Natan Hofshi (1890–1980)
in No masters but God
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This chapter discusses the nexus of Tolstoyan anarcho-pacifism and Jewish tradition in the life and thought of Natan Hofshi. Raised in a Polish shtetl, where his pious family owned and ran a small farm, Hofshi entered Zionist circles at an early age and eventually joined the prestigious Second Aliyah to Palestine. Working as a farm-laborer and activist in ha-Poel ha-Zair under the tutelage of A. D. Gordon, Hofshi absorbed Tolstoyan ideals of manual labor, simplicity of living, and especially pacifism. He helped to establish Brit Shalom — a movement seeking to ensure peaceful coexistence by renunciation of the Zionist aim of creating a Jewish state — and also the Palestinian (and later Israeli) branch of the War Resisters' International. This chapter first addresses the personal experiences that led Hofshi to his pacifism. It then examines his notion of ‘religious feeling,’ which he defines as a sense of human sanctity and fraternity. The chapter then discusses the way that this grounds his pacifism and his special critique of Jewish militarism. It proceeds to consider his reflections on the Palestinian nakba and its implications for Judaism and Zionism, which led him to reject Zionist statism and to promote a return to the agrarian anarcho-socialism of the early Zionist pioneers.