Aaronsohn Family (Aaron & Sarah)—Siblings Aaron and Sarah formed a spy ring, called Nili, during World War I to provide intelligence to the British. The Ottomans eventually discovered the ring and then jailed, tortured, and killed many of the group’s members. Aaron and Sarah became Zionist heroes and icons.
Abbas, Mahmoud “Abu Mazen”—Appointed by Yasser Arafat as the Palestinian Authority’s first prime minister, Abbas was a negotiator of the Oslo Accords. He took over as president of the Palestinian Authority after Arafat’s death.
Ahad Ha’am (Asher Zvi Ginzberg)—A leading Zionist thinker opposed to Herzl’s idea of a state, Ahad Ha’am favored establishing a Jewish spiritual center in Palestine.
al-Assad, Hafez—Syrian president from 1971 to 2000. In tandem with Anwar Sadat, Assad launched the Yom Kippur War attack on Israel in 1973, and as late as 1996, refused to make peace with Israel.
al-Hussein, Abdullah I (bin)—King of Transjordan (renamed Jordan in 1949) from 1946 to 1951, King Abdullah had warmer relations with the Yishuv and Israeli leaders than any other Arab leader. He was assassinated in 1951 after rumors spread that he was considering peace talks with Israel.
al-Husseini, Haj Amin—Grand mufti of Jerusalem between 1921 and 1937, al-Husseini, leader of the Arab Higher Committee, did all in his power to block Jewish immigration and settlement in Palestine. During World War II he assisted with the development of Nazi propaganda in the Muslim world.
Allon, Yigal—A founder of the Palmach, Israeli politician, and IDF general. Allon devised a plan to annex some of the land captured in 1967 and to return the rest to the Jordanians. The plan was never acted on.
Arafat, Yasser—Founder of Fatah in the late 1950s, and later chairman of the PLO, Arafat was recognized as the political leader of the Palestinians. Mastermind of a campaign of terror not only in Israel, but in the world at large, he also signed the Oslo Accords but ultimately refused to make peace with Israel.
Ariel, Meir—A soldier in the unit that helped capture the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967, Ariel became a leading Israeli musician and the voice of a generation unsettled by Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. His alternative to Naomi Shemer’s “Jerusalem of Gold,” called “Jerusalem of Iron,” helped launch his career.
Arlosoroff, Chaim—Head of the Jewish Agency’s political department, Arlosoroff developed the Ha’avara, or Transfer Agreement, that enabled German Jews to move their money to Palestine, while creating a market for German goods. Many people in the Yishuv were furious that Arlosoroff negotiated with the Nazis. He was assassinated in 1933.
Balfour, Arthur—As the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary, Balfour wrote a letter to Lord Rothschild declaring, “His Majesty’s Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” It was the first step in the international community’s endorsement of the idea of a Jewish state.
Bar Kokhba (Simeon Bar Kokhba)—Sixty-two years after the Romans had destroyed the Second Temple, Bar Kokhba staged a revolt against the occupying empire in 132 CE. Eventually, Rome’s massive army in 135 CE overran Bar Kokhba’s forces, but Bar Kokhba remained a symbol of rebelliousness against foreign occupying powers.
Barak, Ehud—Former IDF general who served as prime minister from 1999 to 2001. He withdrew Israeli troops from Lebanon in 2000 and participated in peace negotiations with Clinton and Arafat at Camp David.
Begin, Menachem—Leader of the Irgun during the revolt against the British and then leader of the political opposition from 1948 to 1977. Begin was then elected prime minister. He made peace with Egypt, bombed the Osirak nuclear plant in Iraq, and invaded Lebanon.
Ben-Gurion, David (David Gruen)—After immigrating to Palestine in 1906, Ben-Gurion quickly rose to power and ultimately became the leader of the Yishuv. He declared Israel’s independence and led the country as its first prime minister.
Ben-Yehuda, Eliezer (Eliezer Perlman)—The father of the modern Hebrew language, Ben-Yehuda believed that Jewish renewal in the Land of Israel also required a renewal of Hebrew as a spoken language.
Berdyczewski, Micha Josef—A Jewish Russian scholar who believed that Zionism was a revolt against Judaism itself. He famously said, “We can be the last Jews or the first Hebrews.”
Bernadotte, Count Folke—A Swedish diplomat, Bernadotte was appointed by the UN secretary-general to negotiate cease-fires during the War of Independence. Bernadotte was assassinated by the Jewish underground.
Bialik, Chaim Nachman—The world’s leading Jewish poet during his lifetime, he gave expression to the yearnings of an entire generation and became a key voice in the Zionist movement. His funeral in Tel Aviv in 1934 was attended by thousands.
Blaustein, Jacob—President of the American Jewish Committee, Blaustein reflected American Jews’ ambivalent attitude toward Israel. His belief that Jews in America were no longer living in exile and that Israel dare not declare itself the center of Jewish life led to fierce conflict with Ben-Gurion.
Bluwstein Sela, Rachel (Rachel the Poetess)—After moving to Palestine, Bluwstein joined the kibbutz Degania. She soon thereafter fell ill with tuberculosis and was banned from the kibbutz. Her poetry is still studied and sung a century later.
Brenner, Yosef Chaim—One of the greatest Hebrew writers of the Second Aliyah, Brenner wrote about the many struggles of early Yishuv life. He was killed in Arab riots in Jaffa.
Cyrus, King of Persia—When the Persian Empire overtook the Babylonians in 539 BCE, King Cyrus allowed the Jews, who were then in exile, to return to their home and rebuild their temple in Jerusalem.
Darwish, Mahmoud—Palestinian poet who wrote about the homelessness of the Palestinian people and expressed their longing for their homes in Palestine.
Dayan, Moshe—A member of the Haganah, Dayan became the IDF’s chief of staff in 1953. He oversaw the IDF’s battle in the 1967 Six-Day War and was defense minister during the Yom Kippur War.
Deri, Aryeh—One of Israel’s first successful Mizrachi politicians. As a leader of the Shas Party, Deri rose to national political prominence before being felled by corruption scandals.
Eban, Abba—An Israeli diplomat and politician, Eban served in many positions, including as Israel’s ambassador to the United States and to the UN. Eban, serving as Israel’s foreign minister during 1967, worked tirelessly to garner international support for Israel in the face of the looming war.
Eichmann, Adolf—A Nazi leader who was a key player in the Wannsee Conference and one of the architects of the Final Solution, Eichmann was captured by Israel’s Mossad in 1960 in Argentina. He was later convicted and is, to date, the only person in Israel ever to have received the death penalty.
Elazar, David (Dado)—A top military general, Elazar was instrumental in capturing the Golan Heights during the Six-Day War. As the IDF’s chief of staff during the Yom Kippur War, he was found responsible for multiple failures by the Agranat Commission and was stripped of his position.
Eshkol, Levi—Israel’s third prime minister, Eshkol served from 1963 until his death in 1969. When many lost confidence in him during the weeks leading up to the Six-Day War, he became the first prime minister to forge a national unity government.
Gemayel, Bashir—Head of Lebanon’s Christian Phalangist Party. Menachem Begin hoped that with Israel’s help, Gemayel and his forces would control Lebanon, ending the PLO’s dominance in the south. When Gemayel was killed, Begin’s plan came to naught.
Goldstein, Baruch—An American religious immigrant to Israel, Goldstein killed twenty-nine Palestinians praying by the Cave of Patriarchs in February 1994. Reviled by most of Israel and the Jewish world, to a small radical fringe he became a hero.
Gordon, Aaron David (A. D. Gordon)—An influential shaper of Labor Zionism, Gordon believed the redemption of the Jews would come from working the land. Gordon’s philosophy played a significant role in shaping the image of the new Jew working the land in Palestine and in the kibbutz movement.
Goren, Rabbi Shlomo—As chief rabbi of the IDF during the Six-Day War, Goren came to the Temple Mount after its capture with a shofar and Torah scroll in hand. Later, as Israel’s chief rabbi, and despite his legal genius and history of courageous rulings, Goren was slow to recognize Ethiopian immigrants as Jews.
Gouri, Haim—An Israeli writer, Gouri captured many of Israel’s pivotal moments through poetry, including poems on the Lamed Heh and the Six-Day War.
Greenberg, Uri Zvi—One of the leading poets of the Yishuv, Greenberg was a follower of Jabotinsky’s Revisionist movement.
Hananiah—A little-known biblical prophet, Hananiah prophesied that redemption would come much more quickly than Jeremiah believed. His views were adopted by those who denied that Jews had to acquiesce to exile. (See Jeremiah)
Herzl, Theodor—The father of political Zionism, Herzl became a household name with the publication of his book The Jewish State. A year later, Herzl assembled Jews from all over the world at his Zionist congress, which launched the Zionist movement.
Hess, Moses—An early Zionist thinker and writer, Hess proposed the idea of a Jewish state in 1862 in his book Rome and Jerusalem. His book, while very similar in content to Herzl’s The Jewish State, was largely ignored.
Hussein, ibn Tala—King of Jordan from 1952 until his death in 1999, Hussein waged war against Israel in 1967 but in 1973 warned Israel of an impending attack and did the best he could to stay out of that war. In 1994 Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty and King Hussein later gave a moving eulogy at Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral.
Jabotinsky, Ze’ev (Vladimir)—The creator of Revisionist Zionism, Jabotinsky believed that establishing and maintaining a Jewish state in Palestine would require a willingness to use force. The forebear of the political Right in Israel, Jabotinsky was also Menachem Begin’s prime inspiration.
Jeremiah—A leading biblical prophet during the Babylonian exile, Jeremiah prophesied that the exile would last for seventy years, following which the Jews would return home. He urged them to settle in their foreign lands and establish lives for themselves there. (See Hananiah)
Kadishai, Yechiel—An Irgun fighter, Kadishai became Menachem Begin’s close friend and political confidant. He was a passenger on the Altalena but escaped the episode unharmed.
Kasztner, Rudolf—As head of the Zionist Rescue Committee in Hungary during the Holocaust, Kasztner made a deal with the Germans in 1944 to exchange trucks for Jews. After Malkiel Gruenwald called Kasztner a “vicarious murderer,” Kasztner sued Gruenwald for slander but was publicly humiliated when Gruenwald was exonerated. Kasztner was later assassinated.
Kissinger, Henry—An American diplomat, Kissinger served as national security adviser from 1969 to 1975 and as secretary of state between 1973 and 1977. He played key roles in advising the White House during times of war, and, later, seeking to negotiate a Middle East peace.
Kook, Rabbi Abraham Isaac—A scholar and mystic, Rabbi Kook was one of the few religious Zionist leaders who embraced secular pioneers in Palestine. He later became the chief rabbi of the Yishuv.
Kook, Rabbi Zvi Yehudah—The son of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, he was at the forefront as religious Zionists moved from the sidelines toward the center of Israeli society and politics. His ideology was a cornerstone of the Gush Emunim settlement movement.
Lapid, Tommy—An Israeli journalist and politician and a Holocaust survivor, Lapid served in the Knesset from 1999 to 2006. A well-known author and television personality, Lapid was a fierce political opponent of the ultra-Orthodox parties.
Lapid, Yair—Son of Tommy Lapid, Yair is also a journalist and politician and founder of the centrist Yesh Atid political party.
Leibowitz, Yeshayahu—An Israeli Orthodox public intellectual, Leibowitz was a strong advocate for returning the territories captured in the Six-Day War and predicted that ruling over another people would destroy Israel.
Lloyd George, David—Prime minister of Great Britain from 1916 to 1922 and sympathetic to the Zionist cause, Lloyd George supported the Balfour Declaration in 1917.
Mapu, Avraham—An early Zionist thinker, Mapu wrote the first Hebrew novel in 1853. Called The Love of Zion, the novel set in ancient biblical Israel sold very well and inspired many, including David Ben-Gurion.
Meir, Golda (Golda Meyerson)—Head of the political departments of both the Histadrut and the Jewish Agency, Meir served in the Knesset as minister of labor and foreign minister. She was elected as Israel’s first female prime minister in 1969 and held that position until 1974.
Nasser, Gamal Abdel—Egypt’s president from 1956 until his death in 1970, Nasser led Pan-Arabism and sought to unite the Arab people around destroying Israel. He nationalized the Suez Canal, which led to the 1956 Sinai Campaign, and later triggered the Six-Day War.
Nebuchadnezzar—King during Babylonia’s rule over Judea, Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the First Temple in 586 BCE and exiled the Israelites.
Netanyahu, Benjamin—Leader of the Likud Party, Netanyahu served as prime minister between 1996 and 1999 and was elected again in 2009. He is considered by many the political disciple of Jabotinsky and Begin.
Nordau, Max—An early Zionist thinker, Nordau was a leader of political Zionism and an ally of Theodor Herzl. He championed a vision of a new Jew with a focus on physical strength.
Olmert, Ehud—An Israeli politician, Olmert replaced Ariel Sharon and served as prime minister from 2006 to 2009. He planned to continue Sharon’s disengagement policies but was felled by scandal. He became Israel’s first former prime minister to be sent to jail.
Oz, Amos—One of Israel’s leading novelists, Oz became a powerful voice for the Israeli Left.
Peres, Shimon—An Israeli politician and diplomat, Peres has held multiple government positions, including two stints as the country’s prime minister, and was Israel’s president between 2007 and 2014. Peres played a central role in developing Israel’s nuclear capabilities and in negotiating the Oslo Accords.
Pinsker, Leon—An early Zionist thinker, Pinsker wrote Auto-Emancipation in 1882 encouraging Jews to strive for independence and national rebirth. Pinsker established Hovevei Zion, one of the first European organizations created to foster Jewish immigration to Palestine, in 1882.
Porat, Hanan—A paratrooper during the Six-Day War, Porat was one of the soldiers who captured the Old City of Jerusalem. The religious Porat and some of his friends built the first settlement rebuilt after the recapture of Gush Etzion in 1967.
Rabin, Yitzhak—An Israeli general and politician, Rabin fought in the Palmach and IDF, eventually becoming the army’s chief of staff during the Six-Day War. Prime minister between 1974 and 1977 and again in 1992, Rabin made peace with Jordan and signed the Oslo Accords. He was assassinated in November 1995.
Rothschild, Baron Edmond—Called “The Well-Known Benefactor,” Baron Rothschild almost single-handedly supported the Yishuv during its early years. While he poured millions of dollars into settling Palestine, many new immigrants resented what they saw as his interference in their pioneering work.
Rotberg, Roi—One of many Israelis killed by Arab infiltrators, called fedayeen (Arabic for “self-sacrificers”), Rotberg became known as a result of Moshe Dayan’s eulogy at his funeral. Dayan spoke about the inevitability of a long and costly conflict between Israel and its neighbors.
Sadat, Anwar—Succeeding Nasser as president after his death, Sadat served as Egypt’s president from 1970 until his assassination in 1981. He waged war against Israel in 1973, but signed a peace agreement with Begin in 1978.
Senesh, Chanah—After volunteering as a paratrooper for the British army during World War II and parachuting into Yugoslavia, Senesh was captured by the Germans and was jailed, tortured, and eventually executed. She became a national Israeli hero.
Shamir, Yitzhak—A former leader of the Lechi, Shamir became an Israeli politician and served as prime minister twice, from 1983 to 1984 and 1986 to 1992, representing the Likud Party.
Sharansky, Natan—Imprisoned by the Soviet Union on false charges of being a spy, Sharansky became an international Jewish hero and human rights activist. Released after nine years, he immigrated to Israel, where he became involved in politics as the voice of the country’s growing Russian population.
Sharett, Moshe—Sharett was Israel’s second prime minister, from 1954 to 1955.
Sharon, Ariel—An Israeli general and politician, Sharon played an instrumental role in almost all of Israel’s wars. After retiring from his military career, he joined the Likud Party and served as prime minister from 2001 to 2006. As prime minister, he created the Kadima Party and led the disengagement from Gaza.
Shemer, Naomi—An Israeli musician and songwriter, Shemer was a national star. Two of her most famous songs are “Jerusalem of Gold,” written two weeks before the Six-Day War, and “Let It Be,” written after the Yom Kippur War.
Stavsky, Avraham—A member of Betar, Stavsky was originally convicted but then acquitted of the murder of Haim Arlosoroff, the creator of the Transfer Agreement. He was killed in the Altalena battle.
Stern, Avraham—A former member of the Irgun, Stern, in 1940, broke away, creating his own underground fighting force called the Lechi. The British killed him in 1942 after a relentless manhunt.
Trumpeldor, Joseph—A war hero and Zionist activist, Trumpeldor helped create the Zionist Mule Corps, the first organized fighting force in the Yishuv. He was killed defending the settlement of Tel Hai in 1920.
Weizmann, Chaim—Weizmann was the president of the World Zionist Organization and Israel’s first president. He was instrumental in securing the Balfour Declaration and in the establishment of Hebrew University. He also founded the Weizmann Institute of Science.
Yadin, Yigael—An Israeli archeologist, general, and politician, Yadin was head of operations for the Haganah during the War of Independence and served as the IDF’s second chief of staff.
Yavetz, Ze’ev—After immigrating to Palestine in 1887, Yavetz was the first to publish a modern Hebrew novel there. After a falling-out with Baron de Rothschild, Yavetz left Palestine.
Yizhar, S. (Yizhar Smilansky)—An Israeli author, Yizhar published a novel, Khirbet Khizeh, that sought to capture the human suffering Israeli forces had caused the Palestinians during the 1948 war. His book became part of the curriculum in Israeli schools, and Yizhar was elected a member of the Knesset for several terms.
Yosef, Rabbi Ovadia—A legal genius and popular rabbi to Israel’s Mizrachim, Rabbi Ovadia, upon completing his tenure as the Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, formed the Shas Party, the first political party representing Mizrachim.
Zangwill, Israel—A novelist and playwright, Zangwill was a Zionist thinker who described Palestine as a “land without a people, waiting for a people without a land.” Zangwill, like Herzl, believed that a mass migration of Jews from Europe to Palestine would serve both Jews and Palestine.