Berl Katznelson

Berl Katznelson (1887-1944) was a Palestinian labor leader. Born in White Russia, he began socialist Zionist work at an early age and in 1909 went to Palestine where he rapidly became a leading personality and ideologist in the labor movement. Katznelson was the founder of the Histadrut labor federation and editor of many journals.

Bibliography: The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia. C. Roth and G. Wigoder, eds. Doubleday and Co., Garden City, NY, 1970.

The following is from the autobiography, "My Life", by Golda Meir, and will give an insight into Berl Katznelson of someone who knew him well...

"Above all, there was Berl Katznelson. He died in 1944 and so he never saw the State of Israel, though I have often wondered what he would have thought of it- and of us. I have no doubt that many things would have been different-and better-had Berl been with us over the last thirty years. The Labour movement- whose undisputed spiritual leader and guide he was, would have remained, I am sure, more loyal to itself and its stated principles than it has, and maybe we would have achieved a society blessed by greater equality. Berl played a unique role in the movement, though he held few official posts in it, and I am ashamed of the fact that despite twelve volumes of his essays and speeches that have been published, no one has yet written a real biography of him. I am certainly no historian and I cannot (and will not) presume to try to analyse or assess the extent of Berl's influence upon all of us. But at least I can do something to introduce his name to the world outside Israel's borders, for he was the one man whom all of us, including Ben-Gurion, deeply revered and who served as an unquestioned and much loved moral authority.

Berl was not at all physically impressive. He was small, his hair was always untidy, his clothes always looked rumpled. But his lovely smile lit up his face, and his always-always a little sad-looked right through you, so that noone who ever talked to Berl forgot him. I think of him as I saw him, hundreds of times, buried in a shabby old armchair in one of the two book-lined rooms in which he lived in the heart of old Tel-Aviv, where everyone came to see him and where he worked ( because he hated going to an office). 'Berl would like you to stop by' was like a command that noone disobeyed. Not that he held court or ever gave orders, but nothing was done, no decision of any importance to the Labour movement in particular or the yishuv in general, taken without Berl's opinion being sought first."

For more, read "My Life", by Golda Meir, 1975. pp98-102