May Day Parade in Tel Aviv, Palestine, 1947

May 11, 2021

In this colorized photo, a truck flying red banners rolls through the streets of Tel Aviv, Palestine (modern-day Israel), celebrating May Day, 1947. Atop the vehicle sit images of Stalin and Lenin. What's going on here?

May Day celebration in the streets of Tel Aviv, Palestine, in 1947, Image colorized by Olga Shirnina, aka Klimbim

The first of May marks “May Day” but what does that day actually represent? The answer might surprise you as it has nothing to do with spring or the arrival of summer. In truth, May Day comes from a joint decision in 1886 between the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States of America and Canada to limit the legal workday to eight hours. When that decree wasn’t met, it sparked riots all across America.

Chicago saw the worst turmoil, suffering protests and police casualties in the mayhem. In North America, the history of May Day has long receded into the background. However, in Israel and Palestine, the history of May Day follows the complicated and varied annals of the region.

Socialism Amongst The Israel People

For decades the entire country would shut down for May Day. (+972magazine)

Following the lead of North Americans, many Jews all over Europe subscribed to socialism and participated in May Day events. Around the start of the 20th century, many of the socialist Jews emigrated to Palestine. As the numbers of socialist Jews in Palestine grew, the May Day parades and protests grew.