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Israeli youth learn little of Jabotinsky

Most young Jews share his core ideology.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the World Betar Movement Jabotinsky Conference in Jerusalem, Jan. 4, 2023. Photo by Marc Israel Sellem/POOL.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the World Betar Movement Jabotinsky Conference in Jerusalem, Jan. 4, 2023. Photo by Marc Israel Sellem/POOL.

Young Israelis know very little about Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky and the Revisionist movement he founded even though most support his ideology, a survey released Monday shows.

The survey comes one day before Israel marks Jabotinsky Day on Tuesday, and a century since his formative essay “The Iron Wall.” Jabotinsky Day is held once a year, on the 29th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, the day of his death. 

Jabotinsky (1880-1940) wrote the essay after British Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill prohibited Zionist settlement on the east bank of the Jordan River, and formed the Zionist Revisionist party after writing it.

Jabotinsky argued that the Palestinian Arabs would not agree to a Jewish majority in the Land of Israel, and that the only solution to achieve peace and a Jewish state would be for Jews to first establish a strong Jewish state, which would eventually prompt the Arabs to “drop their extremist leaders, whose watchword is ‘never!’ and pass the leadership to the moderate groups, who will approach us with a proposal that we should both agree to mutual concessions.”

The founder of the Revisionist movement was the ideological father of the Israeli right that has been in power for much of the last four and a half decades, including the Likud Party.

Fifty-five percent of respondents to the survey said that they did not learn about Jabotinsky during their school years.

The poll found that the Revisionist movement is the least known of the Zionist groups when compared to the Socialist/Labor movement and Religious Zionism.

Only about 10% of high school students have learned about the Revisionist movement at school, compared to 31% who learned about the Socialist/Labor movement.

“Jabotinsky has a lot to say of relevance to us today, even from 100 years ago, so it is a great shame that despite the passage of the Jabotinsky Day Law very few younger Israelis have learned about him and his vision,” said Nave Dromi of the Middle East Forum.

“Especially after his ideological descendants, the right-wing parties, have been largely in power for the last four decades, it is a shame that Zionist education appears to still be tilted away from the Revisionist movement. It could be argued that now more than ever, its principles, including the necessity of defeating one’s enemies, are vital as the Jewish state’s enemies are increasing in numbers.”

Despite learning little about Jabotinsky in school, the survey found that Israeli youth polled share much of his core ideology.

Seventy percent of pre-army youth agree with Jabotinsky’s assertion that only a strong Jewish military force will solve the conflict with the Palestinians, the survey found.

More than 70% of those polled agree that the enemies of the State of Israel will only accept its existence if they know that it cannot be defeated in war.

The survey, conducted by the Shiluv polling agency for the Middle East Forum’s Israel Victory Project, surveyed 500 Israeli Jews aged 16-25 and had a margin of error of 4.4%.

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