It began on Easter Sunday, April 19, 1903. Fifty thousand (50,000) Jews had fallen prey to the Kishinev pogrom. Hayim Nahman Bialik, recognized as one of the greatest Hebrew writers in a generation, was sent to interview survivors, but what he saw shook him to his very core. “A two-year boy’s tongue was cut out while he was still alive. Another youth blinded in one eye begged for his life with the offer of sixty rubles. The leader of the mob took his money and gouged out his other eye, saying, ‘You will never look again on a Christian child.’”
Bialik couldn’t finish. Instead, he wrote what is considered by many the most influential Jewish poem since the Bible, and what would become the inspiration for modern Zionism. “The City of Slaughter” expressed his fury at the murdering mobs, but more surprisingly, his rage against the Jews themselves.
In the poem, Bialik tells of how a gang of Cossacks brutally raped Jewish women while their Jewish husbands hid, too frightened to try to stop the...
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