Hebrew monthly. Ha-Shiloaḥ, published between 1896 and 1926, was the leading Hebrew-language literary journal at the beginning of the twentieth century. Founded by the Aḥi’asaf publishing house in Warsaw, the publication was predominantly inspired by its founding editor, Ahad Ha-Am, who had been appointed head of the institution in 1896. Ahad Ha-Am intended the monthly to serve not only as a vehicle to raise the national consciousness of the Jewish people, but also as a central platform for discussion and analysis on past and present issues relevant to Judaism. Its name refers to a river mentioned in Isaiah 8:6, “The waters of Shiloaḥ flow slowly,” characterizing the journal’s moderate temper.
Initial financing for Ha-Shiloaḥ was provided by Kalonymus Ze’ev Wissotzky, one of Russia’s largest manufacturers who was active in the Ḥibat Tsiyon movement, a devotee of Ahad Ha-Am, and an unwavering supporter of Hebrew cultural projects. Because it was difficult to obtain a license from the Russian government to publish the journal, Ha-Shiloaḥ was printed first in Berlin (1896–1900) and later in Kraków (1901–1905). Permission to publish it in Russia was finally granted in 1907. From the outset, the actual editing was done in Odessa and Warsaw; the great majority of its readership lived in tsarist Russia.
The history of Ha-Shiloaḥ falls into three main periods: the first 10 volumes (1896–1902) were edited by Ahad Ha-Am; volumes 11–36 (published between 1903 and 1919) were under the control of Yosef Klausner; and volumes 37–46 (issued between 1919 and 1926) were also under Klausner’s leadership but were published in Jerusalem. Between 1904 and 1909, Ḥayim Naḥman Bialik edited the literary section, and in 1925–1926 Ya‘akov Fichmann joined Klausner as coeditor of the final two volumes.
During its first few years, production of Ha-Shiloaḥ was frequently interrupted, and the journal’s survival was in doubt because it attracted few subscribers (fewer than 1,000) and sustained significant financial losses. After upheavals in Russia resulted in the suspending of publication for two years (1905–1907), Ha-Shiloaḥ was relaunched on a much firmer economic and administrative basis, and its readership increased substantially. Except for another two-year interval during World War I (1915–1917), it was published quite regularly.
The first issue of Ha-Shiloaḥ (October 1896) contained a detailed statement of purpose by Ahad Ha-Am, titled “Te‘udat Ha-Shiloaḥ” (The Mission of Ha-Shiloaḥ), in which he explained the division of the periodical into four main sections. The first area concerned pirke ḥokhmah (scholarship), and consisted of articles tracing the history of the Jewish people and its spiritual heritage from ancient times. The second section, publicistics (articles discussing actual social and political matters), presented discussions and descriptions of contemporary Jews in different Diaspora settings. A third topic, criticism, offered book reviews and discussions on ideas from the Jewish world, taking rational, ethical, and aesthetic points of view. Finally, a belles lettres section contained prose and poetry, but was limited to works reflecting the situation, needs, and aspirations of Jews. Explicitly excluded was “the type of poetry where one pours out one’s soul on the majesty of nature and on the tenderness of love, etc.” Ahad Ha-am felt that Hebrew literature was at that point unable to produce poetical works of particular quality.
These divisions aroused the ire of a group of young writers headed by Mikhah Yosef Berdyczewski, who was secretary of the editorial board when the monthly was first launched. By the second issue, writers were engaged in a serious polemic with Ahad Ha-Am, accusing him of adopting an insular Jewish attitude. They asked him not to distance readers from general secular culture but to try to instill its aesthetic and universal foundations into Hebrew culture, thereby eliminating a situation in which youth were forced to compromise their Jewishness. This polemic, which was carried on for a number of years, left its mark on Ha-Shiloaḥ and to a large measure became the litmus test for dividing the “old” from the “young” in early twentieth-century Hebrew literature.
Ahad Ha-Am, however, stuck to his principles and made an effort to give equal representation to each of the four areas he had outlined. Shim‘on Bernfeld, David Kahana, David Neumark, Ḥayim Tchernowitz, Mosheh Leib Lilienblum, Mordekhai Ben-Hilel ha-Kohen, Yehoshu‘a Ḥana Ravnitski, Yosef Klausner, and others contributed articles on philosophy and literary criticism. Ahad Ha-Am himself published essays as well as brief and polished commentaries on the issues of the day in his popular column Yalkut katan (A Small Grab Bag). In prose, Mendele Moykher-Sforim made a remarkable impression from the first issue on with chapters from his novel Be-‘Emek ha-bakha’ (In the Vale of Tears). He was joined by S. Ben-Zion (Simḥah Alter Gutmann), Aleksander Ziskind Rabinovitz, Aharon Avraham Kabak, Yehudah Steinberg, and others.
The young storyteller Mordekhai Ze’ev Feierberg occupied a special place in the pages of Ha-Shiloaḥ. Ahad Ha-Am had nurtured and promoted him from the beginning of Feierberg’s career until his premature death in 1899, detecting in his stories the embodiment of national creativity that the editor craved. In the poetry section, Ḥayim Naḥman Bialik became Ha-Shiloaḥ’s leading poet, publishing pieces in almost every issue. However, more than once he found his submissions rejected or corrected when Ahad Ha-Am felt that the poems did not comply with the spirit of the journal.
From a political perspective, Ha-Shiloaḥ consistently reflected Ahad Ha-Am’s misgivings about Herzlian Zionism, but he nonetheless accorded respect to Herzl and would not countenance personal attacks against him. From the very beginning, Ha-Shiloaḥ set unusually demanding criteria for itself—unprecedented for a Hebrew periodical—in terms of its editorial standards, its meticulous selection of content, and its refined style. Ahad Ha-Am insisted that Ha-Shiloaḥ be comparable with the best of contemporary European literary journals. At the same time, there were many who recoiled from Ha-Shiloaḥ precisely because of its highbrow content, which made the paper seem self-important and elitist, and which some regarded as dry and didactic. Ha-Shiloaḥ was, in the end, a typical product of the Odessa School of Hebrew literature, whose characteristics included erudition, moderation, order, eloquent style, and clear thinking.
The main change in editorial policy during Klausner’s tenure—especially during the period in which he shared the editorship with Bialik—saw the end of the exclusion of literature for its own sake, and the opening of the journal’s pages to young writers. A clear example of this latter modification was Klausner’s decision to publish Sha’ul Tshernichowsky’s “Hellenistic” poems, access to which had been denied during Ahad Ha-Am’s tenure.
Among the other writers who joined the monthly during the period of Klausner and Bialik were Yosef Ḥayim Brenner, Y. L. Peretz, Sholem Asch, Hersh Dovid Nomberg, Yitsḥak Dov Berkowitz, Asher Barash, Ya‘akov Cahan, Ya‘akov Fichmann, Yitsḥak Katzenelson, Ya‘akov Steinberg, and Zalman Shneour. During the second decade of the twentieth century, Ha-Shiloaḥ’s pages included the first literary offerings of a new generation of writers, including Uri Tsevi Grinberg, Avigdor Hame’iri, Yitsḥak Lamdan, Avraham Shlonsky, and Eli‘ezer Steinman. After World War I, however, the importance of the journal diminished. It survived its brief Palestine period, it would seem, only because of its glorious past.
Ali Mohamed Abd El-Rahman Attia, The Hebrew Periodical Ha-Shiloaḥ, 1896–1919: Its Role in the Development of Modern Hebrew Literature (Jerusalem, 1991); Joshua Barzilay (Fulman), Ha-Shiloaḥ, 1896–1927: Bibliyografyah (Tel Aviv, 1964); Yosi Goldshtain (Joseph Goldstein), “Ha-Shiloaḥ, 1896–1926,” in Aḥad Ha-‘am: Biyografyah, pp. 211–234 (Jerusalem, 1992); Joseph Klausner, Darki li-kerat ha-teḥiyah veha-ge’ulah: Otobiyografyah (Tel Aviv, 1946); Steven J. Zipperstein, “The Politics of Culture: Ha-Shiloach and Herzlian Zionism,” in Elusive Prophet: Ahad Ha’am and the Origins of Zionism, pp. 105–169 (Berkeley, 1993).
Translated from Hebrew by David Fachler