Born 1863 in Dubrovna, Russia, he was one of tne first and foremost leaders of the Zionist movement and President of the Jewish National Fund (KKL) from 1921 up to his death in 1941.
After graduating as an engineer in Moscow in 1889, he resided in Yekaterinoslav. A Zionist since his early youth, he was among the founders of BILU and of the Moscow branch of the Hovevei Zion. He was also a member of the Bnei Moshe society founded by Ahad Ha-Am. He first visited Palestine in 1891. Four years later he joined Theodor Herzl and the political Zionist movement, but became a strong opponent of the leader when the Uganda issue was fought out at the 6th Congress. He organised the opposition to Herzl in Russia and later opposed his successor, Wolfsohn as well. An uncompromising fighter for practical steps to implement the Zionist cause, he was one of the Jewish delegates to the Paris peace conference after World War I. In 1920 he was appointed head of the Zionist Commission in Palestine and in that capacity he initiated many land purchases. Two years later, under his dynamic guidance, the Jewish National Fund (KKL) became the main instrument for redeeming and reclaiming the soil of the ancient homeland on behalf of the Jewish people.
Born 1887 in Bobruisk, Russia, Ben Katznelson ('Been) was one of the pioneers of Zionist Socialism. He immigrated to Palestine in 1909, worked in agriculture and joined the Jewish Legion in World War I. An outstanding labour leader as well as a writer and editor of many publications, he attended all the Zionist Congresses after the 12th except one. He was one of the founders of the Histadrut (the General Federation 'of Labour), a director of the Jewish National Fund; a leading member and ideological mentor of the Labour Party. In 1925 he founded DAVAR, the Histadrut daily, and remained its editor-in-chief to his last day, in 1944. "Been', after whom a kibbutz and Beth Ben" as well as other institutions were named, had a powerful influence on the cultural development of the Yishuv. His main sphere of activity was the spreading of culture among the working masses and the youth. He founded and headed AM OVED, the Histadrut publishing house.
Ben was a personality who combined a candid character with a sharp intellect; a deep consideration for traditional Jewish values with a practical socialist approach; a persuasive eloquence with a dislike for sham phraseology. He was not ashamed of not finding all the right answers always and at once and he affirmed the right of the public and of the individual to feel confused by political developments. He was respected not because of any important offices he held, but by virtue of the moral positions he took.
While editor of 'Davar", his room was constantly full of uninvited visitors who disturbed him with all manner of grievances and petitions, and when his colleagues suggested that he introduce fixed visiting hours, he replied: 'One door in this country should always remain open to the people."
One of the most colourful figures among the early Zionist leadership - author, orator, neurologist, journalist and philosopher - Max Nordau was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1849, under the name Simon Sudfeld. He graduated in medicine and served for six years as an Austrian military surgeon, but was attracted to journalism and literature. He was a regular contributor to important newspapers in German and in 1880 settled in Paris. After having published an average of a book a year and several plays, he achieved international fame with his "Conventional Lies of Civilized Mankind, which aroused the wrath of the autocratic regimes of Europe.
Nordau attended the court-martial of Dreyfus and his daily reports on the trial created much excitement. He was almost the first fellow-newspaperman who responded to Herzl's call for a Jewish State and became the spokesman of Jewish suffering at the Zionist Congresses. He served as vice-chairman during Herzl's lifetime, but later declined the leadership of the movement, loyally supporting Herzl's heir, David Wolfsohn. During World War I he lived in exile in Spain, almost out of touch with the mainstream of Zionist activities. Though the end of the war found him broken in spirit and resources, he served as honorary chairman at the 12th Zionist Congress. He pleaded for Herzl's ideas uncompromisingly and called for immediate mass immigration. Nordau died in Paris in 1923 and his remains were buried in Tel Aviv.