H - Herzog
Thursday, 3 December 2009
Rechov who????A look at some of the fascinating (and sometimes just odd) personalities behind often seen Israeli street names.
A - Arlozoroff
As you would expect, there is far more to Chaim Arlosoroff than the man who gave his name to the street with El Al 's Tel Aviv early check in. In fact, the truth may never be known.
Chaim (Victor) Arlosoroff was born in 1899 in the Ukraine, from where his family moved to Berlin. He was a good student and mixed with a wide circle of Jewish and non Jewish friends. Becoming active in the HaPoel Ha Tzair party, he was elected to the Zionist General Council in 1923. A year later he emigrated to Palestine, still working for the party and by 1930 he was the editor of the journal of the socialist Mapai party. By 1931 he had been elected to the Jewish Agency Executive as its Head of the Political Department in Jerusalem.
When Hitler rose to power in Germany in 1933, he devoted himself to attempting large scale emigration from there to Palestine. It appears that he travelled back to hold secret talks with those he had previously known, who were now in positions of influence. One of those was a girl he had known in Berlin. They had been so close that she had even talked of conversion or living in Palestine with him.
Returning to Tel Aviv empty handed, he was murdered whilst walking on the beach. Neither the assailants nor the motive were ever discovered. And the girl he had known? She had become the wife of Dr Josef Goebbels.
B - Binyamin miTudela
Binyamin miTudela was perhaps the most famous Jewish international traveller of the Middle Ages.
He lived in the northern Spanish city of Tudela, whence he set out on his travels in about 1165, although scholars argue about the exact dates. He seems to have travelled via Barcelona and Provence throughout the Mediterranean, spending a particularly long time in Constantinople. He then sailed via Cyprus to the mainland, heading south along the coast via Tyre and Akko into the Eretz Yisrael, which was still under the rule of the Crusaders. He travelled throughout the country, giving a detailed account of the Holy Places (which he often called by their French names: Hebron becoming St. Abram de Bron).
Writing detailed insights on Jerusalem and its Jewish community, his descriptions were far more objective than those of non Jewish pilgrims of the time. From Tiberias, Benjamin travelled north to Damascus and thence to Baghdad, where his accounts become historically 'challenging'. Whilst he may have travelled to Persia, his descriptions of conditions there appear fanciful. He wrote with some fantastic detail about China, Cochin, and Sri Lanka, and there is no way to know whether any of his descriptions were accurate. He returned to Tudela in 1172/3.
His book of travels, translated in to English in the 19th century remain a fascinating glimpse of the Jewish world of 800 years ago.
C - Churchill
In the - quite appropriate - lauding of Sir Winston Churchill as the Greatest Briton - it is sometimes forgotten that he was also a philosemite of actions as well as words. In his first parliamentary career, in the early part of the twentieth century, he strenuously opposed the laws restricting Jewish immigration into the UK, supported the Saturday Closing and Sunday Opening Bills and fought for specifically Jewish educational rights. As early as 1908, he was expressing his " full sympathy with the historical aspirations of the Jews" to restore "a centre of racial and political integrity" in Palestine. As Colonial Secretary in the 1920s he formulated what he thought would remain the basis of Anglo-Jewish co-operation and during his 'wilderness years' he fought against the 1937 Partition Plan and infamous 1939 White Paper ( called by many Zionists "the Black Paper"), claiming that they were a breach of agreed policies……his!
Although there was no change in British policy during the Second World War, his Memoirs claim that, whilst not wanting to create disunity in fighting the Nazi enemy, he maintained his pro - Jewish attitude throughout. He was one of the first major British politicians to insist on the recognition of the fledgling State of Israel.
No-one who has visited Tel Aviv can have failed to know Dizengoff Street, but who was Meir Dizengoff ? Born in Bessarabia in 1861, he was active in Russian revolutionary circles in his youth and was arrested in 1885. Later he became active in the Hibbat Zion movement and during the late 1880s he studied glass production in France. He was sent to Palestine in 1892 by the visionary Baron Edmond de Rothschild to establish a glass factory to supply bottles for the wines produced in the settlements. Unfortunately, the factory was closed shortly after, in 1894, when it became clear that the local sand was unsuitable for glass manufacture.
Returning to Russia in 1897, he settled in Odessa, went into business, again becoming active in the Zionist movement. He returned to Palestine in 1905 and settled in Jaffa. Dizengoff was one of the founders of the Ahuzat Bayit Company for establishing a modern Jewish quarter near Jaffa. This quarter, later called Tel Aviv - apoetic allusion to Altneuland - was founded in 1909. In 1911 Dizengoff was elected head of the local council and, when Tel Aviv became a city in 1921, Dizengoff was elected its first mayor. Except during 1925--28, he served in that capacity until the end of his life.
Albert Einstein, one of the world's greatest scientists ever, was born in 1879 in Ulm, Germany and was educated in Munich and Switzerland. 1896 he entered the Polytechnic in Zurich to train as a teacher in physics and mathematics. In 1901, the year he graduated, he acquired Swiss citizenship and, unable to find a teaching post, he started work in the Swiss Patent Office, in his spare time producing much of his remarkable theories. In 1909 he became Professor Extraordinary at Zurich, in 1911 Professor of Theoretical Physics at Prague, returning to Zurich in 1912 to fill a similar post. In 1914 he was appointed Professor in Berlin, becoming a German citizen until 1933, when he renounced his citizenship with the rise of Nazism and emigrated to America to become Professor of Theoretical Physics at Princeton. He became a United States citizen in 1940 and retired in 1945. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1925. After the death of Weizmann he was offered the Presidency of the State of Israel, which he declined, but he was a keen supporter of Israel, writing 'About Zionism' in 1930 and donating his archives to the Hebrew University.
He wrote:"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."
Rabbi Aryeh Leib Frumkin was a scholar and early Zionist pioneer. Born in 1845 in Lithuania, he had already made his first trip to Palestine by 1871. He returned to Europe to serve as rabbi of a town near Kovno, but his desire to settle in the Land of Israel was such that he once more travelled there in 1883, becoming one of the founders of the new settlement of Petach Tiqva. He left there in 1893 and came to London. Finding no pulpit vacancies, he and his wife Sheina rented a pub off Commercial Road, but discovered that the licensing laws demanded that it stay open on Shabbat - abruptly ending this enterprise. The family decided that, having wide links with the large Jewish community in the East End,Ê they would sell kosher wines. He bought a building site on the corner of Commercial Road and Cannon Street Road and the business, which imported wines from Palestine, ran for over a century. He left the business to his family and returned to Palestine at the age of 66, in 1911. His main contributions to Jewish scholarship was 'Toledot Chachmei Yerushalayim' ( A history of the sages of Jerusalem), which contained valuable historical information from the Middle Ages and he edited 'Seder Rav Amram' ( the ritual of Rav Amram). He died in 1916, but his connection to the Anglo Jewish rabbinate remains strong, as he was the grandfather of Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks.
Aharon David Gordon ( A D Gordon) remains one of the most influential of the early Zionist philosophers. Born in Russia in 1852, he worked as an estate official to the fabulously wealthy Baron Horace Gunzburg, the leader of the Jewish community in St Petersburg. An enthusiastic member of Chovevei Zion, he settled in Palestine in 1904 and he worked as an agricultural labourer around the country, finally in the first kibbutz, Degania, until his death in 1922.. His teachings were a great influence in the Labour Movement in Palestine, especially the Hapoel ha Tzair party.. He believed fervently that physical labour was the basis of all human existence and that culture had worked to his detriment, removing him from Nature. The solution was to return to the soil, but not by individual effort. Unlike the communists, Gordon felt that this should be accomplished by a new attitude to work and the elimination of the passion for power. He wrote that self realisation was the duty of every person, as influence could only be exerted by living example and not by demands on others. Whilst a major influence on the kibbutz movement in the past, his philosophy would appear not to have such a strong influence today.
H The strange tale of Helena haMalka
Walk around Jerusdalam and you cannot avoid the important Helena Hamalka Street. But who was she? Why was she remembered? Was she Jewish?
Helena, according to most sources, was queen of Adiabene, a semi autonomous kingdom in what is now Iraq, wife of Monobaz I. With her husband she was the mother of Izates II and Monobaz II. She died about 56 CE. Her name and the fact that she was her husband's sister (hm!!) indicate a Hellenistic origin. Helena became a convert to Judaism about the year 30 CE. Adiabene was never fully conquered by the Romans or Persians at that time.
She was noted for her generosity; during a famine at Jerusalem she sent to Alexandria for corn (grain) and to Cyprus for dried figs for distribution among the sufferers from the famine. In the Talmud, however (B. B. 11a), this is laid to the credit of Monobaz, which Rashi maintains is the simpler explanation. The Talmud speaks also of important presents which the queen gave to the Temple at Jerusalem. "Helena had a golden candlestick made over the door of the Temple," to which statement is added that when the sun rose its rays were reflected from the candlestick and everybody knew that it was the time for reading the Shema'. She also made a golden plate on which was written the passage of the Torah which the high priest read when a wife suspected of infidelity was brought before him.
In Yerushalmi Yoma iii. 8 the candlestick and the plate are confused. The strictness with which she observed the Jewish law is explained like this in the Talmud: "Her son [Izates] having gone to war, Helena made a vow that if he should return safe, she would become a Nazirite for the space of seven years. She fulfilled her vow, and at the end of seven years went to Judah. The Hillelites told her that she must observe her vow anew, and she therefore lived as a Nazirite for seven more years. At the end of the second seven years she became impure, and she had to repeat her Naziriteship, thus being a Nazarite for twenty-one years. Judah ha-Nasi, however, said she was a Nazirite for fourteen years only." "Rabbi Judah said: 'The sukkah [erected for the Feast of Sukkot] of Queen Helena in Lydda was higher than twenty ells. The rabbis used to go in and out and make no remark about it'." I wonder why? Can we think of any current examples? answers on a postcard, please, but not to me!!
When Helena died her son or grandson Monobaz II moved her remains to Jerusalem, where they were buried in the pyramidal tomb which she had constructed during her lifetime, three stadia north of Jerusalem. (A stadia is a Roman measurement of 1000 paces) The catacombs are now called the "Tombs of the Kings." A sarcophagus with the inscription Tzara Malchata, in Hebrew and Syriac, found in the nineteenth century, is supposed to be that of Helena. The sarcophagus of the queen, with the name 'Tseddan' is now in the Louvre in Paris. It was the only chest that escaped looting. During the troubles of the Second Jewish War it was hidden in a small chamber. In order to bring it to its hiding place the corners of the chest were knocked off.
In 2007, Israeli archeologists uncovered a monumental Second Temple structure opposite the Temple Mount that was likely Queen Helena's palace. The building was unearthed during a six-month excavation in the Givati parking lot just outside the Old City's Dung Gate, ahead of the planned expansion of the Western Wall parking lot.
The palace, which was destroyed by the Romans when they demolished the Second Temple in 70 CE, was dated to the end of the Second Temple period by pottery and stone vessels, as well as an assortment of coins from that time.
H - Herzog
Yitzhak Ha Levi Herzog (1889-1959) was born in Lomza, Poland, emigrating with his parents to Leeds, where his father became a rabbi. Yitzhak was educated by his father, who did not want to entrust his son to a yeshiva, much less a school.. Herzog studied in England and France and travelled throughout Great Britain with Rabbi Jacob David Werner (the "Ridvaz"), a great Talmudic scholar. Who proclaimed him to be one of the world's outstanding Talmudists. At the same time he studied oriental languages at the Sorbonne in Paris and classics and mathematics at the University of London, where he received his doctorate for identifying the shellfish that provided the "techelet" for the tallit in ancient Israel. In 1916, he received his first appointment as Rabbi of Belfast, then Rabbi in Dublin in 1919 and, in 1921, becoming Chief Rabbi of Ireland, where he stayed until 1936, when he was invited to become Chief Rabbi of Palestine. It was at Herzog's initiative that the Hechal Shlomo, the Chief Rabbinate, was erected in Jerusalem. Repeatedly warning the leadership of the European Jewry about the impending Nazi danger, in 1940 he gained permission from the Soviet leadership for teachers and students of Lithuanian and Polish Yeshivot to cross the eastern border of the USSR.
In his publication of rabbinical decrees, he sought to reconcile modern life with halachic demands and after Independence, he was one of the major halachic authorities who endorsed the reading of Hallel on Yom Ha'atzmaut
I - Bar Ilan
Meir Bar Ilan, originally Berlin, was born in 1880. He was the scion of a great rabbinic family, his father being the 'Netziv', the head of the famed Volozhin Yeshiva in the 19th century. Bar Ilan joined the Zionist movement at an early age and became the secretary of the Mizrachi World Executive and editor of its weekly newspaper "Ha Ivri". In 1914, as the storm clouds gathered over Europe, he went to New York, where he quickly became president of the Mizrachi movement in the USA, a position he held for many years. By 1926, he had decided to take the momentous step of emigrating to Palestine, settling in Jerusalem. In 1937 he founded the Tel Aviv daily newspaper "Ha tzofeh" as an organ of Mizrachi thought as well as "Ha Poel ha Mizrachi". From 1947 onwards, he initiated and edited the Talmudic Encyclopaedia and he wrote he autobiography which was entitled, unsurprisingly " Form Volozhin to Jerusalem". He died in 1949, but his name lives on in many streets and the University which bears his name.
J - Jabotinsky
One of the most influential and controversial figures in early Zionism, Vladimir ( Ze'ev) Jabotinsky, was born in Russia in 1880. He served as the Rome correspondent for Odessa newspapers under the pen-name of "Altalena", when just 18. Beginning his Zionist activities in Russia in 1903,he was a dynamic orator, advocating the formation of the Zion Mule Corps in World War 1 and serving in one of the Jewish battalions in 1917. For organising Jewish self defence in Jerusalem he was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment by the British, but was soon reprieved. Joining the Zionist Executive in 1921, he resigned after two years accusing them of not opposing the British with sufficient vigour, forming the 'World Union of Zionist Revisionists' and its Youth wing "Brit Trumpledor" - Betar. Realising the situation in eastern Europe in the 1930s, he advocated speedy evacuation to Palestine. He formed an underground fighting force, the Irgun Tzvei Leumi and, when World War II broke out, he once again advocated the formation of a Jewish Army.
He translated Russian, Italian and English literature and poetry into Hebrew, wrote novels and non fiction in Hebrew and English. He died in 1940 and was reburied in 1964 on Mt Herzl.
K -Rav Kook
Abraham Isaac haCohen Kook was the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of modern Eretz Yisrael. Born in Latvia in 1865, he received a typical 19th-century Eastern European Jewish education, but at a very early age he showed an independence of mind and far-reaching curiosity, supplementing it with Tanach, Hebrew language, Jewish and general philosophy and, particularly, mysticism.
In 1904 he emigrated to Eretz Yisrael, where he served as Rabbi of Jaffa, seeking close ties with people of all shades of opinion and belief. Identifying with Zionism, he antagonised both the rabbinical establishment and irreligious pioneers. He travelled to Europe in 1914 to participate in a conference of Agudat Israel to urge traditional Jews to fulfil the Zionist ideal, but the outbreak of World War I meant that he was unable to return. Kook accepted a temporary position as the rabbi of the Machzikei ha-Da'as in London, where he tried to influence British Jews to back Zionist political activity, particularly during the momentous signing of the Balfour Declaration. After the war, Kook was appointed Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and, with the formation of the Chief Rabbinate in 1921 he was elected the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine. Kook dreamed of establishing a yeshivah with an integrated programme of higher Jewish education, emphasising the development of a lucid style in both writing and speaking, as the graduates would become teachers and spiritual leaders in their communities. Whilst this project failed, in 1924 he set up a yeshivah in Jerusalem, Merkaz ha-Rav, which was unique in its religious philosophy and its positive attitude to Zionism. He died in 1935.
L - Levi Eshkol
The third prime minister of Israel was born Levi Shkolnik in 1895 near Kiev into a wealthy chasidic family. He received a traditional Jewish education, joined a Zionist movement and settled in Eretz Yisrael in 1914, quickly becoming active in agricultural and financial affairs. He founded a workers' commune in Petach Tikvah, became one of the founding members of the kibbutz Deganyah Bet and went to Berlin in 1934 to organise the transfer of German Jewish property. During World War II he headed the finance department of the Haganah and became treasurer of the Jewish Agency in 1949. Eshkol had a deep interest in defence, was a member of the Jewish Legion from 1918 to 1920 and, in 1922, was arrested in Vienna on a mission to buy arms. After independence, he was largely responsible for the development of the crucial National Water Carrier. In 1963 he became Prime Minister. During his term of office, West Germany established formal diplomatic relations with Israel in 1965 and relations with the United States were greatly improved. He also gained permission for some Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel. Eshkol was Prime Minister during the Six-Day War Forced by public pressure to form a "Government of National Unity" on the eve of the war, he nevertheless was able to hold this government together for some time after the war. He firmly believed that Israel should not return Arab territories occupied in 1967 without a solution to the entire Arab-Israel conflict. He died in 1969.
M -Golda Meir
Born in Russia in 1898, Golda Meir's family emigrated to Milwaukee, in the U.S.A when she was a child, seeking to leave poverty behind.. In 1921, she and her husband moved to Palestine and she began a career devoted to service to the Jewish People. From 1946 to 1948 she was head of the political department of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem. In an effort to boost the treasury, she was sent on a mission to the USA to raise the seemingly impossible sum of $25 million. Her powers of oratory and persuasion were such that she actually returned with $50 million. Later, she was elected to Israel's first parliament and served as Israeli Foreign Minister, Minister of Labour and Ambassador to Moscow..
In 1969, following the untimely death of Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir came out of retirement to lead Israel as Prime Minister,becoming its fourth Prime Minister, aged seventy. She inherited deep political divisions concerning the best plan to deal with the territories occupied since the Six-Day War of 1967. She took a hard line toward the Arabs, refusing to stop expansion of settlements in the occupied territories. She also led an administration that had an open-door immigration policy, encouraging thousands of Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel. The Yom Kippur War of 1973 brought an end to Meir's political life. Blamed for overestimating Israel's security, making the country vulnerable to the surprise attacks by Egypt and Syria, she resigned the Prime Minister's position in 1974, dying in 1978. She is buried in Jerusalem
N -Uzi Narkiss
Uzi Narkiss lived in, was formed by and became famous for
. Born in Jerusalem to Polish immigrants, in 1929 he recalled that his earliest memory was of hiding in the city during the Arab riots of 1929. As a boy, Narkiss and his friends used to visit the Western Wall every Shabbat. For them it was a weekly rite of national unity, rather than a religious one. Educated in the elite Rehavia Gymnasium, Narkiss began his twenty-seven year military career at age 16 when he joined the Palmach. Heavily involved in Haganah activities against the British Mandate in April, 1948, he headed the assault on Katamon and liberated the key strategic position t San Simon monastery. Following the Declaration of Independence, he was in charge of assisting those besieged in the Jewish Quarter of the Jerusalem . His unit succeeded in penetrating Zion Gate, bringing in supplies and evacuating the wounded from those under siege, but when military reinforcements failed to appear, Narkiss ordered his troops to retreat and the Old City fell to Jordanian forces. Old City
During the early years of the State, Narkiss was seconded to study at the Ecole de Guerre, the
French Military Academy and later he became Israeli military attaché to , being awarded the Legion d’Honneur by the French government. Returning to France Israel to continue his military career, he became the first director of the . Israel National Defense College
In June, 1967, commanding seven brigades, he was responsible for combating the Jordanian offensive. Following the Jordanian attacks on the first day of the war, Israeli units moved quickly and effectively into conquering key positions. Although not the original plan, Narkiss decided to capitalise on the opportunity to reunite the city and, under his direction, the
was liberated and the city reunified. The famous photo of Narkiss striding into the Old City through the Lions' Gate with Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin on June 7, 1967, is iconic. For him, this was finishing the campaign he had begun nineteen years earlier. Old City
Narkiss retired from the Israel Defence Forces in 1968, and then held key positions at the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization. He died in
in 2001. Jerusalem
O -Laurence Oliphant
The British author, Laurence Oliphant, was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1829. Although he wrote some valuable travel books, he is probably best remembered for his fascinating, nomadic, life and for Jews, for his proto-Zionism, which was partly based on his religious mysticism.. The son of a judge, he became a lawyer and later secretary to Lord Elgin, famous for the Greek marbles which bear his name in the British Museum. He was a correspondent for The Times during the Crimean War, went with Elgin to China, was an associate of Garibaldi, and travelled all over the world. In 1867 he became a disciple of Thomas Lake Harris in a religious community at Brocton, New York and this fired his enthusiasm for Zionist principles and the need to improve living conditions in Asiatic Turkey, which he had seen at first hand. He toured Palestine in 1879 and, in 1880, started to agitate for Jewish resettlement in Eretz Yisrael, living for a time in Haifa.
His writings include several travel books, notably 'A Journey to Katmandu' (1852); two novels, an autobiography, 'Episodes in a Life of Adventure' (1887); and 'Scientific Religion' (1888). He and his first wife, Alice Le Strange, wrote a curious book, 'Sympneumata: Evolutionary Forces Now Active in Man' (1885), inspired by Harris and supposedly dictated by a spirit guide! After Alice's death, Oliphant married, towards the end of his life in 1888, Rosamond Dale Owen, granddaughter of social reformer Robert Owen. Together, they established a colony of Jews in Palestine. He died in Twickenham in 1888.
P -Judah Leib Pinsker
Born in Russian Poland in 1821, Judah Leib Pinsker inherited a strong sense of Jewish identity from his father, the noted Hebrew teacher and scholar who wrote a seminal book on the Karaites. Starting his career as a Hebrew teacher in the Jewish school in Kishinev (the capital of Bessarabia - now Moldova) he then practised as a doctor, seeing active service in the Crimean War in 1856 as an army physician.
Pinsker's philosophy was that the problems of the Jews could be resolved if they attained equal rights, but in 1881, the outbreak of anti-semitic riots against Russian Jews, changed his views radically. He made a thorough study of Jews and Judaism, although he had espoused the philosophy of the Haskalah (enlightenment) at first and, in 1882, he anonymously published his German language pamphlet 'Autoemancipation', a rallying cry to Russian Jews. In it he urged the Jewish people to struggle for independence, national consciousness and a land where they could be truly independent. Amazingly, he did not, at first, think that this had to be Israel, until the Odessa Conference of 1883, when he found himself elected to the praesidium of the newly formed Zerubabel Society, which later became the Chovevei Zion.
Pinsker died in Russia in 1891and his remains were brought to Eretz-Israel in 1934 and reburied in Nicanor's Cave next to Mount Scopus. The yishuv of Nahalat Yehudah near Rishon Le-Zion is named after him, as well as streets in many towns in Israel.
Q -Qiryat Moshe (Montefiore)
Cheating a little with the letter Q, your indulgence is craved to celebrate Sir Moses Montefiore. And why not?
Born in Livorno, Italy in 1784, he was brought up in London, being taught elementary Hebrew by his uncle. Initially apprenticed to a grocer and tea merchant, he left to become one of the 12 "Jew Brokers" in the City of London, where his partnership with his brother Abraham established a fine reputation for honesty and probity. In 1812, Montefiore married Judith Cohen, which made him N.M. Rothschild's brother-in-law - and stockbroker! He retired from business in 1824, aged 40 to devote his life to community and civic affairs.
His first of seven visits to Eretz Yisrael awoke his piety and he became strictly observant, in later years travelling with his own shochet. Shocked by the poverty he saw, he planned to acquire land to help the Jewish inhabitants become self-sufficient and tried to bring industry to the country, starting a printing press and a textile factory. He founded several agricultural settlements as well as Yemin Moshe, outside of Jerusalem's Old City.
Sheriff of London in 1837-1838 and knighted by Queen Victoria, he received a baronetcy for his humanitarian efforts. Using his stature, physical as well as political (he was 6 ft. 3 in. tall), he helped oppressed Jewish communities abroad, visiting Russia, Morocco and Romania to ask the authorities to stop their antisemtism. Montefiore deeply loved Eretz Yisrael, believing its messianic restoration to be the solution to the Jews' problems. He was highly respected and admired in Jewish communities around the world. He died in 1884
The family of Mayer Amshel Rothschild took their name from 'the house at the sign of the red shield', where they lived in 16th century Frankfurt am Main. He made his fortune originally as a coin dealer but soon became the financial agent to the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel during the Napoleonic Wars. He wisely established his five sons in the major financial capitals of Europe and their acumen and probity became a by-word in banking. The English branch produced the first Jewish peer, world class scientists and devotees of horse racing, but it was Baron Edmond de Rothschild,(1845 - 1934) a scion of the French branch, who became one of the most important figures in the development of the early yishuv.
He and his wife Adelaide were still attached to Jewish tradition whilst they followed artistic and intellectual pursuits. The first Zionist pioneers turned to them in the 1880's, hoping they would be saved from financial collapse and he readily, but unostentatiously, agreed, gradually taking under his protection all the new settlements. He personally bought some 1/2 million dunams ( 125,000 acres) of land in Eretz Israel, from 1900 transferring the management to PICA. Indeed, without his help, Galilee and the Sharon would not have been settled.
He visited Eretz Israel five times and, towards the end of his life he cooperated with Weizmann and Sokolow, becoming honorary president of the Jewish Agency in 1929. He and his wife were reburied in Zichron Yaakov in 1954.
S -Henrietta Szold
Henrietta Szold (1860-1945) one of eight daughters of a Baltimore rabbi, was an accomplished student of Judaism, even winning permission to study Jewish texts at the then male-only Jewish Theological Seminary, on condition that she never demanded rabbinic ordination. Szold's outstanding contribution to Jewish life was the creation of the largest Jewish organisation in American history, Hadassah Women.
Although Zionist, Hadassah sought to meet the health needs of both Jews and Arabs in Palestine. Today, perhaps the foremost hospital in Israel is the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Szold insisted that the most up-to-date medical treatment be extended to the Arabs of Palestine as well as to the Jews and Hadassah played a major role in lowering Arab infant mortality. The Hadassah spirit of volunteerism and nondiscrimination was unfortunately rejected by the Arab leadership, perhaps fearing that its example would lower barriers between Jews and Arabs. In early 1948, just before the State of Israel was declared, Arab troops ambushed and murdered seventy-seven Jewish doctors and nurses from Hadassah Hospital.
During the 1930s, Szold created "Youth Aliyah", to rescue young Jews from Germany and, later, all Europe. It is estimated that the programme saved some 22,000 Jewish children from Hitler's concentration camps. She never married, but in later life confided "I would exchange everything for one child of my own." Today Henrietta Szold is regarded as a scholarly woman, a passionately committed Jew and a person who saved many thousands of lives. The organisation she founded, Hadassah, has about 350,000 members.
Shaul Tchernichowsky, was a Hebrew poet who had a major influence on modern Hebrew poetry. In contrast to his contemporaries, who relied on biblical or Mishnaic Hebrew vocabulary and style as models for their writings, Tchernichowsky used modern poetic forms to describe familiar subjects, often in the style of the Victorian Romantic poets. Born in 1875 in the village of Mikhailovka, Russia, Tchernichowsky attended a Hebrew school and later a Russian school, ensuring that he received a strong grounding in Jewish and Zionist thought and in secular subjects. He was especially interested in foreign languages and soon began translating classical works by Shakespeare, Homer and Longfellow as well as the Finnish epic, the Karlevala, into Hebrew. He published his first two Hebrew poems in 1892 and his first book of verse, Hezyonot u-Manginot (Visions and Melodies) in 1898. Tchernichowsky later studied medicine in Heidelberg and Lausanne but, returning to Russia, he found it difficult to obtain work as a doctor because he was Jewish.
After serving as an army doctor in World War I, he moved to Germany and, in 1931, was commissioned to edit a medical textbook in Palestine, where he lived until his death in 1943. In his later years, his poetry reflected the difficult times in which he lived, sometimes describing his 'idyllic' childhood and in other poems writing bitterly of the Jewish struggle for survival. His works, advocating a return to the pristine spirit of the 'Conquerors of Canaan', added greatly to contemporary Hebrew poetry.
Menahem Mendel Ussishkin was a prototype Zionist leader and - eventually - rose to become president of the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Born in Russia in 1863, Ussishkin was an enthusiastic reader of contemporary Hebrew writers in his teens and from then on worked for the revival of the Hebrew language. Like many other early Chibbat Zion members, he was shocked by the Russian pogroms of 1881, which convinced him of the necessity for Jewish emigration. Ussishkin then began working actively for several Zionist groups, founding Bilu in 1882 and Benei Zion in 1884 after graduating as an engineer from the Technological Institute in Moscow. As a "practical" Zionist, viewing agricultural settlement in Eretz Israel as the critical step toward attaining a Jewish state, he actively recruited young pioneers for agricultural settlement. A delegate to the First Zionist Congress held in Basle in 1897, he was appointed Hebrew secretary of the Congress. At the Seventh Zionist Congress (1905), he was amongst those who forced the abandonment of Herzl's 'Uganda Scheme' and his programme of Zionism was later adopted by the Zionist movement.
Settling in Odessa in 1906, he headed the Chovevei Zion until its dissolution by the Bolsheviks in 1919. Under his influence the Zionist movement actively supported the establishment of agricultural settlements, educational and cultural institutions and a Hebrew university. In 1919 Ussishkin himself settled in Palestine and in 1923 he was chosen to head the Jewish National Fund, a position he held until his death in 1941.
Yosef Vitkin was one of those early pioneers of Aliyah whose brief life left an indelible mark on the history of modern Israel born in Belorus ( then Byelorussia) in 1876, by the age of 21 he had moved to Eretz Yisrael. In the spirit of the pioneer, he worked briefly as a labourer but, well-educated himself, he switched to working in education. He began as a teacher in the small community of Gedera and soon became in charge of the school there. From there he moved to head the school in Rishon LeZion and Kfar Tavor. In common with many Zionist educators of the time, Vitkin's educational emphasis was to instil in his students a love of Jewish values and an appreciation of the Eretz Yisrael landscape. An ardent Zionist, he expressed many of the ideals that led to the Second Aliyah. In 1905 he wrote and distributed a monograph entitled, "A Call to the Youth of Israel whose Hearts are with their People and with Zion," in which he encouraged aliyah based on the principles of manual labour in the national homeland. He felt that the people of Israel must be prepared to sacrifice for their homeland, as would any other people give of themselves for their own country, believing in ultimate success. Vitkin's pamphlet, which he signed "A Group of Young People from Eretz Yisrael" was influential in renewing the Zionist efforts and ideals in Europe. As a founder and leader of the HaPoel HaZair party, Vitkin emphasized "agricultural conquest," namely, Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael.
Chaim Weizmann: scientist and first President of the State of Israel was born , one of 15 children of a timber merchant, in the village of Motol, near Pinsk, in 1874, where he attended a traditional cheder. At the age of 11, he entering high school in Pinsk. A brilliant student, Weizmann went on to study chemistry in Darmstaat, and Freiburg, where, in 1899, he was awarded a doctorate with honours. In 1904 he was appointed senior lecturer at the University of Manchester.
Weizmann's greatest moments were during World War I. As a chemist, he helped the British war effort, developing a new method for manufacture of acetone. As a fervent Zionist, he was busy on the diplomatic front, his efforts culminating in the 1917 Balfour Declaration. In 1918 he laid the foundations of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, seven years later taking part in its official opening. At the London Zionist Conference of 1920 he was elected President of WZO holding that office, as well as the presidency of the Jewish Agency. After the Passfield White Paper of 1930, he angrily resigned, returning only after Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald sent him a letter renewing Britain's commitments to the Jewish National Home. In 1934 he founded the Daniel Sieff Institute in Rehovot ( renamed the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1949) making his home there. During World War II, Weizmann strived to organise The Jewish Brigade and went to the US to help in the preparation of synthetic rubber. When the Labour Party assumed power and failed to keep its pre-election promise to adopt a pro-Zionist policy, Weizmann's position suffered. In 1949 he was inaugurated as the first President of the State of Israel. Weizmann died on November 9 1952, after a long and painful illness and was buried, at his own wish, in the garden of his home.
X -Max Nordau
Struggling for a name with the letter X and having abandoned the idea of finding Xerxes street, we find Max Nordau - born Simon Maximilian Suedfeld in 1849. Co-founder of the World Zionist Organization, philosopher, writer, orator and physician,. Nordau was born in Budapest, Hungary, to an Orthodox family, but later abandoned all religious observance being accused of anti-religiosity, as he criticised Judaism as much as other religions. He became a physician, settling in Paris in 1880 simultaneously pursuing a career as a journalist, eventually becoming a correspondent for leading newspapers in the western world. He achieved fame as a thinker and social critic, with the publication of several works highly critical of society, religion, government, art and literature, his works arousing much controversy and discussion many years after their first appearance. Among his most famous publications are 'The Conventional Lies of Our Civilization' (1883); 'Paradoxes' (1896); and 'Degeneration' (1895). Through his familiarity with Herzl, Nordau became acquainted with the idea of a Jewish state and immediately accepted it with enthusiasm. Vice-president and then president of several Zionist Congresses, Nordau was a political Zionist, believing that large numbers of Diaspora Jews should be transferred to Eretz Israel. Attaining a majority, he thought, Jewish political independence would follow. This proposal, however, was rejected by the Zionist leaders as unrealistic. During World War I he was expelled from Paris as an Austrian subject and took refuge in Spain. Weizmann invited him to London, but his activism led to dissention and he returned to Paris in 1921, where he died two years later. He was re-interred in Tel Aviv in 1926.
Y - Yigal Yadin
Archaeologist, military commander, and politician, Yigal Yadin was born in Jerusalem in 1917 and joined the Haganah in 1933, becoming a key figure in its leadership and helping devise and implement many of the strategies used in the War of Independence. He was the second Chief of Staff of the IDF from 1949-1952, reorganising the standing army, conscription and the reserves. Yadin left the army in 1952 and studied archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, obtaining his Ph.D. in 1955 on research into one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the following years, Yadin continued his research, teaching and publishing becoming, in 1970, head of the Institute of Archeology at the Hebrew University.
In the 1950's and 1960's he excavated at Hazor, Massada, and Meggido, employing thousands of volunteers from Israel and abroad. Perhaps his most famous contribution was his decoding and interpreting of several Dead Sea Scrolls. Yadin also did much to make archaeology a more accessible. Acquiring the Dead Sea Scrolls for Israel and highlighting them in the Israel Museum's Shrine of the Book, he brought these treasures closer to the public. 1967 he served as military advisor to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, and, following the Yom Kippur War, he served on the Agranat Commission. In 1976, Yadin formed a new political party dedicated to electoral reform, winning 15 Knesset seats and joining the first Likud government, although the party itself broke up two years later with little achieved. Yadin served as assistant to the prime minister from 1977 to 1981, following which he retired from political life, returning to his research until his death in 1984.
Z -Israel Zangwill
The son of poor Russian immigrants, Zangwill was born in Bristol in 1864 and educated at the Jews' Free School in London, later teaching there. His writing career began with humorous short stories. Realising that he would one day write about East End Jewry, he recorded anecdotes and experiences in notebooks, which formed the basis of his novels. He was ambivalent about the role of Judaism in the modern world: his "ghetto novels," starting with Children of the Ghetto (1892), portraying characters torn between the familiarity of ghetto life and the allure of the outside world; their conflict mirroring his. Meeting Herzl in 1895, he became a supporter of Zionism, one year later attending the rally of the Maccabeans with Herzl, the beginning of the British Zionist movement. Zangwill visited Eretz Yisrael in 1897 and became an advocate of 'Jewish nationalism' which, he argued, could be realised anywhere.
After the Zionist Congress's rejection of the Uganda proposal in 1905, Zangwill became disaffected and founded the Jewish Territorialist Organization, whose goal was to obtain territory--any territory--for Jewish settlement. Other than settling several thousand Jews in Galveston, Texas, however, the group was a failure. His writings showed his philosophy of inclusiveness, with people coming together, even at the expense of losing their ethnic traditions. Zangwill wrote several plays, only one of which, The Melting Pot, achieved any success on the stage. In addition to Jewish territorialism, Zangwill supported major social causes, including women's suffrage. During World War I he urged pacifism, and following the war, advocated the establishment of the League of Nations. He died in 1926.
א S Y Agnon
Nobel Laureat for Literature in 1966, Shmuel Yosef Agnon was born in Galicia in 1888 whence he emigrated to Jaffa in 1908. From 1913 to he lived in Germany, returning to Jerusalem in 1924, where he lived until his death in 1970. From an early age he was a prolific novelist and short-story writer, receiving many literary awards, including the Israel Prize twice.
Called "a man of unquestionable genius" and "one of the great storytellers of our time," S.Y. Agnon is among the most well loved and widely translated Hebrew authors, influencing subsequent generations of Hebrew authors with his unique style and language. Mnany of his stories try to recapture the lives and traditions of a byegone age, but are never a simple act of preservation. Agnon's tales deal with the most pressing problems of his generation. The New York Times wrote, "Via realistic and surrealistic modes, Agnon has transmuted in his many words the tensions inherent in modern man's loss of innocence, and his spiritual turmoil when removed from home, homeland and faith." An observant Jew throughout most of his life, he was able to capture "the hopelessness and spiritual desolation" of a world standing on the threshold of a new age. He was lauded for the "peculiar tenderness and beauty," for his "comic mastery" and for the "richness and depth" of his writing, his contribution to the renewal of the language and literature of modern Israel has been seminal.
ב Eliezer Ben-Yehuda
Eliezer was born in Lithuania, in 1858 as Eliezer Perelman. Raised as an orthodox Jew, he studied in a Yeshivah until one of his Rabbis, a "secret maskil" (enlightened Jew), caused him to become a "free thinker" and revolutionary. When seventeen he realised that a nation needed a common language and dedicated himself to the goal: 'Yisrael be'artzo uvilshono'
Changing his surname to Ben-Yehuda when he began his political activity in 1879, he moved to Jerusalem in 1881, meeting and marrying his childhood sweetheart, Deborah Jonas and established the first Hebrew-speaking home in Eretz Yisrael. Their son, Ben-Zion was the first child in modern times to be brought up speaking only Hebrew. Believing success needed Jewish unity, they returned to observing the mitzvot, but the Orthodox community excommunicated him for his political and national agenda. Whilst maintaining good relations with both Chief Rabbis, Ya'akov Meir and eventually Rav Kook, he became embittered with the Orthodox community.
He launched "Hatzvi" - The Deer - the first Hebrew paper to report what was happening throughout the land. For this Eliezer needed to coin new Hebrew words for objects and verbs that did not exist in ancient Israel. After Deborah died in 1891, her younger sister offered to marry Ben-Yehuda and care for their two small children. An emancipated woman of great drive, she made it her life's work to support Eliezer and his enterprise, learning Hebrew fluently, becoming a reporter for his paper and, eventually, editor so that Eliezer could concentrate on his Hebrew. Ben-Yehuda founded and presided over "Va'ad HaLashon" and worked 18 hours a day on his "Complete Dictionary of Ancient and Modern Hebrew." In 1910 he published the first of six volumes produced before his death in 1922. Afterwards, his widow and son Ehud continued publishing his manuscript, completing the 17 volumes in 1959.
ג David Ben Gurion
David Gruen was born in Poland in 1886 to a family of ardent members of Hovevei Zion.
At 14, he became one of the founders of the Ezra youth movement and at 17 he joined Poalei Zion, being arrested twice during the revolution of 1905. Making aliyah in 1906, he first worked in farming, becoming convinced that true Zionism meant settling the land.
In Jerusalem in 1910, he began writing for Poalei Zion newspaper Ahdut, using the name Ben Gurion. During World War I, he originally supported Turkey and the adoption of Ottoman citizenship. Anti-Zionist persecution changed his mind and he was exiled to Egypt in March 1915. He went to New York to encourage young Jews to make aliyah immediately after the war, marrying Paula Munweis in 1917 who became integral to everything he did until her death in 1968.
When Great Britain issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917, Zionist hopes rose and Ben-Gurion helped organise the Jewish Legion. He enlisted in Canada in 1918, but the war ended before he reached Palestine. In 1921 he became general secretary of the Histadrut labour federation, in 1930 forming Mapai, the Zionist labour party and in 1935 he became head of the Jewish Agency. When Britain limited Jewish immigration to Palestine in 1939, battle was joined. Ben-Gurion was unwavering and on May 14, 1948, he proclaimed independence for the State of Israel in Tel Aviv.
Prime minister for 13 years, during which time Israel fought the War of Independence and the Sinai Campaign while tripling its population from 500,000 to 1.5 million, he remained in the Knesset until he retired from politics in 1970. Ben-Gurion died on his kibbutz, Sde Boker in the Negev, in 1973.
ד Simon Dubnow
Born in 1860 in Belarus, Simon Dubnow, was an outstanding Jewish historian. Self taught, he could not get a position teaching in a Russian university as he was Jewish, so he spent his life studying, writing, and teaching young students Jewish history and culture, leaving post revolutionary Russia in 1922, living in Berlin and, from 1933 in Latvia.
His main work was a complete history of the Jewish People, first published in German in ten volumes and later in Russian and Hebrew. Still in print, they are considered seminal to all students of Jewish history. However, Dubnow more than just a recorder of the past, he was most concerned with the life of his people in the future.
Dubnow thought he understood how the Jews had managed to survive as a nation without its own country whereas other peoples in exile for so many years, had disappeared. The key to their success, he wrote, was their ability to establish a system of law and a way of life by which they separated themselves and governed themselves even while in foreign lands.
He believed that the Jews of the future could survive if they had the proper will to develop centres of spirituality. He disagreed with the Zionists, who felt that Jewish life in exile was doomed to failure and that the only hope was a new life in Eretz Israel, arguing that the basis of their national life was their spirit and culture. He was murdered by the Nazis in Riga in1941.
ה Theodore Herzl
Born in Budapest, in1860, Herzl was educated in the spirit of the "Enlightenment." His family moved to Vienna in 1878 , where he received a doctorate in law in 1884 and worked for a short while in courts there and in Salzburg. Within a year, he abandoned law and became a writer.
In 1891 he became Paris correspondent for the Vienna New Free Press, the influential liberal newspaper of the time and witnessed the rise of anti-Semitism which resulted from the court martial of Captain Alfred Dreyfus. Herzl became convinced that the only solution to the problem was the mass exodus of Jews from their places of residence. Originally he wrote that it did not matter where Jews went, but eventually he realised that a national home in Palestine was the answer.
He published a pamphlet, 'The Jewish State' in 1896 and, whilst others had suggested solutions to anti-Semitism, Herzl was the first to call for immediate political action. Jewish reaction to his plan was mixed, with many rejecting it as too extreme, although others responded with enthusiasm and asked him to head what was to become the Zionist movement. He called the first Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland, in 1897, which adopted the Basle Programme and established the World Zionist Organisation to help create the economic foundation for the proposed Jewish state. Herzl was elected president and chaired the first six Zionist congresses. He spent much of his time in his remaining years meeting with world leaders, both Jewish and non-Jewish, trying to enlist financial and political support for his dream of a Jewish state. He died, exhausted, in 1904. In 1949 his remains were transferred to a mountain in western Jerusalem which became Mount Herzl, now a major military cemetery.
ו Rabbi Chaim Vital
A famous disciple and emanuensis of Rabbi Isaac Luria,the Ari, Rabbi Chaim Vital was born in Israel, probably in Safed.in 1543
He studied Torah under Rabbi Moshe Alshech and kabbalah under Rabbi Moshe Cordevero, but when the Ari arrived in Safed from Egypt in 1570 Rabbi Chaim soon became totally devoted to him. We are told that the Ari said that his sole reason for leaving Egypt for Safed was to transmit his Torah to Rabbi Chaim. The Ari, who died in 1572 (at the age of 38) studied with Rabbi Chaim for less than two years but in that time his extensive body of writings was transcribed by Rabbi Chaim. There were a number of editions of the “Ari’s writings”. At one point Rabbi Chaim decided not to publish them but, in 1586, he became ill and the writings were removed from his house, copied and returned
Some idea of the Safed environment can be gained from Rabbi Chaim’s statement in his Gates of Holiness -shaarei kedushah that the holy spirit (Ruach HaKodesh) can be attained by people even in our own times and that such people in fact exist in our midst.
Rabbi Chaim wrote an autobiography (Sefer HaChizyonot) which still exists in his own handwriting and was published only as recently as 1954.
The impact of the Rabbi Luria is incalculable and interest in kabbalah - by a wide variety of people - has seen enormous growth today. But this influence was made possible only through the work of Rabbi Chaim Vital.
ח Chafetz Chayim
Born Yisrael Meir HaKohen Kagan in Lithuania in 1839, at nine he entered the Vilna yeshivah, where he soon gained a reputation as a genius who always responded to other students with care, kindness and patience. He married at seventeen and, even though he and his wife were incredibly poor, he continued his studies refusing money for teaching or rabbinic functions, believing that these were mitzvot. He opened a general store and his wife insisted on running it so he could continue his studies. It became famous because Kagan supervised the absolute accuracy of the weights and measures, the quality of the merchandise and the fairness of the prices. In 1869 he founded the Radin Yeshivah, attracting students from all over Europe.
He is best known for two major works. The first,' Chafetz Chayim', a compilation of the laws concerning lashon hara made a profound impact on Jewry. In it he emphasised the extreme importance that Jews guard their speech and their conversations: the need to avoid speaking about others being one of the most important (and difficult) mitzvot. His own life was such an exemplar of his written ideas that people called him by the name of his book: The Chafetz Chayim.
His most important book, however, was the Mishnah Berurah, a comprehensive commentary, in six volumes, on the Orach Chayim section of the Shulchan Aruch , which dealt with the general laws of daily conduct, such as dress, prayers, tefillin, blessings, Shabbat, and Festivals, but applying them to his times. He was a true leader of his people, emanating a basic goodness which affected all who encountered him A phenomenal scholar and a humble tzaddik, he died in 1933.
ט Joseph Trumpeldor
Born the northern Caucasus, Trumpeldor was strongly influenced in his youth by a nearby farming commune established by followers of Leo Tolstoy. The idea of collective living became merged with his Zionist idealism and he dreamed of establishing - and defending - agricultural communes in Eretz Israel.
Drafted into the Russian army, he lost an arm in the Russo-Japanese war. In 1912 he made aliyah and worked for a while at kevutzat Deganyah, helping to defend the Jewish settlements in the lower Galilee. When World War I broke out, he was deported to Egypt for refusing to join the Turkish army. In Alexandria, he called for the formation of a legion of volunteers drawn from other deportees to join the British and help liberate the country.
He became the deputy commander of this The "Zion Mule Corps", which participated in the Gallipoli campaign of 1915. Between 1915 and 1919 Trumpeldor spent time in Britain and Russia, promoting the organisation of Jewish regiments to fight the Turks and Jewish self-defence units to protect the settlements. In 1919 he returned to Eretz Israel and in January 1920 was called to the northern Galilee to help organise the defence of the settlements against fierce Arab attacks. On March 1 he was mortally wounded whilst defending Tel Hai: his dying words were: Ein davar, tov lamut be'ad arzenu ("Never mind; it is good to die for our country").
Trumpeldor was buried near Tel Hai, and in 1934 a memorial was erected at his gravesite. His story served as an inspiration to both the pioneering socialist and right-wing youth groups. One of the largest and most successful of the latter was named: Betar, an abbreviation of Brit Trumpeldor.
Born in Jerusalem in 1864, David Yellin studied at the famous Yeshiva Etz Hayim but in 1882 he ignored the boycott imposed by local rabbis against secular education and enrolled at the Alliance Israelite Universelle school (the first member of the Ashkenazi community so to do), where he later became a teacher. By 1903 he was one of the organisers and first president of the Teachers Association and, in 1912 became the deputy director of the Jerusalem Teachers Seminary, which now bears his name. As a protest against the administration, who insisted that the language of instruction be German and understanding the importance of Ivrit, Yellin founded the Hebrew Teachers Seminary, remaining its principal until his death in 1941. Surprisingly becoming a member of the Ottoman parliament in 1913, he was also one of the earliest well known figures to join the Zionist movement openly, attending a Zionist Congress and being exiled by the Turks in 1917 to Damascus. He served on the Town Council of Jerusalem, became deputy mayor and was also chairman of the Va'ad Leumi (National Council of the Jews of Eretz Yisrael).
Yellin helped establish the National Library at the Hebrew University where - in his spare time - he was a professor of Hebrew poetry. He was a founder of the Hebrew Language Committee, writing a number of textbooks on Hebrew grammar and language, as well as translations from Arabic and from European languages, including translating Dickens into Hebrew! He also published Biblical commentaries on the books of Job and Isaiah.
כ - -Kanfei Nesharim
One of the most dramatic mass immigrations of people to Israel, a precursor to the Ethiopian operations of the 1980's, was the Jews of Yemen through "Operation Magic Carpet”. Since the late nineteenth century, they had been escaping to Palestine. By 1948, it was estimated that 28,000 Jews of Yemenite descent lived in Israel. In May 1949, the Imam of Yemen agreed to “release” 45,000 of the 46,000 members of the Yemenite Jewish community.
Jews from all over Yemen made the risky journey to Aden to await airlifting to Israel. Nearly 400 flights were made from 1949 to 1950 by British and American airlines, such as Alaska Airlines, with recent Berlin Airlift experience, to save the Jews of Yemen. Days often lasted between 16 and 20 hours and the one-way flights, in Dakota or DC-4 aircraft, covered nearly 3,000 miles.
Aircraft would take off from Asmara (in Eritrea) in the morning and fly to Aden to pick up passengers and refuel. They would then fly by dead reckoning up the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba to Tel Aviv to unload and onwards to Cyprus to avoid night time bombing raids on the airfield. The project was so secret that it was many months after its completion until the news was released to the world.
Many of the aircrew were amazed at the quiet confidence of the Yemenite passengers, who had clearly never flown before, until it was explained that, to them this was the fulfilment of the Torah quotation in Shemot 19:4 " I carried you on eagles' wings". To this day the project is known in Israel as 'Operation Eagles' Wings - Kanfei Nesharim
ל Nechama Leibowitz
Nechama Leibowitz, one of the greatest bible scholars and teachers of the 20th century, was born in Riga, educated in Berlin and, in 1930, moved to Eretz Yisrael. For many years she taught at Tel Aviv University(being appointed professor in 1968), at the Mizrachi Women Teachers Seminary and many other schools, including hesder yeshivot and, known simply as "Nechama" to her students, she preferred the title of teacher to other distinctions. By 1942 she had begun to distribute stencilled pages of questions on the weekly sidrah to her students and others and, over the years, the "Pages," became her trademark, even being distributed by hand to the defenders of Jerusalem in the War of Independence. A frequent Kol Yisrael broadcaster, she was awarded the Israel Prize for Education in 1956.
For many years, Leibowitz's "Pages" consisted only of questions and it was only at the insistence of many students that she later agreed to publish answers along with the questions, whilst appending more questions for further study! Her interpretations reflect her vast knowledge of traditional and modern Biblical commentaries and display a sensitivity to the religious, literary, and psychological meanings of the text. She strove to infuse her students with a love of Torah as well as the belief that its levels of meanings were to be probed by its readers.
Leibowitz's "Pages" were translated into many languages and reached students and educators alike around the world, later being published as 'Studies in the Weekly Sidra' and 'Studies in Bereshit' etc. Recognised as one of the leading teachers of the Torah of the twentieth century, as well as a role model for Orthodox women who are professional Jewish scholars and teachers, she died in Jerusalem in 1997.
מ Abraham Mapu
'The father of the Hebrew novel', Abraham Mapu, was born near Kovno in 1808. He was taught Tanach and Talmud at the local cheder, which he left aged twelve, continuing the study of the Talmud in private, soon acquiring the name of 'Illui'. Influenced by his father, Jekuthiel, a mystic and kabbalist, Mapu took up, at the age of fifteen, the study of Kabbala. A story relates how he tried to give his studies practical effect by seeking to make himself invisible, becoming sadly disillusioned by being addressed by a friend at the very moment he thought he had completed the task! Although a Jewish scholar of note, he was drawn to secular studies, especially languages and literature, which he pursued vigorously. In the 1840's he moved to Rossieny with his family, meeting the noted scholar Senior Sachs, who enhanced his love for ancient Hebrew history, language and literature. After some time he then was appointed teacher of Jewish religion and German at the 'gymnasium' in Kovno. In 1860 his health began to fail; he suffered especially from palsy in his right hand, which made writing difficult for him. In 1867 he went for medical treatment to Königsberg, where he died.
His first novel, "Ahavat Ziyyon," begun in 1831 but only published in 1853, was the first modern Hebrew romance, set the time of King Hezekiah and Isaiah. It was an immediate success, being translated into many languages. His second work, "Ashmat Shomeron" was also on a Biblical theme. Sadly, the manuscript of his final work was destroyed by anti-orthodox Jews while on its way to the Minister of Public Instruction for approval and only a fragment remains. He also wrote several Hebrew language textbooks.
נ Yitzhak Nissim
Yitzhak Nissim was born in 1896 in Baghdad to a family of famous rabbis. Because of their love of Eretz Yisrael they left Baghdad and emigrated by 1908, being among the first wave from Mesopotamia.
Eight years later, he returned to Baghdad, married and attended Yeshiva. Although considered one of the most outstanding rabbinical scholars of Iraq (becoming known as the "Haham Nissim"), entering into halachic correspondence with heads of Lithuanian yeshivot and the rabbis of Eretz Yisrael., he refused to accept a public position. In 1925 he dedicated himself to the work of an organisation which protested against the demolition of old synagogues and the building of new and bigger ones.
He received newspapers and articles from Palestine and actively supported all emissaries' work for emigration to Eretz Yisrael. In 1925 Rabbi Nissim settled in Jerusalem.
He was considered one of the greatest and most influential rabbis of his generation in the Responsa he wrote on halachic and contemporary issues. In 1955, he was appointed Rishon LeZion, regarding this position as a bridge between the different sectors of society, connecting sucessfully with left-wing kibbutzim, scientists, rabbis and public officials. He was also instrumental in the recognition of the Bene Israel (Indian Jews) as part of the Jewish people and their right to emigrate to Israel. He famously refused to meet Pope Paul VI during his visit to the Holy Land in January 1964, after the Pope refused to meet the Jewish religious leadership. In 1967, after the reunification of Jerusalem, he ruled with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Unterman, against "entering any part of the Temple Mount". He died in1981.
ס - The Sanhedrin
The Sanhedrin was the court system in ancient Israel. The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme religious political and judicial council, but there were also smaller Sanhedrins in every town until the end of the rabbinic patriarchate in about 425 C.E. The Great Sanhedrin, a religious assembly of 71 sages, met in the Chamber of Hewn Stones in the Temple in Jerusalem on most weekdays. It was the final authority on Jewish law and any scholar who went against its decisions was put to death as a zaken mamre (rebellious elder). Led by a president, the nasi (lit. "prince") and a vice president, the av bet din (lit. "father of the court"), the other 69 sages sat in a semicircle facing the leaders. They judged accused lawbreakers, but could not arrest people. There were no lawyers: the accusing witness stated the offence in the presence of the accused and the accused could call witnesses on his own behalf. The court questioned the accused, the accusers and the defence witnesses.
About 30 C.E., the Great Sanhedrin lost its authority to inflict capital punishment. After the Temple was destroyed, the Great Sanhedrin ceased: a Sanhedrin in Yavneh took over many of its functions, under the authority of Rabban Gamliel. The Sanhedrin moved to different cities in the Galilee, eventually ending up in Tiberias. Local Sanhedrins consisted of different numbers of sages, depending on the nature of the offences. Only a Sanhedrin of 71 could judge a whole tribe, a false prophet or the High Priest, but Sanhedrins of 23 tried capital cases and of three scholars dealt with civil or lesser criminal cases.
The name Ezra, one of the most influential characters in the bible, is Aramaic, meaning "help". It is a shortened form of the name "Azariah", which means "Hashem helps". Ezra is linked closely with the book that follows it in Tanach, Nehemiah: the two books being counted as one in the Talmud and by Josephus. They are also treated as one book in the Masoretic Text.
Modern scholars claim that the author of the book of Ezra-Nehemiah is unknown, though Ezra 7-9 apparently were written by Ezra, since they are written in the first person. It appears that Ezra was an envoy of the Persian emperor Artaxerxes. The problem is that there were TWO Artaxerxes. Most people assume that he been sent by Artaxerxes I in 458 BCE to proclaim the Torah to the Jewish people in Jerusalem, although it was not until Nehemiah's arrival in 444 BCE that he read it publicly to the people. To some scholars it seems unlikely that he would have waited fourteen years to get around to doing what the king of Persia had told him to do! Perhaps -they say - the compiler wanted to make a unity of the two books.
As an integral whole, the author of Ezra-Nehemiah was concerned with showing how the Jewish community that came to live within the walls of rebuilt Jerusalem was united in its faithfulness to the Torah, begged forgiveness for their previous disobedience and resolved to maintain their fidelity to the smallest detail of the law. Ezra, the leader of the 'sofrim', the scribes who rebuilt Judaism in those difficult times, ensured its continuity until today.
פ Aryeh Louis Pincus
Born in South Africa, Aryeh Louis Pincus studied law and economics and practiced as a lawyer there from 1934 to 1948. He was chairman of South Africa's Zionist Socialist Party and a co-founder of the country's Habonim organisation. He represented the Labour Zionist Party at the Zionist Congress of 1946 and on the founding of the State, he made Aliyah.
In Israel, Pincus first worked in the Department of Transportation, and from 1949 to 1956 he was the first managing director of El-Al. Reverting to his first profession, he then practiced law in Tel Aviv and was involved in several political organisations, Zionist fundraising and the Zionist Congress. He also served as chairman of the board of Tel Aviv University.
Pincus's work with the Jewish Agency spanned many years and key positions, including chairman of the finance and budget committee and treasurer. He restructured the Jewish Agency in 1969, which involved the consolidation of several departments and a reduction in the number of executive members - a painful exercise for some. He also helped the Agency define its position with respect to the World Zionist Organisation.
Throughout his short but active life, Pincus emphasised the links between Israel and the Diaspora, often acting as a representative of one side towards the other. He recognised the importance of fundraising and, beyond that, of developing Jewish community leaders to translate projects into reality. He was heavily involved in the Aliyah Department and in the struggle for Soviet Jewry's right to return to Israel.
צ Tzephaniah ( Zephaniah)
Zephaniah, one of the so-called ‘minor prophets’, lived in Judea some time during the years around 650-600 BCE and may well have been a distant relative of King Hezekiah. He lived in Jerusalem and his prophecies took place there where, by tradition, the prophetess Hulda was also active. His short book (just three chapters) is a strong and articulate counterblast against the prevailing culture and religious life in Judea. It would seem that the long reign of King Manasseh (687 – 642 BCE) had seen a dreadful decline in religious standards. You can read about them in Chapter 1. At the same time, the political situation was also ominous, with the crumbling of the Assyrian Empire, then the prevailing ‘world power’. This period of internal and external upheaval appears to have spurred Zephaniah on to raise his voice and declare that the ‘Day of Hashem’ was at hand.
Perhaps a man with the name which translates as ‘Hashem has hidden’, or ‘Hashem has treasured’, was always going to be selected for a sacred task. Interestingly, although the name Zephaniah appears ten times in tanach, it has several spellings. Whether it was a scribal error or there was more that one person of that name has challenged scholars over the centuries.
ק Eliezer Kaplan
Eliezer Kaplan was born in 1891 in Minsk into a prominent Zionist family. In 1908, he was a founding member of the Russian socialist Zionist movement, Zeirei Zion ha-Tehiya, and was part of the Comite des Delegations Juives which represented the Jewish people during the peace negotiations in Versailles in 1919. He graduated from his engineering studies in Moscow in 1917. Following political work in Berlin, he settled in Palestine in 1923 and served as a member of the administration of the Public Works Office of the Histadrut, later known as Solel Boneh. In 1933 he became a member of the Executive of the Jewish Agency and headed its Finance and Administration Department. A key planner and originator of economic and developmental projects in Palestine connected with the Agency , he negotiated its first loan from Barclays Bank.
A staunch follower of Chaim Weizmann he came into open conflict with David Ben-Gurion, whilst during the transitional period, prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, he directed the financial affairs of the Minhelet ha-Am ("People's Administration"). Upon the establishment of the State he was elected to the Knesset and appointed minister of finance, a position he held until shortly before his death, when he was appointed deputy Prime Minister. Kaplan laid the foundations for the economic policy of the State of Israel and shaped its first budgets and its taxation structure. He was particularly interested in finding new methods of financing agricultural development and also contributed to the organisation of the Israel Bonds drive in the US, collecting large sums from the bonds to finance the first development schemes of independent Israel. He died in Genoa in 1952 whilst undergoing medical treatment.
ר Rabbi Isaac Jacob Reines
Born in Karolin, Belorussia in 1839, Reines studied at the yeshivot of Eishistok and Volozhin before ordination and becoming a rabbi in Lithuania. His last post was in Lydda, where he was the rabbi from 1885 until his death
A member of the Chibbat Zion movement from its inception, Reines joined Rabbi Samuel Mohilever in proposing settlement which combined Torah study with physical labour, a radical idea at the time and one which brought him into open conflict with many of the leading rabbinical figures of the day. He was also one of the first rabbis to answer Herzl's call to become part of the Zionist movement. As such, he attended the First Zionist Congress in Basle in 1897. Herzl, rarely regarded as an example of religious observance, recognised and understood the need for respected rabbis to support his new movement.
While most of his eastern and western European rabbinical colleagues remained opposed to political Zionism, in 1902 Reines published a book, "Or Chadash al Tzion" (A New Light on Zion) which countered the claims of the anti-Zionist rabbis. That same year he organised a conference of the religious Zionist movement in Vilna, where the Mizrachi movement was founded. At its founding convention in Pressburg,( Bratislava) in 1904 he was recognised as the movement's leader.
In 1905, Reines accomplished his own personal dream with the establishment of a yeshiva in Lida inn Poland, where both secular and religious subjects were taught. In sharp contrast to the pilpul method which characterised the vast majority of eastern European Jewish scholarship, Reines's approach was most unusual for the time. He died in 1915.
'ש Shlomzion Hamalka - Queen Salome Alexandra
After Alexander Janneus' death in 103 BCE, his widow Salome Alexandra (who had two sons, Hyrcanus and Aristobulus) became the queen of Judea, ruling a kingdom almost as large as that of David and Solomon. According to Josephus' account, she would have been 15 years his senior.
Militarily astute, no enemy approached Jerusalem during her reign and it became the centre of growing political, economic and religious activity. As the influence of Judaism spread, so did the international importance of Jerusalem. Jews in the Diaspora, converts to Judaism (there were increasing numbers at the time) and philosemites contributed to the wealth of the city by paying the half-shekel tax and other donations. Pilgrimages increased and there is was growing prosperity in the city, as contemporary journals attest.
During her reign, the Pharisees rose to power and influence. The queen invited them to join the Sanhedrin as a counterbalance to the increasingly corrupt Sadducee group. Shlomzion was weary of the civil strife that had previously weakening the land. Working as a team, the queen ran the foreign policy of Judea whilst the Pharisees controlled religious affairs, with her brother, the famous rabbi Shimon ben Shetach starting a system of public schools. The Pharisees believe that each district or each town should have a free school for children, in order to effectively transmit the covenant and oral traditions, making this the earliest record of universal free education. She removed the Sadducees from positions of leadership when they supported outright war against the Pharisees. On her death in 67 BCE, aged 73, civil war broke out.
ת Judah Touro
Born in 1775 in Newport, Rhode Island, the son of Isaac Touro, the chazan of the Yeshuat Israel Synagogue, Judah had an unhappy and troubled childhood.
Isaac supported the British in the War of Independence and left for New York where he lived on a military dole. In 1782, the family moved to Jamaica, where he soon died. Judah's mother and his four siblings moved to New York City where they lived with his uncle, Moses Michael Hays, a wealthy businessman.
After training in his uncle's business, Judah went to New Orleans, then ruled by Spain. The city was soon transferred to the French and finally the United States, through the Louisiana Purchase. As the population and industry grew rapidly, his fortunes rose.
Touro served as a civilian volunteer in the American Army during the War of 1812, being severely wounded at the Battle of New Orleans. His recovery was slow and Touro was left with a limp. He dropped out of social life, as he developed his business, investing in steamships and in real estate.
Touro had no sense of Jewish responsibility until Gershom Kursheedt, a recent newcomer to New Orleans, instilled in him a feeling of Jewish loyalty and persuaded him to buy a church and convert it into a synagogue called Nefutzoth Yehuda. Kursheedt was a tremendous influence on Touro, being largely responsible for his large bequests when he died in1854. He left over $300,000 to Jewish congregations and societies in seventeen cities, the Touro Hospital and $60,000 to be used for the poor in Eretz Israel, as well as over $150,000 to non-Jewish institutions - a staggering amount of money. Because Touro chose Sir Moses Montefiore as executor of his estate, the situation of Jerusalem's Jews was to improve beyond recognition, as it helped finance the houses that Montefiore built for them.
ת Yitzhak Tabenkin
Born in Byelorussia in 1887, Tabenkin went to cheder and later continued with a secular education. He helped found Poalei Zion in Poland and was a strong supporter of agricultural settlement. Fulfilling his ambition, he moved to Eretz Yisrael in 1911, worked as an agricultural labourer on a moshav and, naturally, joined the HaShomer defence organisation.
Tabenkin joined Trumpeldor's Gedud HaAvodah (Jewish Labour Legion) and in 1921 became one of the founding members of Kibbutz Ein Harod, which later formed the core of the Ha-Kibbutz Ha-Meuhad movement. Tabenkin believed firmly in kibbutz living and he supported the idea of large kibbutzim or collective settlements open to a wide membership. His philosophy was of the populist rather than elitist brand and was not always in tune with Zionist leadership at the time. Inevitably he also became involved in politics and was one of the founders of Achdut Ha-Avodah and, subsequently, of Mapai and of Mapam. Following the establishment of the State, Tabenkin became a member of the Knesset and was a key voice for the labour and kibbutz ideologies.
Opposing the notion of territorialism, Tabenkin consistently upheld the importance of the Land of Israel. He opposed the British partition plan of 1937, believing in Jewish labour and the need to settle Eretz Yisrael. It was thus entirely consistent with this philosophy that, unlike many of his political colleagues, he supported the Greater Land of Israel ideology following the Six Day War.
Tabenkin lived at Ein Harod until his death in 1971. He published his speeches and papers, most of which deal with Israel, the kibbutz, and labour politics.