Uri Zvi Grinberg
1896–1981

Uri Zvi Grinberg (Hebrew: אורי צבי גרינברג) was an acclaimed Israeli poet and journalist who wrote in Yiddish and Hebrew.

Uri Zvi Grinberg was born in Bialikamin, Galicia, then Austria-Hungary, into a prominent Hasidic family. He was raised in Lemberg (Lviv). Some of his poems in Yiddish and Hebrew were published before he was 20. In 1915 he was drafted into the army and fought in the First World War. After returning to Lemberg, he was witness to the pogroms of November 1918.[3] He moved to Warsaw, where he wrote for the Yiddish newspaper Moment. After a brief stay in Berlin,[4] he immigrated to Mandate Palestine (the Land of Israel) in 1924. Grinberg was in Poland when the Second World War erupted in 1939, but managed to escape.

In 1950, Grinberg married Aliza, with whom he had two daughters and three sons. He added “Tur-Malka” to the family name, but continued to use “Grinberg” to honor family members who perished in the Holocaust.

Literary career

His first works in Hebrew and Yiddish were published in 1912. His first book, in Yiddish, was published in Lwow while he was fighting on the Serbian front. He also edited a literary journal, Albatros. In the wake of his iconoclastic depictions of Jesus in the second issue of Albatros, particularly his prose poem Royte epl fun veybeymer (Red Apples from the Trees of Pain), the journal was banned by the Polish censors and Grinberg fled to Berlin to escape prosecution in November 1922. The magazine incorporated avant-garde elements both in content and typography, taking its cue from German periodicals like Die Aktion and Der Sturm. Grinberg published the last two issues of Albatros in Berlin before renouncing European society and immigrating to Palestine in 1923.

In his early days in Palestine, Grinberg wrote for Davar, one of the main newspapers of the Labour Zionist movement. In his poems and articles he warned of the fate in store for the Jews of the Diaspora. After the Holocaust, he mourned the fact that his terrible prophecies had come true. His works represent a synthesis of traditional Jewish values and an individualistic lyrical approach to life and its problems. They draw on Jewish sources such as the Bible, the Talmud and the prayer book, but are also influenced by European literature.

Political activism

Brit HaBirionim founders Abba Ahimeir, Uri Zvi Greenberg, and Joshua Yeivin
In 1930, Grinberg joined the Revisionist camp, representing the Revisionist movement at several Zionist congresses and in Poland. After the 1929 Hebron massacre he became more militant, and joined both the Irgun and Lehi. With Abba Ahimeir and Joshua Yeivin, he founded Brit HaBirionim, a clandestine faction of the Revisionist movement which adopted an activist policy of violating British mandatory regulations. In the early 1930s, its members disrupted a British-sponsored census, sounded the shofar in prayer at the Western Wall despite a British prohibition, held a protest rally when a British colonial official visited Tel Aviv, and tore down Nazi flags from German offices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. When the British arrested hundreds of its members the organization effectively ceased to exist.

Grinberg envisioned and warned as early as 1923 of the destruction of European Jewry. He believed that the Holocaust was a tragic but largely inevitable outcome of Jews living in exile from their homeland, in an anti-semitic Christian society.

Following Israeli independence in 1948, he joined Menachem Begin’s Herut movement. In 1949, he was elected to the first Knesset. He lost his seat in the 1951 elections. After the Six-Day War he joined the Movement for Greater Israel, which advocated Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank.


Notables Buried on Har HaZeitim