learned five languages and went on to study art, philosophy and religion in Vienna, Leipzig and Berlin.
In 1898, he
became a member of the World Zionist Organization
(WZO), which was established shortly after the publication of Theodore Herzl's 'The Jewish State,' the book that first called for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.With an eye on anti-Semitism in Europe, Buber
supported that ideal, but always stressed that Israel should be created in cooperation with the Arabs, not against their will.Indeed, it was no surprise, then, that in 1904 Buber
withdrew from the WZO
and plunged into the study of Jewish religion and philosophy.Having published dozens of books and essays on a variety of subjects, including 'Chinese Ghost and Love Stories,' his
main work and the one for which he
is best remembered, 'I and Thou,' appeared in 1923.
After the so-called masters of distrust - Nietzsche, Freud and Marx - destroyed the rationalist dream, in which man and the tool of reason can create a perfect world, Buber
, within the early 20th century phenomenology movement, revitalized Western philosophy by reintroducing the concept of 'the other.' Inspired by Jewish mysticism, Buber
argued that the relation between man and the world was twofold: I-It or I-Thou.In the first, the other, which can be a thing or person, is treated as an object, as a means to a goal; while in the second, the other is treated as a goal in itself.The difference between the two is determined solely by the attitude of the I, or the subject.Does he
, like a scientist, take the world as a clear, well-defined ticking clock?Or is he
, like an artist or mystic, prepared to look and listen, before defining, and thereby to a certain extent killing, the world with words?
'Thou' is what most people would refer to as the spirit or essence of life.According to Buber
it manifests itself in God, people and nature.That's why Buber
has much in common with eastern schools of thought, in India, China or Japan, as well as with each of the more spiritual varieties of the world's three great religions.The value of I and Thou was recognized immediately and Buber was appointed professor of Jewish religion and philosophy at the University of Frankfurt.He
held this position until 1933, when Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party came to power.After that, Buber was banned from lecturing, and in 1938 he left for Israel, where he became professor of social philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.Despite his encounter with the Nazi regime, Buber stayed true to his beliefs and became a leading critic of the young Israeli state.He became a member of the Ichud party, which argued in favor of a bi-national state - in other words a single state for both Jews and Arabs.
doubts vindicated and his
views fulfilled, Buber
would no doubt weep bitter tears today, were he
to see the current state of affairs existing between Israelis and Palestinians.While Buber
once called for mutual understanding and cooperation between the two peoples, Israel, with the tacit consent of the international community, is building a giant wall between itself and the other - an 'other' that has been firmly dehumanized and typecast in the fixed mold of the terrorist.