Aharon David Gordon
- Born on June 9, 1856
- Made Aliyah in 1904
- Arrived in Degania in 1919
- Died on February 22, 1922
Aharon David was born in the village of Troino in South Podolya (Russia). He remained the only child of his parents, Uri and Dvorah, after all his brothers and sisters had died in their youth. His father sat at home and studied Torah. His mother managed the estate they lived on as well as the house. Their family was known in the entire area as open and hospitable.
A. D. Gordon was a child weak in body and was therefore not taught reading and writing until the age of seven, nor was he sent to school after that; special teachers in the village taught him. At the age of 14 he traveled to Vilna to study in the yeshiva but after a year he returned home and was sent to study in the nearby town of Cheshzobuta, where he studied for two years with a private teacher.
By order of the authorities his parents were forced to leave their village. They went to live in the woods near the town where he was born and took up the sale of wood. The parents hired a private teacher in the new place as well and he taught the boy Talmud, Bible and Hebrew grammar.
When he was 17 there awakened in him the desire to learn foreign languages and he studied Russian, German and French. For four years he persevered in the study of languages. He read books on various subjects, acquired knowledge of various sciences, learned poetry by heart and thus completed his general education on his own. A. D. Gordon did not abandon learning. He took up secular studies for their own sake while continuing to study Torah for its sake. After he married he lived with his wife in Ovodivke, where her parents lived. Two years later he took up a clerical post in Mohilne, on the estate of the Baron Ginsberg, and he worked there for 23 years. Clerical work was not to his taste. He devoted his free time to educational activity with the youth in the town of Cheshtchobuta, where he was compelled to live.
He endeavored to make Hebrew the spoken language among the youth and he succeeded. He was endowed with a superior pedagogical sense and his two children – a boy and a girl – he did not send to school. He taught them himself and treated them with equality in their upbringing and education.
In the year 1903 Mohilne was sold to new owners and he was left without work. After much vacillation he decided to make Aliyah and begin a new chapter in his life. In the winter of 1904 he arrived in the Land of Israel, at the age of 48. There he decided to be a farm laborer – a worker of the land. In spite of his advanced age and delicate body build he stubbornly persisted in this decision and worked in the field for eighteen years, until his last day. During this period without employment he found daily work digging in the orchards and vineyards. He worked in Petach Tikvah, Rishon LeTzion and Rechovot.
Gordon believed that national revival and the revival of man had to begin with physical work, particularly in working the land, and he felt that he had an obligation to be among the beginners. He adhered to his principles and he had great influence on the workers in the Land of Israel and on youth abroad. His way of life and his creed were adopted by many and for them he was a guiding light.
At the end of the year 1909 his wife and his daughter, Yael, arrived from Russia. They went to live in Ein Ganim and Gordon worked in Petach Tikva. His son, who remained in Russia, wrote to them frequently. He took an interest in the events in the country and he expressed his opinions on the happenings in the workers’ movement. His wife died of a serious illness a number of months after making Aliyah.
At the end of 1912 Gordon left Judea and moved to the Galilee. In 1913 he came to work on Degania but this phase did not last long because he did not make his place of work permanent and he would go to different places in the country where workers from the second and third aliya worked, would stay with them for a while and then go on to a different group. Thus he wandered from the village of Uriah in the south to Tel Adashim in the Jezreel Valley and from there to the Galilee – to Migdal, Sejera, Kinneret and Degania.
He was a spiritual father to the young – he would arouse, explain and encourage. Every word of his was swallowed with expressions of thanks; every sentence he wrote was read with rapt attention and his words and deeds became a way of life. From the year 1909 he began to publish his articles, mainly in the newspaper The Young Worker. Every so often he would return to Degania and here they would see to his special needs. He was allotted a corner with a table, chair and lamp – so that he could write down his thoughts and ideas. Gordon was involved in every activity of the workers party in the Land of Israel; he reacted to every event and was a participant in all the disputes. In 1919 he came to Degania and made it his home. His daughter Yael also joined him.
About a year before his death a cancerous growth was diagnosed in his throat but even in his illness he did not relinquish his work. He was aware of everything that was going on in the life of the commune; he wrote letters to his friends and completed the writing of his books.
He died in 1922 at the age of 66. He left his daughter Yael. In order to carry out his teachings the Gordonia movement was established in his memory and in his name the Kibbutz Movement set up a house of nature and agriculture; its first director was Yaakov Palmoni. In the scroll of the cornerstone of the house Yaakov Palmoni wrote, “In memory of a giant of a man, who went in righteousness; an agricultural worker whose way of life was a faithful example of manual labor and the true return of a man of Israel to the sources of nature; whose opinions and words will light the path of the working nation for generations.” Blessed be his memory.