I’ve started Halkin’s Jabotinsky: A Life, which is excellent (thanks, Paul!), and I thought this passage on language was worth posting:
Jabotinsky also covered the congress for Odesskaya Novosti, in which he published four long dispatches. The first two dealt with caucuses he attended. One was held by the Mizrachi, the religiously Orthodox Zionist party; struck by its moderateness, he deemed it capable of collaborating with secular Zionists. The other was convened by a Hebraist faction that demanded Hebrew’s adoption as the official language of the Zionist movement and of a future Jewish state. (The congress itself was conducted in German, with delegates free to use Yiddish, Russian, or Hebrew if they wished.) While confessing that he did not understand spoken Hebrew well enough to follow the proceedings, Jabotinsky was impressed by the speakers’ fluency and predicted that their goal would be accomplished in Palestine because Hebrew alone could serve as a lingua franca there; he was also struck by the Sephardic diction used by some of them, which he judged more exact and pleasing than the Ashkenazi pronunciation he was familiar with. The experience spurred him to take up the study of Hebrew again.
A quibble: while the book is in general very well proofread and copyedited, it consistently uses “Odesskaya Novosti” (‘Odessa News’) for what should either be Odesskiya Novosti (representing the prerevolutionary spelling) or Odesskiye Novosti (the modern version); as it is, it matches a feminine singular adjective with a plural noun. Tsk, I say, tsk.