Skip to main content

Ben-Zion, S.


BEN-ZION, S. (pseudonym of Simhah Alter Gutmann ; 1870–1932), Hebrew and Yiddish author. Ben-Zion, who was born in Teleneshty, Bessarabia, settled in Odessa in 1889. He taught there with Bialik, at the modern elementary school, where modern Hebrew was the language of instruction. With Bialik and *Rawnitzki, he founded the publishing house *Moriah and was editor of its juvenile division. The three also collaborated in the writing of Bible stories for children. Ben-Zion published the widely used reader, Ben Ammi (3 parts, 1905–11). From 1905 until his death he lived in Palestine, where he edited various journals and miscellanies; Ha-Omer (Jaffa, 1907–09); Moledet (1911); Shai (1918–19), the literary supplement of the weekly Ḥadashot me-ha-Areẓ; Ha-Ezraḥ (1919); and, for a short period (1930–31), the weekly Bustanai. Ben-Zion was also active in public life and was one of the founders of the Aḥuzzat Bayit suburb, out of which Tel Aviv developed. Ben-Zion's main achievement was as a short story writer. He began as a realist, influenced by *Mendele Mokher Seforim, but his realism had none of Mendele's social satire. The main theme of his early works is the decline of the Bessarabian small Jewish town at the end of the 19th century. The younger generation longed to escape from the poverty and ignorance of their parents, but found themselves unequipped to do so. Their approach to life was blighted by an excessive leaning toward abstraction and they lacked a realistic approach to everyday problems. Ben-Zion's memories of his own childhood and youth occupy a prominent place in these stories. In Nefesh Reẓuẓah ("A Crushed Soul," 1952), he denounces the anguish inflicted upon the Jewish child, crushed in the stifling atmosphere of the ḥeder. Ben-Zion's emigration to Palestine marked a turning-point in his writing. Sensing that the true essence of Zionism at the time was to be found not in the reality but in the vision, he abandoned his realism for poetic lyricism and visionary symbolism. In this vein, he wrote his prose-poems Raḥel and Leviyyim which, though artistically imperfect, nevertheless represent a milestone in modern Hebrew literature. Toward the end of his life Ben-Zion wrote two lengthy historical novels, Megillat Ḥananyah, set in the period of the Second Temple, and Ma'aseh ha-Nezirah, the story of Judith and Holofernes. He also excelled as a translator and rendered several of the classical works of German poetry into Hebrew: Goethe's Hermann und Dorothea (1917); Schiller's Wilhelm Tell (1924); Ẓelilim, a selection of Heine's poems (1923); Heine's Deutschland,ein Wintermaerchen (1938), published posthumously. In addition, Ben-Zion wrote monographs on the Biluim and the colonies of Nes Ẓiyyonah and Gederah, edited an anthology entitled Ha-Kotel ha-Ma'aravi ("The Western Wall," 1929), and published Zemirot li-Yladim ("Songs for Children") with music by Joel *Engel (1923). His collected writings were first published in 1914 (in two volumes), and were later reissued in a single large volume (1949), with a complete bibliography, and illustrations by his son, Naḥum *Gutmann (1949).


I. Klausner, Yoẓerim u-Vonim, 2 (1929), 183–99; J. Rawnitzki, Dor ve-Soferav, 2 (1937), 106–14.

[Gedalyah Elkoshi]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ben-Zion, S.." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . 17 Sep. 2019 <>.

"Ben-Zion, S.." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . (September 17, 2019).

"Ben-Zion, S.." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved September 17, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.