Aaron David Gordon, better known as A.D. Gordon, was born into a wealthy Orthodox family in 1856 in the Russian Empire.
Over the course of his life, he would become a leading force behind practical Zionism and Labor Zionism, a branch of left wing Zionism.
When Gordon was young, he self educated himself in religious and academic studies, learning several languages as a child.
He made aliyah to then Palestine in 1904, settling in the Galilee in 1919. He worked in agriculture, firming up his belief system that the land of Israel would flourish only through hard work and cultivation.
“The land of Israel is acquired through labor, not through fire and not through blood,” he once said.
Gordon founded Hapoel Hatzair in 1905, “The Young Worker,” a Zionist group with pacifist and anti-military leanings. As he aged, he began releasing several writings, which drew followers to his philosophies. Many of these texts are still referenced today.
Gordon is noted as a leading early Zionist figure in the fields of ethics, Jewish philosophy and existentialism. As his popularity grew, he refused to accept payment for his writings, quoting the Mishnah and saying, “Do not turn the Torah into a source of income.”
That commitment to the land and people first is reflected in much of his revered writings. As he wrote in 1920:
“As we now come to re-establish our path among the ways of living nations of the earth, we must make sure that we find the right path. We must create a new people, a human people whose attitude toward other peoples is informed with the sense of human brotherhood and whose attitude toward nature and all within it is inspired by noble urges of life-loving creativity.”
“All the forces of our history, all the pain that has accumulated in our national soul, seem to impel us in that direction… we are engaged in a creative endeavor the like of which is itself not to be found in the whole history of mankind: the rebirth and rehabilitation of a people that has been uprooted and scattered to the winds.”
Gordon died February 22, 1922, at the age of 66. A Zionist youth movement, Gordonia, was later created to honor his teachings.