Shochat, Israel

(1886–1961)
   Founder of Hashomer. Shochat, from Byelorussia, was a member of the Second Aliyah and settled in Palestine in 1904. He objected to the Jewish settlements in Palestine being guarded by hired non- Jews, whereas other minorities, notably the Druze and Circassians, had won respect from the Arab majority by their readiness to fight back when attacked. Shochat set out to create a group of Jewish guards who would do the same for the yishuv. In 1907 he and some colleagues, most of them like himself members of Poale Zion, founded a secret society called Bar-Giora. This was superseded two years later by the larger Hashomer (‘The Watchman’), which had Shochat as its chairman.
   Within a few years the new organization had taken over guard duty in many settlements, and its influence had made others also go over to an all-Jewish guard system. The shomrim could speak Arabic and dressed like Arabs or Circassians. They studied Arab methods of fighting and aimed at superiority in organization and discipline.
   During World War I, Shochat and his wife Manya were exiled by the suspicious Ottoman authorities and Hashomer went underground, though it continued to function in spite of internal squabbles. In 1920 it was replaced by the Haganah. Shochat was one of the Haganah’s founding members but soon quarrelled with the leadership and resigned. His attempt to organize a separate defence system based on the Labour Legion got him into trouble with the Histadrut establishment; and as his legion declined so, too, did Shochat’s influence. Shochat had studied law in Constantinople with BEN-ZVI and BEN-GURION before World War I, and under the British mandate he became a regular defender of Haganah prisoners.
   Manya Wilbushewitch Shochat (1880–1961) was a Russian revolutionary, and in her youth was arrested by the czarist police. She was later released and in 1899 the chief of the secret police, Zubatov, persuaded her to co-operate in his scheme for setting up a non-political workers’ movement, the ‘Zubatov unions’. She also established a Jewish Independent Labour Party which collapsed after the 1903 Kishinev pogrom. Manya settled in Palestine in 1907 and joined the Bar-Giora workers’ group led by Israel Shochat that set up the first (but short- lived) collective farm in Palestine, near Sedjera. She married Shochat in 1908 and with him was one of the founders of Hashomer, in which she exerted a strong influence. In 1930 she was among those who started the League for Jewish-Arab Friendship, and after the birth of the state in 1948 she joined the left-wing Labour party, Mapam.

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

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