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Zionism: Hovevei Zion

The first Hovevei Zion ("Lovers of Zion") organizations had been established in 1881­1882 with the aim of furthering Jewish settlement, particularly agricultural settlement in Eretz-Israel. The groups varied not only in size but in their activity. Some were interested in philanthropic work while others were intent on immigration to Eretz-Israel.

From its inception, the Hovevei Zion groups in Russia sought to erect a country­wide legally recognized framework. After arduous negotiations, in which the authorities demanded that the society be set up as a charitable body, its establishment was approved, early in 1890, as "The Society for the Support of Jewish Farmers and Artisans in Syria and Eretz-Israel," which came to be known as "The Odessa Committee."

In 1892, the organization had approximately 14,000 sympathizers in Russia. Among its leaders were Rabbi Samuel Mohilever (1824­1898), Moshe Leib Lilienblum (1843­1910) and Leon Pinsker (1821­1891).

Following the publication of Herzl's Der Judenstaat in 1896 and the establishment of the World Zionist Organization, most of the branches of Hovevei Zion aligned themselves with the new movement.