The Origins of Israel, 1882–1948
A Documentary History
Publication Year: 2011
In 1880 the Jewish community in Palestine encompassed some 20,000 Orthodox Jews; within sixty-five years it was transformed into a secular proto-state with well-developed political, military, and economic institutions, a vigorous Hebrew-language culture, and some 600,000 inhabitants. The Origins of Israel, 1882–1948: A Documentary History chronicles the making of modern Israel before statehood, providing in English the texts of original sources (many translated from Hebrew and other languages) accompanied by extensive introductions and commentaries from the volume editors.
This sourcebook assembles a diverse array of 62 documents, many of them unabridged, to convey the ferment, dissent, energy, and anxiety that permeated the Zionist project from its inception to the creation of the modern nation of Israel. Focusing primarily on social, economic, and cultural history rather than Zionist thought and diplomacy, the texts are organized in themed chapters. They present the views of Zionists from many political and religious camps, factory workers, farm women, militants, intellectuals promoting the Hebrew language and arts—as well as views of ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionists. The volume includes important unabridged documents from the origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict that are often cited but are rarely read in full. The editors, Eran Kaplan and Derek J. Penslar, provide both primary texts and informative notes and commentary, giving readers the opportunity to encounter voices from history and make judgments for themselves about matters of world-historical significance.
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
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This reader provides a documentary history of the Yishuv, Palestine’s Jewish community, from the beginnings of Zionist settlement in 1882 to Israel’s establishment in 1948. It brings to the English-speaking world many sources that were previously unpublished or available only in Hebrew or other foreign languages. And it is different from other document collections or textbooks on...
Section I: The Roots of the "New Yishuv"
1. Letter of Complaint to the Settlers of Rishon Le-Tsion (1883) - Baron Edmond De Rothschild
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In the nineteenth century, Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire and was divided into administrative districts governed from Jerusalem and Beirut. In 1880 there were some 25,000 Jews and 450,000 Arabs in the area equivalent to today’s Israel, West Bank, and Gaza Strip. Two-thirds of the Jews lived in Jerusalem; most of the rest were divided among three other ancient Jewish holy cities: Safed, Tiberias, and Hebron...
2. Dispensation for the Sabbatical Year (1888)
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The Shemitah, or Jewish sabbatical year, is prescribed in the Torah. Every seventh year the soil of the Land of Israel is to lie fallow, Jews who have been sold into servitude are to be set free, and debts are to be canceled. By the Second Temple period, the second provision was no longer an issue, and the third had been circumvented by a rabbinical enactment. In Talmudic times the first provision, refraining from tilling and harvesting...
3. The Rothschild Administration (1890)
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The charitable deeds of Baron de Rothschild in the Land of Israel are truly
legendary; since our early history we have not seen such generosity, that a man
would spend millions to carry out an idea, and a controversial one at that!
There is no doubt that the assistance the Baron provides to the farmers improves the conditions of the colonies (moshavot ) considerably. The support, which comes as a monthly allowance, guarantees the farmers a steady income...
4. Truth from Eretz Yisrael (1891)
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Ahad ha-Am (Asher Ginzberg, 1856–1927) published “Truth from Eretz Yisrael” as a
series of articles in the Hebrew daily newspaper Ha-Melitz (St. Petersburg) in 1891.
His first important publication, the article “This Is Not the Way,” had appeared only two years earlier in the same newspaper and established him as a severe critic of the prevailing mode of settlement during the first decade of Zionist (or proto-Zionist) activity. In his view, the “Return to Zion” that began in 1882 was premature, disorganized, and...
5. Outline for an Agenda (1906)
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Ha-Po‘el Ha-Tsa’ir (the Young Worker) was founded in 1905. The founders of Ha-Po‘el Ha-Tsa’ir were inspired by Marxist and socialist schools in the West (especially in Austria) that questioned Marxist orthodoxy and the primacy of the notion of class struggle, and unlike other Zionist workers’ parties of the period, they emphasized the role of conquering Hebrew labor and the revitalization of Hebrew culture. A. D. Gordon...
6. Platform (1906) and Proposal for a Program (1907)
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Po‘alei Tsion (Workers of Zion) was a Zionist-Socialist party. The party, inspired by the teachings of Ber Borochov (1881–1917), sought to synthesize Marxist notions of class struggle with Jewish nationalism. The party’s founding congress took place in 1906 in the Ukrainian city of Poltava, and later that year the party’s branch in Palestine was founded. The first document here is the party’s Ramla platform, which was produced in Palestine...
7. The Strike at Kinneret Farm (1911)
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In 1908 Arthur Ruppin, the Zionist Executive’s representative in Palestine, formed the Palestine Land Development Company (PLDC). One of the PLDC’s first major endeavors was the creation of the Kinneret Farm in 1908 on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Kinneret, which was intended to be a training farm for Zionist agricultural laborers, employed more than thirty Jewish workers. In 1909 the workers at the farm went on...
8. The Yemenite Immigrants and Their Absorption in the Settlements (1913)
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Between 1881 and the start of the First World War, nearly 5,000 Jews came from Yemen to Palestine. Initially, the Yemenite immigrants settled in the land’s old cities, but many of those who arrived in Palestine between 1906 and 1914 settled in the new agricultural colonies. Shmuel Yavnieli (1884–1961), a labor Zionist activist, was sent to Yemen in 1911 to recruit Jewish workers who might help the fledgling Jewish agricultural settlements...
9. Founding Statement (1909)
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Ha-Shomer (the Guard), a Jewish defense organization, was founded in 1909 for the purpose of providing protection to Jewish settlements in Palestine rather than relying on Arab watchmen or foreign consulates. Ha-Shomer grew out of Bar Giora, a small, clandestine defense organization founded in 1907. Ha-Shomer was highly hierarchical and selective; by 1914 it had about forty members and around fifty candidates. Most of...
10. Letters from an Anonymous Farm Wife of the First Aliyah (1889)
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About a fifth of the settlers of the First Aliyah established themselves as farmers in agricultural colonies. Most of the women in these settlements were farm wives, although some worked as teachers, midwives, and nurses for the Rothschild administration. A handful of women became in later years prominent public figures in the Yishuv, and some women of the First Aliyah wrote memoirs at an advanced age. But contemporary...
11. Pioneer Women of the Second Aliyah
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The Plough Woman consists of memoirs composed between 1915 and 1928. It was originally published in Yiddish in 1931 and then in various English editions. Compared with document 10, these memoirs demonstrate the difference in political consciousness, ideology, and everyday experience between women of the First and Second Aliyot. The Second Aliyah’s core of youthful, politically committed immigrants included women...
12. Jaffa Changes Its Face (1907)
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Ze‘ev Smilansky (1873–1944) was a writer, journalist, and farmer. Born in the Ukraine, he first came to Palestine in 1891 and settled permanently in the country the following decade; he spent most of his time in Rehoboth, where he owned and operated a small farm. Smilansky wrote for several publications in Palestine and abroad, especially on economic and business-related themes. Smilansky was the nephew of the noted Hebrew...
Section II: Building the Jewish National Home
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The Zionist enterprise succeeded as a result of the efforts of three separate but intertwined actors: the New Yishuv, Diaspora Jewry, and the United Kingdom. Between 1914 and 1918, while the Yishuv endured the privations of war, Zionism’s fate was determined by an alliance between a handful of Zionist leaders and high officials of the British government. Chaim Weizmann (1874–1952), a Zionist activist...
13. The Selection of the Fittest (1919)
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Arthur Ruppin (1876–1943) was the chief planner of Zionist settlement from 1908 until the mid-1920s. Raised and educated in Germany, Ruppin brought to the Zionist movement expertise in political economy, demography, and sociology, which he had acquired as a student and while working in the Berlin Office for Jewish Statistics. In 1907, Ruppin toured Palestine at the behest of the Zionist Organization, and a year later he moved to...
14. The Collective Agricultural Settlements in Palestine (1927)
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Wilkansky (1880–1955) was raised in a Lithuanian shtetl and received an Orthodox rabbinical education before studying natural science, economics, and agronomy at universities in Switzerland and Germany. In 1908 Wilkansky moved to Palestine, where he was employed by Arthur Ruppin’s Palestine Office as a farm manager. A member of the Labor Zionist political party Ha-Po‘el Ha-Tsa’ir, Wilkansky was a vital link between...
15. Song of the Valley (1934)
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Nathan Alterman (1910–70) was the most eminent poet associated with the Zionist labor movement during the interwar period and the early years of the Israeli state. From 1934 Alterman had a weekly column in major Yishuv newspapers (first Haaretz and then the Histadrut’s organ, Davar) in which he wrote about current affairs in verses that ranged from poignant to satirical. Alterman was also a serious poet who produced some...
16. Going Down to the Sea (1937)
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This essay provides a good example of the combination of boundless energy, extreme optimism, and dark trepidation that characterized David Ben-Gurion’s thinking about the Zionist project and the directions it may take in the future. Writing as an organized Palestinian nationalist rebellion was shaking the land, Ben-Gurion emphasizes as a positive development the construction of a new port in Tel Aviv, but he is concerned...
17. Labor Incidents in Palestine (1925)
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This letter was composed by William Ormsby Gore (1885–1964), who at the time was the parliamentary undersecretary in the Colonial Office. During the First World War, Gore was stationed in Egypt, and he served as the British liaison officer with the 1918 Zionist Mission in Palestine. The letter was addressed to Arthur Henderson, MP (1863– 1935), who in 1925 served as home secretary (he became foreign secretary in 1931)...
18. The Pechter Strike (1927)
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In 1927, the Palestine Electric Company began the construction of the Naharayim hydroelectric power plant at the intersection of the Yarmuk and Jordan rivers on the eastern bank of the Jordan. This was one of the largest civil projects in the history of the Yishuv, and it required extensive investment in infrastructure, including the construction of a special rail line and special train cars. The Pechter et Hoffman and Sons Company...
19. The Labor Brigade (1926)
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Gedud ha-Avodah ve-ha-Haganah al-shem Yosef Trumpeldor (the Joseph Trumpeldor Labor and Defense Brigade) operated in Palestine between 1920 and 1927. It was founded six months after Trumpeldor’s death at Tel Hai (see document 38). The brigade set out to fulfill three pioneering missions: settlement, defense, and Hebrew labor. The conflation of militaristic titles and sense of hierarchy with civilian goals (labor, settlement) underscores...
20. Tel Aviv (1933)
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Yitzhak Gruenbaum (1879–1970) was one of the leaders of the Zionist movement in Poland. He served in the Polish parliament, the Sejm, from 1919 to 1930. Gruenbaum was a staunch secularist and a bitter opponent of Agudat Yisra’el, the ultra-Orthodox party. In 1930, he lost his seat in the Sejm to Rabbi Aharon Levin, the Agudah leader from Warsaw. In late 1933, Gruenbaum immigrated to Palestine. He served as Israel’s...
21. Tel Aviv as a Jewish City (1939)
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Tel Aviv, today Israel’s largest metropolis, began in 1909 as a suburb of Jaffa (see also document 20). It was the eleventh Jewish neighborhood established in Jaffa since 1887; Tel Aviv’s founders, however, wanted to establish something more than another Jewish neighborhood in a mostly Arab city. (On the eve of World War I, Jaffa’s population was about 50,000, one-fifth of whom were Jews.) They yearned to establish what was known...
22. Platform for the 1931 Elections to the Representative Assembly (1931)
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Originally, the name “General Zionist” was assigned to those members of the World Zionist Congress who did not officially belong to a specific faction such as the Labor, Revisionist, and Religious Zionist camps. The vast majority of General Zionists did not live in the Yishuv itself, so while their power within the Zionist Congress was considerable, their popularity in Palestine itself was much less so. Though General Zionists coalesced...
23. Thou Shalt Not Wear Sha‘atnez (1929)
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Vladimir (Ze‘ev) Jabotinsky (1880–1940) was the founder and leader of the Revisionist Zionist movement, a writer, poet, essayist, and translator. During World War I, Jabotinsky and Joseph Trumpeldor were active in the establishment of Jewish units as part of the British Army; In 1920 the British authorities jailed Jabotinsky for his involvement in Jewish self-defense activity during riots in Jerusalem. After his release later that year...
24. Betar and the Zionist Revolution (1932)
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Yehoshua Heschel Yevin (1891–1970) was one of the leaders of the maximalist, or radical, wing of the Zionist Revisionist movement and one of the founders, along with Abba Achimeir and the poet Uri Zvi Greenberg, of Brit ha-Biryonim (the league of thugs). Born in Russia, Yevin was trained as a physician and served as a surgeon in the Red Army. Yevin was initially active in socialist Zionist circles, but in 1928, captivated by Jabotinsky’s...
25. The Strike at the Froumine Biscuit Factory (1932)
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In October 1932, the Froumine food factory in Petakh-Tikvah hired a worker who was not a member of the Histadrut (see document 18n2). The Histadrut responded by declaring a strike at the factory. In return, the Revisionists, who had long objected to the monopoly of the Histadrut over the labor market, reached an agreement with Froumine’s ownership that Revisionist workers would replace the striking Histadrut members, and that...
26. Labor Disputes and Acts of Violence (1934)
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David Remez (1886–1951), né David Drabkin, was born in Belarus and immigrated to Palestine in 1913. He served as director of the Public Works Office of the Histadrut (see document 18n2) from 1921 to 1929, and from 1930 to 1946 he was the Histadrut’s secretary-general. In this document, which is a summary of an address Remez gave before a meeting of the Yishuv’s National Committee, Remez discusses the ongoing labor...
27. Rabbi Herzog on the Chief Rabbinate (ca. 1948)
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Isaac Herzog (1888–1959) was born in Poland and moved as a child to England where his father was a rabbi. Herzog served as a rabbi in Belfast and Dublin and became the Chief Rabbi of the Irish Free State in 1921. In 1937 he assumed the position of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine, succeeding Abraham Isaac Kook...
28. Public Announcement (1938)
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Until the large-scale immigration waves after World War I, the majority of the Yishuv was Orthodox and a substantial minority were haredim—adherents of a fervently antimodern and anti-Zionist Orthodoxy. Even those haredim who immigrated to Palestine after 1881 considered themselves to be the continuation of the pre-Zionist Yishuv. The haredim were aligned with the international Agudat Yisra’el (founded in Kattowitz in...
Section III: Forging a Modern Hebrew Culture in the Land of Israel
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When the first Zionist pioneers arrived in Palestine in the early 1880s, they were motivated by two similar and largely overlapping visions: a social ideal that sought to create a new Jewish society, which unlike the Jewish communities in the Diaspora would be based on a new division of labor in which Jews would engage in manual work; as well as a spiritual or cultural desire to rejuvenate...
29. Plain Language Association (1889)
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Eliezer Ben Yehuda (1858–1922) was born in Lithuania to a traditional Jewish family and was one of the major contributors to the revival of modern Hebrew—in fact, in the Yishuv and later in Israel he was known as mehayeh ha-safa ha-Ivrit (the “reviver” of the Hebrew language). After completing a traditional course of Jewish education, which included the study of classical Hebrew, he attended the Sorbonne in Paris. Ben Yehuda...
30. How to Spread the Use of Hebrew (1927)
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Since the inception of the Jewish national movement, the role of Hebrew as the national language was frequently debated. In fact, for Herzl, the question of which language would become the national language was of secondary, if any, importance; in his 1902 utopian novel Altneuland, in which he described the future Jewish society in Palestine in the year 1923, the different inhabitants of the New Society seemed to be speaking the...
31. Purim Celebrations in Tel Aviv (1931)
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The first Purim Carnival in Tel Aviv was organized in 1912 by the Herzlia Gymnasium art teacher Avraham Aldemah; several students and adults in costumes marched from the school building to the train tracks on Herzl Street. Meir Dizengoff, Tel Aviv’s first mayor, understood the civic significance of such an event, and on the following year he turned the march into a Hebrew festival. Since then annual Purim festivals were held in Tel Aviv...
32. The National and Cultural Importance of Bezalel (1930)
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In this article, Hebrew University professor Joseph Klausner (1874–1958)—a historian, one of the chief editors of the Hebrew Encyclopedia, and a literary scholar whose work covered such wide-ranging topics as Second-Temple Jewry, early Christianity, and modern Hebrew literature—celebrated the achievements of Boris Shatz (1866–1932) and Bezalel, the art academy that Shatz founded in Jerusalem in 1906. Shatz was born...
33. The Hebrew Stage: Moriah, not Acropolis (1926)
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Avigdor Hameiri (1890–1970) was born in the Transcarpathia region of Hungary (today in Ukraine). He began writing Hebrew poetry in his late teens and published his first book of Hebrew poems in 1912. He immigrated to Palestine in 1921, where he worked for the daily newspaper Haaretz and several other literary and cultural journals. In 1927 he founded the short-lived satirical theater Ha-Kumkum ( The Kettle) and wrote most of...
34. Mordechai Golinkin and the Palestine Opera (1927)
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This article is a tribute to Mordechai Golinkin (1875–1963), founder, director, and conductor of the Tel Aviv Opera House. Golinkin, born in the Ukraine, studied composition and conducting in Warsaw and became a conductor at the Marinskaya Opera in Petrograd. In 1917 he wrote the essay “Citadel of Art in Palestine,” and in May 1923 he came to Palestine to realize his dream of creating a Jewish opera company in the country. On July...
35. The Cinema Controversy in Tel Aviv (1932)
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The first movie house in Tel Aviv, Eden Cinema, was opened in 1914. Initially, the city’s governing body opposed the idea of opening a cinema in the city—they regarded movies as decadent and vulgar. The entrepreneurs behind Eden Cinema, using their influence among the city’s leaders, were able to finally get approval for their project, and they also secured exclusive rights that prevented other venues from showing films until 1925. In...
36. The Hebrew University (1925)
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The idea of creating a Jewish, or Hebrew, university was an integral part of the Zionist program from the movement’s very beginning. Chaim Weizmann (1874–1952) served as president of the Zionist Organization from 1921 to 1931 and again from 1935 to 1946, and after the creation of the state of Israel he served as the country’s first president. In addition to his political activities, Weizmann was a renowned chemist. He taught at...
Section IV: Jewish -Arab Conflict and Zionist Responses
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Palestinian nationalism defined itself largely in terms of opposition to Zionism. To be sure, even without Zionism, a Palestinian nationalism would still have developed, just as Arab nationalism took on specifically Egyptian, Syrian, and Iraqi forms. Throughout the Middle East, Arab nationalism was shaped by a paradoxical combination of resistance to European rule and the use of the colonial political divisions...
37. The Need for Defense (1919)
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Yitzhak Tabenkin (1888–1971) was a leader of Ha-Kibbutz ha-Me‘uhad (United Kibbutz movement). Although primarily associated with his kibbutz, Ein Harod, and the kibbutz movement, Tabenkin was a member of the first Zionist militia, Ha-Shomer (see document 9 for more information), and served as a Palmach commander during the 1948 War. Tabenkin believed that a Jewish state with expansive borders was necessary for the...
38. Tel Hai (1920)
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After World War I, the northeastern corner of the Galilee, home to the Jewish settlements of Tel Hai, Metulla, and Hamra, temporarily lay beyond the boundaries of either British or French colonial control. Despite this power vacuum, and the killing of two settlers in December 1919 and February 1920, the communities were determined to hold on to their lands. They were commanded by Joseph Trumpeldor, a charismatic former Russian...
39. Yizkor (1920)
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Berl Katznelson (1887–1944) was one of the founders of the Labor Zionist movement in
Palestine. A prolific writer and editor, after World War I Katznelson served as the chief
ideologue of Ahdut Ha-Avodah and then of that party’s successor, Mapai, founded in
In this short text about Jewish settlers killed at Tel Hai, Katznelson evokes but transforms the traditional Jewish memorial prayer for the dead, the Yizkor, into a secular...
40. Response to the Arab Riots (1930) - General Federation of Laborers in the Land of Israel
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This document applies the most cherished principles of Labor Zionism to the understanding of Jewish–Arab relations in the Yishuv and the origins of Palestinian–Arab violence against Jews. The doctrine of class conflict and belief in the trickle-down benefit of technological progress underlie this representation of Arab resistance to Zionism as the product of ignorance and manipulation rather than national consciousness or fears...
41. The Future of Zionist Policy (1932)
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Chaim Arlosoroff (1899–1933) was one of the founders of Mapai and the head of the political department of the Jewish Agency. Arlosoroff was born in the Ukraine; his family relocated to Germany in 1905, and he received his doctorate in economics from the University of Berlin. His dissertation focused on Marx’s theory of class struggles. Arlosoroff criticized the materialist, reductionist tendencies that influenced more...
42. On the Partition of Palestine (1937)
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This letter, written by Ben-Gurion from London to his adolescent son, Amos, has
acquired a good deal of notoriety in Middle Eastern historiography. It has been cited as
evidence that Ben-Gurion consciously planned the expulsion of the Palestinians a decade
before Israel’s War of Independence. The letter is published in full here for the first time.
The factual background to this letter was the Peel Commission’s recommendation in July 1937 that Palestine be partitioned into Jewish and Arab states. The Peel Commission...
43. Platform for Judeo-Arab Accord (1930)
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Chaim Margalit-Kalvarisky (1867–1947) was a veteran of the First Aliyah and devoted his life to the seemingly contradictory causes of Zionist land purchase and Jewish–Arab coexistence in Palestine. Before World War I, while working as an administrator and land-purchase agent for the Jewish Colonization Association, Kalvarisky developed close ties with many rural Arab notables, and during the 1920s, he was the Zionist...
44. Platform (1942)
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In 1942, as news of the genocide of European Jewry penetrated the consciousness of the Yishuv and American Jewry, most Zionists reacted by demanding full-blown Jewish statehood in Palestine. Their reasoning, reflected in the Biltmore Program, was that nothing short would provide a guaranteed refuge for the survivors. A small group of prominent Zionists, however, responded differently, by stressing the need for a binational...
45. On the Iron Wall (1923)
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“On the Iron Wall” became one of the cornerstones of Zionist Revisionist thought. It was one of the first instances in which a Zionist leader addressed the Arab question in Palestine from a political and national perspective. The article underscored Jabotinsky’s belief that force and military power should be at the core of the Zionist movement’s policies, and it revealed his aversion to any sort of political or ideological compromise...
46. On Militarism (1929)
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This article reveals the great importance that Jabotinsky attributed to the virtues of militarism in achieving the goals of Zionism. Unlike the political and historical consideration that informed his analysis in “On the Iron Wall,” in this article Jabotinsky does not explore so much the practical benefits of militarism to the Jewish national movement, but rather the type of qualities—order, discipline, strength, decorum—that militarism...
Section V: World War II, The Holocaust, and the Yishuv
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As in 1914, so in 1939 Palestine became part of a Middle Eastern theater of war. The German-Italian Axis vied with an alliance of Britain, France, and, after June 1941, Russia for control over a vast territory from North Africa into Central Asia. Unlike the previous conflict, where the Allies gained Arab support by encouraging rebellion against their Ottoman rulers, this time around the Allies themselves...
47. Diary (1940–41)
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World War II affected the Yishuv in many ways. As discussed in the introduction to this section, until late 1942 it was under threat of invasion from German forces advancing from North Africa, and it also suffered bombing by Italian aircraft. Most of the Yishuv had close family and friends in Europe and anxiously followed news of Nazi atrocities against Jews. For the most part, however, Palestine was spared the ravages of war. Its...
48. Introduction to The Book of Valor (1941)
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In 1941, as the Yishuv faced an imminent threat of Nazi invasion from North Africa, Labor Zionist leader Berl Katznelson (see document 39) decided that the Histadrut’s new publishing house, Am Oved, should present as its debut book an anthology of texts documenting Jewish heroism over the millennia. The goal was to inspire the members of the Yishuv to sacrifice, partly in keeping with the traditions of their ancestors...
49. On the Defense of Palestine and the Jews (1942)
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During World War II, the Zionist movement attributed supreme importance to the formation of a Jewish army within the Allied forces. The Labor Zionist leaders of the Yishuv proposed it even before the war, and the Zionist Organization’s president, Chaim Weizmann, did the same in a letter to the British government two days after the Nazi...
50. Origins of the Palmach (1941–42)
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During the first half of World War II, the Yishuv faced threats on several fronts. Nazi forces were galloping across North Africa, and Syria and Lebanon had fallen under the rule of the collaborationist Vichy regime. Within Palestine, tensions between Jews and Arabs abated in the wake of British suppression of the Arab revolt, but the Yishuv leadership expected renewed Arab violence. In May 1941, Yizhak Sadeh (see notes 7 and...
51. The Palmach’s First Operations (1944)
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In this text, Yitzhak Sadeh provides a detailed account of the Palmach’s first action, a sortie into Vichy Syria in June 1941, involving some thirty fighters and two Australian brigades—underscoring the cooperation between the Yishuv and the British in the struggle against the Nazis and their allies. (On the Palmach and Sadeh see document 50.) The document also reveals the fears in the Yishuv at the time (1941) of a potential...
52. The Palmach Anthem (1941)
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Zerubavel Gilad, a member of Kibbutz Ein Harod, was a poet, writer, and the Palmach’s cultural officer. The anthem was written in the summer of 1941, and at first it was sung to the melody of a Red Army song, in keeping with the Palmach’s self-image as a revolutionary vanguard closely tied to the Soviet project. In 1943, David Zahavi provided...
53. Outlines of Zionist Policy (1941)
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This document, written shortly before Ben-Gurion left the United Kingdom for the United States, consists of talking points for him to raise with American Zionist leaders. This and other documents were removed from Ben-Gurion’s luggage and copied by British censorship officials, and it is possible that Ben-Gurion intentionally placed the...
54. Liberating Jerusalem (1942)
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At the beginning of the Second World War, the Haganah halted all military operations in Palestine in support of the British fight against the Nazis. The Etzel—the paramilitary organization associated with the Revisionist movement—leadership decided to take part as well in the ceasefire but some Etzel members refused, withdrew from Etzel, and formed Lehi (see document 56). Other members of Etzel who remained with the organization...
55. Four Years (1943)
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Ha-Shomer Ha-Tsa’ir ( the Young Guard) is a socialist Zionist movement founded in 1913 in Galicia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The movement was heavily influenced by the writings of Ber Borochov, who combined Zionism with a Marxist historical approach. Members of the movement first settled in Palestine in 1919; in 1927 they founded Ha-Kibbutz Ha-Artzi (the National Kibbutz Federation). By the start of the...
56. Works of Avraham Stern and Lehi (1932–ca. 1943)
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Avraham Stern (1907–42) was one of the leaders of the Etzel and later, from 1940 until his death, the commander of Lehi (Lohamei Herut Israel—Fighters for the Freedom of Israel). Stern was born in Suwalki, Poland, and came to Palestine at the age of eighteen. He enrolled at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem where he studied classical languages. As a student he joined the Hulda group—a student organization with strong nationalistic...
Section VI: The Struggle for Palestine and the Establishment of the State
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After the end of World War II the Zionists’ attention moved to the one million Jews who had survived the war and remained within the borders of the former Nazi empire. They focused in particular upon 250,000 Jewish refugees in Displaced Persons camps that the Allies had set up in Germany and Austria. The Zionist leadership claimed that Palestine was the only logical destination for the refugees. The...
57. The Silver Platter (1947)
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Poetry was a revered form of expression about many aspects of Yishuv life, particularly those associated with struggle, challenge, and loss. We saw one example of this in Nathan Alterman’s “Song of the Valley” (document 15), a paean to the pioneers and fallen heroes of the Zionist labor movement. Similarly, Alterman’s “The Silver Platter” quickly assumed an iconic status in Israel, symbolizing the courage and sacrifice of...
58. A Jewish Child’s Letter to an Israeli Soldier (1948)
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The mobilized, militaristic ethos embodied in the previous document was not limited to a narrow elite of politicians and intellectuals, nor to the domains of the Labor movement or the Yishuv’s militias. It percolated into middle-class and Orthodox–Zionist circles, and it was found among children as well as adolescents and adults. This letter was written by a ten-year-old boy, Eliezer Don-Yehiye, who lived on Kfar-Hasidim, a moshav near...
59. Public Opinion during the 1948 War
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There are limits to the capacity of published sources to reflect authentic public opinion, in the Yishuv or anywhere else. Thus public opinion surveying, which dates back to the early twentieth century, can be extremely valuable, although one must carefully examine the survey’s sampling techniques and possible biases of the observers. In the winter of 1948, crude but highly suggestive public opinion surveys were compiled in the Haifa...
60. Radio Broadcasts from The Voice of Fighting Zion (1947)
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Relations between the Yishuv’s Labor Zionist leadership and the Irgun reached a nadir in the winter of 1945. The Yishuv leadership and the militia under its jurisdiction, the Haganah, favored cooperation with the British in the war effort against Nazi Germany. The Irgun, however, had in 1944 declared a revolt against British rule in Palestine and was attacking British forces (see document 54). Over a period of about three months...
61. Deir Yassin (1948)
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This document is a transcript of a radio broadcast by the Irgun’s broadcasting service
that reported on the battle of Deir Yassin, a village on the western outskirts of Jerusalem.
Before 1948 there existed good relations between Deir Yassin and Jewish Jerusalem. In the wake of the United Nation’s resolution to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, Palestinians and Jews began to fight, and local Arab forces were joined by...
62. The Status Quo Agreements (1947)
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Labor and Religious Zionists had a long history of political cooperation. At the 1935 Zionist Congress, Mapai drew the Religious Zionist party Mizrahi into a coalition government by offering support for Sabbath closings in the Yishuv. Relations were more tense, however, between Mapai and the ultra-Orthodox Agudat Yisra’el, which opposed Zionism in principle. During the 1930s and Second World War, many leaders of the Agudah...
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Page Count: 380
Publication Year: 2011
Series Title: Sources in Modern Jewish History
Series Editor Byline: David Sorkin, Series Editor