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BEN JUDAH, ELIEZER:

Palestinian editor; born at Luzhky, government of Wilna, Jan. 7, 1858; son of Judah Perlman—hence his name "Ben Judah." He received his early Talmudic education at the yeshibah of Rabbi Joseph Blücker at Polotzk, afterward was graduated from the gymnasium of Dvinsk (Dünaburg), and later went to Paris to study medicine. He married in Vienna, and settled in Jerusalem, 1881, where he has resided ever since.

After three years of hard study in the medical college at Paris, Ben Judah developed symptoms of consumption, and his physician ordered him to the warmer climate of Algeria. The national idea of the Zionist movement then absorbed all his thoughts. He wrote a letter, dated Algiers, Dec. 21, 1880, to the "Ha-Shaḥar," expounding his political views on Zionism, and taking exception to those of the editor, P. Smolensky, on the Jewish problem; namely, that Jews can foster their national spirit and the Hebrewlanguage in other countries than Palestine. Ben Judah declares that it is only possible to revive the study of Hebrew as a living tongue in a country almost entirely inhabited by Jews.

Is Assistant Editor of "Ḥabaẓelet."

In the same strain he wrote in the "Ḥabaẓelet," a weekly paper edited in Jerusalem by Frumkin, with whom Ben Judah made arrangements to become assistant editor. In one article he bitterly complains of the Alliance Israélite Universelle for encouraging and assisting Russian-Jewish emigration to America, which he calls the final burial-place of Judaism ("Ḥabaẓelet," 1882, xiv., No. 2). After his arrival in Jerusalem Ben Judah met Michel Pinnes, an ardent Zionist and Hebrew scholar, in whom he found a fellow-enthusiast of his scheme to make the Hebrew a living language. He made it the language of his house-hold. The example he set was soon followed by the colonists in Palestine, and has been successfully introduced in many of the Alliance schools.

Establishes "Ha-Ẓebi."

In 1884 Ben Judah began to edit and publish the monthly supplement to the "Ḥabaẓelet," called "Mebasseret Zion"; but it did not long survive, as his new doctrines were out of harmony with the views of the editor-in-chief of the journal. Ben Judah made futile attempts to obtain from the government a firman to publish a Hebrew paper of his own, and at last he succeeded in making use of Hirshenson's firman, and commenced to publish "Ha-Ẓebi." His first effort was to promote the circulation of the new paper among the poor, who could ill afford to purchase the high-priced "Ḥabaẓelet." The first issue (1885) was a four-page quarto and was sold for a quarter-piaster (one cent) in the streets of Jerusalem.

The paper contained a summary of general news and particularly Jewish topics. The editor's principal object, however, was to propagate the settlement of the Holy Land by the persecuted Russian Jews. He also endeavored to counteract the zeal of the English missionaries in promoting Christianity among the Jews in Palestine; and to this end he helped to organize the society called "'Ezrat Nedaḥim." He combated the system of the Ḥaluḳḳah, which gave support to the idle poor in preference to the industrious colonists.

"Ha-Ẓebi" Suspended; Ben Judah Arrested.

These attacks naturally called forth strong opposition from all sides; the Ḥaluẓah faction nick-naming him "the leader of the Philistines." At length his enemies succeeded in their machinations. The pasha suspended the paper for a time and ordered the arrest of its editor. Even the colonists accused Ben Judah of being prejudiced against them, owing to his connection with the Rothschild administration, which subsidized his paper.

Ben Judah may be regarded as the originator of the modern type of New Hebrew, which he claims is a necessity for the regenerated nation. Most of his new vocabulary is coined either from the Talmudic literature or from the Arabic, such as: "penknife" = , "buckle" = , "sympathy" = , "reflection" = . His adoption of the era from the destruction of Jerusalem, by which he dates all his writings, is not altogether new. See Responsa, "Benjamin Ze'eb," § 50, p. 104b, Venice, 1539.

Ben Judah's works are: (1) "Ereẓ Yisrael" (The Land of Israel), a physical and geographical description, Jerusalem, 1883; (2) (jointly with Beer Lipschütz) "We-Yada'ta ha-Yom" (And Know To-day), a Hebrew calendar for the year 5644 (1884) with Jewish historical notes, Jerusalem, 1883; (3) (with D. Jellin) "Ha-Miḳra le-Yalde Yisrael," a reader for Jewish children, with notes, 2 vols., Jerusalem, 1889; (4) "Kiẓẓur Dibre ha-Yamim, etc.," an abridged history of the Jews during their national existence in the Holy Land, 2d ed., Jerusalem, 1894; (5) "Milon Kelali," unabridged Hebrew dictionary, with French and German translation, including all New Hebrew words, pts. i. ii., published Jerusalem, 1896-1900.

Bibliography:
  • N. Sokolow, Sefer Ziḳḳaron, pp. 188-192, Warsaw, 1889;
  • Ha-'Ibri, 1894, iv., Nos. 14-16, copied from Sokolow, with the addition of Ben Judah's portrait.
D. J. D. E.
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