Habonim Dror

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Habonim Dror (Hebrew: הַבּוֹנִים דְּרוֹר, "The Builders-Freedom") is the evolution of two Jewish Labour Zionist youth movements that merged in 1982.

Habonim was founded in 1929 in Great Britain and over a period of years, spread to all English-speaking countries. Each country developed its own independent version of the original movement whilst sharing the core ideology of being a Jewish Socialist-Zionist cultural youth movement.

Dror was founded in Poland in 1915 out of a wing of the Tze'irei Tziyon (Zion Youth) study circle. The majority of Tze'irei Tziyon had merged with a group called Hashomer in 1913 to form Hashomer Hatzair, and those who remained outside of the new group formed Dror. The group was influenced by the teachings of the Russian Narodniks.

Members of Dror participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Mordechai Tennenbaum and other Dror members organised two underground factions in the Bialystok Ghetto.

Dror was aligned with the HaKibbutz Hameuhad network, while Habonim was aligned with the Ichud kibbutzim. When the two kibbutz movements merged in 1980 to form the United Kibbutz Movement (TaKa"M), so did their respective youth movements.

Habonim Dror's sister movement in Israel is Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed, the Working and Studying Youth.


Habonim Dror is a Jewish Socialist-Zionist cultural youth movement, which exists to educate and bring Jewish culture to its members, both within Israeli society and in the Jewish Diaspora. One of the main concepts of the movement's ideology is that of tikkun olam, a Hebrew phrase that means "mending the world" which originated in the early rabbinic period of Judaism. The Movement ideology falls into different categories. They are Hagshama Atzmit (Self-realisation), Socialism/Social Justice, Zionism, Judaism and Chalutziut (Pioneering). These categories are not independent ideologies, each platform helps to integrate one of them with the others. Every chaver/a (member) embodies the spirit of Habonim Dror, based on their shared experiences and values gained in the movement. Habonim Dror's ideology is an attempt to represent that spirit in words.

The expression of these ideals involves various kinds of meetings and outdoor activities including scouting, camping, rambling, map reading as well as the education of the geography and history of Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel). Jewish history is given attention, as are songs and dances taken from the pioneer days of the present State. The socialist ideal extends to both the kibbutz and the modern "irbutz," or urban communal living spaces movements, some of which were founded by Habonim Dror members.

Origins in Great Britain[edit]

Quoting the official history of Habonim Great Britain, "a certain mystique surrounded the question of who founded the Habonim Movement but there is little doubt that the major personality behind the idea was Wellesley Aron".[1] He acknowledges that he could not have succeeded without Chaim Lipshitz who organized the first model Gedud (group) and Norman Lourie, whose enthusiasm helped generate other volunteer leaders. Lourie went on to found Habonim South Africa. Encouraged by them, Aron wrote the outline for the first Handbook and by April 1929 their organization was given the name Habonim. This was followed the next month,May 1929, by the first group, "Gedud Trumpeldor" led by Lipschitz. This date is acknowledged as the official founding date of Habonim.

According to Aron, he modeled Habonim after Baden-Powell's Boy Scouts.[2] The idea soon spread to other English-speaking countries and ex-colonies where Jews resided. In 1930 Norman Lourie founded Habonim Southern Africa, with the first camp taking place at Parys in 1931.

Initially the idea was a "Jewish Youth Cultural Movement" for children aged between 12 to 18. Unlike other organizations abroad, the movement was initially intended to be of a non-Zionist (non-political) kind.

Early history[edit]

Lipschitz was the natural person to lead the first group since he had already organized meetings of boys at his father's Cheder (school room) and they were well established by December 1928. (Incidentally this Cheder was one of the few more-progressive of these establishments, many were unattractive places that taught only traditional Hebrew and Torah (Biblical law).) The new group was where Chaim taught Modern Hebrew along with songs and dances of the Jewish settlers in Palestine, Jewish history and various games. Chaim was assisted by Norman Lourie, a visitor from South Africa who had previously visited Palestine. The aim of these group meetings was to attract and better educate the Jewish children of immigrants from Poland and Russia (mostly pre 1905, when immigration to the U.K. was severely limited), about their Jewish history and about the progress of the Jews presently living in Palestine. These children had somewhat dismal lives in the slums of the East-End, (Stepney and Whitechapel) which were not lightened by the mostly poor Cheder education system then available.[3]

Official founding[edit]

The first meeting of leaders of the Jewish youth community as reported by Wellesley Aron, was in a letter to Dr. S. Brodetsky (of the Zionist Foundation) on 11 January 1929. Wellesley mentioned that only 5 people attended, but that Norman Lourie (the third founder) called a larger meeting for the following week (10 January) where representatives from at least 7 Jewish youth organizations were present. This meeting was in London at 77 Great Russel Street EC1. England at this time was the center of political Zionism, after the Balfour Declaration in 1917 had stated that "His Majesty's Government favourably viewed the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine" (then under British mandate).

The new youth movement Habonim (The Builders) was deliberately non-Zionist in ideology. The first Gedud Trumpeldor was built on Lipschitz's existing youth group in Stepney with Lipshitz as Rosh (leader) assisted by Norman Lourie. In May 1929 the first 27 page hand-booklet detailing how Habonim was to function was published by Aron with help in the mimeographing from Norman Lourie and his lady friend Nadia, who he later married.

They both returned to Norman's home country South Africa in 1930, to establish Habonim branches in various towns and countries in that continent and in India.[3]

Habonim UK & Ireland 1929–1955[edit]

The Movement grew very rapidly. In London alone there were 21 groups by 1932. The Movement had at least 2,500 members by the time of their 10 year "Jamboree Camp" in 1939. The various gedudim or groups were initially single sex (like the Scouting Movement) but were soon were changed for boys and girls together. Associated but not part of the Movement were training farms, called Hachshara farms, for the older members, to learn about agriculture and life on kibbutz, to which their aliyah (or "going-up" to Eretz Yisrael) would eventually lead.

During the second world war the senior members of Habonim helped to organize and take care of the many refugee children that escaped the Nazis through special kindertransporten. Their parents had agreed to this tragic life-time separation, which was arranged through some of the more future-minded Jewish organizations remaining in Europe. Other members whose alyiah was delayed due to the war, helped the war-time food shortage to be met by working as groups of laborers on various farming communities.

Graduates of British Habonim contributed significant manpower to the establishment of many kibbutzim in Israel, among others, Kfar Blum, Kfar Hanasi, Beit HaEmek, Mevo Hama, Tuval and Amiad of these the most British is Kfar Hanassi.

Famous graduates[edit]

Famous graduates of the two movements include:


Today, Habonim Dror exists in seventeen countries worldwide. It is aligned with the United Kibbutz Movement, which recently merged with the Kibbutz Artzi Federation aligned with the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement.

Countries in which Habonim Dror operates[edit]

A Habonim Dror stencil on a wall in Rosario, Argentina

Habonim Dror operates in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Hungary, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay.

North America[edit]

Habonim in North America was founded in April 1935 by the youth arm of the Poale Zion Party at a convention in Buffalo, NY. At its height, the movement had over 2,000 campers attending eleven summer camps throughout the US and Canada. Today, Habonim Dror North America (HDNA) runs many programs during the year, including a biannual veida (a mass meeting with representatives from around the movement), local events in central cities, kibbutzim in Israel, a year-long program in Israel (called Workshop), and many other ideology-focused gatherings. The Movement membership currently exceeds 1,700 youth and has been growing steadily over the past decade.[13]

HDNA also runs seven summer camps (called Machanot) across the continent. These have become a large part of the movement and in most cases are more important to members than local meetings (called ken meetings) since they play a key role in involving and recruiting new members to the movement. The seven camps are as follows:

Some now defunct camps and Habonim hachshara farms are:

Additionally, a five week trip, named Machaneh Bonim in Israel (MBI) is a summer tour of Israel for 16-year-olds (summer after 10th grade). Students from the seven camps spend time together and learn about Israel and the movement.

HDNA publishes B'tnua, the regular movement magazine.

Habonim Dror collaborated with Ameinu, Hashomer Hatzair, and Meretz USA to form the Union of Progressive Zionists campus network, which has now become J Street U, to which Habonim Dror North America only has an affiliation.


The first steps of the TNUA in Argentina from the year 1934, when installation occurs in Buenos Aires Hejalutz Dror, by European influence. Several years later, in 1945 in Argentina hajsará arises from the hand of the other branch that later integrate what is currently moviemiento we are talking about Ichud Habonim. By 1980 there is the merger and Ichud Habonim Dror, forming what is now known as Habonim Dror. This unification occurs after the formation of the Kingdom of the Kibbutz Movement, Takam. Remember that before this event Dror was aligned with the network "Meiujad" (Meuhad) while Kibbutz Habonim was integrated with the kibbutzim of "Ichud." Today our TNUA has keinim in 8 provinces, with over 300 active chaverim. Through the Shnat Hajshara, encouraging continuing to live their bogrim significant experience in the State of Israel, seeking to strengthen identification with Jewish culture.

New Zealand[edit]

There are 3 main centres; Auckland being the largest, then Wellington and Christchurch. Each Ken runs weekly meetings. The movement come together for various seminars during the year as well as winter and summer camps. The summer camps run for ten days and are always in tents and on a farm, winter camps are shorter and run in cabins due to New Zealand's climate. Habo NZ celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2008.


Habonim Dror has four kenim (branches) around Australia. They are in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. The three largest Kenim in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth hold weekly meetings, regular seminars and two camps each year (winter and summer), with chaverim (members) from all of Australia coming together for senior summer camp.

Every year chanichim (members) travel to Israel for a year on Shnat Hachshara Ve'Hadracha le'Aliyah, commonly referred to as Shnat, where they go on an extensive experiential and educational process and actively carry out movement aims and discuss group issues.


The movement arrived in Brazil by influences of the Argentine activists, and began in Porto Alegre (Southern Brazil) in 1945. Within a few years, Habonim reached Curitiba, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Some time later, it arrived in Recife, Salvador and Belo Horizonte. And, more recently, it reached Manaus and Fortaleza.

At these nine branches across the country, Habonim runs weekly activities for children, teenagers and young adults from 7 to 22 years old, as well as weekly-long Machanot (camps) in Summer and Winter. Also twice a year is held the National Machaneh.

Once in a two-year cycle, a Veidah Artzit (National Convention) is held, comprising a meeting of all the senior members of the National Movement. The Veidah has powers to modify HD Brazil's ideological platform, as long as it doesn't oppose to the World Movement's principles.

Southern Africa[edit]

Habonim Dror Southern Africa (HDSA) was founded in 1930 by Norman Lourie.[14] HDSA draws its membership from the Southern African region. However the vast majority of its membership comes from South Africa. HDSA's two primary centres are based in Cape Town and Johannesburg, although the movement is active across the country.

HDSA defines itself as a Jewish Zionist Youth movement (See Constitution 2009).[15] HDSA classifies itself as a left-wing movement. Unlike other Habonim Dror movements, HDSA does not classify itself as socialist but rather supports economic and social equality.[15]

As a left-wing Zionist movement, HDSA promotes a two-state solution in Israel. It also encourages it members to live in Israel in a manner which positively contributes to Israeli society.[15]

HDSA also places immense value on active citizenship and thus strives to educate its members on South Africa and encourages them to be active in creating a just and equal post apartheid South Africa. To this end, HDSA has worked with non-governmental organisation's such as the Treatment Action Campaign, the Social Justice Coalition and Equal Education in attempting to achieve these goals.[15]

HDSA annually hosts one of the largest summer camps in the Southern Hemisphere at their campsite in Onrus outside Cape Town.[16] During the year, consistent activities are run for its members who range from the ages of 9–22.[14] The ideological tenants of the movement such as Zionism, Socialism and Service to Humanity inform many of these activities. Additionally, HDSA runs an annual tour to Israel for 16-year-olds and sends many of its members on a ten month post school program to Israel.[17][18]


The Belgian ken is one of the biggest in Europe. Every Saturday afternoon, 130 haverim and madrihim get together in Brussels.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Habonim, Great Britain. 1929–1955, Yad Tabenkin, 1999
  2. ^ Silman-Cheong, Helen, Wellesley Aron, Rebel with a Cause, Valentine Mitchell, 1992, p.50
  3. ^ a b : taken from various sources in the archives of Habonim at Yad Tabenkin, Ramat Efer, near Ramat Gan/Tel Aviv, Israel.
  4. ^ Steinberg, Jessica (May 11, 2012). "Before 'The Dictator' and 'Borat', Friends Recall, Sacha Baron Cohen Was a Very Nerdy, Very Funny, Israel-Oriented Guy". The Times of Israel. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c Tepper, Rachel (August 27, 2009). "Ron Bloom: Car Czar in the Labor Zionist Tradition". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  6. ^ Miller, Gerri (March–April 2007). "This Glass Is Half Full". American Jewish Life Magazine. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  7. ^ Goldberg, J.J. (August 11, 2010). "Remembering Tony Judt, Heartsick Lover of Zion". The Forward. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  8. ^ Rakoff, David (November 27, 1998). "The Meaning of a Bird". This American Life. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  9. ^ Round, Simon (December 18, 2008). "Interview: Mark Regev". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  10. ^ Richler, Mordechai (1994). This Year in Jerusalem. New York: Alfred A. Knopf Inc. p. 4. ISBN 0-394-28124-1. 
  11. ^ Pfefferman, Naomi (October 18, 2001). "Higher-Ed Humor". Jewish Journal. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  12. ^ Goldberg, J.J. (July 18, 2010). "David Twersky, Political Journalist and Peace Activist, Dies at 60". The Forward. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  13. ^ Habonim Dror Camp Association registration data 2013
  14. ^ a b "Welcome to Habonim Dror. Overview". Habo.org.za. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  15. ^ a b c d "Chukkah of Habonim Dror Southern Africa- Biography". Habonim Dror Southern Africa. 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-30. 
  16. ^ "Welcome to Habonim Dror. Machaneh". Habo.org.za. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  17. ^ "Welcome to Habonim Dror. Shnat". Habo.org.za. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  18. ^ "Welcome to Habonim Dror. Shorashim". Habo.org.za. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  19. ^ http://www.habonim-dror.org/

External links[edit]