About Berl

Berl Katznelson (1887-1944) was born in Bobruisk (then in Russia and now in Belarus) migrated to Ottoman Palestine as part of the Second Aliyah, and quickly became one of the founding fathers of the Hebrew Labor movement.

Berl began his public career within various Jewish socialist groups in Russia, and upon making Aliyah, worked as a farm hand in the colonies of Judea and in Ein Ganim, where he met A. D. Gordon and Yosef Haim Brenner. Later he worked in the Galilee and was one of the strikers at Kinneret Farm in 1911. Berl belonged to the “non-partisan” labor group, helping establish the first worker unions in the Galilee and in Judea. He was among the founders of the Mashbir retail chain and the General Sick Fund, Israel’s largest HMO.

Upon the conquest of southern Israel he volunteered for the Jewish Legion, where he met David and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, and following World War One founded Ahdut Ha’avodah with them, joined by the Poalei Zion party and the non-partisan group. Berl worded Ahdut Ha’avodah’s platform, edited its official organ “Contras,” and quickly established himself as the party’s ideological pathfinder.

Berl was among the founders and leaders of the Histadrut, the General Association of Hebrew Workers. His activity was focused on setting policy on the one hand, and on ideological and cultural work on the other. Although he refused to accept formal executive or political positions, he was party to central decisions and played key parts in the establishment of many institutions and endeavors, such as the Davar daily newspaper (where he served as the founding Editor-in-Chief,) the Am Oved publishing house, Poalim Bank, the Solel Boneh construction company, and more.

Although he held no formal position in the institutions of the Jewish population in mandatory Palestine or in the Zionist movement, Berl was considered to possess crucial influence due to his moral stature, which gave him authority with the military leaders of the Hagana as well.

Berl passed away on August 13, 1944 in Jerusalem, at age 57.