Arthur Ruppin (1 March 1876 – 1 January 1943) was a Zionist thinker and leader. He was one of the founders of the city of Tel Aviv, and directed Berlin's Bureau for Jewish Statistics and Demography from 1902 to 1907. In 1926 Ruppin joined the faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and founded the sociology department. A building there is now named in his honor. His most celebrated sociological work is The Jews in the Modern World (1934).
Ruppin was born in Rawicz in the German Empire (today in Poland). When he was fifteen, his family's poverty forced him to work to support them. Nonetheless, he was able to complete his studies in law and economics, winning the Krupp prize in 1899 for his dissertation on the use of social Darwinism in industry. He was to distinguish himself both in furthering practical Zionist settlement and in the academic world.
Ruppin joined the Zionist Organization (ZO, the future World Zionist Organization – WZO) in 1905. In 1907 he was sent by David Wolfsohn, the President of the ZO, to study the condition of the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine), then in the Ottoman Empire, to investigate the possibilities for development of agriculture and industry. He reported on what he saw, which was distressing, and gave recommendations for improving the situation. In 1908 Ruppin came to live in Palestine by decision of the eighth Zionist Congress. He opened the Palestine Office of the Zionist Organization in Jaffa, with the aim of directing the settlement activities of the Zionist movement. His work made Practical Zionism possible and shaped the direction of the Second Aliya, the last wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine before World War I.
Ruppin became the chief Zionist land agent. He helped to get a loan for Ahuzat Bayit, later Tel Aviv, and acquired land on the Carmel, in Afula, in the Jezreel Valley, and in Jerusalem. Ruppin was instrumental in shaping the nature of Jewish settlement in Palestine and in changing the paradigm of settlement from those of plantation owners and poor laborers to the collective and cooperative kibbutzim and moshavim that became the backbone of the state-in-the-making. He catalyzed the commune at Sejera, and helped building the first kibbutz – Degania, as well as helping to support and organize Kinneret, Merhavia and other settlements. Later, he supported Yehoshua Hankin in his purchases of large tracts of land in the Galilee.
Ruppin was among the founders of the Brit Shalom peace movement, which supported a binational state, but he left Brit Shalom after the 1929 Hebron massacre. Thereafter he was convinced that only an independent Jewish state would be possible, and he believed that the way to bring about that state was through continued settlement. He headed the Jewish Agency between 1933 and 1935, and helped to settle the large numbers of Jewish immigrants from Germany who came in that period. Ruppin died in 1943. He was buried in Degania Alef.
Many cities in Israel named streets after him, and the city of Haifa has a prize in his name awarded for extraordinary works in thinking, philosophy and politics. One of the prize-winners was the philosopher, zionist and friend of Kafka's, Felix Weltsch in 1952.
The German city Magdeburg, in which Ruppin lived during his youth, has named a street after him.