“Hibbat Zion” 2018-02-19T22:12:01+00:00

“Hovevei Zion” (Lovers of Zion), also known as “Hibbat Zion”

The beginning of the movement

The name “Hibbat Zion” includes a number of Zionist organizations that were established in Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century. They believed in having Jews come to settle the Land of Israel.
The “Hovevei Zion” movement began spontaneously in several places, with no formal organization. Tens of such unrelated “Hovevei” Zion  groups sprung up in Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Europe. Yet they all shared a common goal. They all believed in the need to “ascend” to the Land of Israel, to settle it, to work the land and finally, to establish a Jewish state. The members of these groups came from different streams, from assimilated Jews to famous rabbis, but their common aspiration was the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel. These groups had many different names, including Brotherhood of Zion, Lovers of Zion, Sons of Zion, Return to Zion, Love of Zion, Kibbutz Nidchei Israel, The Remnants of Israel, Ezra and Zrubavel.
By the end of 1881, more than thirty “Hovevei Zion” organizations were founded in Romania.

The reasons for the awakening of “Hovevi Zion”

  • The “Storms in the Negev”: From 1881-1882 there were pogroms in Southern Russia which were called the “Storms in the Negev”. More than 200 Jewish communities were attacked with the encouragement of the government. These pogroms caused the Jews to seek solutions to their problems. Some moved to the United States while others organized into groups of “Hovevi Zion”, which concentrated on finding a solution.

  • The refusal to grant citizenship to the Jews of Romania: Romania, which was established in 1859 had promised to grant emancipation to the Jews. However, they did not fulfill this promise and wrote in their constitution that only Christians can receive citizenship. The Jews’ disappointment led them to look for other channels, outside of Romania.

  • The reaction of Jews to the emigration of Jews to the United States: The fear that Jews who emigrated to the US would assimilate into the American society was one of the reasons for the awakening of a national movement. There was an attempt to sway these people to move to Israel rather than to the US.

  • The link to the Land of Israel: The desire of every Jew to return to the Land of Israel and await the coming of the Messiah. Russian anti-Semitism caused a reawakening of the desire to “ascend” to Israel and establish a Jewish state.

  • The awakening of nationalism in Europe: Throughout the 19th century, a wave of nationalistic revolutions, known as the “Spring of Nations” swept over the people of Western and Central Europe. This awakening also brought about a similar nationalistic awakening among the Jews, who wanted to establish a Jewish state In the Land of Israel.

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Moshe Leib Lilienblum

He was among the leaders of the Enlightenment in Russia until the pogroms of “Storms in the Negev” changed his perspective. He stopped believing in assimilation and saw the Jews’ otherness in different countries as the Jewish problem. He believed that the solution to the problem was for the Jews to have their own country.
Lilienblum’s main arguments were:

Anti-Semitism will not disappear and the Jews will always be hated.
The Jews were hurt by the rise of the working class, which saw the Jews as exploiters and thieves.
Religious reforms, assimilation and Enlightenment solved nothing because the Jews were persecuted because they were Jews, whether religious or secular.
Assimilation could be a solution for individuals, but not fir the Jewish people. Therefore, the solution was for Jews to “ascend” to the Land of Israel.

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Yehudah Leib Pinsker

He was an educated, assimilated Jew from Odessa. He served as a doctor in the army and volunteered in the Russian army during the Crimean War, where he received a medal of honor. The pogroms of “Storms in the Negev” caused a change in his thinking and he began to search for a national solution to the problems facing the Jewish people.
In 1882, Pinsker published a book which contained some of the founding principles in the history of Zionism. The book, Autoemancipation, hoped to awaken the rich Jews of Western Europe to help establish a nationalist movement. However, the book awakened, mainly, the poor Jews of Eastern Europe.

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Rabbi Samuel Mohilever

The “Rabbi of Bialystok” was one of the greatest Russian rabbis and one of the founders of the first “Hibat Zion” organizations. He worked for cooperation between the enlightened and the religious people. He tried to influence the secular leaders to prevent harming religion and the pioneers. On the other hand, he tried to bring about an acceptance of the idea of “Hibat Zion” and the settling of the Land of Israel among the rabbis and the traditional sector.

He was one of the first to wake up to the need of the hour and devote himself to the idea of settling the Land of Israel. Right after the pogroms of 1881, he traveled to Lvov to try and influence the public leaders to take action on the matter of settling the Land of Israel. There he introduced himself to Oliphant, the famous Englishman, who had been very active in “The Alliance israélite universelle”. His enthusiastic words fired up Parisian businessmen who helped him gain entry to the heart of the Baron Edmond Rothschild, The Famous Benefactor”, whose work and charity contributed greatly to the “Yishuv” in the Land of Israel.
Upon returning from Lvov,  Rabbi Mohilever went to Warsaw, where he organized a meeting at which the first organization of “Hovevi Zion” was founded. Two important rabbis joined him there: Rabbi Eliyahu Ḥayim Meisel from Lodz and Rabbi Joseph Bar Soloveitchik from Brest. The three issued a public appeal asking the Jewish people to support settling the Land of Israel.

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