Ben-Zvi, Raḥel Yanait

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BEN-ZVI, RAḤEL YANAIT (1886–1979), labor leader and writer; from 1918, wife of Izhak *Ben-Zvi. Born in Malin, Ukraine, Raḥel Yanait was educated in Russia and in Nancy, France, where she pursued studies in agronomy. After helping to create the *Po'alei Zion labor movement in Russia, she settled in Ereẓ Israel as a teacher in 1908, and was a cofounder of the Hebrew Gymnasium in Jerusalem, the second modern high school in the country. She played a pioneering role in *Ha-Shomer and Tenu'at ha-Po'alot (Women's Labor Movement), and coedited the weekly Aḥdut, the first Hebrew organ of the Po'alei Zion movement in Ereẓ-Israel, from its founding in 1910. After World War i, she became a founder of *Aḥdut ha-Avodah labor party and a leader of the *Haganah in Jerusalem, continuing her career as an educationist, and in 1920 established near Jerusalem's Talpiot quarter a girls' agricultural high school of which she was the first principal. In 1948, she was the guiding spirit behind the founding of an agricultural youth village in Ein Kerem. After her husband became president of Israel in 1952, she assisted him in his official duties and worked particularly to make the president's home a popular meeting place for all the communities of Israel. Upon her husband's death in 1963, she became an active member of Yad Ben-Zvi, his memorial institute. She was the recipient of the Israel Prize for special contribution to Israel state and society in 1978. Her memoirs have been published: Anu Olim (1959; Coming Home, 1963) and Eli (Heb., 1957), a book written together with her husband about their son, who died in the Israeli War of Independence. She also coedited her husband's writings, which began to appear in 1965.


H.M. Sachar, Aliyah: The Peoples of Israel (1961), 115–51.

[Getzel Kressel]