Hashomer Hatzair

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The Semel Tnua, the official logo of Hashomer Hatzair. The inscription, in Hebrew, reads "Chazak Ve'ematz", best translated as "Be Strong and Brave".

Hashomer Hatzair (Hebrew: השומר הצעיר, also transliterated Hashomer Hatsair or HaShomer HaTzair, translating as The Youth Guard) is a Socialist-Zionist youth movement founded in 1913 in Galicia (now part of Poland) and was also the name of the group's political party in the Yishuv in the pre-1948 British Mandate of Palestine.

Early formation

Hashomer Hatzair came into being as a result of the merger of two groups, Hashomer ("The Guard") a Zionist scouting group, and Ze'irei Zion ("The Youth of Zion") which was an ideological circle that studied Zionism, left wing socialism and Jewish history. Hashomer Hatzair is the oldest Zionist youth movement still in existence. Initially Marxist-Zionist, the movement was influenced by the ideas of Ber Borochov and Gustav Wyneken as well as Baden-Powell and the German Wandervogel movement. Hashomer Hatzair believed that the liberation of Jewish youth could be accomplished by aliya ("emigration") to Palestine and living in kibbutzim. After the war the movement spread to Jewish communities throughout the world as a scouting movement.

Members of the movement first settled in the British Mandate of Palestine in 1919. In 1927 the four kibbutzim founded by Hashomer Hatzair banded together to form the Kibbutz Artzi federation. The movement also formed a political party under the name Hashomer Hartzair which advocated a Binational solution in Palestine with equality between Arabs and Jews. Accordingly, Hashomer Hatzair voted against the Biltmore Program in 1942.

In 1936, Hashomer Hatzair launched a political party, the Socialist League of Palestine, to represent members and supporters of Hashomer Hatzair kibbutzim and the youth movement in the political organizations of the Yishuv (as the Jewish community in the British Mandate of Palestine was known). The Socialist League soon became known simply as Hashomer Hatzair and was the only Zionist political party to accept Arab members as equals, support Arab rights and call for a binational state in Palestine.

Growth and the Holocaust

By 1939 Hashomer Hatzair had 70,000 members worldwide. The movement's base was in Eastern Europe. With the advent of World War II and the Holocaust members of Hashomer Hatzair changed their focus from settlement in Palestine to resistance against the Nazis. Mordechaj Anielewicz, the leader of Hashomer Hatzair's Warsaw branch, became head of the Jewish Fighting Organization and one of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Other members of the movement were involved in Jewish resistance and rescue in Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia. The leaders of Hashomer Hatzair in Romania were arrested and executed for anti-fascist activities.

After the war, the movement was involved in organising illegal immigration of Jewish refugees to Palestine. Members were also involved in the Haganah military movement as well as in the leadership of the Palmach.

Hashomer Hatzair Today

the shirt of Hashomer Hatzair

Today, Hashomer Hatzair remains as a youth movement operating internationally. In Europe, Latin America and Australia, Hashomer Hatzair organizes regular activities and camps (machanot) for the youth. Activities are still relatively ideological, but have over time been adapted to the needs of modern communities, vastly different from those context in which Hashomer Hatzair was created.

The movement has 7000 members worldwide (excluding Israel) running weekly youth activities and camps in Germany, Canada, the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina. Uruguay, Chile, France, Belgium. Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands, Hungary, Bulgaria, Belarus, Ukraine and Australia.

Famous alumni include Arik Einstein, Tony Cliff, Ernest Mandel, Mordecai Anielewicz, Abraham Leon, Benny Morris, Eliane Karp, Leopold Trepper, Amnon Linn, Abba Hushi, Sam Spiegel, Irv Weinstein, Manès Sperber, José Gurvich and even Isser Harel and Menachem Begin who were briefly members before joining Mapai and the right wing Betar respectively, as well as Kerem B'Yavneh's Rabbi Avraham Rivlin. Noam Chomsky sympathized with and worked with the group, although he was never a member, and his views are generally considered beyond the pale of acceptance by the movement.

With the merger of the United Kibbutz Movement and Kibbutz Artzi, the likelihood of a merger between Hashomer Hatzair and UKM's youth movement, Habonim Dror has increased and the two youth movements, once rivals, have increasingly co-operated in various countries where they co-exist. Both movements even share an office in New York. However, the views of each movement on religion may be an obstacle to merger as Habonim Dror has a stronger identification with cultural Judaism as opposed to Hashomer Hatzair, which has been at times stridently secular and anti-religious - seeing itself as a leader of a legitimate expression of a secular steam of Judaism.


The movement in Australia is located in Melbourne and was established in 1954 as a break away from Habonim Dror. There was briefly a ken (branch) in Sydney during the 1960's, but it closed down due to lack of members. Many of the original bogrim (leaders) of Australian Hashomer Hatzair settled in Kibbutz Nirim. Its building in Melbourne is known as Beit Anielewicz and is currently being upgraded. It runs weekly meetings as well as biannual camps which take place in the Australian outback.

Currently there are close to one hundred members of 'Hashy' Australia. Meetings are held every Sunday from 3 - 5pm for Juniors and 6 - 8pm for Senior. During Year 10 (age: 15-16) chanichim undergo a 'hadrachah' (leadership) course. This course is run by current bogrim in the movement and teachers the the chanichim leadership skills which are used when they lead members of the Junior movement in Year 11. The current group going through hadrachah is Ga'ash while the current Year 11 madrichim (leaders) are from Nir-Oz.

Hashomer Hatzair Australia has a strong belief that chanichim should be active in the community, helping whenever they can. Members often go to rallies and run programs for less advantaged children.

In Hashomer Australia, every year level has its own kvutzah (group). These groups are named after Hashomer kibutzim in Israel. Current kvutzot include: Ga'ash, Sasa, Samar, Gazit, Nir-Oz, and Mishma HaEmeq.

As with most of kenim around the world, every year Hashy sends the chanichim who have just completed school on a 10-month Shnat program in Israel. The current group in Israel is Yassur. After returning from Shnat, bogrim have a two year commitment to the movement in which they lead the chanichim of the movement or take up various administrative roles including Merakez (head of the movement) Rosh Chinuch (head of education) and Gizbar (treasurer). The current bogrim are from the groups of Gazit, Baram and Yassur. Erin Bloch and Ophelia Erlich are the Merak'zim of 2007.

USA and Canada

In the United States and Canada camps are organized which last through the school summer break. The two summer camps near Liberty, New York and Perth, Canada are both called Camp Shomria. Furthermore the movement runs activities in local cities on a regular basis throughout the year. Hashomer Hatzair runs educational activities promoting the peace process and withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza.

Through seminars, camps (winter/summer), worldwide programs and weekly activities in which youth lead youth, Hashomer Hatzair aims to create a just world through socialism, equality of people, and the betterment of Israel and the world.

As well Hashomer Hatzair has a program which sends shomrim to Israel for a 10 month program.

Hashomer Hatzair has collaborated with Habonim Dror and other left-wing Zionist groups to form the Union of Progressive Zionists campus network.


After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Hashomer Hatzair political party merged with other left wing parties to form Mapam which became the political party of both the youth movement and the Kibbutz Artzi federation. In Israel it is was traditionally aligned with Mapam and later Meretz. It is not officially aligned with Meretz's successor party, Meretz-Yachad, due to a recent merger of its parent organization, the Meretz-aligned Kibbutz Artzi Federation with the Labour Party's United Kibbutz Movement, Hashomer Hatzair is officially not aligned with either party though, by tradition, it is close in outlook to Meretz-Yachad.

South Africa

Hashomer Hatzair operated in South Africa until sometime in the 1980s when the South Africa government banned the movement and arrested its members because of their anti-apartheid teachings and activism.


The Austrian Hashomer Hatzair is 90 years old. It was the first Hashomer Hatzair in the world.


Hashomer Hatzair operates four kens (branches) : Rome, Milan , Florence, and Turin.


In Belgium, Hashomer Hatsaïr was established in 1920. Today, 200 hanihim are coming each Saturday. Four camps are organized by year, often in Holland or in France. The shaliah is Tal Harel and the shirfa madrihim is composed of Maanit and Ein-Shemer. There was a ken in Liege but i was too small so it closed.

See also


External links