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(cover by Susan Erony)

Before Golda: Manya Shochat by Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi (translated from the Hebrew by Sandra Shurin, with an introduction by Marie Syrkin; 86,000 words, 14 illustrations)

“Manya Shochat was a truly unusual woman, a figure of extreme complexity who might have come out of a nineteenth-century Russian novel. In her life’s story we find a full enactment — rare in one person — of the main qualities, some of them contradictory, which played such a prominent role in the history of Zionism. She was incredibly tough and unbelievably charitable; sentimental and fearless; a fanatic Zionist and a fanatic socialist; a co-founder of Ha’shomer (an armed organization of settlers whose motto was: “In blood and fire Judea fell; in blood and fire she shall rise again!”), and at the same time a leading member of the left-wing anti-nationalist League for Arab-Jewish Understanding. She was fully convinced that Arab acquiescence to Zionism could be achieved through the raising of Arab standards of living; and yet on lecture tours abroad on behalf of Poale Zion and her kibbutz, she passionately admonished the wealthier Jews of America that high living standards were meaningless, only national dignity counted. Already before her arrival in the country, in January 1904, she had achieved some notoriety in Russian revolutionary circles by running arms for the anarchists and participating in clandestine plots and agitation. Once, as a twenty-year-old anarchist in Russia, she shot a Czarist spy to death, dismembered his corpse, placed the pieces in a suitcase, and sent it off by rail to a nonexistent address in Siberia.” (Amos Elon in The Israelis: Founders and Sons)


“This is a deeply moving... story of a life... Mrs. Ben-Zvi, wife of Israel’s second president, describes not only Manya’s growth... and her incredible creativity in starting the kibbutz movement, but her love affair with Yisrael Shochat, a charmer with a roving eye, whose infidelities drove her to attempt suicide... Manya Shochat lived her extraordinary life with strength and idealism, with a pure vision of a world in which all people, especially Jews and Arabs... would one day live together in peace and brotherhood... Biography is living history. It is fitting that the story of Manya Shochat, one of the founding mothers of Israel, should be told by her friend, Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi, herself a founding mother.” —
Ruth Gruber, author of Raquela: A Woman of Israel, Haven and Rescue: The Exodus of the Ethiopian Jews

“The history of Eretz Israel during the second aliyah does not lack riveting personalities, but it would be no exaggeration to say that Manya Shochat was outstanding even among these.” —
Yediot Achronot

“... an important and fascinating book... an extraordinary woman... possessing enormous inner strength. Both idealistic and pragmatic, she had a vision of Israel as a just society that respects all individuals, a vision that should serve as inspiration today.” —
Judith A. Sokoloff, Editor, Na’Amat Woman

“Yanait’s book is a true and well-documented testimony which broadens our knowledge through supporting documents... and through various legends which give us a new dimension... It is fascinating to become reacquainted with those early settlers who were equally adept with pistols as with plows, with fountain pens as with balalaikas... Yanait’s book is a true... testimony which... gives us a new dimension.” —
Haaretz

“... a quite exciting ‘read’... [Rachel Yanait Ben Zvi’s] book of another heroine is a tale of an Israel we shall never see again. As all scramble to decipher where Israel is headed now, they may want to examine where it once was through the life of the revolutionary and pioneering Manya Shochat.” —
Jack Nusan Porter, author of The Sociology of American Jewry

“Courageous and naive, tough and sentimental, Manya Shochat is the stuff of Zionist legend.” —
Lesley Hazleton, author of Israeli Women and Jerusalem, Jerusalem

“This is a book which... I recommend to Israeli feminists and to anyone who has been affected by the women’s liberation movement in America...” —
Maariv

“The author does not hide the truth as to Manya’s marriage... on the contrary, her brief comments on this subject add an enticingly human dimension to Manya’s heroic persona.” —
Al Hamishmar