Mordechai Olmert, pioneer and former MK, dies at 87

JERUSALEM — Mordechai Olmert, 87, one of the most distinguished pioneers of Israel's land settlement and former member of the Second and Third Knessets, died at Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba on Monday of last week and was buried at the Binyamina cemetery.

Olmert was born in Samara, Russia, but was brought up in Harbin, China, where he led the local Betar youth movement. He settled in Eretz Yisrael in 1933 and was one of the founding members of Irgun Zvai Leumi.

Among his activities was a mission abroad to gather funds and arms for the Irgun ship Altalena.

In 1949, he became head of Herut's Land Settlement Department. Olmert was elected to the Second Knesset in December 1955. In his maiden speech, he pointed out that only 14 percent of the country's manpower was engaged in agriculture. Throughout his life he worked to change this situation by increasing the number of settlements, such as Alona — between Zichron Ya'acov and Binyamina.

He supported settlements which were failing due to insufficient planning and continued his search for increased agricultural exports. Active in public life, he dedicated himself entirely to agriculture in retirement.

Olmert's wife, Bela, died in November 1995. He is survived by four sons and many grandchildren.