Hashomer Hatzair: A History of Youth Empowerment and Progressive Values
By Assaf Galin
Throughout its history, Hashomer Hatzair has been a key player in the Zionist youth movement scene, with a presence in dozens of countries and a mission to create a generation of young leaders committed to progressive values, social justice, and the establishment of a democratic and peaceful Israel.
Hashomer Hatzair, which translates to “The Young Guard,” is a youth movement with roots in the early Zionist movement. Founded in 1913 in Galicia, a region that straddles present-day Poland and Ukraine, the movement aimed to educate Jewish youth in physical labor and a connection to the land of Israel, as well as instill a sense of social justice and collectivism.
During World War II, many members of Hashomer Hatzair were actively involved in the resistance against the Nazis. In particular, the movement played a key role in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, with members of Hashomer Hatzair leading the Jewish fighters in their courageous struggle against the Nazis. The bravery and sacrifice of these young people remains an inspiration to this day, and serves as a reminder of the important role that young people can play in standing up for justice and freedom. At Hashomer Hatzair, we continue to honor the memory of those who fought and died in the resistance, and we remain committed to the values of courage, resistance, and social justice that they embodied.
The movement’s ideology is based on a combination of socialist and Zionist principles, and it places great emphasis on the importance of communal living, mutual responsibility, and active engagement in society. Members of Hashomer Hatzair live together in kibbutzim or urban communes, where they work together, share resources, and engage in various activities that aim to build a strong sense of community and a commitment to social change.
One of the hallmarks of the Hashomer Hatzair ethos is its commitment to peace and reconciliation. The movement has a long history of promoting dialogue and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, and has been involved in various peace initiatives over the years. Its members have also been active in social justice and human rights causes both in Israel and around the world, working to combat poverty, inequality, and discrimination in all its forms. Members of the movement from North America established an organization called Achvat Amim (solidarity of nations) promoting peace and human rights in Israel.
Despite its relatively small size, Hashomer Hatzair has had a significant impact on Israeli society and beyond. Many of Israel’s prominent political and cultural figures have come out of the movement, as well as writers, artists, and activists who have made important contributions to Israeli culture and politics.
Today, Hashomer Hatzair continues to be a vital force in Israeli society and in the global Jewish community. While the movement has faced many challenges over the years, including declining membership and shifting political and social landscapes, it remains committed to its core values and to creating a better future for all Israelis and for Jews around the world.
At Hashomer Hatzair, we believe that the next generation of young leaders must be equipped with the tools and values necessary to create a more just, equal, and peaceful world. Our movement is open to young people of all backgrounds who share our commitment to social change, community building, and progressive values.
This year, Hashomer Hatzair is celebrating a significant milestone: our 110th anniversary. It’s an opportunity for us to reflect on the legacy of the movement and the many contributions that our members have made to social justice, peace, and equality over the past century.
In addition, we are also celebrating the 100th anniversary of Hashomer Hatzair’s presence in the United States. Since our founding in the US in 1923, we have been committed to building a more just and equal society, both in America and around the world. As we mark this centennial, we are proud to continue this work, and we remain committed to our core values of socialism, Zionism, and social justice.
We invite all those who share our commitment to these values to join us in celebrating these anniversaries and becoming part of the Hashomer Hatzair community. Whether you are a young person looking to develop your skills and values, or an adult interested in supporting progressive causes, we welcome you into our movement. Together, we can build a more just, equitable, and sustainable future for all.
We are grateful to Partners for Progressive Israel for providing us with the opportunity to share the history and values of Hashomer Hatzair in their Israel Horizons e-zine Your support for progressive causes and commitment to social justice is deeply appreciated, and we look forward to continuing to work together towards a better future.
As the executive director of Hashomer Hatzair, I am proud to lead an organization that has such a rich history and a bright future. We remain committed to empowering young people, promoting progressive values, and building a better world for all.”
Assaf Galin is Executive Director of Camp Shomria & Hashomer Hatzair USA. He is trained as a teacher and informal education guide.