Captured HeHalutz fighters during Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

HeHalutz or Hechalutz (Hebrew: החלוץ, lit. The Pioneer) was a Jewish youth movement that trained young people for settling in the Land of Israel. It became an umbrella organization of the pioneering Zionist youth movements.


HeHalutz was founded by Eliezer Joffe in America in 1905, and about the same time in Russia.[1]

During World War I, HeHalutz branches opened across Europe (including Russia), America and Canada. Leaders of the organization included Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (later the second president of the State of Israel), and David Ben-Gurion (later the first Prime Minister of Israel) in America, and Joseph Trumpeldor in Russia.

Ben-Gurion was living in Jerusalem at the start of the First World War, where he and Ben Zvi recruited forty Jews into a Jewish militia to assist the Ottoman army. Despite this, he was deported to Egypt in March 1915. From there he made his way to the United States, where he remained for three years. On his arrival, he and Ben Zvi went on a tour of 35 cities in an attempt to raise a Hechalutz "pioneer army" of 10,000 men to fight on Turkey's side.[2] After the Balfour Declaration of November 1917, the situation changed dramatically and Ben-Gurion, with the interest of Zionism in mind, switched sides and joined the newly formed Jewish Legion of the British Army, leaving to fight the Turks in Palestine.

At its peak, between 1930 and 1935, HeHalutz operated in 25 countries throughout Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Northern South America.

By the eve of Second World War in 1939, HeHalutz numbered 100,000 members worldwide, with approximately 60,000 having already emigrated (aliyah) to Mandate Palestine, and with 16,000 members in training centers (hakhsharot) for the pioneering life in the Land of Israel.[3] During the war and German occupation, Jews in some ghettos in Europe established Hechalutz units, as in Lithuania's Šiauliai Ghetto.[4]


  1. Ritov, Israel; Slutsky, Yehuda (2007). "He-Ḥalutz". In Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Encyclopaedia Judaica. 8 (2 ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. pp. 756–761.
  2. Teveth, Shabtai (1985) Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs. From Peace to War. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-503562-3. pp. 25, 26.
  3. Resistance in the Smaller Ghettos of Eastern Europe United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  4. "The Shavli Ghetto". Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel. Retrieved 27 April 2012.

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