• Issue: August 2007
  • Designer: Mali & Momi Non
  • Stamp Size: 30.8 mm x 40 mm
  • Plate no.: 685 (no phosphor bar)
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: offset

In September 1907, a group of young newcomers who arrived in Eretz Yisrael during the "Second Aliyah" wave of immigration met in Yitzhak Ben-Zvi's (later, Israel's second president) room in the "Warsaw Houses" in Jaffa to form an underground security organization. They named the organization "Bar-Giora," after the legendary Jewish rebel against the ancient Romans during the uprising in the years 66-73 after the common era. This initiative led to a historic turning point in the development of the Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael. Theirs was the first organization with an inclusive national-territorial-security viewpoint with the goal of defending the Jewish national enterprise in Eretz Yisrael.

Soon thereafter, the group moved to the Sejera Farm in the Galilee, where, after concerted efforts, they managed to put in place a self-protection guarding system for the farm to defend it against thieves and enemies. Following this first success, their guard network spread out to the other Jewish villages in the Lower Galilee. Gradually, a new image of a fighting guardsman emerged, altering the negative perception of Jews held by the Arab population until then.

The Young Turk Revolution of 1908 evoked heightened Arab nationalist feelings in the region, including in Eretz Yisrael. Violence toward Jews increased, prompting a decision by the members of the Bar-Giora association that the new reality demanded the formation of a larger security organization which, under the guise of a guard association, would be recognized by the Ottoman authorities. This new body, called Hashomer (The Guard), was established during Passover of 1909 at Kfar Tavor.

Some of the founders and leaders of Bar-Giora and Hashomer had taken part in self-defense in Russia and had been influenced by the revolutionary spirit in Russia then.

The Hashomer organization soon attained considerable success, with its defense activity spreading from the Galilee southward to the large villages of Hadera, Rishon Lezion and Rehovot, and to smaller villages. This blossoming continued until 1913, when the organization underwent a process of downsizing, withdrawing back to the Galilee by the time World War I broke out. The war caused serious damage to Hashomer, as to the entire Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael. Its members were rounded up by the authorities, imprisoned, tortured and exiled. By the war's end, the organization was weakened qualitatively and financially, and was bereft of its dominant leaders: Yehezkel Henkin and Mendel Portugali had died; Manya and Yisrael Shohat were exiled and returned home only in 1919; Yisrael Giladi died in 1918, and other major figures in the organization returned home only gradually thereafter. The Balfour Declaration and the conquest of the country by the British in late 1918 created a new political, communal and party reality. In light of these new circumstances, Hashomer decided to disband and transfer responsibility for security matters to the newly formed Ahdut Ha'avodah Party, a decision made by the organization's expanded council in a meeting at Tel Adashim on May 5, 1920. The new party promptly accepted this responsibility, in June 1920. With the establishment of the Histadrut - General Federation of Labor in December 1920, responsibility for the security of the entire Yishuv (the Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael) was handed over to it. On this basis, the Haganah (Defense) organization was formed in early 1921, leading eventually to the emergence of the Israel Defense Forces.

A direct line thus led from Bar-Giora and Hashomer to the I.D.F. Bar-Giora and its successor, Hashomer, operated for a total of 13 years. They were small organizations numerically. Yet they left their mark on the history of the Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael in the following ways:
1) Bar-Giora and Hashomer, in contrast to all preceding defense efforts, had a supra-national outlook. The arena of their concern was the whole of Eretz Yisrael. They were the first to define the necessity of a country-wide Jewish security force that would protect the national enterprise in Eretz Yisrael. This constituted their contribution to the Zionist ethos.
2) Although Hashomer had an affinity to the labor movement, it preserved its independence as a supra-national organization that accepted anyone who could meet its requirements, regardless of political outlook.
3) Hashomer and its predecessor envisioned the formation of a Jewish army. This was its implicit vision, although outwardly it presented itself solely as a guard organization.
4) Hashomer's vision was the settlement of its members in the frontier areas, integrating defense with settlement. It founded the villages of Tel Adashim and, during the war, Kfar Giladi (Kfar BarĀ­Giora), and played a role as well in the founding of Kibbutz Ayelet Hashahar and of Tel-Hai as a shepherds' settlement.
5) Bar-Giora and Hashomer adopted three fundamental principles: taking control of defense, taking control of labor, and taking control of pastureland.
6) The founders of Bar-Giora and Hashomer envisioned the creation of a nucleus of people who would devote their lives to defense. This nucleus would have a high level of morality and professionalism. A broad, supra-communal defense framework of defenders of the national enterprise in Eretz Yisrael was to form around this nucleus.

All these attributes endow Bar-Giora and Hashomer with a place of honor and prestige in the history of the Zionist movement and the Jewish Yishuv in Eretz Yisrael.

Prof. Yaacov N. Goldstein
Department of Eretz Yisrael Studies
University of Haifa

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