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 Chaim Nahman Bialik

Biography of Hayyim (Chaim) Nahman Bialik

Hayyim Nahman Bialik (1873-1934), national poet of Israel,  was born in Radi, Volhynia in Russia to a traditional Jewish family and  studied at a yeshiva in Zhitomir. When he was 17, he was sent to the  Talmudic academy in Volozhin, Lithuania where he was attracted to the Haskalah movement and joined the Chovevei Tzion group.  Bialik quickly  drifted away from yeshiva life. . Photo - Haim Nachman Bialik

At 18, Bialik left for Odessa and  became active in Jewish literary circles and  met Achad Ha'am, who had a great influence on him. He published his first poem in Hebrew, El Ha­Tzipor ("To the Bird"), reflecting  his feelings toward Zion and Russia.  Bialik was not yet a full-time writer and poet. Bialik made his living as a bookkeeper in his father-in-law's business and later taught, published and translated. For six years was literary editor of the Odessa Hebrew weekly Hashiloah. Bialik  hoped to be successful in business, but after  four-years in the lumber trade he decided to make his living by teaching. In 1901 his first collection of poetry appeared to much acclaim. The next three years were a "golden" period, in which he wrote prolifically.  His "In the City of Slaughter," written in response to the Kishinev Pogrom, evoked the existential anguish of a nation over the situation of the Jews.

Bialik moved to Berlin in 1921, where he founded the Dvir publishing house. He moved the company to Tel Aviv in 1924 and devoted himself to cultural activities and public affairs. In 1927 he became head of the Hebrew Writers Union, and remained head until his death in 1934. Bialik's poetry and prose have been widely translated. His poems are required reading in Israeli schools and several have been put to music.

More Israeli and Zionist Biographies The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel

 

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