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Israelis You Should Know: Moshe Sharett

PM Moshe Sharett with David Ben-Gurion, February 21, 1955 (Photo: GPO)

Lived: October 16, 1894 - July 7, 1965

Known for: Israel's second Prime Minister, who helped navigate the modern Jewish state through a turbulent period during its early years.

Why you should know him: Born to a Jewish family in what is now Ukraine, Moshe Sharett made aliyah (immigrated to the Holy Land) as a child in 1906. Four years later, his family moved to Jaffa before becoming one of the founding families of Tel Aviv.

Sharett graduated from the first class of Herzliya Hebrew High School, then studied law at Istanbul University, the same place where Devid Ben-Gurion (seen with Sharett in the 1955 photo above) studied. His studies were cut short, however, by World War I, in which he served as an Ottoman interpreter.

After the war, Sharett worked in the Holy Land before attending the London School of Economics. While in London, he also became involved in the Zionist movement, met Chaim Weizmann (the first President of Israel), and worked for the Davar newspaper.

Returning to British-mandate Palestine in 1931, Sharett became involved in politics. During World War II, a group of Jewish refugee children from Poland were deported to Iran. The "Tehran Children" were returned to the Holy Land thanks to Sharett's negotiations, a successful example of his thoughtful and practical approach.

Sharett was one of the signers of Israel's Declaration of Independence. During the 1948 War of Independence, he served as the provisional government's Foreign Minister.

After Israel gained her independence, Sharett was elected to the first Knesset (Israel's parliament) in 1949, also serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs. That year he was also part of the first cabinet.

In 1954, Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion temporarily from politics. Moshe Sharett was chosen to take his friend and ally's place. During Sharett's term, Israel experienced a turbulent period, including intensification of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Sharett provided even-keeled leadership through this period. During the next elections, David Ben-Gurion again took his place as Israeli Prime Minister, with Sharett retaining the role of Foreign Minister.

Moshe Sharett retired from politics in 1956, and for the next nearly ten years he served as chairman of the Am Oved publishing house, chariman of Beit Berl College, and chairman of the World Zionist Organization.

Sharett passed away in 1965 in Jerusalem. He was buried in Trumpeldor Cemetery in Tel Aviv, and in the years since his tireless service to Israel has been commemorated with streets and neighborhoods named for him, and his appearance on the 20 NIS bill.

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