February 21, 1897: Birthdate of Meir Ya’ari, the native of Galicia who made Aliyah in 1920 where he founded Kibbutz Artzi before serving as a member of Israel’s first Knesset.
Ya’ari was born Meyer Wald in Galicia in 1897. At the outbreak of World War I his family moved to Vienna. At the age of 17, he volunteered for the Austrian Army and served as an officer until the end of the war. He studied at the Agricultural Academy and at the University of Vienna. In 1919, he co-founded and co-led the Viennese Hashomer Hatzair. In 1920 he made aliyah (he immigrated) to Israel. He worked at Kinneret and Gdud HaAvoda paving roads from Tiberias to Tzemah and to Tabgha. He was a prominent member in the first collective of Hashomer Hatzair in Bitania, and was among the founders of the Histadrut. Since 1924 he served as Secretary of the world Hashomer Hatzair.
In 1927, he founded Kibbutz Artzi, was elected its secretary and took part in drafting its principles. In 1929, he was among the founders of kibbutz Merhavia, where he lived until he died.
In 1948, he co-founded Mapam as its leader, and functioned as its general secretary until 1973. He was a Mapam MK in the first through seventh Knessets, from 1949 to 1973. In the first Knesset he was member of the Knesset committee, and in the fifth through seventh Knessets he was member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
The Kibbutz Artzi is a federation comprising 85 kibbutzim founded by the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement. In 1998, it numbered around 20,000 members and its entire population (including children, candidates, parents of members etc.) totaled approximately 35,000.
When the State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948 six Arab armies attacked the new nation and tried to crush it still-born. The battles were bitter. High in the annals of the struggle stand kibbutzim of the Kibbutz Artzi which were settled along the borders of the new country and were among the first to bear the brunt of the attack. Kibbutz Yad Mordechai (named for the commander of the Warsaw Ghetto revolt) and Kibbutz Negba, blocked the path of the Egyptian army to Tel Aviv. These and other Hashomer Hatzair kibbutzim were in the forefront of the effort of the entire Jewish community to win the final liberation of Israel.
Today, the Kibbutz Artzi is attempting to deal with its distinctive path as a cooperative, humanistic society. It is doing so by carrying out far-reaching changes in the structure and activities of its economy; in its organization and administration; in fostering culture and education; and in readjusting the democratic structure of its society.
At the same time, the Kibbutz Artzi continues to maintain its educational activities and the absorption of hundreds of youth from outside the kibbutz, while continuing in its social and political activity. It also takes part in the national task of absorbing new immigrants. The endeavor to guarantee the future of the kibbutz is accompanied both by anxiety and with much hope for the future, as well as with a belief in the ability of the kibbutzim and the movement to renew themselves, and to continue to develop humanistic and cooperative forms of life that will fit the needs of the individual and of society in the future.
Today, I submit for your viewing pleasure, two philatelic items related to the kibbutz movement. The first, is a 2,50 shekel stamp issued by Israel on June 14, 2010 commemorating the 100th anniversary of the kibbutz movement. The second is the First Day Cover for the same issue.