>>>Pre-State Zionist Thinkers
Pre-State Zionist Thinkers 2018-02-19T22:12:01+00:00

Pre-State Zionist Thinkers

Ahad Ha’am


(1856-1927)

Ahad Ha’am was the penname of Asher Zvi (Hirsh) Ginzburg. He was one of the early philosophers of Zionism, and the founder of the Cultural Zionist Zionism movement. He was instrumental in formulating the secular, nationalistic Jewish identity. In 1889, he published the essay, “The Wrong Way”, which called for a radical change in “Hibat Zion’s” approach. He did not believe that the purpose of the Land of Israel was to solve the question of the Jews’ existence or their economic issues. It should not and cannot be a physical refuge for the woes of the Diaspora. Its purpose is to solve the spiritual and cultural problems of the Jewish people. It is not enough for the Jewish state to be a national home and a refuge, it must also embody spiritual values which would justify its existence. The state should be a light unto nations, a universal moral lighthouse. These beliefs were the basis for Spiritual Zionism.
His literary name resulted from the way he signed his articles, “Ahad Ha’am”, which means one of the people, a regular person.

“The old rooted concepts cannot be rooted out by hand, but only by a great storm, but after that which needing rooting out has been rooted out there comes a time to sow, and sowing is not done by a storm.”


Menachem Ussishkin

(1863-1941)

“The Hebrew community in general and the settlers in particular, will never forget his dedicated and excellent service for the public, for many years, years of suffering, hunger, and severe epidemics. The name of Dr. Hillel Yaffe is engraved in the hearts of thousands as a symbol of a doctor – a man, a doctor – Citizen and a doctor – a friend … ”

Dr. Katznelson , the director of the People’s Kupat Holim (Health Maintenance Organization, HMO) in the settlements

Ussishkin was one of the leaders of Practical Zionism, from “Hovevi Zion” and head of a group that was called “Zionists of Zion”, which was very active in many of the Zionist Congresses. He initiated and directed the “Land of Israel Parliament”, founded several Zionist movements and was president of the Jewish National Fund.
While still a young man, he was interested in the question of the Jewish-national identity after reading literature about the national revival. He even founded a “Society of Pioneers to Eretz Israel”, which joined with Bilu.  He was a member of “The Sons of Zion” (B’nei Zion) society and later, he was the secretary of all the “Hovevei Zion” groups in Moscow, which supported “Aliyah” and Zionist settlement.
In 1891, Ussishkin met Herzl in Vienna. He was highly impressed by Herzl’s book.  Der Judenstaat  (The Jewish State). He was elected Hebrew secretary of the First Zionist Congress in 1897 and took an active part in the debate centered on the formulation of the first, political article of the Basel Program. In subsequent Congresses, he was a member of the Zionist General Council.
Ussishkin actively promoted the use of the Hebrew language. He was chosen to head the Zionist organization of all of southern Russia. He was one of the bitterest opponents of Herzl’s Uganda Proposal. In 1902, the General Committee of “Hovevi Zion”, which was held in Odessa, chose him to head the committee which would deal with the acquisition and selling of lands in the Land of Israel. In 1904, this became the “Chevrat Geula”, the “Society for Redemption”, which was established for this purpose.

After the Kishinev Pogrom in April 1903, Ussishkin visited Kishinev and was profoundly shocked. He then went on an extended trip to the Land of Israel in order to organize and unite the Jewish “Yishuv”.
In 1918 Ussishkin was the head of the Zionist Commission and worked in order to organize the “Yishuv” and to serve as a liaison between the British government and the “Yishuv”. He was influential in establishing the Assembly of Representatives and the Jewish National Council. He endeavoured to make Hebrew the official national language. Together with Chaim Weizmann, he worked to establish the Hebrew University.

In February, 1919, he represented the Zionist movement at the Versailles Conference in Paris, where his speech in Hebrew, in which he called for the establishment of a Jewish state, aroused much interest. In that same year, he came to Israel on “Aliyah”. He was elected chairman of the Zionist General Council at the 19th Congress in 1935. In 1936, he fought against the Peel commission’s proposed partition.

Chaim Weizmann


(1874-1952)

Chaim Weizmann was the first president of the State of Israel, a scientist, a leader of the Zionist movement and part of the Synthetic Zionism movement. He was the fourth president of the Zionist Organization. In addition to working as a chemist, Weizmann was an active Zionist from the days of his youth. At the start of the 6th Zionist Congress (1903), Weizmann supported the Uganda Proposal that was suggested by Herzl. However, in the midst of the Congress, he changed his mind and became a bitter opponent of the proposal. Nevertheless, he served on the steering committee of the delegation that was sent to East Africa to examine the feasibility of the plan. In 1906, he met with Harold Arthur James Balfour for the first time. Weizmann lectured him on the principles of Zionism. Over the year, he worked for the good of the Jewish people with important figures in Britain, including statesmen and journalists. At the 8th Congress in Hague, held in 1907, he called for “Synthetic Zionism”, which would combine political activity with the actual settlement of the Land of Israel. That same year, he visited the Land of Israel for the first time. In 1917, he was elected president of the Jewish Federation in England. In that year, he, together with other leaders of the British Zionist movement, submitted a proposal to the British government. It included demands to recognize the right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, the right of Jews to go on “Aliyah” and officially recognizing the Zionist institutions in the Land of Israel.
Weizmann was influential in the discussions that led to the Balfour Declaration at the end of 1917. When Britain conquered the Land of Israel in 1918, Weizmann returned to Zion as the head of a delegation of Zionist leaders that was called the Zionist Commission. Their aim was to assist the settlements in matters of health, education, welfare and settlement, to be a liaison between them and the British and to establish the infrastructure for the national Homeland, in the spirit of the Balfour Declaration.

Weizmann was elected president of the World Zionist Organization of the 12th Zionist Congress at Carlsbad. In this capacity, he represented the Zionist movement throughout the world and represented the “Yishuv” in dealings with the British mandatory government. After the publishing of Passfield’s White Paper in 1930, Weizmann endeavoured to change the British policy, which limited the right of Jews to immigrate to Israel and to settle the land. In protest, he relinquished his position. However, he went back on his decision and resumed the job when British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, sent him a letter in support of Zionism.

In 1931, Weizmann was not elected president of the Zionist Congress because of his positions, which were considered pro-British. He then proceeded to act on behalf of German Jewry and Youth Aliyah until he was re-elected in 1935. Weizmann demanded that members of the Peel Commission, which had been sent to the Land of Israel by the British Mandate, provide a refuge for the millions of persecuted Jews in the world. He suggested, for the first time, dividing the land between the Jews and the Arabs.

During the Arab Revolt in 1936, Weizmann served as an envoy in the negotiations between the different parties, including Nuri al-Said, who mediated between the sides during the Revolt.
During these years, in addition to his work for the Zionist enterprise, he also dedicated himself to scientific work at the “Ziv Institute” in Rehovot, which was named after him – The Weizmann Institute. Weizmann was chosen president of the Provisional State Council on May 16, 1948, two days after Israel’s declaration of independence. In 1949, he was chosen president of the State of Israel and was sworn in on February 17th.

Chaim Weizmann being sworn in as president

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