Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi

Rachel Yanait Ben Zvi headshot
Born Golda Lishansky in a Hasidic family in the shtetl of Malin, near Kiev, Ukraine, Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi (1886-1979) represented Malin at the 7th Zionist Congress in Basel (1905). She was among the founders of the socialist Zionist party Poale Zion in Russia before emigrating in 1908 to Palestine, where she worked for Labor Zionism, was a leader among the Jewish workers of the Second Aliyah (1904-1914) and helped organize the Jewish Watchmen, Hashomer, in 1909. To prepare herself to promote agricultural settlement in Eretz Israel, she studied agricultural engineering at the University of Nancy, France (1911-1914). In 1918, she married Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, a fellow Poale Zion and Hashomer activist who became Israel’s second President (1952-1963).

In 1928, she founded “The Educational Farm” to provide agricultural education for women in Jerusalem. She remained a labor activist, was active in the Haganah and organized the clandestine immigration of Jews through Syria and Lebanon.

After 1948, Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi was active in the absorption of immigrants from Arab countries. As Israel’s first lady, she opened the president’s residence to people from all backgrounds in Israeli society, wrote about education and defense. Her autobiography
Coming Home (in Hebrew, Anu olim) was published in 1961. In 1978, she was awarded the Israel Prize for her special contribution to society and the State of Israel.

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