Sapir, Eliyahu

views updated


SAPIR, ELIYAHU (1869–1911), Ereẓ Israel pioneer and pedagogue; grandson of Jacob *Saphir. He was born in *Jerusalem and from 1889 taught Arabic and, later, Hebrew in the Petaḥ Tikvah school. He was one of the first to teach Hebrew through the medium of Hebrew and to take the students into the fields, in order to foster love for the Ereẓ Israel landscape. Being the only one in the vicinity to know both Arabic and the legal rules concerning taxes, lands, and inheritance, he gave free assistance not only to Petaḥ Tikvah's settlement committee, but also to Arab neighbors, whose ignorance was exploited by the effendis. In addition, he started evening courses in Hebrew and Arabic in Petaḥ Tikvah. After 11 years he became a clerk in the *Jewish Colonization Association (ica), where he dealt with registration of land transactions, which was a very complicated task at the time. His greatest success was in setting the borders of and obtaining purchase certificates for the lands of *Sejera. In 1904 he began to work in the Anglo-Palestine Bank in Jaffa, and he was its vice director. He tried to teach people to make use of commercial credit rather than to rely on charity. He was one of the three Jews of Ottoman citizenship in whose name the lands of Tel Aviv were purchased.

He devoted much time to the study of geography. Kippert's German wall map of Palestine, re-edited in Hebrew by Sapir, was the only one used in schools and offices until 1930. His book, Ha-Areẓ. published in 1911, was for many years the only comprehensive historical and geographical lexicon of Palestine.

[Abraham J. Brawer]

His son, joseph sapir (1902–1972), public worker in Israel, was born in *Jaffa. In 1921 he participated in the defense of Petaḥ Tikvah (to which his family had moved previously). He was a member of the agricultural committee there and founded the cooperative union Ha-Ḥaklai. From 1928 he was active in the Farmers' *Federation of Israel, later becoming a member of its executive, as well as in the Pardes company (the largest cooperative company in Israel marketing citrus fruits), serving as its director in 1921–39. In 1940 he was elected on behalf of the General Zionists as mayor of Petaḥ Tikvah, and he held this post until 1951. He was elected to the first and subsequent Knessets on behalf of the General Zionists and later on behalf of the Liberal Party. In 1952–55 (Second Knesset) he served as minister of transportation. With the establishment of the national coalition government on the eve of the Six-Day War he served as a minister without portfolio (1967–69), and from 1969 to 1970 as minister of commerce and industry. In 1968 he was elected chairman of the Liberal Party and was rotating chairman of the Gaḥal Party.


Y. Ḥurgin (ed.), in: Mi-Yamim Rishonim, 2, no. 2 (1944); M. Ben Hillel Ha-Cohen, in: Koveẓ Mikhtevei Eliyahu Sapir (1913), introd.