1. Vladimir Jabotinsky was born in Odessa on the 18th of October, 1880. As a young journalist, he became a correspondent abroad for the Russian press.He studied law in Rome and edited newspapers in Russian, Yiddish and Hebrew.
2. In the wake of the Kishinev pogrom of 1903 his attention turned to Zionism. He changed his name from Vladimir to Ze’ev (Wolf) and began work on organizing defense for Jewish communities all across Russia.
3. He said, “Better to have a gun and not need it than to need it and not have it.” Also, “Jewish youth, learn to shoot!”
4. World War I broke out. He attempted to persuade the British to establish a Jewish legion for a campaign in Palestine. Unsuccessful, he joined with Joseph Trumpeldor in establishing a Jewish corps of muleteers instead. When, in 1917,the Jewish legion he’d championed was finally formed, he served as an officer with the British and led the first Jewish company across the Jordan River into Palestine.
5. Following the war, he fought and trained other fighters to advance the Zionist cause in Palestine. A leader of the Haganah, he was arrested for possession of weapons–three rifles, two pistols, and 250 rounds of ammunition! Although he was anti-socialist in his politics, the court sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment as a Bolshevist. He might have languished in Acre prison had not a fierce public outcry won him amnesty.
6. In 1923, Jabotinsky broke with Chaim Weizmann’s Zionist party. He wanted economic and social policies based on middle-class European values. Zionism’s objectives, he held, should be the immediate establishment of a Jewish state on both banks of the Jordan, in which Arabs would have equal rights and responsibilities with Jews. He favored cooperation with the British to reach this goal. The British, however, did not return the favor. In 1930, they exiled him from Palestine.
7. These were the years leading up to World War II. Jabotinsky advocated for the evacuation of all the Jews of Poland, Hungary and Roumania to Palestine, fearing a “volcano of violence” about to erupt. Many Jews ignored his warnings, and the British actively blocked his efforts, on the grounds that a large immigration would upset the brittle peace that they were able to maintain between Arabs and Jews.
8. In 1937, with conditions in Europe rapidly worsening, he established the Irgun. His focus now was on bringing European Jews illegally into Palestine.
9. He died of a massive heart attack in 1940 and is buried in Mount Herzl cemetery. Most Israeli cities have streets, parks or squares named in his memory (55 streets according to GIsrael.)
10. Here’s my favorite Jabotinsky quote: “As one of our first conditions of equality we [Jews] demand the right to have our own villains, exactly as other people have them.”