Tabenkin, Yizhak

(1887–1971)
   Zionist labour leader. After being active in the Labour Zionist movement in Europe, Tabenkin settled in Palestine from Byelorussia a few years before World War I. He was a member of the collective settlement Kinneret during the war, and afterwards joined the Gedud ha-Avodah (‘Labour Legion’). This was an organization of several hundred men and women who, in the early 1920s, hired themselves out as construction workers, road gangs and swamp-drainage teams, living in tent encampments, often on a collectivist basis. Tabenkin was one of a group of Gedud members who founded Kibbutz Ein Harod in 1921. The kibbutz soon broke with the Gedud and, under Tabenkin’s influence, became the nucleus of a federation of kibbutzim - Kibbutz Meuchad. The movement believed in large collectives - by contrast to the pre-1921 kvutzot, which were rather like enlarged family groups - and in a wide variety of economic activities that would help absorb and train new immigrants. Tabenkin was regarded as the federation’s ideological and spiritual leader, and headed its seminar centre for many years. In 1943, when the existence of the Palmach (Haganah mobile strike force) was threatened by lack of money, it was saved by his suggestion that its members should join kibbutzim as part-time workers.
   In 1919 Tabenkin helped organize the Ahdut ha-Avodah Party in an attempt to create a united Jewish workers’ movement in Palestine, and in 1930 he was a founder-member of the new Mapai Party. He led the left-wing Ahdut ha-Avodah group that broke away from Mapai in 1944 and continued to exist, either as a separate party or, from 1948 to 54, as a faction within the Mapam Party, until it became part of the reunited Israel Labour Party in 1968. Tabenkin was a founder- member of the Histadrut (Israel’s major labour union) in 1920, a delegate to all Zionist congresses after World War I, and a member of the Knesset until 1959.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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