Bar-Ilan (Berlin), Meir

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BAR-ILAN (Berlin), MEIR (1880–1949), leader of religious Zionism. Bar-Ilan was born in Volozhin, Russia, the son of R. Naphtali Ẓevi Judah *Berlin. He completed his studies in yeshivot at Volozhin, Telz, Brisk (Brest-Litovsk), and Novogrudok. As a young man he joined the *Mizrachi movement, representing it at the Seventh Zionist Congress (1905), at which, unlike the majority of Mizrachi delegates, he voted against the *Uganda Scheme. In 1911 he was appointed secretary of the world Mizrachi movement, working in Berlin, and he coined the Mizrachi slogan "Ereẓ Yisrael le-Am Yisrael al Pi Torat Yisrael" ("The land of Israel for the people of Israel according to the Torah of Israel"). He moved to the United States in 1915, served as president of the U.S. Mizrachi, and from 1925 was a member of the Board of Directors of the *Jewish National Fund. In 1926 Bar-Ilan settled in Jerusalem where he served as president of the World Mizrachi center and as the Mizrachi representative in Zionist and yishuv institutions, including clandestine committees for defense. Between 1929 and 1931 he was a member of the Zionist Executive. A leading opponent of the Palestine partition plan in 1937, and of the British White Paper of 1939, he advocated civil disobedience and complete noncooperation of the Jewish population toward the British government. After the establishment of the State of Israel, he organized a committee of scholars to examine the legal problems of the new state in the light of Jewish law, and was an initiator of the National Religious Front, the group of religious parties that presented a united platform in the first Knesset elections. A central figure in the Zionist religious movement, Bar-Ilan founded and edited a religious Zionist weekly, Ha-Ivri ("The Hebrew"), which was published in Berlin from 1910 to 1914 and in New York from 1916 to 1921. Between 1938 and 1949 he was editor in chief of the Mizrachi daily, Ha-Ẓofeh, in Tel Aviv. Some of his articles were collected in his books Bi-Shevilei ha-Teḥiyyah ("In the Paths of Renaissance," 1940) and Kitvei Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan (1950). His memoirs, Mi-Volozhin ad Yerushalayim ("From Volozhin to Jerusalem," 1939–40), were originally published in Yiddish. He also wrote a book about his father, entitled Rabban shel Yisrael ("Rabbi of Israel," 1943). He initiated and organized the publishing of the Talmudic Encyclopaedia, begun in 1947. He also founded the institute for the publication of a new complete edition of the Talmud. Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, founded by the American Mizrachi movement, is named in his honor, as is the Meir Forest in the Hebron hills, and the moshav Bet Meir near Jerusalem.


I. Avigur, Ilan ve-Nofo (1952); M. Krone, Ha-Rav Meir Bar-Ilan (1954); ezd, 1 (1958), 334–47; A. Hertzberg, The Zionist Idea (1960), 546–54.

[Zvi Kaplan]