Smilansky, Moshe

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SMILANSKY, MOSHE (literary pseudonyms, Ḥeruti ; Ḥawaja Mussa ; 1874–1953), Hebrew writer and agricultural pioneer in Ereẓ Israel. Born in Telepino, a village in the province of Kiev, into a family of Jewish tenant farmers, he went to Ereẓ Israel in 1890 and was one of the founders of Ḥaderah. In 1893 he settled in Reḥovot where he was the owner of orange groves and vineyards.

An active Zionist, much of Smilansky's literary career, which he began in 1898, was devoted to publicistic writings. He contributed prolifically to the Jewish press in Russia (Ha-Ẓefirah, Ha-Meliẓ, Ha-Ẓofeh, Lu'aḥ Aḥi'asaf, Ha-Shilo'aḥ, and Ha-Olam), and to Hebrew periodicals in Ereẓ Israel and other countries, and was one of the co-founders of the literary journal Ha-Omer. Smilansky saw himself as a disciple of *Aḥad Ha-Am, and was one of the first contributors (writing under the pen name "Ḥeruti") to Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir. Deeply concerned with Arab-Jewish labor problems Smilansky opposed the demand by the Second Aliyah for exclusively Jewish labor in the colonies for economic and political reasons. After World War i he was active in organizations for the reclamation and acquisition of land. He was one of the founders of the Hitaḥadut ha-Moshavot in Judea, whose chairman he became during World War i, and of Hitaḥadut ha-Ikkarim (*Farmers' Federation), which he headed during its early years and whose periodical, Bustanai (1929–39), he edited. In 1918 he volunteered for the *Jewish Legion. Smilansky participated in unofficial and unpublicized talks with Arab leaders in 1936. After World War i he was a faithful supporter of Chaim *Weizmann's views, which are reflected in many of his articles in the Hebrew press (particularly Haaretz), and in the 1940s he opposed the struggle of the yishuv against the British regime in Palestine.

Much of Smilansky's literary activity was devoted to the history of Jewish agricultural settlement in Ereẓ Israel. Among his many works in the field are Ḥaderah (1930), Reḥovot (1950), and Perakim be-Toledot ha-Yishuv (6 vols. (1959) which ran into several editions). Mishpaḥat ha-Adamah (4 vols., 1943–53), a book of memoir sketches and first-hand impressions of the pioneers of the First and Second Aliyyot, is one of his finest works. During the last years of his life he wrote a sequence of autobiographical novels: Bi-Sedot Ukraina (1944), Ba-Aravah (1947), Bein Karmei Yehudah (1948), Be-Ẓel ha-Pardesim (1951), Tekumah ve-Sho'ah (1953), and Ḥevlei Leidah (1954).

Smilansky's fiction contains in particular stories on Arab life (under the pseudonym "Ḥawaja Mussa") which he began in 1906. These stories (collected in Benei Arav, 1964), written in a vivid descriptive style, are the first of their kind in Jewish literature. Smilansky reveals to the Jewish reader a new world – exotic, colorful, throbbing with its own rich humanity. Though in many of the stories Arab life is romanticized, the author's direct knowledge of the Arab ambience and way of life is documentarily valuable and the stories are of literary merit. Composed before World War i, the stories convey an amicable relationship between Arab and Jew. Other works by Smilansky include Hadassah, a novel depicting the beginning of the Second Aliyah; Toledot Ahavah Aḥat (1911), a short novel; Sippurei Sava (1946); Ba-Har u-va-Gai (1949); Shemesh Aviv; and Im Peridah (revised edition 1955). There are several collections of his works including Kitvei Moshe Smilansky (1924–1945), but none is complete.


D. Smilansky, Im Benei Dori (1942), 212–16; J. Fichmann, Be-Terem Aviv (1959), 102–25; A. Cohen, Israel and the Arab World (1969), index. add. bibliography: M. Ungerfeld, "M. Smilanski," in: Hadoar, 53 (1974), 121; E. Reizin, Reshit Darko ha-Ẓibburit shel Moshe Smilansky (1982); G. Shaked, Ha-Sipporet ha-Ivrit, 2 (1983), 44–54; H. Hoffman, "Bein Teimanim le-Ashkenazim be-Shishah Sippurei Ahavah," in: Pe'amim, 21 (1985), 113–33; R. Domb, "Demut ha-Aravi," in: Iton 77, 84 (1987), 95–97; I. Basok, "Psikhoanalizah be-Heksher Tarbuti ve-Politi, Diyyun ve-Hadgamah be-Sippurei 'Benei Arav'," in: Bikkoret u-Parshanut, 29 (1993), 75–96; Y. Berlovitz, "'Benei Arav' le-M. Smilanski," in: Iyyunim bi-Tekumat Yisra'el, 4 (1994), 400–421; A. Zinger, Ha-Shivah la-Karka (1995); I. Basok, Be-Ẓel ha-Pardesim, al Adamah Meẓora'at (1996); A. Givoli, Gishatto shel Moshe Smilansky la-Sikhsukh ha-Aravi Yehudi bi-Shenot ha-Sheloshim (2003).

[Yehuda Slutsky]