A Pioneer Is Born


Note: This lesson functions as the “anchor” for the Pioneering unit. It is recommended to begin with this lesson and then continue with some or all of the additional lessons in this unit. 

What attracted the Halutzim (pioneers) of the second and third zionist immigration waves to risk it all and immigrate to Palestine? What was the ideology that defined this movement? (See the historical background in the expanding your horizons section below.) Learners will begin by taking a  contemporary look at the concept of pioneering, “travel back in time” to examine the meaning  of this term in Zionist history, and explore the unique characteristics of the Zionist pioneers of the 20th century. An interactive timeline (see attachment below) enables a deeper understanding of the general timeframe and context. The timeline includes short explanations,links to films in the Israel Film Archive, and comprehension questions. Students will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the Zionist pioneering ideal and discuss what aspects of this movement and its members resonate with them and why.

Lesson Attachments​

The learner will:

  1. understand the motivations of the pioneers as well as the what they have come to symbolize in Israel today 

  2. know about the Halutzim’s ideology, experiences, and legacy

  3. be able to interpret archival film footage about the pioneers and explain what the ways in which the films have shed light on the goals, values, and contributions of the pioneers and in what ways they are role models for future generations

Note: All of the links in the lesson plan below can be viewed as a whole class activity or individually, on the learning platform.

Part 1: Pioneering in our world today

            What does it mean to be a pioneer?

Step 1

Students will watch four short videos on page 1 of the student learning platform. (Feel free to  show alternate  videos representing pioneering or groundbreaking actions that may be more relevant to them.)

Step 2

Present the following definitions of the words pioneer/pioneering:

  • Pioneering is introducing ideas and methods that have never been used before (Oxford Dictionary). A pioneer is a leader, the first to take bold action.

  • Pioneers are groundbreakers in their fields. For example, the professor is a pioneer in genetic engineering. 

  • To pioneer is to open or prepare for others to follow (Merriam-Webster). 

  • A pioneer is one of the first to settle in a territory (Merriam-Webster). In Hebrew, the word for pioneer, Halutz, also refers to someone who immigrated to pre-state Israel for Zionist reasons (Milog).

  • A pioneer is a person who is the first to study and develop a particular area of knowledge, culture, etc. that other people then continue to develop (Oxford Dictionary).

Step 3

Using the discussion component on pages 2 and 3 of the student learning platform, ask the students to express their opinions or hold a class activity:

  • Question:  Is the action depicted in the video an authentic example of pioneering? Why or why not?

  • Split the class into pairs. Each pair is given/selects one of the videos.

  • In pairs, partners will choose opposing sides and present their stances to the class.

  • Ask students to vote on which action seems the most pioneering to them, and tally the votes.

  • Ask students to post a sticky note with an example of a current-day pioneering action they had come across (you can ask them to send a relevant photo or video to the rest of the class).

  Part 2: The Zionist Pioneer 

               What lies at the heart of being a Jewish pioneer, a Chalutz, in the first half of the 

               twentieth century?

Step 1

Show the students a segment of director Helmar Lerski’s film “Work,” shot in Mandatory Palestine in the 1930s.

  • Ask the students to describe the figure of the Zionist pioneer as it is represented in the film.

(Likely answers: a farmer; dressed in simple clothing; diligent and industrious.)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       


Step 2

Show the students a short segment from the series News of the Past, “The Trumpeldor Legend Takes Over the Yishuv.” 


Please note:: 

  1. Be sure to explain to the students that this is a humorous series that makes use of current-day references to bring the past to life. 

  2. As the segment is in Hebrew, please be sure to turn on YouTube’s Auto-translate option. To do so, click on the “Closed Caption” ‎‎(CC)‎‎ icon, then proceed to click the “Settings” icon. Select “Subtitles/CC,” and then click “Auto-translate.” A list of languages you can translate into will be displayed. Select “English.”

  • Students should answer the accompanying questions (on the learning platform) once they’re done watching the segment.

  • Discuss why Trumpeldor is portrayed in the episode as a superhero. What was it about Trunpeldor that allowed different myths to develop around him, and why was he seen as a worthy role model?


Step 3

Show the students a segment from a film shot in the Land of Israel (then under Ottoman rule) in 1913. The film shows the agricultural commune in Migdal founded by Trumpeldor after he had made Aliyah in 1912.

  • Draw the students’ attention to the opening shot of the film and to the wilderness surrounding the small commune, and ask: Why, in their opinion, did the film’s creators choose to emphasize this wilderness?

  • Explain that the Migdal agricultural commune was short-lived. Tensions arose among the settlement’s members, who also had difficulties realizing the ideals set forth by Trumpeldor, which called for hard physical labor and austerity.

  • Emphasize that the image of the hard-working and austere pioneer became the official face of the Zionist movement. It was promoted by David Ben-Gurion, as can be seen in the short excerpt from a text written by him in 1915 that appears in the lesson. 

  • Discuss the meaning of Ben-Gurion’s claims with the students, as well as the main role assigned to the pioneers early on by the Zionist movement. 

  • Students should then answer the question that appears on the learning platform.

Step 4

View the photograph on the linked Wikimedia Commons page and ask the students to learn a bit about where and when it was taken. 

  • Students should then answer the accompanying questions on the learning platform.

  • Ask: Why would people be interested in working extremely hard for meager wages and sparse living conditions? How were they able to take pride in their work? 


View the segment from the film shot in the Land of Israel in 1913 again. 


  • Instruct the students to write a narration for it based on what they understood from the lesson. 

  • Ask a few volunteers to read their texts out loud and discuss with the class.

  • Ask: What advantages and disadvantages did the Zionist pioneering ideal hold for a developing society hoping to establish a national state?

Computer, projector, personal computers for each student (optional)

Welcome to UnitEd's new website!

Our website is just starting its journey,  and we'll be adding new content, features, and resources regularly.

We invite you to return to our website and follow its growth!