Leader of Cultural Zionism
Ahad Ha’Am (1856-1927) was an early Zionist leader and thinker from Odessa, Ukraine. Born Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg he took the name “Ahad Ha’Am” (One of the People) and made several trips to Palestine. The ideological father of Cultural Zionism, which saw the Jewish state as being built on secular Jewish traditions, culture, and history, he believed that the future homeland would be a vehicle to revive Jewish culture and spirituality in a way that would ensure the Jews of Europe preserved Judaism. Rather than creating an entire Jewish state like Theodore Herzl advocated, Ahad Ha’Am thought that Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) could only support a small Jewish colony in the near-term. In 1892 he wrote that when Jews came to visit the colony, “they would feel a deep love for the ancestral land and their brothers living in it” and would thus be inspired to prevent the “moral decline” of Judaism. He insisted that the Jewish homeland embrace a secular vision of Judaism and not merely be a place where Jews live. He was outspoken in warning about the impact of Zionism on the native Arabs in Palestine. He described the settlers’ dealings with the Arabs as unjust and cruel, hostile and contemptuous and warned that the consequences would be serious.