(יצחק בן צבי (November 24
– April 23
) was a historian, Labor Zionist
leader, and the second and longest-serving President of Israel
Born in Poltava
, Ben-Zvi was the eldest son of Zvi Shimshelevitz, who later took the name Shimshi. 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 was a representative in the Zionist Congress
of 1907, and it was there that he first met Israel Shochat
. Ben-Zvi emigrated to Palestine
that same year, and settled in Jaffa
", the clandestine precursor to Hashomer
, was created in his apartment in 1907. In 1909, he organized the Gymnasia High School in Jerusalem
together with Rachel Yanait
Following his studies at Galatasaray Lisesi in Istanbul, from 1912 to 1914 Ben-Zvi studied Law at Istanbul University, together with the future Israeli 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 Yanait. They had two sons: Amram and Eli. Eli later died in Israel's War of Independence, defending his kibbutz, Beit Keshet.
Ben-Zvi served in the Jewish Legion
together with David Ben-Gurion
. In 1919, he helped found the Ahdut HaAvoda
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 community in Mandatory Palestine. According to a book published in 1985, Ben-Zvi allegedly ordered the 1924 political assassination of Jacob Israël de Haan
, a highly controversial figure in the Jewish Yishuv
When Israel gained its independence, Ben-Zvi was among the signers of its Declaration of Independence on Friday, May 14
. He served in the First and Second Knesset
for the Mapai
party. He was elected President of Israel on December 8, 1952, a position he retained until his death.
Ben-Zvi believed that the president should set an example for the public and his home should reflect the austerity of the times. For over 26 years, he and his family lived in a wooden hut in the Rehavia neighborhood of Jerusalem.The State of Israel took interest in the adjacent house, build and owned by Nissim and Esther Valero, and purchased it, after Nissim`s death, to provide additional space for the President`s residence. Two larger structures in the yard were used for official receptions.
In 1948, Ben-Zvi headed the Institute for the Study of Oriental Jewish Communities in the Middle East, later named the Ben-Zvi Institute in his honor.The Ben-Zvi Institute occupies Nissim Valero`s house. His main field of research was the Jewish communities and sects of Asia and Africa, including the Samaritans
Today Ben-Zvi's photo appears on 100 NIS
bills. Many streets and boulevards in Israel are named for him. In 2008, Ben-Zvi's wooden hut was moved to Kibbutz Beit Keshet, which his son helped to found, and the interior is being restored with its original furnishings.The Valero
house in Rehavia
neighborhood was designated a historic building protected by law under municipal plan 2097 for the preservation of historic sites.
- Biography (includes reference for World War I service)