Shapira, Abraham

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SHAPIRA, ABRAHAM (1870–1965), one of the first Jewish Shomerim ("Watchmen") in Ereẓ Israel. Born in Novaya Mikhailovka, southern Russia, Shapira was taken to Ereẓ Israel at the age of ten; his family lived first in Jerusalem and later in *Petaḥ Tikvah. From his youth he displayed outstanding courage and was held in awe by the local Arabs. In 1890 he was appointed head of the Shomerim in Petaḥ Tikvah and enlisted the aid of the local Bedouin and the young Jewish settlers. As part of the general arrests made after the Turkish discovery of *Nili during World War i, Shapira was deported to Damascus to stand military trial, but he was acquitted and drafted into the Turkish army in Istanbul. Afterward, he took part in the defense of Petaḥ Tikvah against Arab attack in May 1921 and was among the initiators of the peace ceremony between the settlement and its Arab neighbors. Shapira often served in the role of negotiator in the quarrels between Jews and their Shomerim and served as honorary president of the Association of Jewish Shomerim. Shapira, a colorful, romantic figure, was beloved by all who knew him. Chaim Weizmann wrote about him in Trial and Error:

He was a primitive person, spoke better Arabic than Hebrew, and seemed so much a part of the rocks and stony hillsides of the country that it was difficult to believe that he had been born in Russia. Here was a man who in his own lifetime had bridged a gap of thousands of years; who, once in Palestine, had shed his Galuth environment like an old coat….


Y. Edelstein, Avraham Shapira (Heb. 2 vols., 1939); Y. Ya'ari-Poleskin, Ḥolemim ve-Loḥamim (19643), 331–6; idem, Sefer Ha-Yovel le-Petaḥ Tikvah (1929), 372–81; Dinur, Haganah, index.

[Yehuda Slutsky]

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Shapira, Abraham

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