The first Hovevei Zion ("Lovers of
Zion") organizations had been established in 18811882 with the
aim of furthering Jewish settlement, particularly agricultural
settlement in Eretz-Israel. The groups varied not only in size but in
their activity. Some were interested in philanthropic work while
others were intent on immigration to Eretz-Israel.
From its inception, the Hovevei Zion groups in
Russia sought to erect a countrywide legally recognized framework.
After arduous negotiations, in which the authorities demanded that
the society be set up as a charitable body, its establishment was
approved, early in 1890, as "The Society for the Support of
Jewish Farmers and Artisans in Syria and Eretz-Israel," which
came to be known as "The Odessa Committee."
In 1892, the organization had approximately 14,000
sympathizers in Russia. Among its leaders were Rabbi
Samuel Mohilever (18241898), Moshe Leib Lilienblum (18431910)
and Leon Pinsker (18211891).
Following the publication of Herzl's Der Judenstaat in 1896 and the
establishment of the World Zionist Organization,
most of the branches of Hovevei Zion aligned themselves with the new