ḤEVRAT HA-OVEDIM, cooperative society of Jewish workers founded in 1923 at the second conference of the *Histadrut. Its aim was to engage in settlement, industry, construction, and supply in both town and country on a basis of mutual aid and responsibility. Its immediate purpose was to help create jobs and livelihood opportunities for newly arriving pioneers and workers; the long-term aim was to bring about the establishment of a "labor commonwealth" in Ereẓ Israel. Every member of the Histadrut was a member of Ḥevrat ha-Ovedim and vice versa. The Histadrut's executive council (va'ad ha-po'el) was identical with Ḥevrat ha-Ovedim's management council (minhalah), which appointed its secretariat and its board of managers. Ḥevrat ha-Ovedim was a roof organization for the ramified enterprises run by the Histadrut and its members, and at its peak covered close to 25% of Israel's gainfully employed population. Its functions were supervisory and directive: It appointed managers for its industrial concerns and other economic bodies, checked and directed economic policy through audit unions, etc., and prepared general financial plans. It also participated in the ownership and management of various public, semi-public, and private enterprises. During the 1980s and the 1990s Ḥevrat ha-Ovedim was gradually stripped of its assets as the Histadrut sold off all its economic holdings, such as Koor, Solel Boneh, Bank Hapoalim, etc. The election of Haim *Ramon as secretary-general of the Histadrut in 1994 marked the final stage in the demise of Ḥevrat ha-Ovedim. To reduce the Histadrut's debt, Ramon sold off its last holdings and thus put an end to Ḥevrat ha-Ovedim.
Z. On, Ḥevrat ha-Ovedim: Kavvim u-Ve'ayot (1952); idem, Ḥevrat ha-Ovedim: Be'ayot u-Mesimot (1963); Y. Yagol, Ḥevrat ha-Ovedim: Te'amim u-Temurot (1959); Ḥevrat ha-Ovedim, Madrikh le-Mifalei ha-Histadrut (1962); H. Frumkin, Ḥevrat ha-Ovedim: Mahut, Mivneh, Be'ayot (1952).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.