A Founder of HaShomer

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HaShomer Founders

Mendel Portugali, Yisrael Shochat, and Yisrael Giladi
Founding Va'ad of HaShomer

Yisrael Butelbroit was born in Kalarash in 1886. He was active in the Bessarabian Zionist movement and was a member of the Zionist-Socialist Po’alei Zion.[1] He reacted to the incessant pogroms in Bessarabia by becoming an impassioned "advocate of Jewish self-defense."[2]

In 1905, at the age of 23, Butelbroit made aliyah and Hebraized his surname to Giladi. In 1907, he became a founding member of Bar Giora, an underground defense group in Galilee. Two years later, he was one of the founders of HaShomer ["The Watchman"], the Jewish self-defense group that protected settlements in the Holy Land and sometimes is referred to as "the grandfather of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)".[3] In its earliest days, HaShomer was led by a three-man Va’ad [committee] that consisted of Giladi, his Kalarash landsman Mendel Portugali, and Yisrael Shochat.[4]

Like Giladi, the other founders of HaShomer "had experienced pogroms in Russia and were determined that in Eretz Yisrael Jews would be more effective in defending themselves."[5] Giladi was in charge of the defense of settlements in Galilee, Samaria, and Judea.[6] During World War I, many of HaShomer's leaders were deported to Turkey, because they were considered enemy Russian aliens. When Shochat was exiled to Constantinople, Giladi became the leader of HaShomer. He also was the author of Divrei Yemei haAggudah, a history of HaShomer.[7]

As devoted as he was to self-defense, Giladi never lost sight of the ultimate goal of the agricultural settlements in pioneer-Israel. As he once said: "None of us will desert the plow as long as he lives."[8] Yisrael Giladi died of influenza during the 1918 pandemic, at the age of 32. He was one of the founders of Kfar Bag near Kiryat Shmoneh. After his death, the village was renamed Kfar Giladi in his memory.


  1. Slutsky, Yehudah, "Giladi, Israel", Encyclopedia Judaica, volume 7, p. 566 (Keter Publishing Company, Jerusalem, 1972)

  2. Ibid

  3. Adar, Yael, "The Grandfather of the IDF --- Ha'Shomer" at http://www.gemsinisrael.com/e_article000065674.htm
  4. "HaShomer" at http://www.jewishagency.org/JewishAgency/English/Jewish+Education/Compelling+Content/Eye+on+Israel/StruggleDefense/Struggle/Jewish+Defense+Organizations.htm

  5. "Ha-Shomer", at http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Ha-Shomer.html

  6. Slutsky, Op.Cit

  7. Ibid
  8. Zerubavel, Yael, Recovered Roots: Collective Memory and the Making of Israeli National Tradition (University of Chicago Press, 1997), p. 280, fn. 20, citing Gorni, Yosef, Ha-Yesod ha-Romanti ("The Romantic Basis of the Second Immigration's Ideology"), p. 64


Credits: Text and page design copyrighted © 2007 by Helene Kenvin. Page created by Helene Kenvin. Photograph of Portugali, Shochet, and Giladi from Sefer Kalarash (Tel Aviv, 1966). Page created by Helene Kenvin. All rights reserved.