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Nes Ẓiyyonah


NES ẒIYYONAH , a clandestine Zionist society founded in 1885 by students of the yeshivah in Volozhin. The purpose of Nes Ẓiyyonah was to organize a group of people (rabbis, preachers, and writers) to propagate the idea of the settlement of Ereẓ Israel. The members of the society were sworn to secrecy and took it upon themselves to promote their cause orally and in print and to establish new Ḥovevei Zion societies (see *Ḥibbat Zion). The central committee of Nes Ẓiyyonah distributed circulars among its members and, when it acquired a duplicating machine, also published a Mikhtav Itti u-Khelali ("General Periodical") in Hebrew. It also initiated a collection of essays and asked rabbis to submit their views on the idea of settlement in Ereẓ Israel. Replies received from several outstanding rabbis served as a kind of positive "responsa" to the Ḥovevei Zion ideology. Some of the replies were published in the Hebrew press, but the book itself never came out because at the end of 1891 the police discovered the existence of the society, confiscated the duplicating machine and the archives, and put an end to Nes Ẓiyyonah's activities. Some of the rabbis' letters were included in Shivat Ẓiyyon (1891), a collection edited by A.J. *Slutzky. A group of former members of Nes Ẓiyyonah then founded another society with similar aims, called Neẓaḥ Israel. Among the founders was Ḥayyim Naḥman *Bialik, who was asked to formulate the aims of the new society. An article by Bialik–his first effort to appear in print–was published in *Ha-Meliẓ 31, No. 80 (1891). The stated purpose of the society was "the settlement of our holy land in the spirit of holiness and Judaism." The society planned the establishment of a rural settlement in Ereẓ Israel with a majority of members from Nes Ẓiyyonah, which would serve as an example to all the other settlements, especially in matters of education. In 1890 societies by the name of Nes Ẓiyyonah were founded in Aleksot near Kovno and in Suwalki for the purpose of establishing a settlement in Ereẓ Israel based on religious-national ideals. Eventually the two societies merged into one and, augmented by additional members from Mariampol, laid the foundations of Ḥaderah. When the Volozhin yeshivah was closed by Russian authorities, the activities of Neẓaḥ Israel came to an end. It was reestablished at Minsk by I. Nissenbaum and was finally disbanded in 1894.

[Israel Klausner]

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