Jabotinsky: A Life

041814_mishmash_bookBy Hillel Halkin
Yale University Press, 235 pages

Vladimir Jabotinsky was passionate, unpredictable and full of contradictions. He was also the fiery leader of the Revisionist Zionist Movement.

Author Hillel Halkin deftly tells Jabotinsky’s story, first taking considerable time to illustrate why growing up in a city like Odessa truly shaped Jabotinsky’s outlook — on life, politics and the need for a Jewish state.

Then Halkin dissects Jabotinsky’s life in two parts: before, then after “his Zionist activity dominated all else.”

But throughout his life, Jabotinsky was a prolific writer in Hebrew, Russian and Yiddish — he was an accomplished journalist, poet, novelist and playwright, and he wrote hundreds of letters. Halkin includes excerpts of Jabotinsky’s writings throughout the book, allowing the reader an even more personal insight.

In the epilogue, Halkin conjures a conversation between himself and Jabotinsky, posing questions about some of his famous contradictions and even present-day Israeli issues.

Overall, the author works to undo some of the stereotypes about Jabotinsky through the telling of successes and the eventual failure of this political maverick. But ultimately Jabotinsky “was more prescient about most things than the men he opposed, [yet] he never had their power to influence events.”

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