June 9, 1856
Aharon David (A.D.) Gordon was born into a religious family in Troyanov near Zhytomyr, which was then part of the Russian empire. (Today Tryoanov is in Ukraine.) As a young man, Gordon became involved in the Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion) movement and an ardent Zionist. In 1903, at the age of 47, he immigrated to the Land of Israel and became a farmworker. Prior to making aliyah, Gordon had been an office worker and had no experience in farming or manual labor. Eventually he settled in Degania.
Gordon believed that hard physical work would save the Jewish people. He was one of the founders of Hapoel Hatzair, the Jewish Labor movement in the yishuv. He promoted the concept of kibbush avodah (conquest through labor) as a core ideology of the movement. “Kibbush avodah” meant that the Jewish settlers in the Land of Israel would themselves take responsibility for developing and cultivating the land, creating the economy and providing for their own self-defense.
In 1911, Gordon remarked,
In Palestine we must do with our own hands all the things that make up the sum total of life. We must ourselves do all the work, from the least strenuous, cleanest, and most sophisticated, to the dirtiest and most difficult. In our own way, we must feel what a worker feels and think what a worker thinks — then, and only then shall we have a culture of our own, for then we shall see we shall have a life of our own.
A youth group, Gordonia, was founded in Poland in 1925 and named after Aharon David Gordon. It became an international Zionist youth movement, reaching the Land of Israel in 1937, and ultimately joining forces with Hapoel Hatzair.