New Books

By: Dan Tsahor

(De Gruyter, 2023, ISBN: 9783111062464; IBSN: 9783111061375, 218 pages)

The Book of the People: The Hebrew Encyclopedic Project and the National Self

Hebrew encyclopedias possess a captivating history filled with intriguing twists. In “The Book of the People,” Tsahor traces the evolution of this influential literary genre, starting from its origins in late nineteenth-century Warsaw and culminating in the production of the final commercial encyclopedia in Israel a century later. The narrative unfolds as a tale of political ideologies interwoven with lofty pedagogical aspirations and the pursuit of financial gains within the realm of mass knowledge dissemination. Initially conceived as a modest initiative aimed at sharing general knowledge among Russian Jews and promoting Zionist ideals, these encyclopedias rapidly transformed into the cornerstone of modern Hebrew literature. Works like “Encyclopaedia Hebraica” and “Encyclopaedia Biblica” garnered a multitude of subscribers, reflecting not just their political aspirations but also their unique perspectives on the State of Israel and its surroundings. The book delves deeply into the intellectual framework that formed the foundation of these encyclopedias, revealing the driving motivations of their creators and illuminating the influence exerted by interest groups on their structure and content. As a result, it offers a previously undisclosed perspective on the global history of Zionism, brimming with unexpected revelations