The Early Days of Jabotinsky
Zeev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky
was born in Odessa, Russia, on October 18,
1880, the son of a merchant. His father,
who was held in high esteem in the community,
died when Zeev was still a boy, and although
he studied Hebrew in his early youth he
received his academic education in a Russian
school. His mother, who in later years settled
in Eretz Israel, was a descendant of the
famous sage, the Dubner Maggid. At an early
age he showed outstanding literary talent,
and when he was eighteen, a leading Russian
daily, the Odesskie Novosti, assigned him
as its correspondent in Switzerland. Later
he went to Rome where, while working as
a correspondent, he studied law. Very early
in life his linguistic genius manifested
itself and he easily acquired knowledge
of English, German, French, and Italian.
At the same time he studied Latin and ancient
In 1901, he returned to
Odessa where he joined the staff of his
paper; he wrote under the pen name of "Altalena"
and became one of the most popular columnists
in Czarist Russia. His political articles
showed a strong liberal trend reflecting
19th century European Liberalism. He wrote
novels, plays, and poetry as well as translated
into Russian classic poems and other literary
works from the Hebrew and foreign languages.
His writings showed a strong individualistic
tendency antagonistic toward excessive state
Jabotinsky's superb translation
of Bialik's poetry from Hebrew to Russian
made Bialik famous all over Russia. He translated
Yehudah Leib Gordon into Russian, as well
as other famous writers.
Jabotinsky was an admirer
of the writings of Edgar Allen Poe and while
yet in high school he translated Poe's famous
work - The Raven - into Russian. He translated
Dante's works into Hebrew as well as other
Famous Russian writers,
among them Maxim Gorki, complained that
the Zionists "stole" Jabotinsky
away from Russian literature where a great
literary future awaited him. They praised
his linguistic and stylistic talent and
saw in Jabotinsky's devotion to Jewish and
Zionist politics a loss to Russian literature.
While in Odessa, Jabotinsky
organize the "Haganah," the self-defense
Jewish organization, to fight back against
the anti-Semitic hooligans.
Just as the Dreyfus affair
moved Herzl, founder of political Zionism,
to blueprint the idea of a Jewish State,
it was the wave of anti-Jewish pogroms in
Russia in 1903 that converted Jabotinsky
into an active fighter for Zionism. Subordinating
his other literary and journalistic activities,
he devoted all his time, talents and zeal
to championing the Zionist cause.
Jabotinsky's first face
to face meeting with Theodor Herzl was at
the Sixth World Zionist Congress at Basel
in 1904, when he was only 24 years old.
He was considered a major spokesman for
the great Russian Zionist movement.
Since then Jabotinsky
was the stormy petrel a the subsequent Zionist
Congresses by his dynamic and militant stand
on behalf of maximal Zionist fulfillment.
Between 1903 and 1914
he emerged not only as the most eloquent
Jewish speaker in Russia but one of the
outstanding orators of modern times. He
was recognized as the foremost leader of
Russia's Jewish intelligentsia. He continued
avid studies of Hebrew ranked him among
the most noted Hebrew writers, poets and
translators of world literature. Over 50
volumes of his completed writings and speeches
were published in Israel.
The great influence which
Jabotinsky wielded in crystallizing the
Zionist program among the Jews in Czarist
Russia was vividly described by Dr. Joseph
Schechtmlan, noted historian and biographer
of Jabotinsky, in his book Rebel and Statesman:
...A great, possibly decisive, role in the
political evolution of Russian Zionism was
played by the three "conferences of
the Zionist press" held at Vilna in
1906-07. They did the ideological spade-work,
prepared the ground for new ideas and concepts,
formulated them in carefully worded draft
resolutions. Each one of them can be considered
as a spiritual laboratory of creative Zionist
Aware of the gravity of
the political situation in Russia and of
the need for a clear-cut Zionist program,
an unofficial conference of seventy active
Zionist workers was convened in Odessa (July
29 - August 1, 1906). At this Convention,
Jabotinsky's influence was overwhelming.
He gave the report on the chief subject
- political action - and submitted, in substance,
the platform adopted at the Vilna conference.
With few exceptions, all participants favored
a strictly Zionist political activity, and
a resolution to this effect submitted by
Jabotinsky was finally adopted without dissent.
In June - July, 1906,
Jabotinsky published a series of five articles
under the general title "Our Tasks,"
in which he dealt comprehensively with the
problems of civil rights of Russian Jewry,
and national autonomous rights. This extensive
treatise was a comprehensive presentation
of a new Zionist program, which was presented
for consideration to the long-waited Third
All Russian Zionist Convention in Helsingfors,
the capital of Finland.
The above gathering took
place in an atmosphere of strong unrest
and great expectation among the national
minorities of the multinational Russian
Empire. In the Jewish camp there were various
trends in regard to the position the Jewish
minority in the struggle for national autonomy.
The Convention which met
from November 21-27, 1906, consisted of
seventy-two delegates from fifty-six localities.
The best minds of the movement attended
this historic gathering. Its deliberations
culminated in the formulation of a new revolutionary
concept of "Synthetic Zionism"
which organically combined the negation
of the Galut with the struggle for Jewish
survival and national rights in the countries
of dispersion. Simultaneously, the necessity
of practical colonizing work in Palestine
was given priority.
The integral philosophy
of Zionism prevailed in Helsingfors. It
was Jabotinsky who submitted to the Convention
the final text of resolutions which expressed
the basic tenets of Zionist ideology.
In 1909 Jabotinsky visited
Palestine for the first time. There he conducted
an on the spot study of the problem of Palestine
as a whole, and used the occasion to perfect
his command of the Hebrew language. Hence
he started a new campaign for the revival
Hebrew, propagating everywhere the idea
of Hebrew Day schools and community Universities
in the Diaspora. His primary aim in this
campaign was to prepare Diaspora Jews for
Palestine. He was one if the first to introduce
the slogan of "Hebraization of the
Diaspora" into the Jewish ranks.
In 1909 - 1910, he was
delegated to develop Zionist activities
in Turkey. While there he edited simultaneously
four Zionist periodicals, one of which was
in French. He received an important political
assignment from the World Zionist Organization
to establish contact with the new Young
Turk Government. Upon his return to Russia
he assumed the initiative in organizing
Jewish self-defense units and at the same
time he fought in speech and writing for
Jewish minority rights and civil equality.
Jewish youth idolized him, whilst the assimilationists
bitterly opposed him.
At the outbreak of World
War I, the 34-year old Jabotinsky was the
hero of Russian Zionism. He was the most
sought after speaker and lecturer, who on
his endless tours crisscrossed the length
and breadth of the Russian Empire. He was
in the vanguard of the fight against Jewish
assimilationists and for recognition of
Jewish national rights in Russia. He was
twice nominated as the Zionist candidate
to the "Duma," the Parliament
of Czarist Russia. As the outstanding spokesman
of Russian Zionism, Jabotinsky stood firm
in his position in furtherance of his maximal
Zionist program encompassing the Hebraization
of the Jewish schools and elevation of Hebrew
to the status of our national language.
On the eve of the war,
he traveled extensively in the countries
of the Allies as correspondent of "Russkiya
Vyedomosti." When Turkey, in 1915,
joined forces with Germany, he realized
that Turkey was bound to be defeated. He
seized the opportunity to advance the cause
of Zionism among the Allied powers by propagating
the idea of the Jewish Legion to fight alongside
the armies of the Allies.
It was in Bordeaux, France,
that the news of Turkey's alliance with
Germany had reached Jabotinsky. The effect
of this news on Jabotinsky is best described
in his own words: "I must confess:
until that morning in Bordeaux as everywhere
else, I had been a mere observer, without
any particular reasons for wishing full
triumph to one side and crushing disaster
to the other. My desire at that time was:
stalemate, and peace as soon as possible.
Turkey's moved transformed me in one short
morning into a fanatical believer in victory
of the Allies... That morning in Bordeaux,
after reading the damp poster on the wall,
I drew the only logical conclusion possible
- and to this day I don't understand why
it took numbers of my friends so many years
to reach such a simple conclusion..."
Birth Pangs of the
The Legion, indeed the
whole concept of organized Jewish self-defense
became inseparably identified with Jabotinsky.
It made him world famous, but it lead to
his first exile from Palestine. "Half
the Balfour Declaration belongs to the Legion,"
he declares in his 1928 volume The Story
of the Jewish Legion.
In his long struggle for
the creation of he Jewish Legion, Jabotinsky
was backed in his first endeavors by his
close friend Joseph Trumpeldor who later
died in the defense of the Tel-Hai settlement
in Northern Palestine. He obtained only
partial and begrudging agreement from the
British; in 1915 an auxiliary Jewish transport
corps, the Zion Mule Corps, was formed,
which took part in the ill-fated action
Jabotinsky went to London where, by dint
of incredible efforts he managed in 1917
to persuade Britain to form three Jewish
battalions which eventually fought against
the Turks in Palestine. Jabotinsky enlisted
as a private, took an active part in the
fighting, and serving under General Allenby
was soon promoted to Lieutenant. When demobilization
came in 1919, he insisted that the Jewish
Legion should remain under arms in order
to protect the Jewish community and the
expected influx of Jewish immigrants. His
efforts were frustrated by the British Administration.
The only noted Zionist
leaders who supported Jabotinsky's idea
for the creation of a Jewish Legion were
Chaim Weizmann, then Professor at the Manchester
University, and Meir Grossman, founder and
editor of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Symbolic of Jabotinsky's
appreciation of the heroic role of the Jewish
Legion in laying the groundwork of the future
Jewish State and Jewish Army was his farewell
address to the Jewish legionnaires when
they were disbanded by the British: "...The
time will come when Jewish children will
learn the truth together with their alphabets.
And to each of the five thousand (Jewish
legionnaires) I say what I once said to
my tailor-soldiers taking farewell of them
at out last camp at Rishon: 'Far away, in
your home, you will one day read glorious
news, of a free Jewish life in a free Jewish
country - of factories and universities,
of farms and theaters, perhaps of MPs and
Ministers. Then you will lose yourself in
thought, and the paper will slip from your
fingers; and there will come to your mind
a picture of the Jordan Valley, of the desert
by Raffa, of the hills of Ephraim by Abuein.
Then you shall stand up, walk to the mirror,
and look yourself proudly in the face. Jump
to attention and salute yourself - for 'tis
you who have made it.'"
On another occasion he
wrote: "The Jewish people may be proud
of its five hundred mule drivers and of
its five thousand fusiliers - of all of
them, from Whitechapel, from Tel-Aviv, New
York, Montreal, Buenos Aires and Alexandria.
They came from four continents, and one
of them, Colonel Margolin, from the fifth,
Australia. And they did their duty conscientiously
and nobly for the Jewish future.
"And prod may the
Jewish people be, too, of those supporters
and helpers who came to us from the Gentiles.
Some of them bear great name in their own
countries, some are less known, or unknown;
but they were all of them great-hearted,
noble souls - a good omen for the future,
a proof that Israel is not altogether forsaken."
It is ironic that in 1920
Jabotinsky was stripped of his commission
in Palestine and sentenced to 15 years penal
servitude for leading a Jewish Self-Defense
Corps, which he organized from among the
demobilized soldiers of the Jewish Legion,
in defense against Arab massacres in Jerusalem.
The Palestine Government, headed by General
Louis Bols, had set the stage for the Arab
pogrom. All Jewish policemen had been removed
from the "Old City," a walled
section of Jerusalem, where the majority
of the Jews lived at that time. Arab agitators
were allowed to harangue the crowds which
had come in for the Nebi Moussa festival.
The police and military stood by and remained
motionless as the mob, crying "al daula
Baana" (the Government is with us),
rushed into the Jewish quarter to loot,
rape, and kill.
For the crime of defending
Jewish lives, the British sentenced him
to fifteen years hard labor. Lesser sentences
were meted out to 19 of his co-defendants.
World-wide indignation forced the British
to release him and the others. In 1921,
he was elected to the World Zionist Executive,
from which vantage point Jabotinsky demanded
a mass immigration policy and a militant
stand against the British anti-Zionist position.
Jabotinsky's arrest by
the British for defending the Jews of Jerusalem
has aroused world wide indignation. The
then Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Abraham
Itzhak Kook, ordered Jews all over the city
on Passover to sign petitions in his and
other synagogues in Jerusalem for the release
In November 1921 Jabotinsky
came to the United States on behalf of the
Keren Hayesod (Palestine Foundation Fund),
of which he was one of the founders. He
was a member of a delegation which included
Professor Albert Einstein, Professor Otto
Warburg and Nahum Sokolow.
During Jabotinsky's stay
in the US in 1922, the news reached these
shores of the issuance of the British White
Paper splitting off the Eastern part of
the country, known as Transjordan, from
Palestine. This act became an issue of heated
discussion leading to Jabotinsky's resignation
in 1923 from the World Zionist Executive.
He toured European communities in a crusade
for militant Zionism and in 1925, at a conference
in Paris, proclaimed the creation of the
World Union of Zionist Revisionists with
which the youth organization Brit Trumpeldor
(Betar) became affiliated.
his headquarters in Paris but spent one
year (1928-29) in Palestine where he edited
the daily Hebrew newspaper "Doar Hayom."
Always alert to the dangers of a British-instigated
Arab uprising he proceeded to establish
an underground Jewish military force, for
which the British barred him from entering
Palestine. He never saw the country again.
The following years saw
him traveling all over the world preaching
Zionism in his fiery, incomparable way:
The Jews in Palestine must not remain a
minority, fed by a mere trickle of immigration,
without arms for their protection, betrayed
by the Mandatory Power and ever, threatened
In 1935, the Revisionists
decided to establish, at a founding Congress
in Vienna, the New Zionist Organization.
Jabotinsky, its leader, settled in London,
where he devoted himself to the fight against
partition - which he opposed violently.
He raged against "minimalism and against
the whole atmosphere of constant compromise
and surrender." There also developed
a split in the Palestine Haganah, between
the advocates of the official policy of
Havlaga (self-restraint) and those who,
in the face of growing pogroms, urged retaliation.
The Activist wing, whose leader Jabotinsky
remained, emerged under the now famous name
of Irgun Zvai Leumi.
The formation of Betar
moved Jacob de Haas, American Zionist and
English Secretary to Theodor Herzl, to write
to Justice Louis D. Brandeis in the fall
of 1935 after a visit to Poland: "Jabotinsky
has created a youth movement. Its code is
noblesse oblige, and it is ready to go to
Betar was named for the
heroic fighter Yosef Trumpeldor; and for
the fortress Betar near Jerusalem, site
of Bar Kochba's revolt against the Romans.
It expressed Jabotinsky's concept of hadar,
an explicitly Hebrew concept that he tried
to inculcate into every member of that world
wide organization. The essence of hadar
is untranslatable. Literally, the word means
shine or glow, but as Jabotinsky taught
it, it implied a certain chivalry in conduct
and life-style, a combination, as he defined
it, of "outward beauty, respect, self-esteem,
politeness, faithfulness. Hadar consists
of a thousand trifles which collectively
form everyday life."
In forming Betar out of
a handful of Riga high school students in
1923, Jabotinsky imbued the everyday lives
of hundreds of thousands of Jewish children
from the ghettos of Eastern Europe with
a spirit of malchut Yisrael (Jewish nobility)
that their people had not known since the
dispersion 1,800 years earlier.
Jabotinsky gave the forlorn
Jewish youth a sense of being a part not
only of the future - the coming Jewish State
- but of the past - the majesty of the Kingdom
of King David, the Maccabees, the Prophets
and Bar Kochba, from whom they were descended.
He taught that the fate of the Jewish people
is linked only with one ism - ZIONism, undiluted
and untainted by any other ism.
In choosing the name Betar
for his Revisionist youth movement, he did
it most deliberately. It has a double-meaning.
It is both the abbreviation of Brit Trumpeldor
and the name of the last stronghold of Jewish
resistance against the Romans during the
Bar Kochba revolt. So Betar linked a place
of ancient Hebrew courage and martyrdom
with a contemporary hero-martyr, a link
that remained unbroken for 1,800 years.
Captain Joseph Trumpeldor, the one-armed
deputy commander of the Zion Mule Corps,
had been Jabotinsky's wartime colleague,
the man along with six comrades in 1920
defending Tel Hai, their Galilean settlement,
against an Arab attack. But his concept
of chaluziot (youth pioneering) became embodied
in Betar's Plugot Hagius (Mobilization Corps)
in which every new Betar arrival in Palestine
was required to spend two years giving whatever
service to the country that was needed of
him. The spirit of service to the Nation
became the guiding principle of Betar.
A great many Betarim received
military training in the Diaspora countries
before going to settle in Eretz Yisrael.
For this purpose Betar established a naval
school in Italy in the city of Civitavecchia.
The school was under the command of Yirmiyahu
Halpern, son of a famous Russian Zionist.
With the creation of the State of Israel
many of the graduates of that school joined
the Israeli navy and some of them became
high officers in the Israeli Defense Forces.
The history of Betar and
the life of Jabotinsky intertwine almost
mystically through the tumultuous decades
of the 1920s and 1930s. History will also
record the valiant role played by his wife
Yohana (Jeanne) who stood steadfastly and
loyally by his side throughout the years
of tribulations, frustrations and triumph.
She was rightfully crowned "Mother
In the late 1930's, it
was Betar's Plugat Ha-Kotel that came forward
at Jabotinsky's beckon to provide the "defense
force" needed to protect Jews praying
at the Western Wall from Arab molestation.
And in 1938, when Jabotinsky, in the face
of the infamous MacDonald White Paper, gave
the signal for the formation of Aliya Bet
to "illegally" transport European
Jews into Palestine, it is to Betar that
he delegated the responsibility for organizing
the transports and guiding the immigrants
to their ports of em barkation.
Betar demonstrated to
the world that a new Jewish generation had
at last come into being, a generation as
de Haas wrote "that is bleeding itself
white for Jewish causes." For this
generation he was willing to endure anything
- vilification, slander, personal attack
and all the disappointments, great and petty,
that a man born ahead of his time must suffer.
When the end came for
Jabotinsky, it was symbolically in the role
of Rosh Betar, Commander of the Betar. Colonel
Paterson, his life-long friend, recalling
that tragic day in the summer of 1940 wrote:
"Vladimir Jabotinsky's last walk on
earth was between the line of young Betarim
who awaited his arrival in Camp Betar in
Hunter, New York... I was not with him during
the last hours of his life. But when I heard
of it, I could not help saying to myself
that if Jabotinsky were to choose the setting
for his death, it would have been something
after this manner, among his faithful young
followers of Betar."
Plea For Mass Evacuation
In the last years prior
to the outbreak of the second World War,
Jabotinsky made frequent visits to Central
and Eastern Europe. Foreseeing the catastrophe
that was imminent in the wake of Hitler's
rise to power, he pressed for the mass evacuation
of the Jews from Eastern Europe, especially
from Poland, which numbered over three million
Jews. "Either you liquidate the Diaspora
or the Diaspora will liquidate you,"
he cried out. Alas, his was a voice crying
in the wilderness.
The soul stirring prophetic
warning which Zeev Jabotinsky addressed
to Polish Jewry, as published in Warsaw
on Tisha B'Av, 1938, is one of the most
moving documents in the annals of our people.
It read in substance: "...it is already
three years that I am calling upon you,
Polish Jewry, who are the crown of world
Jewry. I continue to warn you incessantly
that a catastrophe is coming closer. I became
gray and old in these years, my heart bleeds,
that you, dear brothers and sisters, do
not see the volcano which will soon begin
to spit its all consuming lava. I know that
you are not seeing this because you are
immersed in your daily worries. Today, however,
I demand your trust. You were convinced
already that my prognoses have already proven
to be right. If you think differently then
drive me out from your midst.
"However, if you
do believe me, then listen to me in this
11th hour: In the name of G-d, Let any one
of you save himself as long as there is
still time. And time there is very little.
"... and what else
I would like to say to you in this day on
Tisha B'Av: whoever of you will escape from
the catastrophe, he or she will live to
see the exalted moment of a great Jewish
wedding: the rebirth and the rise of a Jewish
state. I don't know if I will be privileged
to see it; my son will. I believe in this
as I am sure that tomorrow morning the sun
It was Jabotinsky's last
Tisha B'Av Message to his largest and most
loyal constituency. In a short time both
he and they would be gone.
Jabotinsky initiated an
alliance with countries in Central and Eastern
Europe for the purpose of evacuation and
rescue. He established contacts with leading
statesmen; visited Kings, Premiers, foreign
ministers, heads of Parliaments and received
promises of cooperation. The outbreak of
World War II prevented the accomplishment
of his goal.
Mass Rescue Through
Jabotinsky's mass evacuation
plan for Eastern European Jewry met with
resistance. The other great projects of
his last years - the fight against the 1937
British partition plan for Palestine, the
organization of illegal immigration under
Aliyah Bet, and the mobilization of Jewish
armed resistance in Palestine under the
Irgun Zvai Leumi - all scored brilliant
successes. His final effort, the recruitment
of a Jewish army to fight alongside the
Allies in World War II, which was the prime
objective of his coming to the United States,
might have achieved equal success had he
lived long enough to see it through.
Of the Royal Commission's
partition plan, it may be said that Jabotinsky
played a key role in its defeat by the League
of Nations. The Peel Commission's partition
plan with little more than Tel Aviv and
environs designated as a Jewish state was
utterly unacceptable. Jabotinsky compared
the scheme to the Latin verb aio, a grammatical
monster meaning 'I say.' It is present,
it is imperfect, and it has no future.
Aliyah Bet (Second Aliyah)
or Aliyah Af-Al-Pi (Aliyah In Spite of Everything),
as is it was sometimes called, was an early
exercise in "adventurism" that
saved the lives of more than 100,000 European
Jews between 1936 and 1940. Jabotinsky himself
first proposed the idea of an "illegal"
immigration to Palestine carried out by
Jewish youth in a 1932 article entitled
On Adventurism. "Where is it written
that one may enter a country only with a
visa?" he asked. "If I were young
I would laugh at their visas and their restrictions.
Impossible? Tell that to your grandmother,
not to me, I would say. If I were young,
I would launch a new campaign with a new
symbol - a whistle, an ordinary tin whistle...
And the slogan for this campaign would be
- whistle at their laws and restrictions."
By the end of 1938 thousands
such "illegals" a month were being
spirited into Palestine through the Aliyah
Bet Pipeline. Only the Second World War
itself was big enough to stop Aliyah Bet,
"I think all the illegal immigrants
in Palestine owe him their lives and present
liberties," his old friend Colonel
Josiah Wedgewood observed at a memorial
meeting for Jabotinsky. "Others would
not have dared had he not led the way."
Although Jabotinsky did
not lead the way in the formation of the
Irgun - it developed without his involvement
- it was a flowering of that seed of Jewish
self-defense he implanted, first with the
Jewish Legion, then with the Haganah. The
Irgun Z'vai Leumi was created in 1931 as
a split off from the Haganah.
Jabotinsky, it must be
remembered, was essentially a 19th century
Liberal who, though prepared to take up
arms, set great store by reason, especially
political reason. Breshit bara Elokim et
ha Politica (In the beginning G-d created
politics) was his favorite paraphrase of
the opening words of Genesis. His own son
Eri was a member of the high command of
Irgun and had been sentenced to a jail term
in Acre for a retaliation operation in Jerusalem
and for transporting illegal immigrants.
It was not until the issuance of the infamous
MacDonald White Paper in May 1939 that Jabotinsky
swung completely around to the Irgun point
Before his arrest, Eri
succeeded in bringing in two more ships
from Rumania with hundreds of immigrants
at a time when World War II was already
at its height. It is interesting to note
that on one of those ships was a young boy
who became a general in the Israeli Army,
General Mandel who fell in the Yom Kippur
war while serving as commander of a tank
column in the Sinai campaign.
It is noteworthy that
Eri was incarcerated in the very same Acre
jail where his father had been imprisoned.
Young Eri was released by order of the British
Colonial office immediately after the tragic
news reached London and Jerusalem of the
passing of his father.
It was Eri's destiny to
die at the age of 59, the same age as his
father. His demise was hastened by his defiance
of his doctor's orders in visiting the Israeli
Defense forces at the Suez Canal during
the intense summer heat after the Six-Day
War. He was a renowned mathematician and
professor at the Haifa Technion.
The Last Phase - Jewish
At the beginning of World
War II, Jabotinsky, in his book The War
and the Jew, developed the idea that the
Jewish positions in the Diaspora were lost,
that the solution of the problem lies in
the liquidation of the Diaspora. Furthermore,
that in the present struggle against Nazism,
Jewry should take an active part through
a unified front.
The historic evolution
of the idea of the Jewish army as envisioned
and solidified by Zeev Jabotinsky was vividly
described by Colonel Patterson, Commander
if the Jewish Legion in World War I in the
signpost "The Jewish Army":
"...On the morrow
of that memorable day in September, 1939,
when Neville Chamberlain declared that a
state of war existed between Great Britain
and Germany, I received a telephone call
from Jabotinsky asking me whether I would
come to London the same afternoon... It
was obvious to me that Jabotinsky would
suggest a plan for Jewish national participation
in the war."
Although it was natural
for the founder of the Jewish Legion in
World War I to propose the formation of
a Jewish Army in World War II, Jabotinsky's
program for Jewish participation in the
war was of a much wider scope. He demanded
that, alongside the acceptance of a Jewish
Army for all the Allied fronts, the Jewish
People be given a seat at the future Peace
Conference, and the establishment of the
Jewish State be recognized as one of the
war aims of the Allies.
Once again, Jabotinsky
started knocking at the doors of the British
Defense Ministry. The response of the British
Government was discouraging. It was then,
early in 1940, that Jabotinsky left as the
head of a delegation for New York. Its main
objective was to mobilize American public
opinion in support of the Jewish Army.
In the midst of all this
work he found time to visit the camp of
the Betar outside New York, and there, surrounded
by his pupils and disciples, on Saturday,
29th day of Tammuz (August 3, 1940), at
11:20 pm, he suddenly passed away.
His death spread anguish
throughout the Jewish world for whom he
had become the symbol of hope and the champion
of its rights. He was buried in New York
in accordance with his last Will and Testament,
written in 1935, in which he said: "I
want to be buried outside Palestine, may
NOT be transferred to Palestine unless by
order of that country's eventual Jewish
This document is a characteristic
expression of Jabotinsky's conviction and
indomitable faith in the inevitable triumph
of the Jewish national cause. The State
of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948.
For 24 years, he remained
interred in a plot of Nordau Circle at the
New Montefiore Cemetery in Pine Lawn, New
York. Finally in July 1964 at the order
of Levi Eshkol, Prime Minister if Israel,
the remains of Jabotinsky and his wife Yohana
were transferred from Pine Lawn and reentered
on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. His last battle
From the moment of the
disinterment of the remains until their
arrival at the final resting place in the
Holy Land, the events surrounding the transfer
assumed an historical scope reflecting the
world wide respect for Jabotinsky.
The scenes on New York's
main avenues as the funeral procession wended
its way toward the synagogue on the way
to the airport were indescribably colorful
and impressive. The streets were lined with
hundreds of thousands of mourners who stood
deep in silence as they paid their last
respects to the departing venerated leader.
The cortege was drawn by two white horses
preceded by an escort of mounted police.
En route from New York
to Israel, the El-Al plane stopped off at
a military airfield near Paris, where the
plane was met by French and Jewish dignitaries
and was accorded military honors by a battalion
headed by General Koenig.
The late Levi Eshkol,
Prime Minister of Israel, who at that time
visited Paris on an important mission, came
to the airport to join the salute.
Thousands of people awaited
the arrival of the El-Al plane with the
remains of Zeev and Yohana Jabotinsky at
Lod airport. Tens of thousands more lined
the route between the airport and Tel-Aviv
where the coffins remained over night and
were viewed by more than 200,000 people
who came to pay their respects. Tel Aviv
came to a complete standstill and all businesses
were closed. From Tel Aviv the bodies were
taken to Jerusalem and again on the way
tens of thousands streamed from towns and
villages to join in the tribute.
The eternal city of Jerusalem
where Jabotinsky found his eternal rest
came to a virtual stop. Tens of thousands,
including the President, members of the
government and of the Knesset (Israeli parliament),
supreme court judges, Chief Rabbis of Israel,
Jewish Agency and Zionist Executive as well
as the Israeli army escorted the cortege
to Har Herzl for interment with military
Legacy of Jabotinsky
In retrospect as the State
of Israel continues to face crucial problems
involving its territorial integrity and
economic survival, the legacy left by Jabotinsky
to the Jewish state was that we must always
be mindful of the lessons from the days
of old - from the Maccabees and Bar Kochba.
As a political Zionist,
Jabotinsky was the heir of Herzl with the
augmented concept of military preparedness.
From his youth he preached the consolidation
of Jewish strength and position. Though,
by nature, he was a man of peace, and a
liberal in the broad sense of the word,
he knew that the strength of arms became
the spoken language of the twentieth century.
Jabotinsky was a great lover of the Bible
and the Talmud. He derived from the Bible
his best philosophical and literary ideas
In his book And We Are
Not Saved (published 1963) David Wdowinski,
a prominent ghetto fighter, stated that
Anielewicz, one of the leaders of the famous
Warsaw ghetto uprising, had originally received
his inspiration in Jabotinsky's Betar Youth
Movement. Colonel J.H. Patterson, Commander
of the Zion Mule Corps and the Jewish Legion,
went so far as to say that the "parallel
between Jabotinsky and Winston Churchill
was truly striking."
The worlds renowned author
Arthur Koestler in his inimitable concise
form, aptly summed up Jabotinsky's career:
"Jabotinsky was a National Liberal
in the great 19th century tradition, a revolutionary
of the 1848 brand, successor to Garibaldi
and Mazzini. He was one of the most colorful
figures that modern Jewry has produced.
He wrote prose in eight languages, poetry
in four, translated Dante and Poe into Hebrew,
Hebrew poetry in Russian; his publications,
under the pen-name 'Altalena' range from
novels to studies in comprehensive phonetics.
He was idolized by the young, endowed with
exceptional personal charm and a brilliant
"...In the light
of present events, with the Jewish State
an established reality, almost every point
of Jabotinsky's program has either been
implemented by official Zionism, or vindicated
by the trend of events."
That Jabotinsky belongs
to the entire Jewish people regardless of
the opposition to the ideology he espoused
was stressed by the late Zalman Shazar,
president of Israel, when he wrote that
the exaltation and admiration demonstrated
for Jabotinsky's "talent and aesthetic
was based not on party politics."
"The appearance of
a great talent," he wrote, "was
accepted as it was intimately connected
with the Zionist Revelation, just as it
would be a direct exposure to the prophecy
of Isaiah: "And I will restore thy
judges as at the first, and they counselor
as at the beginning: Afterward thou shall
be the city of righteousness, a faithful
city." (Isaiah 1:26)
"This was a sign
that the blossoms of spring appeared and
exalted the Divine Presence."
Jabotinsky was a great
believer in universal equality and individual
liberty. His social program was based on
the principles of liberalism and social
justice as outlined in the Bible.
In his concern for the
social order of the future Jewish State
he had emphasis on the moral obligation
of its founders to ensure that there be
no hunger, no want nor deprivation.
Jabotinsky expounded the
idea of five "Mems," the use of
five Hebrew words that start with that letter:
mazon (food), maon (dwelling), malbush (clothing),
marpeh (medicine), moreh (teacher).
He set forth these five
basic needs for every citizen of Eretz Yisrael
as the basis for compassion and justice
Protagonist of Hebrew
As a champion of the national
Jewish Renaissance movement, Jabotinsky
stood at the very center of the struggle
for the Hebraization of the Diaspora and
of Palestine. From the beginning of the
century he waged a relentless battle for
the acceptance of Hebrew as the national
language of the Jew. He viewed it as another
instrument of normalization and nation-building.
He initiated and led the
campaign for the establishment of Hebrew
schools in the Diaspora and demanded that
the language of instruction in Czarist Russia's
Jewish schools from the lowest to the highest
form must be Hebrew.
Within a decade a widespread
network of purely Hebrew schools was created
by the Tarbut Organization of Eastern Europe.
By 1928 almost 100,000 children were being
educated in these schools.
In 1922, in the heat of
a political conflict, Jabotinsky found time
to publish, together with Perlman, the first
Atlas in Hebrew. When the Betar was created,
Jabotinsky made Hebrew a cardinal point
of its ideology and insisted that all world
Conventions of the Movement be conducted
in that language.
Being the linguist par
excellence and a perfectionist Jabotinsky
aimed high at constant improvement of the
modern Hebrew tongue. He insisted that it
should not only be written correctly, but
also pronounced with loving care, even fastidiously,
so as to bring out its inherent nobility.
His essay: "The Hebrew Pronunciation"
published in 1930, is regarded by experts
as a major contribution toward the advancement
of the Hebrew culture.
Jabotinsky's last efforts
in this field was the introduction of a
revolutionary Hebrew textbook in Latin characters
"Taryag Millim" which he started
writing during his last visit to South Africa
in 1938. In the introduction he wrote: "Spoken
Hebrew has many elements of phonetic beauty,
but that beauty needs careful tending and
this is exactly what too many speakers of
our language neglect."
Zionist Roots Sprouting
in Soviet Jewry
The reawakening of Soviet
Jewry to the Jewish identity and heritage
and their yearning to return to their ancestral
homeland can be traced back to the fact
that for a hundred years Russia has been
the cradle of Zionism. The first Aliyah
to the Land of Israel came from Russia in
the last two decades of the last century.
Herzl's political Zionism was preceded in
Russia by the "Lovers of Zion"
movement and the "Bilu" movement
aimed at settlement in the Jewish homeland
at the time when Palestine was under Turkish
By the end of the last
century Zeev Jabotinsky appeared on the
Zionist scene, and there continued his Zionist
activities until after the first World War
when the Communists seized power and Zionism
became taboo in Soviet Russia.
For half a century the
Communist rulers did everything in their
power to uproot Jewish nationalism and Zionism
from among the Jewish masses. Thus, a new
generation grew bereft of Jewish schools
and deprived of Jewish history books and
Hebrew textbooks and without synagogue life.
Zionist activity was considered a crime
and Israel was branded an "aggressive"
But in spite of all repressions
and anti-Jewish propaganda the Communist
rulers were not successful in their campaign
to eradicate Jewish thought and love of
Zion. The Jewish masses, especially the
youth, awakened to Jewish nationalism and
Zionism and the desire for Aliyah to the
Jewish homeland. Many among the thousands
of Olim who arrived and continued to arrive
from Soviet Russia acknowledged that the
works of Jabotinsky, enshrined in his Russian
books, played an important part in acquiring
a knowledge of Jewish history and Jewish
cultural heritage and instilled courage
in the struggle to emigrate to Israel.
For such is the greatness
of Zeev Jabotinsky, ever since he first
appeared on the firmament of the Jewish
people: his words were valid not only at
the time when pronounced, but remain like
a oracle for burning problems of our times,
in the life of our people and of the Jewish
Martyrs and Heroes
The fight for freedom
and the independence of the future Jewish
State brought to the fore many martyrs and
heroes - some who dynamited themselves in
the prisons to prevent authorities from
extracting any information out of them by
torture. Those who were sentenced to be
hanged escaped the British executioner by
taking their own lives. Fighters like Shlomo
Ben Yoseph, Dov Gruner and others went to
the gallows with Jabotinsky's name on their
lips. In the Acre prison, which is now a
museum, there is a letter from Shlomo Ben
Yoseph, the first Jew who went to the gallows
for resisting the British Anti-Zionist policies,
asking not to mourn for him as he only fulfilled
his duty as a Betari and a disciple of Zeev
A Stirring Eulogy from
A dramatic eulogy as a
fitting climax to the world wide tributes
to the memory of a giant figure of valiance
was contained in the "Mourning Order"
issued by David Raziel, commander of the
Irgun and head of Betar in Eretz Yisrael.
Raziel was killed in action while on a daring
military mission for the British High Command
against the Nazi-led Iraqis in 1941.
Commander Raziel's stirring
Order reads: "With the deepest sorrow
and profound mourning, it is hereby announced
that Zeev Jabotinsky, first soldier of Yehuda,
has been gathered unto his people and is
no more, because the Lord had claimed him.
the founder of the Jewish Legion, the defender
of Jerusalem and the prisoner of Acco, hero
of the eternal struggle for the Kingdom
of Israel and Knight of Hadar in his life
"In the days of despair
and little faith he caused light to illuminate
the darkness; he was always the valiant
in the assembly of the desolate; the rising
sun of national pride and the hidden light
of its hopes.
"From the days of
the Jewish Legion till the battles of the
national youth he bore the ancient dream
of the Maccabees through the length and
breadth of the Diaspora. Immortal, Prophet
of the ideal of an army, and army of liberation
"An exile and wanderer,
persecuted and oppressed, he bore a brilliant
wreath of stars, the triumph of his teachings;
and the leader and teacher of a rebellious
"And as an exemplary
leader of the generation of the wilderness
- the last generation of slaves and the
first generation of free men - he saw the
Jewish state from afar, but did not set
his foot therein.
"Not a mere stone
alone will stand in his memory, but the
realization of his dream - the National
Youth - will sanctify his memory through
the redemption of the Holy Land - Amen."
There have been many famous
Betaris throught our long history. You can
click on the links below to read about these
special and brave individuals.