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The role of Belarusian Jews in creating the state of Israel

On May 14, 1948 a new country - the State of Israel appeared on the political map of the world

The creation of the state of Israel was a result of the long and sophisticated process, the struggle of the Zionist movement activists to establish a national hearth on their historic motherland, as well as the skilful use of the new historic conditions after the United Nations victory over German fascism.

There were a lot of Belarusian Jews among those Zionist activists who performed the great practical work to create in Palestine the independent Jewish state. One of the leaders of the international Zionist movement and the first president of the state of Israel was a native of the place of Motol in Kobrin region of Grodno province (now the village of Motol in Ivanovo region of Brest oblast) Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952).

His father Ozer was a rafter and had 15 children. Chaim was the third one. After receiving a traditional Jewish education and graduating from a vocational school in Pinsk he studied Chemistry in Germany and Switzerland. Mr Weizmann got his doctors degree in 1897, when he was only 23 years old. A year before he joined Zionist movement , and in 1897 he took part in the World Zionist Congress.

In 1920-1931 and in 1935-1946 Mr Weizmann was elected the President of the World Zionist Organisation. His ebullient activities contributed to the creation in the British Army of the Jewish brigade at the end of the Second World War. In 1947 Mr Weizmann as a member of a Jewish delegation took an active part in the work of the General Assembly of the United Nations, which discussed a question of Palestine dividing into two independent states - Jewish and Arabic. One can consider as Mr Weizmanns diplomatic merits the including of the Negev areas in the territory of the future Jewish state proposed by the United Nations, and the promoting of the US recognition of the state of Israel. On May 14, 1948, at a day of the new state creation, President of the United States Harry Truman in response to Mr H. Weizmanns personal letter confirmed the recognition of Israel by the United States, and at the end of the same memorable day there appeared a telegram from the leaders of labour parties of the country, which said about their wish to nominate Weizmanns candidacy for the presidency of the state of Israel.

Exactly this person secured the promise of the US President to finance the start of economic development of the new state by granting it a $100 million privileged loan, as well as to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel immediately after forming the first democratic government of the country.

First, Chaim Weizmann was elected the President of the Provisional State Council of the country, and in February, 1949 - the first President of the state of Israel. One of the largest scientific centres in the country - a scientific and research institute in Rachovota was named after him, on the territory of which (in the garden of his house) he was buried.

The place of Vishnevo in Oshmyany region of Vilno province (now the village of Vishnevo in Volozhin region of Minsk oblast) gave to the world a Zionism leader Nachum Goldman (1895-1982). When he was 24, he defended his thesis and got the degree of Doctor of Law, and when he was 25 - the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. In 1936 Nachum Goldman become one of the founders of the World Jewish Congress. He was the first chairman of its Executive Council, and in 1949-1978 - the president of the World Jewish Congress.

At the beginning of the Second World War, Nachum Goldman moved to New York, where he began the propaganda and fight for the immediate creation of the independent Jewish state. In 1948-1956 he was the chairman of the Executive Committee of the Zionist Organisation. On all of his responsible chairs Nachum Goldman did his best to promote the creation and international recognition of the state of Israel.

Abba Achimeir (Abba Shaul Geisinovich) was one of the leaders of the Zionists-revisionists, an ideologist of the revisionist movements most radical wing, a politician and a talented publicist. He was born in 1898 in the village of Dolgoe in Soligorsk region. In 1928, when he lived in Palestine, Abba Achimeir joined Zionists-revisionists and became a supporter of active resistance to British mandate authorities. In 1935 he was arrested and imprisoned for organising the illegal "Rebels Union" (Brit-gabirionim). Abba Achimeirs views have significantly influenced the shaping of Ezel and Lechi underground combat organisations ideology. He died in 1962.

The native of the town of Bobruisk, Berl Kaznelson (1887-1944) became the leader and ideologist of the Zionism labour movement. His aim was to create an independent Jewish state in Erez-Israel, in which the society of equal workers will own the land and natural resources. In 1939 Katsnelson together with David Ben-Gurion became a leader of the partys "active" wing, that proclaimed stepping up the struggle against the British mandate authorities. He became an initiator of the "Kol Israel" underground radio station creation and the issue of the illegal journal Eshnav.

At the beginning of the Second World War Berl Kaznelson agitated for the mobilisation of the Palestine Jews to the British army, and he viewed that as a way of the Jewish armed forces training. At the end of the War Kaznelson joined those people who required the urgent creation of the Jewish state, notwithstanding even a possibility of the countrys division. Today the kibbutz Beeri, the training and pedagogical Bet-Berl centre of the Malai party and the Oholo training centre are named after Berl Kaznelson.

A native of the place of Mir in Korelichi region Zalman Shazar (Rubashov) (1889-1974) was one of the leaders of the Zionist and Jewish labour movement in Palestine and all over the world. He studied at the Universities of Germany and France. At the age of 22, Shazar first visited Palestine. After that he became an active propagandist of an independent Jewish state creation. Zalman Shazar was elected in the Zionist movement managing bodies, and after his move to Palestine in 1924 - in the Gistadrut managing board. He was one of the editors of the Davar newspaper, the member of the first Knesset.

Zalman Shazar was the minister of education and culture, the member of the Jewish agency (Sokhnut) board, the chief of the department of education and culture of the World Zionist Organisation. He was a talented writer, journalist and historian. On May 21, 1963 Zalman Shazar was elected the third president of Israel and had this chair during 10 years.

A native of the Belarusian town of Mogilev Rosa Kohen (1890-1937) was an active propagandist of the idea of a Jewish state creation in Palestine. Having arrived at the beginning of 1920s in Tel-Aviv, she became a member of this town labour council and she was a central figure in the Hagana headquarters for many years. Regrettably, Rosa Kokhen did not live till the day of joy - May 14, 1948. She did not see the results of her struggle. At the day of Kohens death her son Izhak was only 15 years old. The years would pass, and the name of Izhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel, the laureate of Nobel peace prize, would become well-known all over the world.

Belarusian Jews took an active part in all stages of the state of Israel creation, especially in 1940-1948. The organisation known as Hagana was one of the cornerstones, on which the independence of Israel was built. The word Hagana in Hebrew means defence. As a matter of fact, that is a translation of a Russian term self-defence, which appeared in the days of pogroms against Jews which spreaded around Russia at the end of 1905.

Eliyahu Golomb (1893-1945) who was born in the town of Volkovysk was an organiser of the Jewish defence in mandated Palestine and one of the Hagana founders and leaders. When the youngster was 16 years old he arrived in Palestine where in four years he finished a higher school in Tel-Aviv. In 1918 Golomb was one of the organisers of the Jewish Legion, which was included in the British army. In 1936-1939 he became one of the initiators of the "field troops" creation, which fought against Arab terrorists. Eliyakhu Golomb thought that Hagana must be the only military force of the Jewish people. He was one of the creators of the special Hagana troops - Palmaha, he laid the basis of the armed forces of Israel and defined the direction of their development.

Iehuda Slutski writes in his book "Hagana - Jewish military organisation in Erez-Israel": "After Eliyakhu Golombs death in 1945 there was a constant feeling of this Hagana recognised leaders absence. Though he was never formally appointed as the highest Hagana commander, all the same his authority played a particular role in all spheres of its activities."

In the house where E. Golomb lived in Tel-Aviv, it was created the Hagana museum named after him. The persons who made the most important contribution to the consolidation of the national security of Israel are nowadays awarded with the Eliyahu Golomb prize.

The native land of the trade-union leader of Israel, Ђgaron Becker is the town of Kobrin though he was grown up in Brest-Litovsk, where he joined the Zionist youth labour movement. In 1925 when he was 19 years old, Becker arrived in Palestine, where he first worked as a builder. In four years he began working in the system of Gistadrut. In 1947 David Ben-Gurion appointed Agaron Becker the organiser of Hagana logistic division, and then - of the whole Army of Israel defence. In 1949 he returned to the work in Gistadrut and became the chief of the section of managing staff. During eight years (1961-1969) Agaron Becker was the Gistadrut Secretary General. He was repeatedly elected the member of the Knesset.

The history of the state of Israel creation will always remember a name of the prominent lawyer, economist and diplomat, the native of the town of Gomel David Gakogen (1898-1985). David Gakogen studied at the Military academy in Istanbul, in the school of economics of London University. Officially he was one of the founders, a member of the board of directors and the manager of Solel Bone Ltd., but actually he carried out a secret mission of David Ben-Gurion on buying weapons for Hagana and the Defence Army of Israel. In 1949-1953 Gakogen was a member of the Knesset. Since 1950s he was an Israeli ambassador in Burma, a member of Israeli delegations on the UN General Assembly sessions, a member of the Committee on foreign affairs and security, the Israeli representative in the International Parliamentary Union, a member of the Council and the Political Committee of Mapai party.

On the grounds of the national discipline observance the Hagana splitted in several organisations: Irgun Zvai Leummi (National military organisation - Ezel) and Lochamey kherut Israel (The Fighters for the liberty of Israel - Lekhi). During the last period of British ruling in Palestine these two organisations played an important role in the weakening of the mandate authorities regime. A native of the town of Smorgon, David Rasiel (Rosenson) (1910-1941) was the founder of Ezel. In 1937 he was one of the Ezel and its Jerusalem branch leaders and in 1938 he became its commander afters Zeev Zhabotinskys offer. D. Rasiel took an active part in organising the illegal immigration. He pursued the policy of military operations in response to Arabs terrorist actions. Once, in the morning on November 14, 1937, in several days after the murder of five Jews, D. Rasiel as the commander of Ezel organisation in Jerusalem, directed three groups in different ends of the city which were to fire upon Arab passers-by. Two Arabs were wounded and one more killed on Gaza street in Rehavia. Soon another four Arabs were killed too.

In May, 1941 David Rasiel was killed during a diversion and reconnaissance operation in the region of Baghdad. Today Ramat-Rasiel moshav in the Judaic mountains is named after him.

A younger Davids sister Ester Rasiel-Noar (Rosemson) who was also born in Smorgon in 1911, participated in Ezel military operations too. In 1939 she became the first speaker of the Ezel underground radio station. In 1943 Ester Rasiel was a member of Ezel command. In 1944, after British police found a secret radio station in their house, her husband - one of the Ezel commanders, Y. Noar and she were arrested. E. Rasiel was released after the seven-months conclusion, but soon she was arrested again. After the state of Israel creation Mrs Ester Rasiel-Noar was a member of the Knesset during the quarter of a century.

In 1942 a native of the town of Brest Menachem Begin, the former Beitar leader in Poland, who had been released from a Soviet concentration camp, arrived in Erez-Israel. He immediately became a commander of Beitar troops in Erez-Israel and at the end of 1943 he was unanimously elected the Ezel commander. Under Mr Begins command the Ezel policy toward the British changed very much. When he had been in Poland, Begin was against his teacher Zeev Zhabotinskys pro-British orientation. The anti-British moods in Ezel were intensifying. During several weeks a new headquarters were formed, and at the end of 1944 Ezel appealed to Palestinian Jews. There were such lines in that appeal: "We cancel the armistice between the Jewish administration and English authorities which give our brothers out to the Nazis. We declare a national war on these authorities, the war up to the victory end!..

Jews! To create a Jewish state is the only way to save our people, to ensure a worthy life for it. We will go this way because there is no another one. We will fight! Each Jew will fight for his motherland. The God of Israel will side His people. We will not surrender. Liberty or death!"

Under M. Begins command there were carried out a number of diversions against the government buildings and military objects, which intensified Ishuvas struggle against English government. English authorities set a price on his head in the amount of 10,000 pounds sterling.

In May 1947 the UN General Assembly decided to create the UN special commission on Palestine, in which there were the delegates from eleven countries. On June 16, 1947 the commission held its first session in Jerusalem. Except for the official meetings, the members of the commission had secret contacts with Hagana and Ezel representatives. Begin said on the meeting of Ezel representatives with the commission members: "If they [Arabs] come upon us, there is no slightest doubt that that we will defeat them, for it is not quantity but brains and martial spirit decides everything in a new war."

In 1948 Begin became one of the founders of the Zionist Kherut party and he was its leader up to 1983. In 1977-1983 he was the prime minister of Israel. In 1978 Mr Begin was awarded with a Nobel peace prize. He died in 1992.

In 1940, as a result of Ezel division, Lokhamey Kherut Israel organisation was created (The Fighters for the liberty of Israel - Lekhi), which was practically led by Ђ. Stern. After his death in 1942 and the arrests of many Lekhi leaders the organisation nearly fell in pieces and only at the beginning of 1944 it managed to reconstruct itself and renew its military actions against English authorities. I. Shamir, N. Yalin-Mora and I. Eldad were members of the new leadership. A native of the place of Ruzhany in Pruzhany region Izhak Shamir (Ezernitsky) was a number one in this organisation. He emigrated from the western part of Belarus in 1935 when he was 20 years old.

In July 1945 all three underground military organisations (Hagana, Ezel and Lekhi) created the united Resistance Actions Movement, which existed 9 months. In the same year there was published a joint Declaration of Ezel and Lekhi, one of the main initiators of which was Izhak Shamir.

After the UN resolutions on the Palestine division in December, 1947, the members of Lekhi under Shamirs command took part in military actions against Arabic troops. In May 29, 1948 in a fortnight after the state of Israel creating, Lekhi became a part of the Defence Army of Israel.

In 1980s Mr Izhak Shamir was twice appointed the prime minister of the state of Israel.

A native of the town of Slonim Efraim Ben-Arzi (Kobrinsky) (he was born in 1910) became a well-known military figure of Israel. During the Second World War Ben-Arzi was on service in the British army, where he was demobilised in the rank of colonel from. In 1948-1950 the brigadier-general E. Ben-Arzi was the quartermaster of the Defence Army of Israel and greatly contributed to the reinforcement of the countrys defence, to the victory in the war for independence.

Chaim Laskov from the town of Borisov was an eminent Israeli warlord, one of the creators of the Defence Army of Israel. He joined Hagana when he was 20 years old, where soon he became the deputy commander of a special troop. In 1942-1943 as a member of the Palestinian regiment of the British army he participated in the military operations in Cyrenaic in Egypt. At the beginning of 1945 Laskov fought against Wehrmaht troops on the territory of Italy as the commander of the 2nd battalion of Jewish brigade. After the victory over Germany he was in Northern Italy, Belgium and Netherlands, where he was in charge of military ammunition purchasing and passing people over to Palestine.

After returning to the motherland, Laskov was appointed the chief of the countrys first military officers college, he was a commander of the first tank battalion of the 7th brigade, soldiers of which showed courage and heroism in the war for independence. This battalion was particularly glorified in the battles for Latrun. Laskov took part in the battle for Nazareth and Galilee liberation already as a commander of a brigade.

In 1949 he was commissioned a brigadier general and entrusted to lead a division of military training of the headquarters. In 1958-1961 Chaim Laskov was a chief of the headquarters. He died in 1982.

Fiery fighter for a Jewish state creating was a native of the place Kopys in Gorets region of Mogilev province (now the village of Kopys in Orsha region) David Remez (Moshe-David Drabkin) (1886-1951). He was one of the founders of Mapai party, and in 1935-1945 he was a Gistadrut Secretary General. In 1929-1948 as a member of the executive committee of the World Zionist Organisation, David Remez was simultaneously an ideologist, theorist and practician in the sphere of a Jewish state creation on the Palestine territory. In 1948-1950 he was the minister of transport of Israel, and in 1950-1951 - the minister of education and culture. D. Remez was a member of the Knesset of the first and second convocations. A region of Haifa, Ramat-Remez, is named after him. Remezs son, Aharon, (was born in 1919) was the first commander of the Israeli Air Forces.

The first minister of finance of Israel, and then the deputy prime minister of the country was a native of the town of Minsk Elieser Kaplan (1891-1952). He settled in Palestine in 1923 and assisted an occupying this territory by Jewish colonists. Since 1933 Kaplan was a board member of the Jewish agency, where he was a chief of the department of finance and administration.

E. Kaplan significantly influenced the economic policy of the state of Israel in the late 40s - early 50s, when the country made its first steps, when the routs of its economic development were marked. The School of social and political sciences under the Jewish University in Jerusalem, the hospital in Rehovot and Haifas Kiriyat-Eliezer quarter are named after him.

The first minister of agriculture of Israel Ђgaron Zisling (1901-1964) was born near Minsk. Since 1914 he lived in Palestine, worked in agriculture sector and in the construction industry. In a little while Zisling became one of the Hagana leaders. Then he became a founder of the Ahdut ga-Avoda party (1944) and Њ pai party (1948). Since 1947 Zisling was a member of the Jewish agency delegation in UN, and in 1948-1949 he was a minister of agriculture. He was a member of Knesset of the first convocation, later - a member of the Zionist executive committee.

A native of the town of Volkovysk Zerah Vargaftig as one of the World Jewish Congress leaders in many respects assisted in the Jewish state creation. In 1948 he became a member of the Provisional State Council of Israel. Z. Vargaftig several times was a Knesset member from the Ga-Poel ga-Mizrahi party (later on - the National-religious party), and in 1960-1973 he was the religion minister.

A prominent Israeli politician Moshe Kol (Kolodny) was born in Pinsk in 1911. Since 1935 he was a member of the Gistadrut executive committee, in 1946-1966 a member of the World Zionist Organisation Executive Committee. In the memorable May, 1948 Moshe Kol as a member of the National government signed the Declaration of independence of Israel. In the same year he became one of the founders of the Progressive Party of Israel, from which he was a member of Knesset. In 1966-1969 he was a minister of tourism and development, and in 1969-1977 - a minister of tourism. Moshe Kols life ended in 1989 in Jerusalem.

A native of the place of Vishnevo (in Volozhin region now) Shimon Peres (Persky) made his contribution to the state of Israel creation. When he settled in Palestine in 1934, he was 11 years old. In 9 years Shimon Peres became a leader of the youth Zionist organisation Noar Haoved, and in 1946 he was elected a delegate to the 22nd Zionist congress in Basel.

In 1948 Shimon Peres was appointed an assistant of the General Director of the Israeli Ministry of Defence headed by Levi Eshkol.

He was in charge of the Navy, when he was only 25. In 1949-1951 Mr Peres became the head of Israeli defence representation in the United States. David Ben-Gurion "opened" Peres and sent him to the United States as the delegation head to buy weapons, which were so needed for the army of Israel then.

During many years Mr Peres held leading positions in the country, twice he was the prime minister. In 1994 together with Izhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat he was awarded with a Nobel peace prize.

The name of Kadish Luz (Lozinsky) will always stay in the history of the state of Israel. He was born in the town of Bobruisk in 1895. In 1917 Kadish Lozinsky became one of the creators of the All-Russian Union of Jews-Warriors, he took an active part in the Gehaluz movements activities. In 3 years he arrived in Erez-Israel and worked on inning and roads building. Since 1935 Љ. Luz had been a member of the Central Committee of Mapai party and Gistadrut executive committee. During those years he did a lot to create a Jewish state in Palestine and to strengthen its economy. Luz has presented Mapai party in Knesset for 12 years. In 1955-1959 he was a minister of agriculture, then during ten years he was a Knesset speaker. Љ. Luz was highly respected among all the Knesset factions and promoted the prestige of Israeli parliament. His authority was confirmed by granting him an honourable Doctor of Philosophy degree in Jewish University in Jerusalem. Љ dish Luz died in 1972.

In Israel it is well-known the name of Kadishs younger brother - a public figure Shabtai Lozinsky, a native of the town of Bobruisk too (1896-1947). Gistadruts Even-Vassid and Mashbir companies played a considerable role in the economic development of Erez-Israel. Shabtai Lozinsky was one of the directors of the first one and headed the second. After the defeat of German fascism he got a Sokhnut task - to organise in Italy the camps for Jews-refugees. S. Lozinsky did not live till May 14, 1948, he tragically died in a road accident.

In 1948 Joseph Tkoa (Tukochinsky) became an adviser of the Israeli delegation in the UN. Since 1949 he had been one of the most well-known diplomats in the state of Israel for more than 25 years. As the head of Israeli delegations, k® participated in peace talks with Syria. Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt delegations in 1948-1958. In 1967-1975 he was a permanent Israeli representative to the UN. At the beginning of 1960s k® was an Israeli ambassador in Brasilia, and in 1962-1965 - in the Soviet Union. This eminent diplomat was born in the town of Lyakhovichi. In mid-30s together with the family he emigrated to China. In Shanghai Mr k® finished law school in French University, then got education in the field of international law in the United States, in Harvard university. In 1949 he was repatriated in Israel from the United States.

After his retirement from the civil service, Joseph k® in 1975-1981 was a president and then an honourable president of Ben-Gurion University in Beere-Sheve.

Many people know that a prominent Israeli politician Golda Meir (Њ bovich) was born in Kiev in 1898. But only few know that most of her childhood (nearly seven years) she spent in Belarusian city of Pinsk, where her grandfather and grandmother lived. Exactly from Pinsk Goldas family emigrated in the USA in 1906.

As a member of Gistadruts Executive Council, the head of its political department and then the head of the Jewish agencys political board (1946-1948) Golda Meir made an important contribution to the state of Israels creation. When in June 1946 the British authorities arrested Ishuvas leaders, she became the major Ishuvas representative in negotiations with British administration. Exactly Golda Meir in January, 1948 was sent to the United States to get support of the American Jews for Ishuvas struggle for independence and against Arabic aggression. Exactly she was appointed in May 1948 to hold secret talks with the king of Transjordan Abdala.

Golda Meir was the first Israeli ambassador in the USSR (1948-1949), a minister of labour, a foreign secretary, and in 1969-1974 - prime minister. Since 1972 she was Vice President of the Socialist International, and in 1976 she was elected the honourable president of this organisation.

She died in 1978 and was buried on the Gerzl mountain in Jerusalem.

This brief outlook gives all grounds for the conclusion that Belarusian Jews greatly contributed to the creation of the state of Israel on all stages of that long and sophisticated process, as well as they heroically fought during the war for independence.

Emmanuil JOFFE, Academician of the International Academy of National Minorities Studies, Doctor of History, Professor, Pro-rector of the Jewish University in Minsk


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