M. M. Ussishkin, Veteran Zionist Leader, Dies in Palestine
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M. M. Ussishkin, Veteran Zionist Leader, Dies in Palestine

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Menchem Mendel Ussishkin, veteran Zionist leader and President of the Jewish National Fund, died here today at the age of 78. He was recuperating from an operation which he underwent a fortnight ago in the Hadassah-Rothschild-University hospital in Jerusalem.

The news of Ussishkin’s death came as a severe shock to the Yishub since Ussishkin was one of the most popular figures in the Zionist movement. Only last week he addressed a stirring call to the Jews of Russia over the Jerusalem radio station talking directly to the Jews of Russia for the first time in the 22 years since he left Russia for Palestine.

As soon as the news of his death became known, delegations from various settlements began to pour into Jerusalem to participate in the preparations for the funeral which is expected to be the largest ever witnessed in Palestine. As President of the Jewish National Fund, Ussishkin was instrumental in the establishment of numerous Jewish settlements in Palestine and the acquisition of large tracts of land as national Jewish holdings.

Born in 1863 in Dubrovna, Russia, Ussishkin resided in his boyhood in Moscow and received his engineering degree there in 1889. He has been identified with Zionist effort in Palestine since his boyhood and was one of the founders of the Bilu, and an organizer of the student Zionist bodies. In 1890 he organized the Odessa Committee which took the lead as the practical exponent of the Chovevei Zion movement in the settlement of Jews as agriculturists in Palestine.

On the advent of Dr. Herzl, he joined the political Zionist movement but as an opponent of Dr. Herzl and his policies. Ussishkin raised the initial fund by which the Hebrew University was started, as a gift of the Jewish National Fund. He was one of the Zionist delegates to the Paris Peace Conference. In 1920 he was appointed chief of the Zionist Commission in Palestine, and in that capacity he effected the purchase of the Emek Jezreel lands. Later, when he became President of the Jewish National Fund, he devoted all his efforts to the policy of redeeming Palestine through agricultural colonisation.

Ussishkin toured the United States and Canada in 1921 in the interest of the National Fund, but these were the only brief excursions from his home in Jerusalem where he settled in 1920.

When in 1937 Britain offered the Jews the establishment of a Jewish State through the partition of Palestine, Ussishkin led a vigorous fight against the partition scheme. He believed that a Jewish State must embrace all the territory “from Dan to Beer-Sheba.”

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