Tschernichowsky, Saul

(1875-1943)
   Born in the south Russia shtetl of Mikhailovka, he benefited from both traditional Jewish religious education and modern secular education, with a concentration on foreign languages. At the age of 15, he was sent to Odessa for studies; while there, he became active in Zionist politics, publishing his first Hebrew poem in 1892 and a volume of verse in 1898. His works expressed a revolutionary Zionist ideology and a disdain for Jewish life in the Diaspora. In 1899, after being denied admission to a Russian university because of anti-Jewish quotas, he enrolled at the University of Heidelberg as a medical student, completing his studies at Lausanne University in 1906. Upon his return to Russia, he was briefly imprisoned as a "political agitator." He served as a doctor in the Russian army during World War I and survived the Russian Revolution as a medical practitioner.
   Tschernichowsky left Russia for Germany in 1922, serving as the literary editor of Hatekufa, a prestigious Hebrew periodical, and as editor of the medical and natural science sections of the Hebrew encyclopedia Eshkol. During this period in Germany, he also penned some of his most moving Zionist verse, such as "Omerim Yesh Sham Aretz" ("They Say There Is a Land"). In 1936, the Schocken Publishing House put him on an annual retainer, enabling him to settle permanently in Palestine and concentrate on writing. Thematically, he dealt with the struggles of the Yishuv under the British mandate, taking a strong nationalist stance. With the rise of Nazism in Europe and World War II, his focus shifted to the tragedy of Jewish fate and, ultimately, the Holocaust.
   Critics consider Tschernichowsky's "Ama DiDehava" to be among the most important long poems written by any Hebrew poet in the 1930s. Its attempt to reconcile the conflict between the poet's sense of alienation and his longing for his native land with his love for his newly acquired homeland is seen as a metaphor for the Zionist experience. As a Hebrew poet, Tschernichowsky is considered second only to his contemporary, Haim Nahman Bialik.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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