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Jewish Defense Organizations: Bar Giora

In the last quarter of the 19th century, when the first Jewish agricultural settlements came into being (see First Aliyah), the Jewish settlers had to cope with border friction, disputes over water rights and intrusions on their crops and property. Their choice was either to fight for their rights or to be left to the mercy of their neighbors. As a result, individuals and groups of young people organized to fight for these elementary rights. This was the period of the first shomrim - watchmen - typical of whom was Abraham Shapira. After some time, guard duty in most of the settlements became the task of local Arab strong men, who undertook to protect the Jewish settlers by sending their men to guard Jewish life and property.

The immigrants of the Second Aliyah were critical of the early settlers and well aware of the dangers involved in employing non-Jewish watchmen. On the initiative of Yisrael Shohat, about ten of them, including Yitzhak Ben Zvi, Zvi Becker, Israel Giladi, Yehezkiel Hankin, Yehezkiel Nisanov, Israel Shohat and Alexander Zeid, met in Jaffa in 1907 and founded a secret society called Bar-Giora (named after Simeon Bar Giora, the Jewish military leader in the war against Rome, (66-70 C.E.), with the aim of winning the right to work and guard the settlements as well as developing Jewish settlement in new areas.

The group’s founding principle: There is no redemption for our nation in our homeland unless each of us labors with his hands and stands up himself to demand his honor and his existence...and on the flag is written: ‘In blood and fire Judah fell, and in blood and fire Judah will arise.’

The members of Bar Giora were given responsibility for the protection of Sejera (Ilaniyah) and, in 1908, of Mesha (Kefar Tavor). In 1909, Bar Giora merged with the new defense body — Hashomer.

Sources: The Pedagogic Center, The Department for Jewish Zionist Education, The Jewish Agency for Israel, (c) 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, Director: Dr. Motti Friedman, Webmaster: Esther Carciente
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