ha-Shomer ha-Tzaʿir

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Socialist-Zionist youth movement.

This movement was founded in 1913, when Zionist youth organizations in Poland and Galicia united under the name ha-Shomer ha-Tzaʿir, meaning "Young Guardian" or "Young Watchman." "HaShomer" was both the name of the largest of the youth organizations that made up the new group and the name of a Jewish self-defense militia organization in Palestine. Ha-Shomer ha-Tzaʿir was heavily influenced by both. It emphasized the values of nature, pioneering, and settlement on kibbutzim in Palestine, and in 1919 it sent its first group of settlers to Eretz Yisrael. Ha-Shomer ha-Tzaʿir did not have a very unique ideological stance; indeed, most, if not all of its ideology could be found in existing groups and was rooted in such philosophies as that of Aaron David Gordon (18561922) and Martin Buber (18781965). It apparently had an esprit-de-corps that enabled it to survive and grow even though it did not espouse anything altogether unique. The movement grew to more than 10,000 members by 1924, when it held its first international conference in Danzig. During the late 1920s and early 1930s ha-Shomer ha-Tzaʿir developed a strong Marxist-Zionist ideology and many of its leaders referred to the Soviet Union as their "second homeland." They envisioned a socialist Palestine working in conjunction with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to bring about a global workers' revolution. By the eve of World War II, ha-Shomer ha-Tzaʿir had more than 70,000 members worldwide and thirty-nine kibbutzim in Palestine.

Some of the members who were trapped in Europe when WWII erupted played prominent roles in Jewish armed rebellions against the Nazis, including the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. One of the most famous among these was Mordecai Anielewicz (c. 19191943), who commanded the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

As a result of its stance in favor of the creation of a binational Arab-Jewish state in Palestine prior to 1948, ha-Shomer ha-Tzaʿir was somewhat marginalized and exercised little influence on the political decision-making of the yishuv and the Zionist movement. Early in 1948, when a group of socialist factions united to found MAPAM, a socialist-Zionist party to the left of the Labor Party, ha-Shomer ha-Tzaʿir became its youth movement. With the decline of the Labor alignment as well as the decline of the kibbutz movement, it remains active primarily as an educational movement.

See also labor zionism.


Avineri, Shlomo. The Making of Modern Zionism: The Intellectual Origins of the Jewish State. New York: Basic Books, 1981.

Laqueur, Walter. A History of Zionism. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1972.

Shimoni, Gideon. The Zionist Ideology. Hanover, NH: Brandeis University Press/University Press of New England, 1995.

chaim i. waxman