professor of History at the University of Toronto.