Shochat, Israel

views updated


SHOCHAT, ISRAEL (1886–1961), founder and leader of the *Ha-Shomer organization. Shochat was born in Liskova in the province of Grodno (Belorussia) into a family of Jewish landowners. In his youth he joined the Po'alei Zion party and in 1904 went to settle in Ereẓ Israel. When he became acquainted with the Jewish settlements whose life was based on Arab labor and protected by Arab, Circassian, North African, and other non-Jewish watchmen, Shochat decided to establish a clandestine order whose objective would be to introduce Jewish workers and watchmen into the villages. In 1907 he attended the Eighth Zionist Congress and played a role in the establishment of the World Union of Po'alei Zion. In 1907 Shochat gathered about ten of his friends in Jaffa and founded the secret society, Bar-Giora. At the head of a group of friends, Shochat set out for Sejera (now *Ilaniyyah) in Lower Galilee and there convinced the surrounding settlements to entrust Jewish watchmen with guard duties. In 1909, at a meeting of the members of Bar-Giora, it was decided to establish the Ha-Shomer organization. Shochat was elected chairman of the Ha-Shomer committee, and within a few years this organization became an important factor in the life of the new yishuv. In 1910 Shochat attempted to set up a "labor legion" in order to introduce Jewish labor into the settlements based on communal life and discipline. The "legion" was short-lived because of a lack of members and the opposition of the Jewish labor parties to its methods. At the end of 1912, Shochat left for Constantinople with Izhak *Ben-Zvi and David *Ben-Gurion to study law.

With the outbreak of World War i, Shochat was among the initiators of a project for the establishment of a Jewish militia that would assist in maintaining order in the country. The Turkish authorities rejected this project, arrested Shochat and his wife, Mania Wilbushewitch *Shochat, and deported them to Brusa, Anatolia. In 1917 Shochat was allowed to attend the Po'alei Zion Conference in Stockholm, and with the end of World War i he returned to Palestine. Together with his comrades of Ha-Shomer, he joined *Aḥdut ha-Avodah and was among the founders of Haganah, the *Gedud ha-Avodah (Labor Legion), and the Histadrut. His controversy with the leaders of Aḥdut ha-Avodah regarding the organizational system of the Haganah led to his resignation from the Haganah command. He attempted to pursue his own defense activities within the framework of Gedud ha-Avodah through a closed underground that established an arms depot in Kefar Giladi and sent members to Europe for military training. In 1925 he left for Moscow, where he held secret negotiations with high Soviet officials on the possibility of a collaboration between his group and the Soviet secret service, but these negotiations proved completely fruitless. Shochat and his colleagues were called before an internal body of the Histadrut to answer for their separatist political and defense activities. With the disintegration of Gedud ha-Avodah, Shochat was removed from all central public activities. During the 1930s he was active in the Ha-Po'el sports organization and the establishment of the first flying clubs in the country. As a lawyer he took up the defense of Haganah prisoners, and on the establishment of the State of Israel (1948) he acted as legal adviser to the minister of police. His memoirs were published in Koveẓ ha-Shomer (1937) and in Sefer ha-Shomer (1957). He was a brother of Eliezer *Shoḥat.


Dinur, Haganah, 45; 2 (1959), 4–6, 8–10, 15; S. Sheva, Shevet ha-No'azim (1969).

[Yehuda Slutsky]