Hayim Bialik is celebrated as Israel's national poet. He is most well
known for nationalistic poems written in Hebrew, though he has written
poems devoted to nature and to love. His use of Hebrew did much to revive
Hebrew from a "dead" language of use only to scholars.
Born in the shtetl of Radi, Hayim Bialik spent his formative years in
Zhitomir. After Hayim's father died, in 1880, when Hayim was seven,
he was raised by his paternal grandfather, an Orthodox Jew who lived
in Zhitomir. Though Hayim received the typical Jewish education he
showed an interest in European literature, as well.
At the age of fifteen Bialik attended the Volozhin Yeshiva
(a renowned Talmudic school) in Lithuania to continue his Jewish
and secular studies. In time he developed an interest in the
Jewish Enlightenment and moved away from his religious studies.
Some years after this change in interest, Bialik wrote a poem
HaMatmid ("The Talmud Student") in which he reveals his
atttitude toward Yeshiva life.
Hayim moved to Odessa, the center of modern Jewish
culture. Here he studied Russian and German literature
and earned his way by teaching Hebrew. In 1892 Bialik published
his first poem, El Hatzipor ("To the Bird"), about his love
This poem attracted the attention of Odessa's Jewish literary
circle and provided the entrée to his literary career.
Bialik's first collection of poetry, published in 1901, focused on
Jewish national rebirth and brought him great acclaim. After the
Kishinev pogroms, Bialik was asked to interview the survivors and
write a report on his findings. The horror of the pogroms led Bialik
to create his epic poem In the City of Slaughter in which he
expresses his pain at Jewish suffering. His epic may have induced
Jews to defend themselves against anti-semitic violence.
Hayim Bialik's interests were extensive. Along with several partners,
he founded a Hebrew publishing company, Moriah, that published
schoolbooks, Hebrew classics, and translations of great European
writers, including Shakespeare, Cervantes, Heine, and Schiller. Bialik
also wrote a commentary on the Mishnah and on the Talmud.
Soviets forced the closure of the publishing house, Bialik left the
country. Eventually, Bialik openned another publishing house, Dvir,
in Tel Aviv. In Palestine Bialik became the head of the Hebrew Writers Union,
gave the inauguation speech on the establishment of Hebrew University, and
became a member of its Board of Governors.
Much more at Bialik.