Iosif Begun
The leader of the Jewish emigration movement, Iosif Ziselovich Begun, was born in 1932 in Moscow but only moved to Israel in 1988. Between 1971 and 1988, he was repeatedly arrested for his political activities and spent over eight years in prison. After his release, he was welcomed by US President Ronald Reagan at the White House. He's been awarded an honorary doctorate by Haifa University and in 2010, he founded Daat, a small publishing house in Jerusalem that translates Jewish books into Russian.
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda was born in 1858 in Lithuania as Eliezer Perelman and moved to Palestine in 1881. He is best known as the father of modern Hebrew and was one of the earliest supporters of Zionism. It was primarily due to his initiatives, that Hebrew was revived as a modern spoken language. Shortly after World War I, in November 1920, he succeeded in lobbying Herbert Samuel, the British High Commissioner of Palestine, to make Hebrew one of the three official languages of the Palestine Mandate. Ben-Yehuda was the founder of the first Hebrew weekly and the editor of the first complete Hebrew dictionary.
Meir Dizengoff
The "father" of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizengoff was born in Echimăuți in 1861 in modern day Moldova. He was a volunteer in the Imperial Russian Army before moving to Israel in 1892. After a short return to Odessa, he returned to Israel in 1905. Dizengoff was the first mayor of Tel Aviv from 1911 until his death in 1936. He is credited for the rapid expansion of that city and was a staunch advocate for improving quality of life for its citizens, especially during World War I, when many of them were exiled by the Ottoman Empire. During this time, Dizengoff worked with Ottoman officials to ensure the exiles would get supplies needed to survive. He died in 1936 in his beloved city, Tel Aviv.
Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky
A pioneer of Zionism, Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky was born in 1880 in Odessa. He is the founder of the Revisionist Movement and Beitar. An avid devotee of Zionism, he served as head of the state department of the Delegate’s Committee. In this capacity, he called for an immediate massive aliyah to the Holy Land. In 1919, he referred to the historical right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. From 1936 and onwards, he worked to promote illegal immigration meant to save Jews from the hands of the Nazis. Under his leadership, the New Zionist Organization he founded and Beitar were active in organizing the "Af Al Pi" Aliyah. He died in 1940.
Moshe Lilienblum
Born in 1843 in Keidany, in what is now Lithuania, Moshe Leib Lilienblum lived most of his life in Odessa. A scholar, an author and an activist, Lilienblum made an outstanding impression on the development of the Zionist movement. Beginning his public career arguing for the reform of traditional Judaism within the framework of the Haskala movement, Lilienblum became a committed Zionist after the pogroms of 1881, advocating for the immigration and settlement of the Land of Israel. In 1884, he became one of the leaders of the united Hibbat Zion movement, which helped strengthen the Jewish centers established during the First Aliyah. Lilienblum died in Odessa in 1910.
Chaim Weizmann
The first president of the Jewish state, Chaim Weizmann was born in 1874 in Belarus. Weizmann led the Synthetic Zionism movement, which became the mainstream of the Zionist Organization. In 1917, he had a major influence in the diplomatic endeavor that gave birth to the Balfour Declaration. That same year, Weizmann was elected as president of the Zionist Federation of England. In 1920, Weizmann was elected president of the World Zionist Organization, becoming the representative figurehead and the central leader of the global Zionist movement. He died in 1952 in Rehovot.
Sylva Zalmanson
The Siberian-born prisoner of Zion, Sylva Zalmanson, is a renowned activist for human rights, artist and engineer. A true Renaissance woman, Zalmanson was born to a middle-class Jewish family in 1944. At a young age, Zalmanson and her family fled Nazi rule only to return to Riga, Latvia after the war. There, she graduated with a degree in engineering from the Riga Polytechnic University, but Zalmanson had dreams of making a home in Israel. After repeatedly being denied entry to Israel by the Soviet Union, she and her husband, Eduard Kuznetsov, joined a group of activists who advocated for their right of return. Zalmanson spent 20 years in a Soviet prison for being one of the masterminds behind Operation Wedding, aka Dymshits–Kuznetsov hijacking affair, where she and a group of Jewish activists hijacked a plane, intending for it to bring them home to Israel. In 1974, she finally emigrated to Israel where she still lives today.