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Our History

A Shared History of the Jewish People and Israel

Keren Hayesod has supported the people of Israel for 100 years. Our history is that of Israel and the Jewish people. Join us to be a part of the next century in Israel’s history!


​​Keren Hayesod was established in London in the summer of 1920 to provide the Zionist movement with the necessary resources to bring about the return to the Land of Israel, following the Balfour Declaration in 1917 – a statement that turned the ages-old dream of return to Zion into a politically feasible goal. Within a short time, Keren Hayesod established fundraising organizations around the world, beginning primarily in Western and Central Europe. Leading figures from the entire political spectrum, such as Chaim Weizmann and Ze’ev Jabotinsky, were involved. Teams of representatives traveled abroad to establish Keren Hayesod offices and to inform Jewish communities about the organization and seek their support. In 1921, for example, Chaim Weizmann and Albert Einstein went to the United States in an effort to raise funds to establish the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, with Keren Hayesod support. In 1925, the university became a reality. In 1921, Keren Hayesod helped found Bank
Hapoalim and began establishing physical projects in the Land of Israel, starting with Beit Ha’am in Ramat Yishai (Lower Galilee), in 1927.In 1926, Keren Hayesod relocated its headquarters from London to Jerusalem. With the establishment of the Jewish Agency in 1929, KH became its fundraising arm while continuing its own wide-ranging activities.
Keren Hayesod Manifesto – 1920

“The key to Eretz Yisrael is now in our hands and we must endeavour to make sure that through these gates, which will open widely, the largest possible number of Jews will enter, settle and integrate into the country. We need to provide ourselves with the means for this great work and we must begin today.”

Israel’s future first President Dr. Chaim Weizman, 1920
kh history

The effects of the worldwide economic depression of 1929 hit Keren Hayesod hard, but the recovery was accompanied by a dramatic turn of events concerning the plight of German Jewry with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler in 1933. Keren Hayesod played a central role in developing plans to bring German Jews to the Land of Israel, including the establishment and development of the Haifa Bay suburbs. As part of that effort, the Rural and Suburban Settlement Company (Rasco) was founded in 1934. At the same time, the organization continued to support the establishment of a range of cultural institutions, such as the orchestra now known as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra(1936). In the late 1930s, American Jews separated from Keren Hayesod to set up their own fundraising organization. Since then, Keren Hayesod has raised funds everywhere else in the world.

“The merits and achievements of Keren Hayesod are engraved in the soil of the homeland and treasured in the soul of the nation.”

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s future first Prime Minister, 1930

During World War II and in its aftermath, Keren Hayesod established emergency campaigns, sometimes in partnership with other organizations. Initially founded to help the Allied war effort, after the liberation of the concentration camps, the funds were used to smuggle massive numbers of survivors into the Land of Israel, in defiance of British immigration restrictions. Many of Keren Hayesod’s leaders perished in the Holocaust; the organization had to recover quickly in face of the staggering needs that during those fateful years. KH’s leading role in the Zionist enterprise made it a target for terrorism; In March 1948, a car bomb was detonated in the courtyard of the building, killing twelve people, including the director of Keren Hayesod, Leib Yaffe.

“I think it was one of the most important, perhaps the most important, manifestations of Jewish national will, and Jewish capacity for independent action, that we managed to bring about the establishment of a Jewish national fund (Keren Hayesod) for the upbuilding of our country.”

Moshe Shertok (Sharett), Head of the Political Dept. of the Jewish Agency and future Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1943
our history

The first full decade that followed the birth of the State of Israel was marked by huge waves of immigration, primarily from North Africa, Yemen, Kurdistan and Iraq. Within a few years, Israel’s population tripled, resulting in great distress and a heightened demand for social, educational and cultural services. Keren Hayesod redoubled its building efforts, helping to establish dozens of urban settlements, such as Sderot in 1951 and Eilat in 1956, as well as kibbutzim and moshavim. Keren Hayesod provided major funding for these communities, establishing new fundraising campaigns around the world and renewing its presence in Germany (1955). Keren Hayesod’s prominent role led the Knesset, Israel’s parliament,to pass the Keren Hayesod Law in 1956, recognizing the organization’s unique status as the official fundraising arm of the State of Israel the world over (apart from the US).

“In truth, Keren Hayesod was an Israeli fund before there was an Israel and the State of Israel would not have been established if not for Keren Hayesod, without its path of building the country, without the means that it invested here – if not for this tool through which the Jewish masses were included in laying the foundations of a Jewish society.”

Moshe Shertok (Sharett), Head of the Political Dept. of the Jewish Agency and future Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1943

The deep economic recession in the first half of the decade created harsh social needs that Keren Hayesod worked to redress. In addition, the organization set up an Emergency Campaign to fund the immigration of Jews from Morocco and continued to establish new communities in Israel. Following the 1967 Six-Day War, another emergency effort was launched that raised a record $150 million. Among the organization’s most unusual initiatives during this period was a tour of Europe and South America by the Gadna (pre-army preparatory program) youth orchestra, performing with Jewish American entertainer Danny Kaye in front of enthusiastic audiences. During the same period, the plight of Soviet Jewry emerged as a priority of the Jewish people the world over.
(Photo by David Rubinger)

“A special chapter, even in its own extraordinary history, was written by Keren Hayesod in the Six Day War. That period saw the establishment of the Emergency Campaign, the dimensions of which were unprecedented. The epic of this campaign has not yet been written, but the memory of those days, in which I had the privilege to participate, will long remain. The writing of that story is better suited for poets than for historians.”

Pinhas Sapir, legendary Israeli Minister of Finance (1968)
Sderot_Keren Hayesod

Keren Hayesod focused on two tasks of major national importance during this decade. The first involved the massive wave of immigration to Israel following the Six-Day War. Between 1971 and 1974 alone, about 185,000 immigrants – about half of them from the Soviet Union – arrived. The revival of large-scale aliyah created special needs, and Keren Hayesod provided support for this important national challenge. After the outbreak of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Keren Hayesod launched an Emergency Campaign that raised $300 million, surpassing the record sums raised in 1967. The second major national task was Project Renewal, a neighborhood rehabilitation program in which Keren Hayesod played a central role. Beginning in 1978, Keren Hayesod partnered communities around the world with towns and neighborhoods in Israel, creating unmediated, direct relationships -some of which still exist. Keren Hayesod underwent substantial organizational changes at this time, which included the establishment of the International Women’s Division and the Young Leadership Division.

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“The more Jews did for Keren Hayesod, the more it did for them. Keren Hayesod gave them both the challenge and the channel to participate in the writing of the greatest chapter in nineteen decades of Jewish history – the building of the State of Israel.”

Dr. Israel Goldstein, Keren Hayesod-UIA Honorary Chairman and past World Chairman, 1979
Aliyah of Ethiopean Jews

The decade began with the First Lebanon War; no one could have imagined that it would end with the collapse of the Soviet empire. The deep economic crisis that hit Israel in 1983 and 1984 created major hardships, and programs to alleviate social distress became Keren Hayesod’s major priority. Keren Hayesod supported Operation Moses, which brought 5,000 new immigrants from Ethiopia to Israel in a dramatic airlift in 1984, and the organization immediately mobilized to raise funds to address the new immigrants’ special needs. Israel was still in the throes of the First Intifada (1987-1993) when the Soviet Union imploded, opening the gates to over a million Jews who had been fighting for years for the right to immigrate to their ancestral homeland. Their massive immigration immutably changed the course of Israeli – and Keren Hayesod – history.

“The massive immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union immutably changed the course of Israeli – and Keren Hayesod – history.


​This dramatic decade began with two historic events: the final collapse of the Soviet Union on the one hand and the Gulf War in Iraq on the other. The end of the Communist regime in the USSR in 1989 made it possible for Jews to freely immigrate to Israel. In addition, in 1991 – over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel in Operation Solomon. The massive numbers of new immigrants created a huge demand for immigrant services, housing, and jobs; Keren Hayesod launched a special Exodus Campaign that raised more than half a billion dollars for this purpose between 1990 and 1992. The Oslo process in 1993 enabled Keren Hayesod to organize events that were not previously possible, such as a 1994 tour of Jordan for participants of the annual World Conference, which included a meeting with King Hussein. The following year, in 1995, Keren Hayesod sponsored a mission to Morocco. The year would end tragically with the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, causing widespread shock. On the occasion of Israel’s 50th anniversary, in 1998, Keren Hayesod established the Yakir Keren Hayesod Award to recognize outstanding leaders and contributors. That same year, participants in the World Conference toured the remains of the internment camps in Cyprus, where the British detained Jews trying to reach the Land of Israel prior to the state’s independence. Some 1,000,000 Jews immigrated to Israel during this decade, including 900,000 from the former Soviet Union.

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“Keren Hayesod and all who lead it and support it have played a part in this great modern saga of the Jewish people from the beginningת and you have a share in our present satisfaction and pride.”

Prime Minister Itzhak Shamir, 1991
Net@_our history

In 2000, Keren Hayesod celebrated its 80th anniversary with a magnificent event on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus. To mark the occasion, a new Keren Hayesod prize, the Nadiv Award, was established. The wave of terror launched by the Second Intifada, 2000 to 2004, had a devastating impact on the Israeli economy, resulting in major social distress. The situation was exacerbated by the crisis in the tourism industry and the bursting of the hi-tech bubble. In response, Keren Hayesod developed wide-ranging social projects to which it accorded high priority, along with its traditional areas of activity, immigrant absorption and Jewish-Zionist education in the Diaspora. Thus, for example, Keren Hayesod, in partnership with the Jewish Agency, Cisco Systems Inc. and the Appleseeds Academy, initiated the Net@ project, which provides hi-tech training to youth in the periphery. Keren Hayesod was also a lead partner in the Jewish Agency Fund for Victims of Terror. During this period, Keren Hayesod greatly intensified its activities among the non-Jewish public, through its partnership with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, and the establishment of a new division, Friends of Israel. By 2010, when Keren Hayesod marked its 90th anniversary, addressing the needs of the periphery and efforts to close the social gap in Israel had become the main focuses of its work.

“It is doubtful whether any similar organization that emerged from other peoples in the world was as creative and involved in such a unique mission of national revival. This is because Keren Hayesod played a central role in the ingathering of the people, and a vital part in mobilizing the resources to create something from nothing.”

President Shimon Peres (2010)
our history

The second decade of the 21st century began with the reaffirmation of the Historic Cooperation Agreement between the Government of Israel and Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal to further the country’s strategic goals: strengthening Israeli society, particularly in the periphery; facilitating aliyah and absorption; and further Jewish- Zionist education in the Diaspora. In 2011, Keren Hayesod became a public benefit company (PBC).
Over the past ten years, KH donors mobilized repeatedly to provide wide-ranging emergency assistance for humanitarian crises: the devastating Carmel fire (2011) and during and following Operations “Pillar of Defence” (2012) and “Protective Edge” (2014), in response to intensified attacks by Hamas in the South. KH also provided help to Greece’s Jewish community in the wake of that country’s economic crisis (2012). Keren Hayesod-UIA provides ongoing help to Gaza border communities, which is suffering human and material loss from continued terror attacks.
This decade witnessed the resurgence of vicious anti-Semitism worldwide: terror attacks against Jews and Jewish communities, attempts to demonize the Jewish state and boycott it economically. The hostile climate generated a dramatic rise in aliyah starting in 2015, particularly from France, Ukraine and Russia, and renewed aliyah from Ethiopia. For the first time in over 2000 years, the number of Jews in the Land of Israel surpassed the number of Jews anywhere in the Diaspora.
Christian Friends of Israel have become an important player in KH’s fundraising and hasbara efforts. In July 2020, KH will celebrate it centennial.

“Without Keren Hayesod there would have been no state of Israel”

Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin, President of the State of Israel