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Bialik, Haim Nahman

Haim Nahman Bialik was born in Radi, Volhynia in Russia to a traditional Jewish family. He received a heder education in Zhitomir and at the age of seventeen was sent to the great Talmudic academy in Volozhin, Lithuania. There he joined the Hovevei Zion group and gradually drifted away from yeshiva life. His poem, HaMatmid ("The Talmud student") written in 1898, reflects his great ambivelance towards that way of life. He spent some months in Odessa where he first met Ahad Ha'am who had a great influence on his Zionist outlook. It was at this time that his first poem was published, El Ha-Tzipor ("To the Bird") which reflected his feelings towards Zion and Russia, themes that he was to return to frequently during this period.

Bialik was not yet a full time writer and poet. He had hopes of becoming successful in business but after a four year period in the lumber trade he decided to make his living by teaching. In 1901 his first collection of poetry appeared and was greeted with much acclaim. Over the next three years he wrote a considerable number of works. Commentators say that this was his golden period. Although his later writings became more universal in outlook his "In the City of Slaughter," written in response to the Kishinev pogrom was a powerful statement of anguish at the situation of the Jews.

In 1922, Bialik emigrated to Germany where he established the Dvir publishing house. Two years later, following his move to Tel-Aviv, he re-established the company in Eretz-Israel . Bialik was immediately recognized as a celebrated literary figure. In 1927 he became head of the Hebrew Writers Union which had been established six years previously. He retained this position until his death in 1934. His poems are still read in contemporary Israel and several have been put to music by some of the country's most gifted composers.

:  The City of Slaughter
This poem, written by Haim Nahman Bialik, was in tribute to the vicitims of the Kishinev pogrom. [Full article...]
Artistic Expressions > Poetry
Jewish History > 1860-1948: Early Zionist Age