He-Halutz (Heb. הֶחָלוּץ; "the pioneer") was an association of Jewish youth whose aim was to train its members to settle on the land in Israel. The original meaning of the Hebrew word is the vanguard that leads the host on its advance (Josh. 6:13).
Origin of the Movement
The idea of He-Halutz was conceived during the crisis that overtook Russian Jewry in the aftermath of the 1881 pogroms. This awakening was influenced indirectly by the Russian revolutionary movement, which called upon the intelligentsia to "go out to the people." Two of the societies that were formed at this time – *Bilu, which called for settlement in Ereẓ Israel, and *Am Olam, which advocated settlement in the United States – were pioneer movements that imposed the concepts of "self-fulfillment" upon their members and planned for collective or cooperative settlement. At the beginning of the 20th century, a Jewish youth movement made up of small groups gradually came into being. Menaḥem *Ussishkin gave impetus to this development in 1904, when he called for the establishment of "a general Jewish workers' organization made up of unmarried young people of sound body and spirit. Each member would be committed to settle for a period of three years in Ereẓ Israel, where he would render army service for the Jewish people, his weapons being not the sword and the rifle, but the spade and the plow" (in Our Program). Such movements arose under different names in various countries: in America He-Halutz, founded by Eliezer *Joffe in 1905 (see below); in Russia, a number of societies, among them Bilu'im Ḥadashim (new Bilu'im) and He-Halutz. They were encouraged by the Ereẓ Israel workers, who called for the settlement of ḥalutzim (A.D. Gordon in 1904, Joseph *Vitkin in 1905, the Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir in 1908, etc.) and sent emissaries abroad to urge young Jews to settle in Ereẓ Israel.
The *Ẓe'irei Zion movement included in its platform "the organization of ḥalutzim and their training for aliyah."
The February Revolution of 1917 opened up new possibilities for Zionist activities in Russia. An article on He-Halutz by Ben-Zvi, published in Yevreyskaya Zhizn in April 1917, made a profound impression upon Jewish youth. The second conference of Ẓe'irei Zion, which convened in Petrograd in May 1917, adopted a resolution calling for "the education of the youth to the ideas of ḥalutziyyut and the organization of He-Halutz groups to serve as the basis of Jewish national life in Ereẓ Israel." The *Balfour Declaration, issued in November 1917, greatly accelerated the process, and groups of ḥalutzim developed in Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Galicia, Bessarabia, etc. At first the various groups had no connection with one another, but gradually they became part of a national organization and eventually a worldwide movement. In January 1918, the founding convention of the Russian He-Halutz met in Kharkov. At this conference, a controversy, which dominated the movement for a number of years, arose between the "idealists," who argued that He-Halutz should serve as a vanguard and assume tasks of outstanding importance for the Zionist movement, and the "materialists," who saw the movement simply as the organization of Jewish workers planning to settle in Ereẓ Israel.
In the spring of 1918, Joseph *Trumpeldor joined the organization of He-Halutz. In July and September 1918, conferences of Zionist organizations and of He-Halutz groups were held, and it was decided that the movement would be Zionist but nonpartisan and would accept for membership Jewish youth over 18 who recognized Hebrew as their national language and were preparing for settlement in Ereẓ Israel. Trumpeldor formulated these decisions in a Russian-language pamphlet titled He-Halutz, which was widely distributed in Russia. On Jan. 6, 1919, the first conference of the movement, in which representatives of 23 groups in central Russia and Belorussia took part, took place in Moscow. Trumpeldor, who had lost hope of creating a Jewish army of 100,000 men in Russia that would march to Ereẓ Israel through the Caucasus, called for the establishment of a "military He-Halutz" of 10,000 men to replace the British garrison in Ereẓ Israel. The conference decided upon a series of general principles: He-Halutz is a nonpartisan association of workers who have resolved to settle in Ereẓ Israel in order to live by their own labor, rejecting exploitation of others' work; it will train its members for life in Ereẓ Israel, transport them there, and facilitate their absorption in the country; its final goal is the establishment of a sovereign Jewish nation in Ereẓ Israel; it accepts the authority of the Zionist Congress. Trumpeldor was elected president and asked to go to Ereẓ Israel to prepare the ground for the absorption of ḥalutzim. An executive body was elected and took up its seat in Minsk. In spite of the chaotic conditions prevailing in Russia during the civil war, He-Halutz entered upon a period of rapid development. A wave of unorganized emigration began; it was made up of various groups of ḥalutzim who set out on the way to Ereẓ Israel along different routes – across the Romanian, Polish, Lithuanian, and Latvian borders and by way of the Black Sea and the Caucasian Mountains. The number of groups associated with the center grew to 120. When Trumpeldor fell at *Tel Ḥai (March 1920) the movement lost its natural leader, but he became the symbol of its ideals, as he had realized the aims of He-Halutz – settling in Ereẓ Israel, working there, and being prepared to give one's life in its defense.
For He-Halutz, the consolidation of the Soviet regime meant the beginning of a process that was to end in the total suppression of the movement. The Yevsektsiya (the Jewish "section" in the Communist Party) played a role in this process. When the He-Halutz center, then in Moscow, applied to the authorities for official approval of its activities, it received the reply (March 18, 1918) that there was no need for official approval as long as the activities of He-Halutz conformed to the laws of the Soviet Union. This rather equivocal reply (which at the time did not apply to the Ukraine and Belorussia) provided a basis, however uncertain, for the continued existence of the movement. In many places, its training farms dovetailed with the official efforts of "productivization" of those Jews who had lost their source of livelihood, and sometimes He-Halutz was even officially encouraged to continue these training activities. The hasty and unorganized aliyah of ḥalutzim, however, adversely affected the development of the movement. In October 1920 another conference of He-Halutz, which took place at Kharkov, emphasized the need for training ḥalutzim before their move to Ereẓ Israel. During the following years while the Jewish shtetl was rapidly being destroyed, the movement continued to develop, even
At this juncture, the first signs of a split in the ranks of He-Halutz made their appearance. Some of its members decided to adapt "He-Halutz" to the state ideology in order to achieve official approval of its activities; others, however, felt that He-Halutz should retain its nonpartisan character and disassociate itself from Communism. In April 1923 the Council of He-Halutz met in Moscow and decided upon program guidelines, which included a paragraph defining He-Halutz as an organic part of the Jewish and international working class and, recognizing the inevitability of the class war, declaring that the movement would fight against capitalism in all its forms. Another paragraph stipulated that members who "oppose the idea of the kevuẓah and who wish to plan their lives as members of a moshav ovedim would not be admitted to the training groups." These resolutions caused an uproar in He-Halutz and a bitter controversy broke out. Ben-Gurion, who was in the Soviet Union at the time visiting its agricultural exhibition as a delegate of the *Histadrut, made an unsuccessful attempt to settle the dispute. In August 1923, when the He-Halutz statute was given official sanction, the movement split into two factions: the "legal" faction, advocating class warfare and a collective way of life, and the "illegal" faction, which regarded itself as a national Jewish workers' movement.
The legal He-Halutz strove to utilize the limited possibilities deriving from its status. Official branches were opened in various places (excluding, however, the Ukraine and Belorussia, where the official approval did not apply); a struggle was conducted, in public, with the Jewish Communist activists, and permission was obtained for the publication of a journal (He-Halutz), which printed 3,000 copies and contained news from Ereẓ Israel. Members of He-Halutz participated in official celebrations and holidays (May Day, the anniversary of the Revolution), displaying Zionist slogans and singing Zionist songs. He-Halutz also joined the organizations designed to encourage the agricultural settlement of Jews in Russia (Ozet) and struggled inside these organizations against the design to turn them into instruments against aliyah. More training farms such as Ma'yan in the Crimea and Zangen near Moscow were established. The illegal faction of He-Halutz carried on its activities underground and also succeeded in establishing training farms of its own, such as Mishmar in the Crimea (1924) and Bilu in Belorussia (1925). At the end of 1925 the factions had a total membership of 14,000.
The year 1926, however, was a turning point for the worse. News of the economic crisis in Palestine had a depressing effect, and many ḥalutzim – including some who had been members of the Work Battalion – returned from Palestine as disappointed men. At the same time the settlement of Jews on the land in the U.S.S.R. boasted considerable achievements, and it seemed to many that this was the proper way to the large-scale "productivization" of Russian Jewry. The Soviet authorities now persecuted both factions of He-Halutz. No aid was forthcoming from the Zionist movement or the He-Halutz movement abroad. In March 1928 the government canceled the approval it had given to one faction, and both were now illegal. The training farms of He-Halutz were disbanded and their members had only one course left – to go to Ereẓ Israel after first spending years in jail and exile. Even this course was fraught with difficulties and eventually came to an end. Slowly the movement was suppressed, although efforts to keep it alive continued until 1934. Those members of He-Halutz who had not succeeded in leaving for Ereẓ Israel remained in prison or exile, some to be liquidated during the mass purges (among them Shemu'el Schneurson, one of the leaders of the underground He-Halutz who had returned from Ereẓ Israel in 1926 to take part in the underground work of the movement).
The He-Halutz movement in Russia affected the development of the movement far beyond the confines of the country. Hundreds of ḥalutzim from Soviet Russia who passed through Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, etc., on their way to Ereẓ Israel were of significant help to the movement in those countries. The final severance of the He-Halutz movement in Russia from the outside world and from Ereẓ Israel was one of the severest blows dealt to the Zionist Movement.
At the same time, the movement spread all over Europe, as well as overseas. In 1921 He-Halutz conferences took place in no fewer than 25 countries in Eastern, Central, and Western Europe, the countries of North Africa and the Middle East, North and South America, and South Africa. With the suppression of all Zionist activities in the Soviet Union, the center of the movement was resituated in Poland. During the 12th Zionist Congress (Carlsbad 1921), the He-Halutz organizations held their first world conference and decided to establish a world federation with headquarters in Warsaw. The movement in Poland began at the same time as in Russia (at the beginning of the century), but only at the end of the war did it become a mass movement. The growth of He-Halutz in Poland was greatly encouraged by the Balfour Declaration and the renewal of ties with Ereẓ Israel, particularly with the workers' parties, as well as by the pauperization of the Jewish masses and the appearance of a young and inspired leadership that searched for a way to Jewish national freedom and the creation of a new Jewish society.
The program of He-Halutz consisted of three basic, interdependent points: organization, training (hakhsharah), and
The reports of the arrival of the "Bendin" and Radom groups gave new encouragement to the movement in Poland. Branches were organized and training programs instituted in hundreds of towns and cities. Training was divided into two parts: ideological training (Zionism and social sciences, history and geography of Ereẓ Israel, and Hebrew) and practical training (vocational education, primarily in agriculture). Many ḥalutzim were employed by Jewish and gentile landowners (especially in Galicia) as individuals or in groups; but in the main the training was conducted on farms established and maintained by He-Halutz. The largest and best known of the dozens of such farms were at Grochow (near Warsaw), Czestochowa, Grodno, Suwalki, and Bendzin. There were also training facilities in quarries (the best known of them, in Klosow, Volhynia), sawmills, textile factories, etc. The expansion of the training program was followed by an increase in aliyah.
In 1918 Russian ḥalutzim on their way to Palestine began entering Poland illegally. At first they came in small groups, but in the period 1919–23 the flow took on considerable proportions. The ḥalutzim came mostly from Podolia, the Ukraine, Volhynia, and Belorussia, and they converged on Vilna, Baranovichi, Rovno, Pinsk, and Warsaw. In the initial phase the Polish authorities tolerated their illegal entry on the basis of documents furnished by the Palestine Office of the Zionist Movement and provided the ḥalutzim with emigrants' passports on the assumption that their stay in Poland would be short. When immigration to Palestine was stopped in 1921, however, the Polish authorities took severe measures against the ḥalutzim, arresting and deporting them back to the Soviet border. It was only after the Zionist institutions had undertaken to speed up the departure of the ḥalutzim for Ereẓ Israel that the situation was alleviated. The Russian ḥalutzim established an organization of Russian and Ukrainian ḥalutzim in Poland, many of whom were placed in the Polish He-Halutz training farms, while others were in ḥalutzim hostels and private employment. These refugees from Russia left an indelible imprint upon the Polish movement. Eventually the Russian ḥalutzim were able to go to Palestine, and the last transport of 400 arrived in Jaffa on May 3, 1923.
The Polish He-Halutz movement established within its ranks He-Halutz ha-Ẓa'ir, which maintained close relations with various Zionist youth movements, such as Dror (Freiheit), *Gordonia, *Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir, etc. The Polish He-Halutz reached the height of its development during the Fourth and Fifth aliyot. In 1924, He-Halutz in Poland had a membership of 1,700; in 1925 – 4,600; 1930 – 11,600; 1933 – 41,000. Members enrolled in the training program numbered 712 in 1925, 2,450 in 1926, 2,230 in 1932, 4,450 in 1933, 7,915 in 1935. The Polish movement also published a number of periodicals: He-Halutz, He-Atid, He-Halutz ha-Ẓa'ir, etc. In 1934 He-Halutz inaugurated the "illegal" *immigration movement by dispatching the boat Velos with ḥalutzim from Poland and the Baltic states. In the late 1930s He-Halutz cooperated with the *Haganah in organizing the ḥalutzim as "illegal" immigrants, in their transportation to Palestine, and in the struggle for opening the gates of Palestine. During World War II He-Halutz members were among the most active resistance fighters against the Nazis.
He-Halutz in Lithuania was established after World War I and based itself initially upon cooperative societies (in carpentry, tailoring, food processing, etc.). Due to lack of capital and experience, these cooperative societies did not last long, and they were replaced by agricultural training facilities. The main center of agricultural training was a farm run solely by He-Halutz known as Kibbush. Memel, the German port annexed by Lithuania, was also a center of He-Halutz activities; it had an urban cooperative, the members of which were engaged in a variety of activities, including marine and port operations. Memel was also known in the movement for its outstanding He-Halutz House. Other urban He-Halutz cooperatives existed at Kaunas, Siauliai, Vilkaviskis, Poniviez, etc. The membership of He-Halutz in Lithuania ranged from 1,000 to 1,500.
In Latvia, the He-Halutz movement's main training farm was located at Altasmuza, near Riga. Originally the property of *OZE, it was transferred to He-Halutz and also served as a school, with the teachers receiving their salaries from the state.
He-Halutz came into existence in Romania in 1918, when Bessarabia, Bukovina, and Transylvania were incorporated into the country. It was started by ḥalutzim who had fled from Russia and the Ukraine and had to spend periods of varying length in Romania before they were able to proceed to Ereẓ Israel. These ḥalutzim-in-transit established cooperatives of their own and also worked in the fields and forests. As a first step, the Romanian He-Halutz acquired two training farms: one was later sold and replaced by the Massadah farm near Beltsy, and the other was near Jassy. Other farms were established near Galati and Bucharest. The capital for the acquisition of the farms and their maintenance was provided by a Friends of He-Halutz Society. Most Zionist youth movements (Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir, Gordonia, Dror, *Ha-No'ar ha-Ẓiyyoni, *Bnei Akiva, etc.) participated in the activities of He-Halutz. During the 1930s, when the antisemitic *Iron Guard rampaged the country, the He-Halutz movement grew at a rapid pace, assisted by emissaries from Palestine. An important role was played by the Romanian ports, mainly Constanţa, which were used by olim from all over Europe on their way to Ereẓ Israel. The passage of many thousands of ḥalutzim through the country served to accelerate the aliyah of Romanian ḥalutzim as well. During the war the Romanian ports made history when no fewer then 40,000 "illegal" immigrants to Palestine, using dozens of boats, set out from them. Romanian ḥalutzim functioning under Nazi rule as an underground organization fulfilled a vital task in organizing and safeguarding the "illegal" immigration, often at the risk of their lives.
Early manifestations of interest in ḥaluziyyut among a part of the Jewish youth in Germany, Austria, and what was later to become Czechoslovakia came to the fore during World War I. Officially, He-Halutz was established in Germany at the end of 1918, and, as a first step, hundreds of ḥalutzim (calling themselves Praktikanten and organized in a Praktikantenbund) went out to work on farm estates in order to train for life in Ereẓ Israel. This experiment, however, did not last long, and He-Halutz established a number of training farms of its own. The movement's farms were not successful either, and only one ("Ha-Mahpekhah" – "the Revolution") was able to maintain itself for any period of time. The lack of Zionist education and of a sizable working class among Central European Jewry prevented the development of He-Halutz along East European lines. There were differences between the members of *Blau-Weiss and the ḥalutzim who had not been affiliated with this youth movement; the former had their roots in the German youth movement (e.g., the Wandervogel), and the revolutionary spirit of He-Halutz in Eastern Europe was alien to them. This created difficulties in the merger of the two elements in one organization, which was technically achieved by the efforts of leaders on both sides. The differences between them, however, were never entirely overcome. Czechoslovakia was the country in which He-Halutz was the closest in spirit and methods to the movement in Lithuania and Poland. The movement in Western Europe developed along lines similar to Central Europe.
The first He-Halutz organization in the U.S. was established in 1905, at the same time that a similar organization was formed in Odessa (Crimea). Its founders were a group of Zionist youth, most of whom were Russian immigrants from rural communities, who met in the Ha-Teḥiyah offices in New York and formed He-Halutz to serve as the nucleus of a world movement to revive Jewish settlement in Ereẓ Israel. Anchored in *Po'alei Zion, the organization was led by Eliezer Joffe who wrote articles in several newspapers to enlist the participation of youth in settling in Palestine as pioneers. In 1906 Joffe published an article titled "The People's Road to Its Land," in which he staked the rebirth of the Jewish people on the dedication of young pioneers. Meanwhile, in 1905, Ḥalutzei Po'alei Zion was formed within Po'alei Zion, with branches in New York, Philadelphia, Montreal, Baltimore, and elsewhere. In 1908 the New York He-Halutz group was absorbed into a new organization, Ha-Ikkar ha-Ẓa'ir, whose program remained nearly identical with that of He-Halutz. During World War I, the U.S. He-Halutz movement received a tremendous impetus from the presence of Ben-Gurion and Ben-Zvi, who tried to establish a He-Halutz organization in the U.S. with the help of the Po'alei Zion party and published a Yiddish pamphlet, "Printsipen un Oyfgaben" (Sifriyyat He-Halutz, 1917). Several hundred Jewish youth responded to its call for pioneers to rebuild a Jewish homeland through practical settlement rather than political or other means. The original goal of the movement was to settle pioneers at the earliest opportunity. However, when immigration to Palestine was restricted in 1926, the world He-Halutz movement began to focus its emphasis on hakhsharah ("preparation" or "training") for potential pioneer youth.
Many Jewish youths were aroused by the Arab riots in Palestine and the subsequent British White Paper in 1929, and in 1932 the He-Halutz Organization of America was formed with headquarters in New York and 20 city and rural branches across the U.S. and in Canada. In 1933 He-Halutz rented its first hakhsharah farm, and it subsequently purchased farms at Creamridge, N.J. (1936); Heightstown, N.J. (1940); Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Smithville, Ont.; and Colton, Calif. (1948) to train its members for agricultural work in Palestine. In 1935 Young Po'alei Zion embarked on a training program within the He-Halutz framework, and in 1939 Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir joined He-Halutz after nearly a decade of negotiations. By 1940 the He-Halutz Organization of America included nearly all Zionist youth of the Labor and General Zionist wings. After the outbreak of World War II, He-Halutz initiated industrial, aviation, nursing, and other technical training programs, while continuing its agricultural training. By 1948 He-Halutz
When World War II broke out, He-Halutz had a membership of 100,000. In 1927, according to statistics published by the Histadrut, 43% of all workers in Ereẓ Israel and 80% of the members of kibbutzim had been trained by He-Halutz before settling in Ereẓ Israel. After the war, the world movement of He-Halutz ceased to exist, although the activities that it had conducted were renewed on a smaller scale in Europe, the United States, and other countries. Pioneering youth movements, like all Zionist youth movements, now conduct their work under the auspices of the Youth and He-Halutz Department of the World Zionist Organization.
M. Basok (ed.), Sefer He-Halutz (1939); He-Halutz, Me'assef li-Tenu'at He-Halutz (Warsaw, 1930); HeḤalutz be Rusyah (1932); D. Pines, He-Halutz be-Khur ha-Mahpekhah (1938);); Y. Ereẓ (ed.), Sefer ha-Aliyyah ha-Shelishit, 2 vols. (1964); idem, Sefer Z.S. (1963); Z. Liberman (Livneh), Pirkei ha-Aliyyah ha-Shelishit (1958); I. Ritov, Perakim be-Toledot Ẓe'irei-Ẓiyyon (1964); Asufot, 6 (1959), 98–110; L. Spiezman, Khalutsim in Poyln, 3 vols. (1959–1962); M. Braslavsky, Toledot Tenu'at ha-Po'alim ha-Arẓisre'elit, 4 vols. (1955–1962), index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Y. Utiker, Tenu'at he-Ḥaluẓ be-Polin 1932–1935; Y. Oppenheim, Tenu'at he-Ḥaluẓ be-Polin, 2 vols. (1982, 1993); L.A. Sarid, He-Ḥaluẓ u-Tenu'ot ha-No'ar be-Polin 1917–1939 (1979); R. Perlis, Tenu'ot ha-No'ar va-Ḥaluẓiyyot be-Polin ha-Kevushah (1987); S. Nashmith, Hayu Ḥaluẓim be-Lita 1916–1941 (1983); I. Oppenheimer, "'Hehalutz' in Eastern Europe between the Two World Wars," in: Zionist Youth Movements during the Shoa (1996), 33–116; idem, "The Ideological Background of the 'Hehalutz' Movement in Russia and Poland in the 1920s," in: Polin 5 (1999), 131–55, C. Schatzker, "The Jewish Youth Movement in Germany in the Holocaust Period," in: LBIYB, 32 (1987), 157–81; 33 (1988), 301–25.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.