10 Things You Need to Know About… Menahem Sheinkin

Menachem_Sheinkin_19241. Menahem Sheinkin was born in Russia in 1871.

2. A committed Zionist, he moved to Palestine in 1906 and headed up the World Zionist Organi-zation’s information and immigration office in Jaffa.

3. Critical of the Labor Zionists, with their socialist leanings, he was among the first to point out the difficulty of turning Zionist visions into practical blueprints. To this end, he sought to attract immigrants who could support themselves “respectably,” who had a skill and were not impoverished.  He wrote, “This immigration lowers us in the eyes of the government and the local populace.  They see poor, ragged, miserable people with tattered bundles, the dregs of society, who are unlikely to do the country any good…If there are never any wealthy, respectable, well-dressed, attractive people stepping ashore, the word ‘Jew’ will become synonymous for weak, inferior and low-class.”

4. Palestine, he felt, should be a place where Jews felt instantly at home. More Jewish immigrants felt at home not on farms, but in cities. At a time when those who worked the land were lauded, he said that craftspeople were equally involved in building the land and should be equally valued as pioneers.

5. Not only was he one of the founders of Tel Aviv, but it was he who suggested the city’s name, based on a translation into Hebrew of Herzl’s Altneuland.

6. He was also one of the founders of Herzlia Gymnasium, the first Hebrew high school in Palestine.

7. In 1924, he died in a traffic accident while on a Zionist mission in Chicago. He is buried in Trumpeldor Cemetery in Tel Aviv.

8. Tel Aviv’s Sheinkin Street was once a modest neighborhood with housing built for artisans. It is because of this connection to craftsmanship that the street was named for him after his death.

PikiWiki_Israel_1009_Shenkin_Street_רחוב_שנקין9. Do you find it ironic that the street became chic and trendy, filled with well-dressed and attractive people shopping in its stores and drinking coffee in its cafes? Just the sort of people Sheinkin wanted to attract, it seems!

10. Or…maybe not!   290px-Tel_aviv_diversité

10 Things You Need to Know About… Solomon ben Judah Ibn Gabriol

1.  Born in Malaga circa 1021, he was also known as Abu Ayyub Sulaiman Ibn Yahya Ibn Jabirul.

2.  He died in Valencia circa 1058 after a life of wandering. One legend about his death is that he was murdered by a poet jealous of his gifts, then secretly buried beneath a fig tree; that the fruit of the tree was so abundant and so sweet, people investigated, found Gabirol’s remains, and brought the murderer to justice. A second legend about his death is that he was trampled by an Arab horseman.

3.  A legend about his life is that he created a golem.

4.  A poet, he used strict Arabic meter, and his poems are rhymed.  His finest poems are written in praise of wisdom, but he also wrote poetry complaining about his lot in life.

5.  His poetical works in Hebrew are of remarkable complexity involving alphabetic and acrostic formats. He wrote magnificent liturgical verses–hymns and piyyutim for Shabbat and festivals.  One piece, Keter Malkut (Royal Crown) appears in the Yom Kippur prayerbook in many countries.

6.  Also known as Avicebron, he was one of the first in medieval times to promote neoplatonic thought. His Fons Vitae (Fountain of Life) argues that all creation is composed of matter and form, with matter becoming less spiritual the further it is removed from its source, God.

7. His philosophy had less influence on Jewish thought than on Christian thought, particularly the philosophy of Duns Scotus and medieval Scholasticism.

8.  His The Improvement of the Moral Qualities sought to systematize ethics in relation to the senses.  In his thought, each of the senses is an instrument of two virtues and two vices.

9.  For example, sight is associated with pride and meekness, shame and impudence. Touch is associated with liberality and niggardliness, valor and cowardice–liberality because a generous man is called open-handed; niggardliness because the miser is called close-fisted. Kind of ingenious, no?

10.  Here are some proverbs attributed to Ibn Gabriol:

The IbnGabiroltest of a good man is to be patient with bad news.

As long as a word remains unspoken, you are its master; once you utter it, you are its slave.

The beginning of wisdom is to desire it.

10 Things You Need to Know About… Meir Dizengoff

1.  Meir Dizengoff was born in February 1861 in Bessarabia. He was to become an ardent Zionist.

2.  While studying chemical engineering at the University of Paris, he met Edmond James de Rothschild, who sent him to Palestine to open a glass factory. Because of impurities in the glass, the venture failed.

3.  In 1905, in Jaffa, Dizengoff established the Geulah Company to buy land from the Arabs. He also imported machinery and automobiles, co-founded a boat company, and served as Belgian consul.

4.  When he learned that a new, modern, Jewish neighborhood was to be established, he formed a partnership in 1908 with Ahuzat Bayit, the homestead society that was planning the new Hebrew city. Dizengoff’s vision involved peaceful coexistence with the Arabs.

5.  From 1911-1923 he was head of town planning and led the struggle for independence from Jaffa. In 1922, when Tel Aviv was recognized as a city, he was elected its first mayor.

6.  He advocated for and dedicated Tel Aviv’s first port–when it was nothing but water, sky, sand and a stick in the ground.

7.  A dedicated supporter of arts and culture, after his wife’s death in 1930, he donated his house to the city for a museum.  Initially the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, it is now Independence Hall, the place where David Ben-Gurion, in May 1948, declared the independent State of Israel.

8.  He was described as “a man who could reminisce about the future.”

9Statue_of_Mayor_Meir_Dizengoff_on_a_Horse_in_Tel_-Aviv.  Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street, formerly 187 Street, was named for him in 1934. Meir Park off King George St. in Tel Aviv is also named after him. This statue of him riding his horse is located on Rothschild Boulevard. Photo by Avishai Teicher.

10.  He died on 23 September 1936.

10 Things You Need to Know about… Joseph Trumpeldor

1.  He was born in the Caucusus region of Russia in 1880.

2.  As an adolescent he became a vegetarian and body-builder. He neither smoked nor drank.

3.  In response to the rampant anti-Semitism he saw around him, he developed a lifelong commitment to proving that Jews were neither weaklings nor cowards nor traitors.

4.  At the age of 24, he fought in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5), where he lost his left arm to a shrapnel wound. As soon as he’d healed, he returned to the fighting.  Taken prisoner by the Japanese at Port Arthur, he endured a year in captivity. After his release, he received four medals for his bravery and in 1906 became the first Jew ever to receive an officer’s commission in the Russian Imperial Army.

5.  In 1912, after earning a law degree from the University of St. Petersburg, he emigrated to Palestine, where he became an agricultural worker in the struggling Jewish settlements.

6.  When World War I broke out, he took the side of the British against the Turks, who ruled Palestine.  Though he wanted to fight in the British army, as a Jew and an alien he and his fellow Jews were permitted only to join as a corps of mule drivers. In this capacity, he fought in the disastrous and bloody military fiasco at Gallipoli.

7.  In 1916, the mules corps was disbanded. Trumpeldor went to London to continue advocating for an all-Jewish legion of fighting troops.  After the Tsar abdicated in 1917, Trumpeldor returned to Russia, where he devoted himself to establishing the Zionist organization Hehalutz, preparing young Jews to emigrate to Palestine.

8.  After the war ended, he returned to Palestine.  He found the Jews there divided and in disarray, arguing among themselves (what a surprise!).  He advocated “for a single workers’ union that would bring Jews together and act as a catalyst for rapid and effective absorption of immigrants.”

9.  In 1919, he went north to the settlement of Tel Hai, which was under attack from Arab nationalists.  In a skirmish on March 1, 1920, he sustained wounds to his stomach. That evening, after the Arabs had been bested, the doctor who dressed his wounds asked him how he was feeling. “Never mind,” he replied. “It is worth dying for our country.”

10.  He died that same night, not yet forty years old. Kiryat Shmona (City of Eight) is named for him and the seven others who died defending Tal Hai.

What you must be wondering: How did a one-armed man manage to wage war?  According to Shaul Avigor, who was JosephTrumpeldorwith Trumpeldor at Tel Hai, and who later fought with the Haganah, Trumpeldor would stabilize his gun between his knees, cock it one-handed, then remove it and shoot.