MOYSHE SMILANSKI (February 24, 1874-October 6, 1953)
He was born in the village of Telepyne, Cherkaske County, Kiev district, Ukraine, into a Hassidic family of simple village Jews. He attended religious elementary school, and until age sixteen he studied with itinerant house teachers and private tutors. Under the influence of Tolstoyan ideas and later the Ḥibat tsiyon (Love of Zion) movement, at age seventeen he left for the land of Israel. He initially worked on the land in Rishon Lezion, and later was one of the founders of colony of Hadera; from 1893 he was a farmer in Rehovot. He was a cofounder of “Hitaḥadut-Hamoshavot” (Unity of the settlements) and its director during the years of WWI. In 1905 he served as a delegate to the Zionist congress in Basel. Over the years 1909-1911, he visited Russia and Paris on assignment from the colonists. In the face of pogroms in Israel in 1918, he organized Jewish self-defense in Rehovot and in the Galilee. He served (1919-1920) in the Jewish Legion. On his fiftieth birthday (1934), the colonists in Binyamina established in his name the colony “Kfar Moshe” and the British mandate authorities honored him with a decoration. In 1940 he visited the United States, and in many cities he appeared publicly to speak on behalf of the Jewish National Fund. As a journalist, he was one of the authorities on agriculture and land issues in Palestine. His literary activities began in Hatsfira (The siren), and he went on to contribute to: Hashiloaḥ (The shiloah), Hamelits (The advocate), Hatsofe (The spectator), Haarets (The land), and Hapoel hatsayir (The young laborer), among other periodicals. He was also a cofounder and contributor to a series of Hebrew volumes. In Yiddish he placed work in: Fraynd (Friend) in St. Petersburg (using the pen name Amitai); and Der idisher kemfer (The Jewish fighter) and Varhayt (Truth) in New York. Under the pseudonym Ḥuja Musa, he published stories drawn from Arab life in the Yiddish newspapers: Der veg (The path), Dos yudishe folk (The Jewish people), and elsewhere. On his sixtieth birthday, the colonists’ association decided to bring out Smilanski’s writings in twelve volumes. He was one of the first Hebrew writers to depict the life of Arabs and was close to circle of Brit Shalom (Covenant of peace), which strove to attain a line of communication with the Arab population. From 1929 he was editing Bustanai (Gardener), organ of the colonists’ association, which appeared over the years 1928-1939. Together with David Yelin and Sh. Ben-Tsiyon, he cofounded the literary organ Haomer (The omer). His books include: the 12-volume Kitve moshe smilanski (The writings of Moshe Smilanski) (Tel Aviv, 1933-1937); Birkat haadama (Blessing of the earth) (Tel Aviv, 1941/1942), 89 pp.; Perakim betoldot hayishuv (Chapters in the history of the settlement), six parts (1938/1939, 1939/1940-1946/1947); Mishpaḥat haadama (Family of the land), 2 parts (1942/1943-1943/1944); Biyeme elem (Days of silence) (Jerusalem, 1942/1943), 55 pp.; Maslul hageula (The path to redemption) (Jerusalem, 1943/1944), 62 pp.; Bene arav (Arab children) (Tel Aviv, 1945-1947); Besedot ukraina (On Ukrainian fields) (Tel Aviv, 1943/1944), a three-part autobiographical novel; Baarava, sipur (In the wilderness, a story) (Tel Aviv, 1947), 228 pp.; Ben karme yehuda (Amid Jewish vineyards) (Tel Aviv, 1954), 228 pp.; and Bahar ubagay, sipurim ḥadashim (In the mountains and hills, new stories) (Tel Aviv, 1948), 250 pp. His celebrated story “Latifa” was initially published in Yiddish and later published in Hebrew. A number of his works have been translated into English and other languages.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2, with a bibliography; Sh. Raskin, “A tog in rekhoves” (A day in Rehovot), Tsayt (New York) (January 29, 1922); D. B. Tirkel, in Pinkes fun amopteyl fun yivo (Records of the American division of YIVO), vol. 1 (New York, 1927-1928); Dr. A. Ginzburg, “Di idishe arbeter in erets-yisroel” (The Jewish worker in the land of Israel), Forverts (New York) (December 10, 1932); Y. Fishman, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (January 31, 1935); Sh. Rozenfeld, in Tog (New York) (February 1, 1935); P. Novik, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (February 19, 1935); M. Robinzon, in Sifrutenu haifa (Our beautiful literature) (Jerusalem, 1952/1953); Sefer hashana shel haitonim (Newspaper yearbook) (Tel Aviv, 1953/1954); D. Tidhar, in Entsiklopedyah leḥalutse hayishuv uvonav (Encyclopedia of the pioneers and builders of the yishuv), vol. 3 (Tel Aviv, 1949), see index; A. Hadani and D. Perski, in Hadoar (New York) (February 5, 1954); A. R. Malachi, in Hadoar (October 16, 1953); Y. Boaz, in Letste nayes (Tel Aviv) (October 16, 1953); Y. Inbari, in Hadoar (November 6, 1953); Y. Burshtin, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (November 12, 1953); Y. Mastboym, in Letste nayes (November 13, 1953); Y. Likhtnboym, Hasipur haivri (The Hebrew story) (Tel Aviv, 1955), p. 522; Likhtnboym, Tekuma (Rebirth) (Tel Aviv, 1958), p. 15; L. Shpizman, in Geshikhte fun der tsienistisher arbeter-bavegung fun tsofn-amerike (History of the Zionist labor movement in North America) (New York, 1955), see index; Y. Rapaport, Misaprim ivrim (Hebrew storytellers) (Tel Aviv, 1956), p. 124; Avraham Shaanan, Milon hasifrut haḥadasha haivrit vehakelalit (Dictionary of modern Hebrew and general literature) (Tel Aviv, 1959), pp. 552-53; Kadye Molodovski, “Unter shayn fun legende” (Under the glow of legend), Svive (New York) (May 1962); S. Yizhar and R. Binyamin, in Orot (Jerusalem) (January 1964); The UJA (New York) 9 (1943), p. 572.