Israelis You Should Know: Aryeh Eliav

Israelis You Should Know: Aryeh Eliav

Name: Aryeh Eliav

Life: Nov. 21, 1921 – May 30, 2010

Known for: Eliav was an Israeli politician and member of the Knesset who was renowned for his social justice work; he was part of the “greatest generation” of Israeli state builders.

About him: Aryeh Eliav was born in Moscow in 1921, and he immigrated to what was then British Mandate Palestine (now the modern state of Israel) with his family three years later. As a teenager, he served in the Haganah (the precursor to the Israel Defense Forces) and the IDF before attending school at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he studied history and sociology.

In 1958, Eliav returned to Moscow, where he worked in the Israeli embassy, but his bureaucratic role was a cover story for his real position – he was helping Jews in the Communist state make aliyah (immigrate to Israel). In 1960, he returned to Israel, and in 1965 he was first elected to the Knesset.  He was active in Israeli politics for nearly 30 years.

Eliav contributed significantly to the development of the state of Israel. He helped found the cities of Arad and Kiryat Gat, and promoted the development of Tel Lachish, an Israeli national park. He also was the founder of Nitzana, a youth educational community in the Negev desert, where more than 50 families live today.

Eliav was awarded many honors for his work, including the Israel Prize in 1988 for special contributions to society and the state of Israel and the Ben-Gurion Prize in 2003. He died in Tel Aviv in 2010 at the age of 89.

His legacy: “Eliav was an example for our nation of pioneering service. In his social perspectives, in his understanding of the beauty of Israeli society as well as its complexities and of the need to bravely reach peace with our neighbors. His image and his beliefs will remain with us for generations.” – Isaac Herzog, Israeli politician and former Minister of Welfare

Tags: Partnerships and People Stories

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