Hacohen, Mordecai ben Hillel

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HACOHEN, MORDECAI BEN HILLEL (1856–1936), Hebrew writer and Zionist. At the age of 18 he began publishing in Hebrew periodicals, such as Ha-Levanon, Ha-Ẓefirah, and Ha-Kol, and, from 1876, was on the editorial staff of Ha-Shaḥar. In 1878–9 Hacohen, who was influenced by *Smolenskin's nationalism, published a long article sharply criticizing the Haskalah movement for having caused a spiritual crisis among the Jewish youth of Eastern Europe. No less effective was his article in *Ha-Meliẓ (1879), depicting the dire economic plight of Russian Jewry. In 1878 he moved to St. Petersburg. In 1880 he wrote a comprehensive survey of Jewish agriculturalists in modern Russia for the Russo-Jewish periodicals. Hacohen joined the *Ḥibbat Zion movement in 1881 and, in the same year, published in *Ha-Maggid his article "Kumu ve-Na'aleh Ẓiyyon" ("Arise and Let Us Go to Zion"), the first of a series on the new movement. In 1886 he wrote from a Jewish nationalist standpoint the first comprehensive survey of Smolenskin's career. He visited Palestine at the end of 1889 and published his impressions in Ha-Meliẓ. In 1891, in his native town of Mogilev, Hacohen founded two societies for promoting settlement in Palestine, visiting the country again on their behalf in that year. He reported on his journey in Lu'aḥ Aḥ'asaf 9 (1901) and 11 (1903) criticizing the colonizing activities of the Ḥovevei Zion and of their agent, Ze'ev Tiomkin. A delegate to the first Zionist Congress (1897), he was the first to deliver a speech in Hebrew. In 1907 he settled in Palestine. Hacohen, who was one of the founders of Tel Aviv, played an active part in the economic and cultural life of the yishuv. He helped to start the monthly youth magazine Moledet, of which he later became an editor. He was also one of the organizers of the Association of Hebrew Writers. Hacohen's articles are characterized by their practical approach to contemporary problems, as exemplified by his demand that Jewish nationalism be given a sound economic basis. Especially noteworthy is his essay on "The Literary Vision of Israel and Its Land," as expressed in the works of Smolenskin, George Eliot, Disraeli, and Baharav (Ha-Shilo'ah, vols. 2, 6, 11). His memoirs and diaries are also of historical and cultural importance.

His Hebrew works include a collection of articles and stories (2 vols., 1904); Kevar, memoirs (1923); Olami, memoirs (5 vols., 1927–29); Milḥemet ha-'Ammim, a diary of World War i (5 vols., 1929–30); Atḥalta (2 vols., 1931–42), a collection of articles on Ereẓ Israel in the years 1917–20; Ḥayyim Naḥman Bialik (1933); Be-Sivkhei ha-Ya'ar ve-'od Sippurim (1934); and Sefer Shemot, biographical sketches of Hebrew writers and Zionist workers (1938). A selection of Hacohen's Yiddish writings was published in the miscellany In Mame Loshen (1935). Two of Hacohen's articles in Russian, "Jerusalem and its Region" (1909) and "On the Balance of Trade of Jaffa Harbor" (1913), were reprinted in pamphlet form. On the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the beginning of his literary work, miscellanies were published in his honor, Me-Erev ad Erev (2 vols., 1904) and Mi-Boker ad Erev (1925), which also contain biographical and bibliographical material about him.

[Gedalyah Elkoshi]