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Moshe Sharett

(1894 - 1965)

Moshe Sharett was born on October 15, 1894, in Kherson (Ukraine). He moved to Palestine, then part of the Ottoman Empire, with his family in 1908, making their first home in the Arab village of Ein Sinia; the experience left him with a command of Arabic and Arab customs.

Sharett and his family moved in 1910 to Jaffa, where they became one of the founding families of Ahuzat Bayit, the earliest nucleus of the city of Tel Aviv. Moshe was a member of the first graduating class of the first Hebrew high school in the country, the Herzliya Gymnasium.

Sharett began studying law in Istanbul, but his studies were interrupted by service in the Turkish Army in World War I as an interpreter. He then worked as an Arab affairs and land purchase agent for the postwar Palestine Jewish Community’s Representative Council. He was a member of Ahdut ha-Avodah (Unity of Labor) and later of Mapai (Israel Workers’ Party). From 1922 to 1924, he studied at the London School of Economics and was active in Poalei Zion (Workers of Zion). He then became deputy editor of the Histadrut Labor Federation’s daily Davar newspaper in 1925 and edited its English-language weekly until 1931, when he assumed the post of Secretary of the Jewish Agency’s Political Department.

From 1933 until 1948, Sharett was in effect the Zionist movement’s ambassador and chief negotiator vis-a-vis the British Mandatory Authorities. Though the British incarcerated him for four months in Latrun detention camp, he later succeeded in establishing the British Army’s Jewish Brigade in 1944, which provided the postwar lifeline and illegal repatriation route to Mandatory Palestine for tens of thousands of the remnant of European Jewry.

In 1947, he appeared before the United Nations General Assembly in the vital partition debate and was one of the signatories of Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

Sharett became Israel’s first Foreign Minister in 1949, establishing the nation’s diplomatic service and bilateral relations and embassies with dozens of countries. As Foreign Minister, he led the Israeli delegations to the protracted cease-fire negotiations during and after the War of Independence.

In January 1954, after David Ben-Gurion retired, Sharett became Premier. As Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sharett presided over a continuation of the extraordinary pace of national socioeconomic development and immigrant absorption which characterized Israel during that era. When Ben-Gurion returned to political life in November 1955, Sharett yielded the post of Prime Minister to him, but remained Foreign Minister until June 1956.

Upon retirement, he became the head of the Am Oved (Working Nation) publishing house, Chairman of Beit Berl College and representative of the Labor Party at the Socialist International.

In 1960, he was elected by the World Zionist Congress to the chairmanship of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency.

Sharett passed away at the age of 71 on July 7, 1965.

Photo: GPO Photographer, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.