Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi

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Ben-Zvi with her husband (centre) on a visit to Rehovot

Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi (Hebrew: רחל ינאית בן-צבי‎‎; 1886 – 16 November 1979) was an Israeli author and educator, and a leading Labor Zionist. Ben-Zvi was the wife of the second President of Israel, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi.

Biography[edit]

Ben-Zvi was born in 1886 in the town of Malin, Russian Empire (now Ukraine), under the name Golda Lishansky. She was active in a leftist Zionist party, Poale Zion. In 1908, she emigrated to Palestine, which then was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. She became a leader among the Jewish workers of the Second Aliyah. She was active in organizing labor and organizing the Jewish watchman force, Hashomer. In 1918, she married Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, another activist in Poale Zion and Hashomer. They had two sons together.

After World War I, Ben-Zvi founded "The Educational Farm" in Jerusalem; a farm that provided agricultural education for women. She was among the founders of "The Hebrew Gymnasium" in Jerusalem and remained a labor activist. She was also active in the Haganah paramilitary organization and organized the clandestine aliyah of immigrants through Syria and Lebanon.

Her son, Eli, died in March 1948 during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War in the battle of Beit Keshet.

After the founding of the State of Israel, she was active in the absorption of immigrants from Arab countries.

In 1952, her husband was appointed as the president of Israel. As the first lady of Israel, she opened the president's house to people from all the strata of Israeli society. During that time, she wrote about education and defense and wrote an autobiography called We are Olim (אנו עולים / anu olim), which was published in 1961.

In 1978, Ben-Zvi was awarded the Israel Prize for her special contribution to society and the State of Israel.[1] She died on 16 November 1979.

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