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Biography of Yitzhak Ben Zvi

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Biography of Yitzhak Ben Tzvi

Yitzhak Ben--Zvi (Hebrew: יצחק בן-צבי  ) (November 24, 1884, Poltava, Ukraine - April 23, 1963, Jerusalem, Israel) was a historian, Labor Zionist leader, and the second President of Israel (1952 - 1963).

Ben-Zvi was the eldest son of Zvi Shamshi Shimshelevitz. He was active in the Jewish self-defense units organized in Ukraine to defend Jews during the pogroms of 1905, and joined the Poalei Zion (Workers of Zion) Zionist political party. He emigrated to Palestine in 1907, and settled in Jaffa, where he helped organize the HaShomer self-defense unit in the country. In 1909, he organized the Gymnasia High School in Jerusalem together with Rachel Yannait.

Yitzhak Ben Tzvi, President of Israel - Zionism and Israel Information Center

From 1912 to 1914, Ben-Zvi studied Law in Constantinople, together with future prime minister David Ben Gurion. They returned to Palestine in August 1914, but were expelled by the Ottoman authorities in 1915. The two of them moved to New York City, where they engaged in Zionist activities and founded the HeHalutz (Pioneer) movement there. Together, they also wrote the Yiddish book The Land of Israel Past and Present to promote the Zionist cause among American Jewry.

Upon returning to Palestine in 1918, Ben-Zvi married Rachel Yannait. They had two sons: Amram and Eli. Eli later died in Israel's War of Independence, defending his kibbutz, Beit Keshet.

In 1919, Ben-Zvi helped found the Achdut HaAvodah (Labor Union) party, and became increasingly active in the Haganah. He was later elected to the Jerusalem City Council and to the National Council, the shadow government of the Jewish settlers in Palestine.

When Israel gained its independence, Ben-Zvi was among the signers of its Declaration of Independence on Friday, May 15, 1948. He served in the First and Second Knesset for the Mapai party. He was elected President of Israel on 8 December 1952 and served as president until his death. During his entire presidency, he maintained his home in a modest wooden shack in Jerusalem.

Ben-Zvi was a renowned researcher in Jewish history and ethnology, and in the history of the Land of Israel. The Ben-Zvi Institute, which studies the history of Israel and Jewish groups from North Africa and the Middle East is named after him.

Ami Isseroff

See also: Presidents of Israel

More Israeli and Zionist Biographies   General History of Zionism and the Creation of Israel   History of Israel and Zionism   Historical Source Documents of Israel and Zionism

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