Shapira, Ḥayyim Moshe

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SHAPIRA, ḤAYYIM MOSHE (1902–1970), Israeli politician; leader of the National Religious Party. Born in Grodno, Belorussia, Shapira from his youth was imbued with a religious Zionist spirit. He was active in organizing the Ẓe'irei ha-Mizrachi movement and did much for the aliyah of religious ḥalutzim to Ereẓ Israel. After moving to Warsaw he became one of the leaders of the organization. Afterward he went to Berlin and studied at the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary. In Berlin Shapira also became the leader of Ẓe'irei ha-Miẓrachi and was sent as a delegate to the 14th*Zionist Congress (1925). From that time on he attended all Zionist Congresses and was also elected to the Zionist General Council as a representative of *Ha-Po'el ha-Mizrachi. Shapira settled in Palestine in 1925 and became a central figure in his movement and in Mizrachi. In 1935 he was elected as an alternate member and then a full member of the Zionist Executive and served on it until the establishment of the State of Israel as head of the Immigration (aliyah) Department.

Shapira made several visits to Jewish centers around the world and in 1938, after the Anschluss of Austria, he went to Vienna on a mission to organize the rescue of Jews and facilitate their migration to Ereẓ Israel. In the 1940s, during the struggle against British policy in Palestine, Shapira played an important role in preventing fratricidal conflicts between the *Haganah and *Irgun Ẓeva'i Le'ummi. In 1948, he was appointed a member of the People's Council (Mo'eẓet ha-Am) and of the Provisional Government of the State of Israel as minister of immigration and of health, in which capacity he organized the mass immigration that began during the *War of Independence. On the eve of the elections to thefirst *Knesset (1949), Shapira was among the initiators of the "United Religious Front" and was elected on its behalf as a member of the first cabinet. In 1957, when a grenade was thrown in the Knesset, Shapira was seriously wounded. His life was in danger, and he was then given the additional name of Ḥayyim (in accordance with traditional Jewish custom). He served in almost all governments – as minister of immigration, health (1948–49 and 1961–65), the interior (1949–52 and 1959–70), and religious affairs and social welfare (1952–58). On the eve of the *Six-Day War (1967), he played an important role in establishing the government of national unity. At the 21st world conference of the Mizrachi and Ha-Po'el ha-Mizrachi in 1968, Shapira was elected president of its world center.


D. Lazar, Rashim be-Yisrael, 2 (1955), 33–38.

[Itzhak Goldshlag]