Long before she became First Lady of Israel, Rahel Yanait Ben-Zvi shaped the country by helping create many of its most important organizations. At age nineteen she represented her home town at the 1905 Zionist Congress in Switzerland, then helped found the Po’alei Zion socialist party in 1906. Born Golda Lishansky, Ben-Zvi Hebraicized her name when she made Aliyah in 1908. Once there, she helped found the Hebrew Gymnasium in Jerusalem, where she taught, and the self-defense group Ha-Shomer in Meshah. From 1911–1914 she studied agricultural engineering at the University of Nancy in France, training she later used in 1920 when she opened a tree farm that became a women’s collective. She spent WWI coordinating between Ha-Shomer and Nili, a Jewish spy ring, against Turkish rule, then helped lead Haganah operations against the British. In 1928 she created the Working Women’s Farm in Jerusalem to absorb and train young immigrants. From 1952–1963 her husband Izhak served as second president of Israel and she helped design both the President’s House and presidential protocol to ensure accessibility for Israelis from all walks of life. Despite the many demands on her time, she also wrote ten books and hundreds of articles on the history and evolution of the Yishuv and the State.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Rahel Yanait Ben-Zvi." (Viewed on June 17, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/ben-zvi-rahel>.