Monday 2 March 2015


YISROEL (ISRAEL) BELKIND (April 10, 1861-September 28, 1929)
     He was born in Lahojsk, Minsk region.  He was the son of Meyer Belkind, an early Zionist and founder of a “cheder metukan” (improved religious elementary school).  He lived in Borisov and later in Mohilev.  He studied Jewish subjects with his father, graduated from a Russian high school, and studied in Kharkov University.  He was a founder of the movement “Daber el bnei yisrael veyisau” (Speak to the children of Israel and tell them to get going), which later changed its name to “Bet yaakov lekhu venelkha” (Let the house of Jacob go!) or “Bilu” for short.  In 1882 he made aliya to Palestine with a group of fellow Bilu members.  He worked in Petach Tikva and Rishon Lezion, and he had his own plot of land in Gedera.  Later he was a founder of a Hebrew private school in Jaffa and a teacher in other schools.  He was the first to lead a broad, Zionist, enlightened work project among Jewish laborers and colonists in Palestine.  He also stood in opposition to the severe bureaucratism in Rothschild’s colonies.  He traveled through Arab villages in the Trans-Jordan and later published a short book about this in Russian.  For a time he left Israel and returned to Russia where he married.  After the Kishinev pogrom in 1903, he helped bring a number of orphans to Palestine, and there he founded an educational institution for them.  In 1905-1906, he came to the United States out of an interest in such institutions and visited other countries as well.  From 1914 he was back in Palestine and from 1916 in America.  Later still he was in Poland, from whence he led to Palestine some orphans whose parents had been killed in the Ukrainian pogroms.  In Yiddish he published in Tog (Day) in New York, and he published Di aker-boy shule in erets yisroel (The plough-boy school in Palestine) (New York, n.d.), 24 pp.; Di ershte shrit fun yishev erets yisroel (The first step in the settlement in Palestine) (New York, 1917), vol. 1, 240 pp. (with a foreword by Dr. Yankev Grinfeld and pictures of Palestine), vol. 2, 253 pp. (with a foreword by the author).  Belkind was the founder and editor of the publishing house and journal Hameir (The shining).  He was the author of historical and pedagogical books in Hebrew.  He died during a visit to Berlin and was buried in Rishon Lezion.

Sources: D. Tidhar, in Entsiklopedyah lealutse hayishuv uvonav (Encyclopedia of the founders and builders of Israel) (Tel Aviv, 1947-1971), vol. 3, see index; Dr. Chaim Zhitlovsky, in Tsukunft (April 1918); Y. Poleskin, in Tsukunft (January 1920).

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