HAMASHBIR HAMERKAZI, the main wholesale supplier for consumers' cooperatives and labor settlements in Israel; the first economic agency to be established by the labor movement in Ereẓ Israel. It was founded (as Hamashbir) in 1916, during the economic crisis of World War I, to supply the working population with reasonably priced goods, and was reorganized as Hamashbir Hamerkazi in 1930. In addition to its wholesaling activities, it developed the consumers' cooperative movement all over the country, opened large stores in the main towns, and established factories, mainly in the textiles and food-processing industries, which were transferred to a separate company, Hamashbir Hamerkazi Le-Taasia. Hamashbir was affiliated to the *Histadrut, whose economic arm, Ḥevrat ha-Ovedim, was entitled to appoint a representative on its general management and intervene in matters of principle. Its general conference, consisting of delegates from collective and cooperative villages and of cooperative societies, elected a 71-member council, which appointed a general management of 21, which, in turn, chose the 10-man active management. Its turnover in 1968 was IL376 million ($107 million) and it supplied 800 cooperative stores in town and country. In the 1990s, as the Histadrut sold off its assets, it passed into private hands. Hamashbir Hamerkazi Le-Taasia ceased to exist.
Histadrut, Makhon le-Meḥkar Kalkali ve-Ḥevrati, Meshek ha-Ovedim 1960–1965 (1967); I. Avineri (ed.), Ha-Lu'aḥ ha-Ko'operativi shel Medinat Yisrael (1968).
[Leon Aryeh Szeskin]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.