Wellesley Aron

AZL flag holder TransparentJewish Major Wellesley Aron, MBE (1901–1988), founded Habonim, which became the largest Zionist Youth movement world-wide. Born in London on 18th June 1901, he was the only child of a Jewish mother but the fifth child of a Jewish father, both born in Germany. In 1921 Aron founded the 36th Stepney Jewish Scout Troop and became active in the Oxford student Zionist club. It was here that he first met Chaim Weizmann, the chemist and Zionist leader who later became Israel’s first President. After graduating Cambridge in 1926, he moved to Palestine prior to its Jewish occupation. He returned in 1928 to found a new “Jewish cultural youth movement”, which would combine the principles of Baden Powell’s scouting with a love of ‘Jewish heritage’, and taught not only Jewish history but also Modern Hebrew and songs and dances, in addition to camping craft and other outdoor activities. Wellesley produced a handbook with instructions on how to run groups of teenagers, using elements of Jewish history and symbolism, tests and ceremonies. Habonim, which began as “a Jewish Cultural Youth Movement” subsequently developed into a Zionist Youth Movement that has had enormous impact in both Israel and Jewish communities worldwide. During WWII Aron enlisted in the British Army as a Palestinian volunteer, where he rose to become the senior Jewish officer enlisted from Palestine and the first to command a unit. His unit, 178 coy, R.A.S.C,was made up primarily of Jewish Palestinian volunteers. In Italy in 1944 under the threat of court-martial, he led his unit in allowing the escape of many subversive Jewish political prisoners. Aron’s unit, together with the other Jewish Palestinian R.A.S.C units, became the frontline of the Jewish Brigade founded in 1944. In November 1945 Aron was asked to join David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir and Chaim Weizmann in testifying before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, a joint British and American committee assembled in Washington on 4th January 1946 to examine political, economic and social conditions in Palestine as they bear upon Jewish immigration and settlement.

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