Beginning in the 1880s in Eastern Europe, various groups of young Jews began to prepare themselves for eventual resettlement in Palestine to create a Jewish community. They stressed manual labor, agricultural proficiency, self-defense, and the speaking of modern Hebrew; they called themselves halutzim (pioneers). Branches differed over political issues, but all encouraged physical fitness and horticultural studies. Nurtured by Yosef Trumpeldor and Menahem Ussishkin, ha-Halutz became the organizational framework for preparing young men and women for pioneering work in Palestine, particularly on the land. The organization's many branches also emphasized the role of Jewish youth in transforming and secularizing Jewish society. The movement reached its high point in 1935 with some 90,000 members, but the Holocaust virtually annihilated it. During World War II the group assisted in the illegal settlement of Jews in Palestine.
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