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Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion)

Hovevei Zion is a collective name for Zionist associations founded in Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century. These associations advocated practical Zionism, or Jewish immigration and settlement in the Land of Israel.

"The movement which also went by Hibbat Zion, was in fact a conglomerate of sparse communities of Jewish intellectuals, men of labor, Rabbis, and Jews from all walks of life that knew that the antisemitism that they encountered in Europe and lived through was too much to bear"*, especially after the waves of pogroms of 1881-1884 in the Russian Empire.

Founded in the early 1880s, the Zionist entities who composed the Hovevei Zion movement officially constituted a group at a conference led by Leon Pinsker in 1884 in Katowice (previously in Germany). The conference was attended by 32 people, including 22 from Russia. It was the first public meeting of Zionists, preceding the First Zionist Congress in 13 years.

The Lovers of Zion movement spread to all Jewish centers around the world.

In Western Europe, the fight against assimilation (considered the main threat to Jewish people) was the movement's priority. In this context, years later, Theodor Herzl's vision of practical Zionism would emerge and take precedence over other Zionism visions.

"Following the publication of Herzl's Der Judenstaat in 1896 and the establishment of the World Zionist Organization, most Hovevei Zion branches aligned themselves with the new movement."**

These movements are considered today's foundations of modern Zionism.

Some significant leaders of the movement:

  • Leon Pinsker, leader, and founder of the movement.

  • Moshe Lev Lilienblum, writer and journalist, who served as secretary of the movement until 1910.

  • Isaac Leib Goldberg, a philanthropist who bought lands in Israel, and founder of today's oldest Israeli newspaper Haaretz,

  • Ahad Ha'am, founder of Cultural Zionism,

  • Chaim Weizmann, first president of the State of Israel.

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