Aaron David (AD) Gordon
Leader of Labor Zionism
AD Gordon (1856-1922) was a Zionist thinker, philosopher, and early spiritual leader of the Labor Zionist tree branch. He articulated what became known as the “religion of labor” to describe how the Jews were going to transform themselves. He came from a fairly well-off Orthodox family in Russia, ran a business for decades, and unlike most of the idealistic immigrants, he didn’t come to Palestine until he was already in his 40s. But he devoted himself to working the land on a settlement near the Sea of Galilee, practicing the philosophy which he believed would lead to individual and national redemption. Early in the morning before heading out to the field, he would hunch over a spartan desk and write by candlelight. “Labor alone will heal us,” he wrote. And: “our people can be rejuvenated only if each one of us recreates himself through labor and a life close to nature.” And: “It is labor which binds a people to its soil and to its national culture.” His philosophic idealism was adopted by many leading Zionists, including David Ben Gurion, and became a foundation philosophy of kibbutz life.