Haim Moshe Shapira

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Haim Moshe Shapira

Hebrew: חיים משה שפירא
Birthplace: Grodno
Death: Died
Place of Burial: Israel
Immediate Family:

Son of Zalman Shapira and Rosa Shapira

Occupation: Leader of Religious Zionist Movement, Cabinet Minister, MK
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Haim Moshe Shapira

Haim-Moshe Shapira

Haim-Moshe Shapira (Hebrew: חיים משה שפירא‎, 26 March 1902 – 16 July 1970) was a key Israeli politician in the early days of the state's existence. A signatory of Israel's declaration of independence, he served continuously as a minister from the country's foundation in 1948 until his death in 1970 apart from a brief spell in the late 1950s.


Born to Zalman Shapira and Rosa Krupnik in the Russian Empire in Grodno in what is today Belarus, Shapira was educated in a Heder and a Yeshiva, where he organised a youth group called Bnei Zion (lit. Sons of Zion). He worked in the Education and Culture department of the National Jewish Council in Kaunas (now in Lithuania), and in 1919 set up the Young Mizrachi, which became a leading player in the religious zionist youth movement in Lithuania. In 1922 he started work as a teacher at an ultra-orthodox school in Vilnius, and also served on the board of the Mizrahi group in the city. Between 1923 and 1924 he was active in the Young Mizrahi group in Warsaw, before attending a Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin between 1924 and 1925.

In 1925 he was a delegate at the Zionist Congress, where he was elected onto the executive committee. In the same year he immigrated to Mandate Palestine. In 1928 he was elected onto the Central Committee of the Hapoel HaMizrachi movement, and also served as a member of the World Mizrachi committee.

In 1936 he was elected as a member of the Zionist Directorate and a Director of the Aliyah department of the Jewish Agency, a role he filled until 1948. In 1938 he was sent on a special mission to try and save Jews in Austria following the takeover by Nazi Germany. [edit] Political career

Shapira was one of the people to sign Israel's declaration of independence, and was immediately appointed Minister of Health and Minister of Immigration in David Ben-Gurion's provisional government.

In Israel's first elections in 1949, Shapira won a seat as a member of the United Religious Front bloc, an alliance of Agudat Israel, Agudat Israel Workers, Mizrachi and his Hapoel HaMizrachi party. He was reappointed to his previous ministerial posts, and also became Minister of Internal Affairs.

After the 1951 elections in which Hapoel HaMizrachi ran as an independent party, Shapira was appointed Minister of Internal Affairs and Minister of Religions. Following a cabinet reshuffle in 1952, he lost the Internal Affairs portfolio, but was appointed Minister of Welfare instead. Another reshuffle in 1955 saw him regain the Internal Affairs portfolio.

The 1955 elections saw Mizrachi and Hapoel HaMizrachi run as a combined bloc, the National Religious Front, which later became the National Religious Party (NRP). Shapira was reappointed Minister of Religions and Minister of Welfare. In 1957 he was seriously injured by a hand grenade thrown into the Knesset by Moshe Dwek, but survived. He and all other NRP ministers resigned from the cabinet in July 1958, marking the only spell he spent out of office during his time in Israel.

Following the 1959 elections, Shapira returned to the cabinet as Minister of Internal Affairs. After the early elections in 1961, he re-added the health portfolio to his roles.

After elections in 1965 Shapira became just Internal Affairs Minister, a role he retained again after the 1969 elections. He died in office on 16 July 1970. [edit] His Positions regarding the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Shapira belonged to the dovish camp of religious Zionism. This camp held considerable power before the Six-Day War, but was weakened significantly after the war in favor of hawkish Gush Emunim, whose spiritual leader was Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook.

Before the state of Israel was founded, Shapira opposed the dissident military organizations, Etzel and Lehi, although he resigned in response to the attack on the Etzel's arms ship Altalena, ordered by David Ben Gurion.

Before the United Nations voted in favor of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, Shapira took a minority position in his movement, supporting the plan. When military actions were debated during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Shapira voiced moderate and careful positions. After the state was founded, he supported giving a hundred thousand Palestinian refugees the option to return to Israel in exchange for a peace accord.

Regarding the Deir Yassin and Qibya affairs, he said,"It's wrong from a Jewish perspective. Jews should not act like that". His opinion differed from others in his party, including Zalman Shragai.

Shapira supported retreat from the Sinai Peninsula after the 1956 Sinai war. He said:"A bit more modesty, a bit less vanity and pride won't be unhelpful to us". In this context, he cited the decision of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai to negotiate with the Romans.

Shapira was the most vocal of the ministers opposing a preemptive Israeli attack before the Six Day War. "How dare you go to war when all the circumstances are against us", he said to the IDF's chief of staff, Yitzhak Rabin. The other National Religious Party ministers joined Shapira in this stance. During the war, he opposed opening a new front in the Golan Heights. Despite his moderate worldview, he acted to include the right wing parties in the government on the eve of the war. This effort resulted in the establishment of a national unity government.

After the war, Shapira voiced support for the settlement movement but warned that future peace agreements would be based on territorial concessions. However, he believed that discussions were meaningless as long as the Arabs refused to consider peace with Israel. He was more determined about Jerusalem – "The eternal capital should not be taken from the eternal nation".

When the pupils of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook expressed indignation at his moderate worldview, he replied ,"we should not distance ourselves from our few friends in the world". He cited the opinion of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, who said that questions of territorial concessions should be decided by those who are experts in the fields of defense and national security.

When Moshe Dayan demanded the annexation of the west bank to Israel, Shapira opposed it. Dayan wondered, "How can a religious Jew be so yielding". He remarked that Shapira's opinion differed from that of other party members.

Education: “Heder” and Yeshiva; Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin (1924-1925); during his Yeshiva studies he organized a youth group in his city called “B’nai Zion”

Knesset Terms: Knessets 1-7, from 14.2.1949 to 16.7.1970 (Partial tenure in Knesset 7).

Roles in the Government:

  • Minister of Internal Affairs: Govts 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, (Gov 15 until 16/07/1970).
  • Minister of Health: Govts 1, 2, 10, 11, 12.
  • Minister of Immigration: Govts 1, 2.
  • Minister of Religions: Govts 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 (Gov 8 until 01/07/1958).
  • Minister of Welfare: Govts 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 (Gov 8 until 01/07/1958).

Public Activities:

  • Worked in the Education and Culture Department of Kovno National Jewish Council where he organized “Young Mizrahi” which became the nucleus of the Religious Zionist Youth Movement in Lithuania, 1919
  • In 1922 served as a teacher in a Haredi school in Vilna
  • Member of the Board of Mizrahi and Pioneering Mizrahi in Vilna
  • Active in “Young Mizrahi” in Warsaw, 1923-1924
  • A delegate to all the Zionist Congresses from the 14th Congress (1925) in which he was elected to the Zionist Executive Committee
  • Participated in the Funding Convention of the “World Union of Torah and Labor Movements” and was elected to the Central Committee of the Union
  • In 1928 he was elected to the Central Committee of the Executive Committee of “Ha’Poel Hamizrahi” in pre-State Israel and as a member of the Central Committee of World Mizrahi
  • In 1936 elected to alternate member of the Zionist Directorate and Director of the Aliya Department of the Jewish Agency of Israel, which he continued to fill until 1948
  • In 1938 was sent on a special mission to try to save Austrian Jewry
  • In 1946 he was elected to the Zionist Directorate and Head of the Aliya Department of World Zionist Federation, especially Youth Aliya
  • Member of “Moetzet Ha’Am” and “Minhal Ha’Am”
  • In 1957 was severely wounded by a hand grenade thrown into the Knesset by a youth in the balcony

Publications: Biography by Shai Daniel: “Minister Haim-Moshe Shapira: Portrait of a Religious Statesman” (Heb) (1980).

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About חיים משה שפירא (עברית)

חיים משה שפירא נולד בגרודנה שברוסיה הלבנה (אז חלק מהאימפריה הרוסית; כיום בלארוס). למד במוסדות חינוך דתיים ומספר שנים בישיבה המקומית אצל הרב שמעון שקאפ שנחשב לאחד מגדולי הדור. בשנים 1924–1925 למד בבית המדרש לרבנים בברלין.

היה פעיל בארגון צעירי מזרחי, ובזמן לימודיו בישיבה אירגן בעיר קבוצת נוער בשם ”בני-ציון”. בשנת 1925 עלה לארץ ישראל. באותה שנה נבחר לוועד הפועל הציוני ומאז השתתף בכל הקונגרסים הציוניים. בשנים 1936–1946 שימש מנהל מחלקת העלייה של הסוכנות היהודית, ובשנים 1946–1948 כיהן כראש המחלקה. במסגרת תפקידו זה נפגש עם אדולף אייכמן, והביא להצלת כמה אלפים מיהודי העיר וינה.

בשנת 1948 מונה לחבר מועצת העם ובעקבותיה מועצת המדינה הזמנית, ולחבר במנהלת העם, והמשיך לכהן בכנסת עד מותו ב-1970. עמד בראש הפועל המזרחי ומאוחר יותר תנועת המזרחי כולה מאז 1951, ומאז איחודן של מפלגות המזרחי והפועל המזרחי למפד"ל ב-1956 ועד מותו ב-1970, היה מנהיגה הפוליטי של הציונות הדתית.

כיהן כשר העלייה וכשר הבריאות בממשלה הזמנית (1948–1949), ושימש בממשלות ישראל בתפקיד שר הפנים (1949–1952, 1955 ובשלישית בין 1959–1970), שר העלייה (1949–1951), שר הדתות (1951–1958), שר הסעד (1953–1958) ושר הבריאות (1949–1951 ובשנית בין 1961–1965). כמו כן כיהן כיו"ר ועד המנהלים של אוניברסיטת בר-אילן וכיו"ר ועד המנהלים של בנק המזרחי.

שפירא, שמיעט לעסוק בהגות ובפובליציסטיקה, אך היה ידוע כמנהיג מפוכח ומציאותי, היה יריב בתחום הדתי ליוסף בורג, מנהיג סיעת "למפנה" בפועל המזרחי. אף על פי שנחשב למתון בנושאי דת, וגם הציג פשרנות מדינית עקבית, הוא שלל התקרבות יתרה לחוגי השמאל. התעקשותו שלא לרשום במרשם התושבים כיהודים את אלו שאינם יהודים על פי ההלכה הובילה למשבר בשאלת "מיהו יהודי", שדוד בן-גוריון ניסה לפותרו באמצעות שליחת מכתבים לעשרות מחכמי ישראל בארץ ובגולה ובהם בקשה לחוות דעתם בנושא.

ב-29 באוקטובר 1957 נפצע קשה כאשר אדם מעורער בנפשו בשם משה דואק יידה רימון יד במליאת הכנסת (ראו פרשת הרימון בכנסת). בעקבות המקרה נוסף השם "חיים" לשמו כסגולה לרפואה.

על שמו נקרא היישוב מרכז שפירא.

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Haim Moshe Shapira's Timeline

March 26, 1902