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Yosef Vitkin

(1876 - 1912)

Yosef Vitkin was born in Byelorussia and moved to Eretz Yisrael in 1897. He worked briefly as a laborer, and then, well-educated himself, worked in education. He began as a teacher in Gedera, and soon became in charge of the school there. From there he moved to head the school in Rishon LeZion and then, in 1904, in Kfar Tavor, returning to Rishon two years later. Vitkin's educational emphasis was to instill in his students a love of Jewish values and an appreciation of the Eretz Yisrael landscape.

An ardent Zionist, Vitkin expressed many of the ideals that led to the Second Aliyah. In 1905 he wrote and distributed a pamphlet entitled, "A Call to the Youth of Israel whose Hearts are with their People and with Zion," in which he encouraged aliyah based on the principles of manual labor in the national homeland. He acknowledged the immense physical difficulties that lay ahead, which no doubt would claim the efforts and lives of many. Nonetheless, trepidation and despair must give way to patience, commitment, and belief in ultimate success. The people of Israel must be prepared to sacrifice for their homeland, as would any other people give of themselves for their own country. Vitkin urged, "Heroes of Israel, hurry and move forward. Renew the days of the Biluim with even greater strength, for otherwise we will surely and swiftly be lost." Vitkin's pamphlet, which he signed "A Group of Young People from Eretz Yisrael" was influential in renewing the Zionist efforts and ideals in Europe.

Vitkin was one of the founders and leaders of the HaPoel HaZair party. In addition to his insistence on Jewish labor, Vitkin emphasized "agricultural conquest," namely, Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael.

Sources: Joint Authority for Jewish Zionist Education