Historian Benzion Netanyahu (1910−2012) was a towering personality. One of his sons is the current prime minister of Israel, another gave his life to save Jews who were kidnapped by terrorists in Entebbe, Uganda.
This short book contains five essays about the men who built the State of Israel. Several of them can best be described as theorists while the others were practical personalities and leaders. Netanyahu chose to write about men who dedicated their lives to the belief that an independent Jewish state was essential, important both for Jews and for the world.
The essays in The Founding Fathers of Zionism were written over several decades chapter by chapter. Some of the essays were written pre-state of Israel while others were written after the Holocaust. Each chapter has been previously published, some in Hebrew, others in English. In that way each chapter, each personality, becomes part of a prism through which the reader witnesses the writer’s deepening urge to convince the reader that Israel is the essential solution to the Jewish people’s problem.
Benzion Netanyahu was first and foremost a historian and his essays — about Pinsker, Herzl, Nordau, Zangwill, and Jabotinsky — are replete with stories that detail the proverbial forks in the road when his subjects were faced with decisions that not only shaped their lives but dictated the future of the Jewish state and influences our future as Jews.
We are told that very little editing was done on this work, and that is truly amazing. It is a marvel to read as Netanyahu, the polemicist, emerges. The Founding Fathers of Zionism will be an excellent resource for anyone interested in discovering the foundations of Zionism and understanding why the founding of the state was a revolution for the Jewish people.
By far the best essay in this work is the final one, in which one can feel Netanyahu’s passion as he unfolds his most compelling and exciting argument about the revisionist revolutionary Jabotinsky, about Zionism, and about Israel.