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Yitzhak Tabenkin

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Yitzhak Tabenkin
Faction represented in the Knesset
1955–1959Ahdut HaAvoda
Personal details
Born(1888-01-08)8 January 1888
Babruysk, Russian Empire
Died6 June 1971(1971-06-06) (aged 83)
Ein Harod, Israel

Yitzhak Tabenkin (Hebrew: יצחק טבנקין‎, 8 January 1888 – 6 June 1971) was a Zionist activist and Israeli politician. He was one of the founders of the kibbutz Movement.[1]


Poalei Zion members in Warsaw, Congress Poland, 1905. Standing from right to left, Eliezer Salzkin and Yitzhak Tabenkin. Sitting from right to left Max Tabenkin, who never emigrated to Israel, Eva Tabenkin, Yosef Zaltzman and Elkana Horowitz

Yitzchak Tabenkin was born in Babruysk in the Russian Empire (now Belarus) in 1888. He attended a cheder in Warsaw and later continued with a secular education. His father abandoned Orthodox Judaism as a young man, turning to radical politics.[2] He served time as a political prisoner.[2] His mother, meanwhile, was involved in Poland’s revolutionary intelligentsia.[2]

Tabenkin was among the founders of Poale Zion in Poland.[1] He cited Karl Marx and Haim Nahman Bialik as influences.[3] He was also influenced by Peter Kropotkin and Mikhail Bakunin.[2]

In 1912, he immigrated to Ottoman Palestine, where he worked as an agricultural laborer in Merhavia and Kfar Uria. During the First World War, he worked on the Kinneret Farm.[4] He was a delegate to every Zionist Congress after the war.

He joined the defense organization HaShomer. He was a member of the "Non-Party" workers group and was active in agricultural laborers organizations in what would later be called the West Bank. In 1921 he joined Joseph Trumpeldor's Work Battalion (Gdud HaAvoda) and became one of the founders of the first kibbutz proper (as opposed to smaller-scale kvutza), Ein Harod, which later became the center of the kibbutz movement, where he was considered a spiritual leader.[2] He went on a mission on behalf of "Hechalutz" to Poland to encourage emigration to Palestine (aliyah).[4] He disapproved of the idea of Jewish statehood and advocated a "bottom up" approach to Jewish socialism. He believed this should be achieved in the "Whole Land of Israel". He regarded the political borders of the Middle East following the partition of the Ottoman Empire as imposed by European imperialism.[5] He expressed a vision of the entire Jewish people living in communes as part of a "worldwide alliance of communist peoples". He referred to the Great Revolt as an event that perpetuated the Jewish national existence.[6]

He lived at Ein Harod until his death.[1] Moshav Yitav (a Hebrew acronym for "Yad Yitzhak Tabenkin") in the Jordan Valley is named after him. Yitzhak Tabenkin's son, Joseph Tabenkin, became the Fourth Battalion commander of the Palmach's Harel Brigade.

Political career[edit]

Tabenkin was one of the founders of Ahdut HaAvoda. In 1930, he became one of the founders of Mapai and one of its leaders along with David Ben-Gurion and Berl Katznelson. He opposed the Peel Commission's recommendations and any of Ben-Gurion's attempts to reach a compromise with the Revisionist Zionists.[4]

In 1944 he led the "Bet" Faction that split from Mapai and created the new "Ahdut HaAvoda" party. In 1948 he was one of the founders of the more pro-Soviet Mapam, and was elected to the first Knesset in 1949. In 1954 he resigned from Mapam along with Ahdut HaAvoda over the issue of relationships with the Soviet Union[dubiousdiscuss] and remained the leader of Ahdut HaAvoda until the establishment of the Labor Party in 1968. He was reelected to the third Knesset in 1955.

After the Sinai War of 1956, he opposed Israel's withdrawal and compared it to the Munich Agreement. He said Israel's right to the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip was derived from the Ten Commandments and the blood of the soldiers killed in the war.[7] During the 1960s, he maintained that the 1949 Armistice Agreements would not last. In June 1966, he said "Anywhere war will allow, we shall go to restore the country's integrity".[8]

After the Six-Day War of 1967, he opposed any territorial concession. He considered the addition of over a million Arabs to Israel's population a problem that could be solved by a massive aliyah. He believed Israel's victory would awaken the Jewish Diaspora and joined the "Movement for Greater Israel".[9]

A collection of Yitzhak Tabenkin's personal papers and correspondence is stored today at the "Tabenkin Memorial" (Yad Tabenkin) in Ramat Ef'al.[10]

Published works[edit]

  • The Jewish State and the Way to Achieve It (1944) (in Hebrew)
  • Kibbutz Society (1954) (in Hebrew)
  • There is No Where to Pullback To (1968) (in Hebrew)
  • Lessons of the Six Day War (1970) (in Hebrew)
  • Issues (Four Volumes of Articles) (1967) (in Hebrew)


  1. ^ a b c "Tabenkin, Yitzhak (1887–1971)". Jewish Agency. Archived from the original on 2008-11-21. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
  2. ^ a b c d e Shavit, Ari (2013). My Promised Land. Spiegel & Grau. p. 38. ISBN 0385521707.
  3. ^ Gorenberg (2007), p. 15
  4. ^ a b c "Tabenkin, Yitzhak". The Israeli Labor Movement (in Hebrew). Retrieved 2008-10-13.
  5. ^ Gorenberg (2007), pp. 15-16
  6. ^ Ben-Yehuda (1995), pp. 127-128
  7. ^ Segev (2007), pp. 177-178
  8. ^ Segev (2007), p. 180
  9. ^ Gorenberg (2007), pp. 73-74
  10. ^ Tzur, Ze'ev (1980). "The Archive of the Kibbutz Hameuhad Movement at Yad Tabenkin". Cathedra: For the History of Eretz Israel and Its Yishuv. 14 (14): 203–206. JSTOR 23397353.


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