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General Federation of Jewish Labor in Israel. Founded in 1920 by representatives of 4,500 Jewish workers in Palestine, the Histadrut has become the most powerful non-governmental organization in Israel, an institution unique in the history of labor movements. David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, and Joseph Sprinzak were among the early founders and leaders of the organization. By 1993, the Histadrut membership was about 1.8 million. Each member pays dues to the federation and receives in return full medical coverage through Kupat Holim, or the Workers’ Sick Fund, old age and disability benefits, and the right to participate in all its cultural and social activities and elections. On joining the Histadrut, the worker automatically becomes a member of the General Cooperative Association of Israel, founded by the Histadrut to facilitate the growth of new industries. Most of Israel’s consumers’ and producers’ cooperatives belong to it. About 25% of Israel’s GNP is attributed to Histadrut owned and centrally-managed enterprises. Most workers also belong to one of 35 trade and industrial unions affiliated with the Histadrut. These unions include both skilled and unskilled laborers, as well as professional, academic, and clerical workers. Through coordination of bargaining policy, the Histadrut has striven to maintain uniform standards throughout Israel. Nationally, the Histadrut has been active in preparing labor legislation for consideration by the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament. The Histadrut also maintains local labor councils in towns and villages; a Working Women’s Council; a Working Youth Organization; an Agricultural Workers’ Center; and Shikun Ovdim, which builds low-cost homes for workers and their families. Its cultural activities has included publication of two daily newspapers, Daver and Omer, the latter a publication for newcomers; Ohel, a full-scale repertory theater; Hapoel, a national sports organization; a publishing house; vocational and general schools for both children and adults; libraries; and a department for the organization of lectures, concerts, and discussion groups. Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Histadrut has accepted Israel’s Arabs for membership in its unions; the Israel Labor League, an all-Arab union, is a Histadrut affiliate. To facilitate the integration of Arabs into the economic and cultural life of Israel, the Histadrut maintains a special Arab Department.

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