Uri Zvi Grinberg (1896-1981)
Uri Zvi Grinberg, one of the great Hebrew poets of the 20th century, was born in Galicia in the year 1896, the direct descendant of a family of rabbis from whom he drew his inspiration.
His first works in Hebrew and Yiddish were published in 191 2 and he was quickly accepted into the ranks of the leading writers in both tongues. His first book, in Yiddish, was published in Lwow while he was fighting on the Serbian front. His most important Yiddish book was the poem "Mefisto". He also edited an innovative literary journal "Albatross".
Upon immigrating to Israel in 1923, Uri Zvi Greenberg declared that in future he would write only in Hebrew, but he found it difficult to cut himself off from his mother-tongue, Yiddish, and continued to write in that language from time to time.
His poems and articles appeared in the labour press. He spent his time travelling around the country, visiting the pioneer settlements in which he saw the fulfilment of his dreams.
After the disturbances of 1929, he left the workers' movement and joined up with the Revisionists. This dramatic change was the outcome of his dissatisfaction with the leaders of the Yishuv who, he claimed, had abandoned their ideals of a revival of the Kingdom of Israel and failed to recognize the dangers inherent in the spread of Arab nationalism.
He became an active member of the Revisionist movement and undertook a mission for the party in Poland, returning to Israel on the outbreak of the second World War. During the thirties he attacked the official policy of "Restraint" and called for the setting up of a Jewish military force that would keep the Arabs in check and free Eretz Israel from British rule. He expressed this in a number of his poems in which he called upon the people "not to die for the sanctification of God, but defend ourselves and establish the Kingdom of Israel." These poems were the inspiration of the Underground as they fought to bring their dreams to life.
As far back as 1923, Uri Zvi Greenberg foresaw the destruction of European Jewry, and in his poems and articles he warned of the fate in store for the Jews of the Diaspora. After the Holocaust he mourned over the fact that his terrible prophecies had been realised. Uri Zvi Greenberg was elected a member of Israel's first Knesset, representing the Herut party, and until his death in 1981 was active in the public struggle for a "Greater Israel", the redemption of Jerusalem and the realisation of his royalist dreams.
In his works he takes the Christian world to task for turning Europe into a slaughterhouse for Jews and attacks the Arabs for their acts of savagery. He strives for a "Jewish Revolution" that will renew the ties between the Jewish people, their homeland and their traditions, and gives vent to the yearnings for a revival of the Kingdom of Israel and the redemption of the Jewish people. His works represent a synthesis of traditional Jewish values and an individualistic lyrical approach to life and its problems. Thus while his works clearly owe much to such traditional Jewish sources as the Bible, the Talmud, the prayer book, etc., a certain European influence also makes itself felt.
His Hebrew poetry has been published in a number of books including "Rehovot Ha-Nahar" (Streets of the River) which contains poems on the Holocaust, but there still remain a considerable number of his poems that have not yet been collated.
Throughout the long years of his work as author and publicist, Uri Zvi Greenberg had a wide circle of admirers who saw in him "a poet-legislator", as well as numerous vociferous detractors who opposed his views and his vision, but both groups were united in agreeing on his eminence as a poet. All his life, Uri Zvi Greenberg strove to be "a venerable Jerusalemite" and felt himself to be ""a representative of the Kingdom that is still no more than a burning vision""."