Moshe Smilansky

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Moshe Smilansky

Moshe Smilansky (Hebrew: משה סמילנסקי‎)(February 24, 1874 – October 6, 1953) was a pioneer of the First Aliyah, a Zionist leader who advocated peaceful coexistence with the Arabs in Mandatory Palestine, a farmer, and a prolific author of fiction and non-fiction literary works.


Born in 1874 to a family of farmers in Telepino, a village in Kiev Governorate, then part of the Russian Empire (present-day Ukraine), Smilansky emigrated to Ottoman Palestine in 1890. Smilansky planned to study at Mikve Israel, but then purchased with his family's assistance and in Hadera in 1891. After his family's return to Russia Smilansky became an agricultural worker in Rishon LeZion before settling in Rehovot in 1893.

Smilansky, who considered himself a disciple of Ahad Ha'am, was an active Zionist whose cultural output include many essays and articles, which he has contributed to Hebrew periodicals published in Russia and in Germany (Ha-Tsefirah, Ha-Meliẓ, Ha-Tzofeh, Lu'aḥ Aḥiasaf, Ha-Shilo'aḥ, and Ha-Olam), sometimes under the pen name "Ben Hava". Smilansky also published in Hebrew periodicals in Ereẓ Israel, where he was one of the first contributors (writing under the pen name "Heruti") to the journal of Ha-Po'el ha-Tsa'ir and a co-founder of Ha-Omer together with David Yellin and S. Ben Zion (Simha Alter Guttman). Smilansky was a delegate to the Seventh Zionist Congress in Basel in 1905.

Smilansky, in addition to being an agricultural pioneer (vineyards, almonds and citrus groves owner), was one of the founders of the Hitahadut ha-Moshavot bi-Yehudah ve-Shomron, whose chairman he became during World War I. In 1922 Smilansky was one of the founders of Hitahdut HaIkarim, which he headed during its early years and the editor of its periodical, Bustenai, from 1929 to 1937.[1]

Smilansky volunteered to the Jewish Legion in 1918, and was the commander of the Haganah Organization in Rehovot during the 1921 Jaffa Riots. Smilansky was also active during the 1920s and 1930s in organizations for the reclamation and acquisition of land, especially in the Negev.

Smilansky's views, as reflected in many of his articles in the Hebrew press (particularly in Haaretz), were close to those of Chaim Weizmann, and he was prominent in his activities towards peaceful coexistence with the Arabs. A close ally of Brit Shalom from 1925 till its disintegration, Smilansky, during the 1930s, was a member of "The Five" (together with Gad Frumkin, Pinhas Rutenberg, Moshe Novomeysky, and Judah Leon Magnes), who met with Arab leaders in an attempt to explore the idea of a bi-national state, founded on a vision of economic integration and a legislative council based on parity, that would enable Zionist development. During the 1940s, Smilansky, for a similar reason, opposed the struggle against the British in Palestine.[2] In 1946, Smilansky, together with members of Ihud, advocated the establishment of an Arab-Jewish state to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry.

Smilansky's literary works include autobiographical novels as well as memoirs and non-fiction depictions of the Zionist pioneers of the First Aliyah and Second Aliyah that were collected in the four-volume Mishpahat ha-Adamah and the six-volume Perakim be-Toledot ha-Yishuv. His groundbreaking fiction stories and sketches depicting Arab life in Ottoman Palestine were first published in 1906 under the pseudonym Hawaja Mussa (Hebrew: חוג'ה מוסה), and collected in the volume Bene Arav, first published in Odessa in 1911. Smilansky was awarded the Ussishkin Prize for Literature in 1949 in recognition of his books Ba-Aravah and Ba-Har uva-Gai.

Smilansky was the brother of novelist Meir Smilansky (who published under the pen name M. Secco) and psychoanalyst Anna Smeliansky (who worked in the 1920s at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute before emigrating to Mandatory Palestine in 1933, where she was a founding member of the Palestine Psychoanalytic Association, later the Israeli Psychoanalytic Society). Smilansky was the uncle of writer Zev Smilansky, and the great uncle of his son, novelist S. Yizhar, who wrote about Smilansky in his memoir, Ha-Merkavah Shel Ha-Dod Moshe (1973; Uncle Moshe's Chariot).

Smilansky died in Tel Aviv and was buried in Rehovot in 1953. Moshav Nir Moshe, founded in the Negev in that year, was called after Smilansky.

Published Works[edit]

  • Toledot Ahavah Ahat (1911)
  • Bene Arav (1911)
  • Tovah (1924 or 1925)
  • Zikhronot (3 vols., 1924 or 1925 - 1929)
  • Me-Haye ha-Arvim (1925)
  • Ha-ityashvut ha-Haklait (1926 or 1927)
  • Rehovot (1929)
  • Ha-Hityashvut ha-Ivrit veha-Falhah (1929 or 1930)
  • Jewish Colonisation and the Fellah (1930)
  • Haderah (1930)
  • KitveMoshe Smilansky (12 vols. 1933-1937)
  • Palestine Caravan (1935)
  • Perakim be-Toledot ha-Yishuv (6 vols. 1939-1947)
  • Birkat ha-adamah (1941 or 1942)
  • Ha-Yishuv ha-Ivri (1941 or 1942)
  • Mishpahat ha-Adamah (4 vols. 1943–53)
  • Bi-Yeme Elem (1943)
  • Maslul ha-Geulah (1943 or 1944)
  • Jacob the Soldier (1944)
  • Bi-Sedot Ukrainah (1944)
  • Sipur Geulat ha-Adamah ba-Arets (1944 or 1945)
  • Yehoshua Hankin (1945 or 1946)
  • Sipure Saba (1946)
  • Ba-Aravah (1946)
  • Sipure ha-Yishuv (1948)
  • Ben Karme Yehudah (1948)
  • Ba-Har uva-Gai (1948)
  • Goale ha-Karka (1949)
  • Haverim (1949)
  • Rehovot: 60 Shenot Hayeha (1950)
  • Be-Tsel ha-Pardesim (1951)
  • Shemesh Aviv (1952)
  • Tekumah ve-Sho'ah (1952 or 1953)
  • Mishut ba-Arets (1953)
  • Hevle Ledah (1953 or 1954)
  • Im Peridah (1955)
  • Hu Ahav et ha-Yarden (1962)
  • Al Hof ha-Yarkon (1966)


  • Domb, Risa. "The Arab in Fact and Fiction as Reflected in the Works of Moshe Smilansky (1874 - 1953)." Jewish Quarterly 29, no. 4 (1982): 3 - 7.
  • Dubnov, Arie and Harif, Hanan. "Zionisms: Roads not Taken on the Journey to the Jewish State," Maarav, April 29, 2012.
  • Magnes, Judah Leon. Palestine — Divided or United? The Case for a Bi-National Palestine before the United Nations. With M. Reiner; Lord Samuel; E. Simon; M. Smilansky. Jerusalem: Ihud, 1947.
  • Ramras-Rauch, Gila. The Arab in Israeli Literature. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989.
  • Rolnik, Eran J.Freud in Zion: Psychoanalysis and the Making of Modern Jewish Identity (Karnac History of Psychoanalysis Series). London: Karnac Books, 2012.
  • Shaked, Gershon. “The Genre and its Parts: Considerations of the Fiction of Moshe Smilansky and Nehamah Pukhachewsky. In On Poetry and Fiction: Studies in Hebrew Literature, edited by Tsvi Malakhi, 133–146. Tel Aviv: 1977.


External links[edit]