Dinur (Dinaburg), Benzion

views updated


DINUR (Dinaburg), BENZION (1884–1973), historian and educator. Dinur received his education in Lithuanian yeshivot, at Berne University, at the Berlin Hochschule, and at Petrograd University. He taught in several Jewish schools; at Jewish teachers' training colleges; and in "Oriental studies" courses. He was also active in the Zionist and Jewish Labor movements and in the problems of Jewish education. In 1921 Dinur settled in Ereẓ Israel and from 1923 to 1948 served as a teacher and later as head of the Jewish Teachers' Training College, Jerusalem. In 1936 he was appointed lecturer in modern Jewish history at the Hebrew University and became professor in 1948 and professor emeritus in 1952. Dinur was among the founders and editors of the bibliographical quarterly Kirjath Sepher (1924) and of the historical annual (later quarterly) Zion and of such historiographical projects as the Sefer ha-Yishuv (2 vols., 1939–44), Sefer ha-Ẓiyyonut (1938, 19542), and Toledot ha-Hagganah (1954–59). He was elected to the first Knesset on the Mapai list and served as minister for education and culture from 1951 to 1955, when he was responsible for the 1953 State Education Law, which put an end to the prevailing party "trend" education system. From 1953 to 1959 Dinur was president of *Yad Vashem. In 1973 he was awarded the Israel Prize in education.

As a historian Dinur brought a Zionist approach to the understanding of Jewish history. Central to his historical studies is the idea of the fluctuation of the Jewish psyche and Jewish community structure between establishment in the Diaspora and a yearning for redemption, with Ereẓ Israel as the focus of these continuous tensions; this was the determining factor, which gave unity to the history of the people in the Diaspora and determined the change of periods and their character. Dinur's studies underline the national value of the Jewish communal presence in Ereẓ Israel from the capture of Jerusalem in 70 c.e. to the Arab conquest in 636 and its end in the Crusader period. For the historiography of modern Jewish history, he stressed the importance of research into the social ideology of Ḥasidism and of the Ḥovevei Zion movement. Dinur believed it best to let the sources speak for themselves, and in some of his major works, quotations, with his introductions and notes, are collected into literary unity. The subject of the division of Jewish history into periods occupied Dinur's mind a good deal, particularly the passage from the Middle Ages to modern times. According to him the latter period began in 1700, the year of the great immigration to Ereẓ Israel.

Among his major works are a history of the Jewish people divided into two series, of which the first part of the first series appeared under the title of Yisrael be-Arẓo (1938), and the second series under the title Yisrael ba-Golah (5 vols., 1926, 19582, 1961–663); a history of Ḥibbat Zion, Ḥibbat Ẓiyyon (2 vols., 1932–34); see also Mefallesei Derekh (Pioneers, 1947); and Arakhim u-Derakhim (1958), a study of the educational and cultural problems of modern Israel. Dinur also edited the correspondence between A. Mapu and A. Kaplan (1929); the correspondence and the letters of Mapu (1970); of S.J. Rapoport with R. Kircheim, Z. Frankel and others (1928); and the Zionist writings of Hermann Schapira (1925). A collection of Dinur's miscellaneous studies appeared in 1955 under the title Be-Mifneh ha-Dorot; volume 1 of his memoirs under the title of Be-Olam she-Shaka 1884–1914 appeared in 1958, and volume 2, Bi-Ymei Milhamah u-Mahpekhah 1914–21, in 1960. A collection of essays, Sefer Dinaburg, in Dinur's honor was published by Y. Baer, J. Guttmann, and M. Schwabe in 1949 (with a bibliography up to 1948), and a volume of appreciation on the occasion of his 70th birthday (1954). In 1969 a volume of his essays appeared in English, Israel and the Diaspora.


D.J. Cohen in: Zion, 18 (1955), 169–99; 23–24 (1958–59), 102–8; Devarim al Prof. Benzion Dinur Sar ha-Ḥinnukh ve-ha-Tarbut bi-Melot Lo Shivim Shanah (1954), includes biographical notes.