Labor Leader and Kibbutz Activist
Yitzhak Tabenkin became one of the principal thinkers and main voices of the kibbutz movement.
Born in Byelorussia, Tabenkin went to cheder and later continued with a secular education. He helped found Poalei Zion in Poland, and was a strong supporter of agricultural settlement. He moved to Eretz Yisrael in 1911, worked in agricultural labor on a moshav, and joined the defense organization HaShomer.
Tabenkin joined Trumpeldor's Gedud HaAvodah (Jewish Labor Legion) and in 1921 became one of the founding members of Kibbutz Ein Harod, which later formed the center of Ha-Kibbutz Ha-Meuhad. Tabenkin believed firmly in kibbutz living, and he supported the idea of large kibbutzim or collective settlements open to large membership. His was of the populist rather than an elitist philosophy. He also became involved in labor party politics and was one of the founders of Ahdut Ha-Avodah, and subsequently of Mapai and of Mapam. Following the establishment of the State, Tabenkin became a member of the Knesset and was a key voice for the labor and kibbutz ideologies.
Against the notion of territorialism, Tabenkin consistently upheld the importance of the land of Israel. He opposed the partition plan of 1937, believing in Jewish labor and the need to settle Eretz Yisrael. Hence, and unlike many of his political colleagues, his support for the Greater Land of Israel ideology following the Six Day War.
Tabenkin lived at Ein Harod until his death. He published his speeches and papers, most of which deal with Israel, the kibbutz, and labor politics.