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Vladimir Jabotinsky

Vladimir (Zeev) Jabotinsky (1880-1940) was a Zionist leader, author, orator, and founder of the Jewish Brigade in World War I. Born in Odessa, he was raised in a traditional Jewish home and learned some Hebrew as a child, but as he grew older, he came to identify with the acculturated Jewish youth of the city.

Jabotinsky's talents as a journalist became apparent even before he finished high school, and upon graduation he was sent to Bern, Switzerland and later to Italy as a reporter for the Russian press. While abroad, he also studied law, but it was only upon his return to Russia that he qualified as an attorney. His dispatches from Italy earned him recognition as one of the brightest young Russian-language journalists: he later edited newspapers in Russian, Yiddish, and Hebrew.

After the Kishinev Pogrom of 1903, Jabotinsky joined the Zionist movement, where he quickly earned a reputation as a talented speaker and leader of the intellectually oriented youth. During that time, he concentrated on learning Hebrew. During the ensuing pogroms, he organized self-defense units in the various Jewish communities throughout Russia and struggled for the civil rights of the Jewish population as a whole.

During World War I, he conceived of the idea of establishing a Jewish Brigade to fight alongside the British against the Ottomans who then controlled Palestine. Together with Joseph Trumpeldor, he created the Zion Mule Corps, which consisted of several hundred Jews, mainly Russians, who had been exiled from Palestine by the Turks and settled in Egypt. The unit served with distinction in the Battle of Gallipoli. When the Zion Mule Corps was disbanded, Jabotinsky traveled to London, where he continued in his efforts to establish Jewish units within the British Army, who would fight in Palestine. Only in 1917, however, did the government agree to establish three Jewish units. Jabotinsky himself fought against the Turks in the Jordan Valley in 1918 and was decorated for bravery.

After the war, Jabotinsky was elected to the first legislative assembly in Palestine, and in 1921, he was elected to the executive council of the World Zionist Organization. He quit the latter group in 1923, however, due to differences of opinion between him and its chairman, Chaim Weizmann, and established the Revisionist Party and its youth movement, Beitar (a Hebrew acronym for the "League of Joseph Trumpeldor"). His new party demanded that the Zionist movement recognize as its objective the establishment of a Jewish state along both banks of the Jordan River.

In 1929, Jabotinsky left Palestine to attend the Sixteenth Zionist Congress. The British authorities did not allow him to return. The movement he established gave birth to Herut and later the Likud Party in Israel.