Biography - Manya Shochat (Mania Shohat)
Manya Shochat (Born 1880*; Died 1961) was the "mother" of the Kibbutz movement and collective settlement. She was born Manya Wilbushewitch in Belorussia to middle-class Russian Jewish parents. As a young adult, she went to work in her brother's factory in Minsk to learn about working class conditions. She was imprisoned because of her contacts with revolutionaries in 1899. There she was indoctrinated by Zubatov, the head of the Tsarist Secret Police in Moscow. Zubatov conceived a plan that fit with Shochat's ideological notions, through which workers would form "tame" organizations that would work for reform rather than for overthrow of the government. She was persuaded that this would also help achieve rights for Jews. She founded the Jewish Independent Labor Party. The party was successful in leading strikes because the secret police supported it, but was loathed by the Bund and other Jewish socialist groups. The party collapsed in 1903 following the Kishinev pogrom. At a loss following the collapse of her ideas, she accepted an invitation from her brother Nachum, who was the founder of the Shemen soap factory, to visit the land of Israel in 1904.
Anticipating Arthur Ruppin, she understood that the model of plantation settlement where Jewish owners employed Arab workers, which favored by the Baron Rothschild, could never be the basis for Jewish national life. She concluded that only collective agricultural settlement could produce Jewish workers and farmers who would be the basis for building a Jewish homeland. She returned in 1907 to help establish the country’s first ideologically based cooperative at Sejera, which later became the basis of the first Kibbutz. In 1908, with Israel Shochat, she helped found the Hashomer guard organization, which evolved into the basis of Jewish self-defense. She later married Israel Shochat and had two children. In World War I, the Turks deported the Shochats and others who were not Turkish citizens to Bursa, in Turkey. They returned in 1919, after attending the Poalei Tziyon convention in Stockholm. She was active in the G'dud Ha'avoda. In 1930, Manya Shochat was among the founders of the League for Arab-Jewish Friendship. With Rahel Yanaait she traveled to the United States to raise money and organize Aliya. In 1948 she joined the MAPAM party.
* Some sources give her date of birth as 1879.
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