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Hashomer - (Hebrew - pronounced "Hah -shomehr", meaning "The Guard") A Jewish defense organization in Palestine organized in 1909 by socialist Zionists. It was dsibanded after the founding of the Haganah in 1920. The purpose of Hashomer was to provide guard services for Jewish settlements, freeing Jewish communities from dependence upon foreign consulates and Arab watchmen for their security. Guards were needed primarily due to pilfering and violence initiated during thefts, rather than violence initiated for nationalistic reasons.

Hashomer was orgazined by socialist Zionists, mostly members of Poalei Tziyon, including Israel Shochat, Manya Shochat, Yitzhak Ben Zvi and Rachel Yanaait. Many of them had earlier belonged to a small secret guard society called Bar Giora, which guarded only the Sejera commune (now Illanit) and Mesha (now Kfar Tavor). Bar Giora had been founded by Alexander Zeid and Yitzhak Ben Zvi among others.

Hashomer was successful in providing defense for settlements throughout the country. It cultivated the image of the "new Jew" - self reliant and rooted in the land, and raised the banner of Jewish self-defense. Hashomer aroused the ire of Arab watchmen who lost their jobs and of pilferers, and antagonized the Arab population by retaliatory raids. Over-reaction by Hashomer guards also was the source of several incidents of violence and retaliation.

During World War I, many Hashomer members were exiled by the Ottoman Turkish government because they were 'enemy' (Russian) nationals. When the Turks caught Yosef Lishanski of the NILI Zionist underground group, he told all he knew, implicating 12 members of Hashomer. The group survived however.

The establishment of the British mandate changed conditions in Palestine. In 1920, Hashomer members and others decided to organize the Haganah, a much broader-based group, to cope with new defense challenges and needs of the growing community.

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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