Manya Schochat

  • Issue: March 1970
  • Designer: F. Horn
  • Plate no.: 279
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Method of printing: Photogravure

In the year 5664 (1904), groups and individuals who had taken an active part in the self-defense of the Jewish communities in Russia against attacks directed at them under the Tsarist regime, began leaving that country for Eretz Israel.

These young people severely criticized the fact, that non-Jews, like Arabs, Bedouins, Circassians, Moghrabis and others, had been entrusted with guard duties in the Jewish colonies. They stressed the political and security risks as well as the moral degradation involved. On Sukkot 5668 (1907) a group of young men established a secret association, which they called "Bar Giora" (after the name of a commander of the Jewish rebellion against the Romans). It set itself ambitious political and agricultural aims. The "Bar Giora" association concentrated its members at Sejera, a Jewish settlement in Lower Galilee, and soon took over the task of guarding the place. On Passover 5669 (1909) the association's members decided to establish a legal organization called "Ha-Shomer" ("The Watchman"), with the purpose of "developing an element of Jewish watchmen." The organization was headed by Israel Shochat and his wife, Manya Wilbushewich-Shochat. Within a short time the organization took over the guarding of all the colonies in Lower Galilee and shortly afterwards that of some of the larger colonies in the south, such as: Haderah, Rehovot, and Rishon le-Zion.

Ha-Shomer was very particular in the selection of its members. The candidates for membership had to be familiar with the use of arms (rifle and pistol), to be skilled in riding on horseback, and to be well acquainted with their neighbors' language and customs. The annual gathering of Ha-Shomer, where the problems of security and guard duties were discussed and the work program laid down, would confirm as members those candidates who had passed probation. Ha-Shomer numbered about 100 members. Whenever necessary (during vintage or harvesting time, or in times of emergency), Ha-Shomer would mobilize an additional number of temporary watchmen among the workers in the colonies.

Ha-Shomer would gain a firm footing at places which were difficult to maintain for security reasons (fixing of area borders, right of passage, the use of water, etc.). The best known of these outposts is Merhavyah, the first Jewish settlement in the Jezreel Valley. After a very serious armed encounter with the neighboring Arab villages in 1911, some of the defenders of Merhavyah were arrested and sent to prison at Acre (Akko). After the outbreak of World War I, Ha-Shomer refused to comply with the demand of the Turkish authorities to surrender the organization's arms. It had no alternative but to go underground. Manya and Israel Shochat were exiled to Asia Minor. However, the watchmen continued to carry out their duties unfailingly even in those hard days of the war. During that time one group of Ha-Shomer established a watchmen's village on the northern border of the country, which they called Kefar Giladi after the name of its founder.

Seeing that the British rule of Eretz Israel had consolidated, the members of Ha-Shomer resolved to break up their organization and assisted in establishing the Haganah, the voluntary Jewish self-defense organization.

Though having existed but a few years, Ha-Shomer succeeded in securing for the new Jewish community in the country an entirely different standing. From being the "protectees" of some "strong men" of local fame, the colonies gradually transformed into bodies able to defend themselves against any attempt to infringe on their property or to disturb their peace. Ha-Shorner was thus the forerunner of the Haganah and the present-day Israel Defense Forces.

A portait of Manya Schochat appears on the stamp.

top top

"Ha-Shomer" (The Watchman)