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The history of Betar, just like the genealogy of a family, a legacy unto itself. The men and women whose unabashed Jewish pride and unwavering devotion to that one ideal, a free Jewish people in a free Jewish state, put Betar in the forefront of the creation of the state of Israel.

The history that follows seeks to familiarize you with such people as our great mentor, Ze'ev Jabotinsky. His faith in Jewish youth gave way to the birth of Betar.You will read about When Shlomo Ben-Yosef, to whom concept of Hadar is closely associated. The young Polish born Betari who met his tragic end an the British Gallows. His only crime was defending Jewish rights and honor.

You will read about Dov Gruner, Avraham Stavsky, Aaron Propes, and countless other young Betarim whose heroic actions paved the way for Jewish Statehood.

You will read of such historic events as the first, second, and third World Betar conventions and the pervasive expansion of Betar throughout Europe.

You will read of unprecedented achievements such as the Betar Naval and Aviation schools, of Hachshara camps to train Betarim for pioneer duty in Palestine, of the Plugat Hakotel - The Platoon of the Wall, of the Aliyah Bet - the mass immigration to of Jews to the nearly established State of Israel, and of partisan warfare - all of which are integral components in the rich and glorious history of the movement which we are so proud to belong. All the fore mentioned heroes and heroines have been, are, and will be in the hearts and minds of Betarim today and for generations to come.

History Of Betar By Aaron Z Propes - The First Betari

The first evening, Riga, November 1923. a cold autumn night. The leaders of the Zionist Organization in little Latvia are still discussing the advisability of greeting Jabotinsky officially. After all, he had just resigned from the Zionist Organization and was now the opposition. They have sufficient time for discussion, for the first announcement had declared the hour of his arrival to be midnight and now we learn that we may expect him at five o'clock in the morning.

And we, several young fellows, we wait too. This is not simply because we are eager. After all, Riga was honored very often by visits of prominent Zionist personalities and until that night, none of us would have dreamt of sitting up and waiting an entire night fir a guest. This time, however, we do wait as though we had foreboding.

Sitting upon a long table in the corridor of the office of the Zionist Organization, we tell each other all we know of him. It soon becomes obvious that we actually know very little: Legion (the first jewish fighting force in 2000 years), Jewish self-defense in Palestine, 15 years imprisonment in Akko, and that is all. And with that, our entire story, as we narrate it, assumes the following pattern:

The English government approached Jabotinsky with the request that he create a Jewish legion. This Jabotinsky did; put himself at its head and then, after a series of battles, liberated Eretz Israel from the Turks. Just so, simple, naive - England requested...

Or: The Arab riots against Jews break out. At night Jabotinsky opens the ammunition supplies, distributes arms to the Jews and delivers Jerusalem from the Arabs. For this he is arrested and sentenced yo 15 years penal servitude.

We were very vague as to just how he was freed from prison. One claimed that Jabotinsky escaped from there with the aid of his legionnaires. Another maintained that Palestine Jewry make a pilgrimage to Akko in whose dungeons Jabotinsky sat and declared they would not leave the city until their hero was turned loose, a free man. Of course, other explanations, products of young phantasy were not lacking. Finally, in the early morning hours, the Zionists decide to greet Jabotinsky, but not officially. All of us go to the station, all of us - barely a minyan.

It is cold and drizzling. The city sleeps well, snugly, complacently. The Jews, the Jewish youth sleep too. We stand upon the platform of the station. In several minutes the train comes in and with it our guest. His greeting, "Shalom!" comes shouting out of the window at us, and in a few minutes he marches out of the carriage with firm, steady, youthful steps. We look upon him for the first time. An obscure feeling overwhelms us, an internal restlessness grips us, and a question is left hanging in the air, "Is this all?"

In our phantasy, we picture that any moment now several thousand Jewish Legionnaires, proud and fortunate because of the mission which they fulfilled, would pop out of the carriage after him and carry us away.And then again, perhaps he did not step out of the carriage, but really out of the goal. By goal we meant not only Akko, but that miserable dungeon called the Galut. Has he come to redeem us?

Youth knows how to dream beautifully. Several hours later the dream became the beginning of a new reality. He called and spoke to us. And we? That early morning, we yielded our souls to him: hopes, beliefs, everything a youth possesses. And thus ended the most beautiful night of our generation. And we faced that G-d blessed dawn, the dawn that saw the creation of B'rith Trumpeldor.

* * * * *

Since that night and early morning, how many happy nights were spent with him. These cannot be spoken of, cannot be written down. Months, many months, often years of bitter battles, of tremendous obstacles, persecutions, and calumny passed until we saw him again. At the first few meetings, all this would be forgotten, disappear into obscurity, be erased from our memory. No, even before the meeting, at the announcement that he was coming, all this vanished.

Seeing the Rosh Betar, hearing him, sensing him in our presence, feeling his eyes glancing at you, the smile upon his lips, even when you were one among the hundreds, all this can be understood only by him who has lived through these experiences.

Those Moments.

A year consists of days and nights, our lives of a definite number of years, as many as fate destines us to have. In our generation all the days and nights have been combined into one heavy mass, gloomy, bitter, bloody, just like our Jewish lives for the past 20 years. But for those who were fortunate enough to know him, those lovely evening and nights, the minutes and even seconds spent with him were able to swim away and separate from the mass. No matter how difficult the future will prove to be, no matter what obstacles lie on our road to freedom, those moments with him are sufficient to carry us along through the raging storm.

Those evenings and nights...

How many were there? How could we count them? Can happiness be counted? Happiness can appear but once, and yet demonstrate its ability to fill an entire lifetime.

When? When you need him most, when your heart pines and yearns for him.

Where? In every spot where Jewish distress wept and moaned, where the agonies of the Galut were mightiest, where the hopes of being drained and had almost vanished. In the very midst of that distress and hope stood his youth. Hence it was there that he was an often guest, beloved, anxiously-awaited, worshipped. And thus he remained.

Those evening and nights, when he would come to us, live with us, the face of the entire world differed, and primarily, we ourselves altered too. He brought such wealth into our poverty, the poverty of Jewish life. In all aspects, he differed from those about him. He made no attempt to understand us, but worried that we understand him. We would watch his every move, word, and smile. We memorized his statements and addresses, repeating them a thousand times.

When he was satisfied, we were serenely happy. Thirstily we dragged ourselves toward him. He sensed this, and gave us so much, more and more of his thoughts, feelings, and love, especially in recent years.

In those evenings he would rest among us, his youth, his children. And since words always failed us when he was near, we expresses our innermost in song, his songs. He often requested that we repeat one. In his presence it was all too easy to sing.

His head bent slightly, leaning upon his fists, He would sit in thought and listen, listen to us sing, with the words of such song, his song. An evening and a night of one of his children, one of us, Shlomo Ben Yosef, ended - ended with the words of a song and the name of its composer, the composer not only of a song, but of Jewry's most beautiful symphony - Betar.

Search For Youth.

In one of those evenings, he wanted to persuade us that sought an entire lifetime for a youth which he hoped Betar would bring, a youth that believed in one G-d, and knighthood, a youth prepared to battle and sacrifice its life for those ideals which it considers sacred. A youth proud of its Jewishness, satisfied and happy that it carries on its shoulders the great humanitarian battle for freedom.

However, we knew and felt that generations of young Jews had waited for someone like him to appear, teach and lead them.

Many, a great many, blundered in their search, some inscribed their names in our history as sacred martyrs instead of perishing like heros. And the largest part aged and disappeared without having lived as youth... without leaving behind a memory.

Those evenings and nights...

We thought it would always be thus. Had not G-d performed one of his rare wonders and sent him to us. Why not this miracle too? We accepted this as an exceptional, great gift from the almighty. Thus we believed.

We thought, can a well become dry? Can a song end? Intoxicated with love, we drank from that well and demanded more. Happily did we listen to his song and believed that it would never be silence, that its ring would never be dumb, that its tenor never be torn away.

* * * * *

That evening, that night.

For weeks we had been awaiting him. On his last visit, he had promised to return to camp soon. He kept his word, as always.

The Betarim stood in a long line turned toward the direction from which he was to appear. According to our calculations, the auto should have been in the camp. Evidently we were mistaken, but that evening, we were not alone, for the Master of the Universe also erred.

It gets darker. We postpone the evening Misdar until he arrives. The flags are still waving high even though the sun had practically set and they wave in anticipation of greeting our guest.

It gets still darker. Autos pass our road with their lights on. Finally, he has arrived. The order "Dom" echoes and re-echoes over the hill tops. The Betarim are ready to receive their Rosh Betar. Their hearts beat quicker and quicker.

He passes the line slowly, peers into the face of every Betari as if he wanted to remember every one, or as though he sought someone amongst them.

It is very dark. We illuminate the ranks with flash lights, so the Rosh Betar may see his children better. The misdar is over. With slow steps he walks up the single flight to his room. He does not feel well but says nothing about it.

The Betarim stand in formation in the field, prepared for the evening Misdar. Their prayers said, they lower the flags. The Rosh Betar sits in his room sunk in a deep chair, suffering from severe pains. The heart attack has developed, but he still does not want to upset anyone.

The flags have been lowered, the young Betarim are in their bunks, the older ones wait for the Rosh Betar to come down. And the sun, not wanting to witness that which will soon occur, had previously hidden behind the mountains.

Two doctors at his bedside. Of his nearest associates, some around him, others are in the neighboring room. Downstairs the older Betarim stand frozen with fear."Leave me alone for five minutes, I want to rest," he requests.

We did not hear more. Then began the injections, artificial respiration, and prayers - silent prayers from all of us to the almighty. Such pure prayers as these from the depths of our souls, the almighty has never heard before.

The night swallowed the evening too.

* * * * *

Candles at his head. An honor guard of Betarim. Someone is reciting Psalms. Something horrible has happened. We do not understand what, we cannot realize it yet. This night, too, we shall not forget.

What differentiated that night from other nights? Perhaps that night was the holiest. That night he met eternity and became himself a part of eternity.

My Rosh Betar...

This night passed. The morning Misdar. Last evening the final Misdar with him, today the last for him.

Why do our hearts hurt so? Did it have to happen so quickly, so early?

Tel 'Hai, Rosh Betar.

Only one who has warmed himself in the happiness and fortune of those evenings and nights spent with him can understand our pain and agony in the first night without him.

Those evenings and nights...

We thought it would be thus always. And today we know that we were not mistaken. His song will ring eternally, his name will call eternally.

My Rosh Betar.

The Birth Of Betar

jabotinskyIt was two years after the massacres of 1921, one year after the first partition of Eretz Israel, and just three years after the death of trumpeldor at Tel Hai - the winter of 1923. Ze'ev Vladimir Evonovitch Jabotinsky, in the course of a lecture tour of Eastern Europe, visited Riga, Latvia. The founder of the Jewish Self Defense Corps in Czarist Russia, the organizer of the Jewish Legion in World War I, and the first Jewish Prisoner of Akko, urged the adoption by the Zionists of an activist program. He called for mass immigration to Eretz Israel and to the Jewish youth to "learn to shoot."

Shortly after Jabotinsky left Riga, several Jewish students who were inspired by his talks organized themselves into the "Association of Trumpeldor." They dedicated themselves to the formation of a new Jewish Legion which would conquer all of Eretz Israel. A local youth name Aaron Propes was elected President of the organization. An idea, a principal that was destined to take the mind of Jewry by storm, and fire the imagination of Jewish youth as nothing had ever fired it before gave birth to Betar. The principal was very simple, yet revolutionary: The subordination of everything to the realization of the Zionist ideal - a Jewish State within its historical boundaries.

While Betar proceeded to extend its influence throughout Latvia, Jabotinsky went to paris, where, in 1924, he established the World Union of Zionist Revisionists as an opposition party to the World Zionist movement. Meanwhile, back in Riga, at the third territorial conference of the Association of Trumpeldor, the delegates decided to propose to the Revisionist party that they announce the formation of a world youth movement called B'rith Trumpeldor. The idea was to make B'rith Trumpeldor the official Revisionist youth organization. Earlier that year, The second Revisionist world conference in Paris heard Aaron Propes present the Betar resolution. It was accepted enthusiastically.

In the following three years, Betar took root in Austria, Poland, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Germany, France, and Eretz Israel. The central committee of B'rith Trumpeldor in Latvia served as headquarters of World B'rith Trumpeldor.

The Defense of Jerusalem

Long before that fateful August of 1929, every sign had been pointing to trouble. Sir John Chancellor had been appointed High Commissioner of Palestine. He did not like the Jews, and made up his mind that his rule should bring the British Mandate to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine a step nearer destruction.

Chancellor built up and cautiously and spread the inflammable rumor that the Jews were planning to tear down the Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem and rebuild Solomon's Temple on its site. His officials persuaded the Arabs to claim ownership of the Wailing Wall - over which Jewish rights had been undisputed for centuries.

The Arabs had their approval from the Palestine Administration and began to systematically persecute the Jewish worshipers at the wall. Stones were thrown at them. The pavement in front of the wall was deliberately covered with droppings from the Arabs' donkeys during the Shabbat services. Dervishes opened up business in the garden next door and made a point of reserving their dances, ear-splitting shrieking and drumming for the hours of Jewish worship.

Finally, the sacrilegious British administration built a road through the wailing wall itself to provide the Arabs with a shortcut to the Mosque of Omar. Insolent Arabs now drove their donkeys in a never ending stream through the holy place that has been sacred to Jewish worshipers from time immemorial. On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, religious Jews placed a portable screen at the wall to protect themselves from interference during the services. As soon as the Governor of Jerusalem heard of this, he sent an officer to remove the screen immediately. The worshipers were reciting N'ilah, the closing service, when the officer arrived. Acting the complete English gentleman, he broke violently into the midst of the service and took the screen away. The high commissioner conveniently left on a visit to London.

The British authorities disarmed the Jewish settlers completely even though they knew that the Arabs had fixed August 23, 1929 as Der Tag. With unbelievable savagery, the police broke up a procession of Jewish mourners who were carrying a coffin of a seventeen year old boy stabbed to death by rioters. The Arabs took their cue. From every corner of Palestine, Arabs swarmed into Jerusalem armed with guns, knives, and clubs - the old war cry was on their lips: El Daula Manna... The Government is with us.

The administration and the police did nothing. Martial law was not proclaimed. The pogromists were not disarmed. Jews were murdered under the eyes of the British Officials who were watching from the balcony of the Government House. The Acting High Commissioner cold bloodily informed the Zionist deputation that went to beg for help that he had been "given orders not to shoot."

At that point, Betar took over. Betar uncovered its long concealed stores of arms and clubs and went out to defend Jerusalem. A group of visiting Oxford students did their best to redeem the good name of England by ranging themselves at Betar's side.

Within twenty-four hours, peace returned to the Holy City. The Arabs fled in confusion, and focussed their attention to the disarmed colonies far outside Jerusalem. The Palestine Administration of course avenged their defeat by charging the defenders of Jerusalem with illegal possession of arms and the "murder" of Arabs.

But the plot to convert Jerusalem into a mass graveyard for Jews had been frustrated. Betar had stamped out the long prepared massacre in the enemy's blood, and had saved the honor of the Yishuv in the "Baptism of Fire."

Since that date in 1929, and until 1946, when the Irgun took over the responsibility, Betar's Plugat HaKotel, the Platoon of the Wall, defended the Wailing Wall and made it safe for Jews to worship at the remains of our ancient Holy Temple.

Because of Betar's brave and noble task, the State of Israel gave the building that housed the Betarim who defended the worshipers to Betar. Today, Bet Plugat Hakotel is the Betar house in the Old City of Jerusalem - a living testimony the vital role Betar played in the establishment of the State of Israel.

Trumpeldor By By Ephraim Ben Israel

trumpeldorZe'ev Jabotinsky and Joseph Trumpeldor each knew the others heroical deeds before they met and formed the Jewish Legion. Trumpeldor was born in the Caucasus in the year 1880. Despite his not being allowed to attend a university because he was Jewish, Trumpeldor managed to become a dentist. He then served in the Czarist army during the Russo-Japanese war of 1905.

Trumpeldor's regiment was sent to Port Arthur, and there he lived through eleven terrible months of siege. In a fierce battle, he lost his left arm, Almost to the shoulder, but kept fighting while injured and in pain. No sooner had he come out of the hospital than he demanded to be sent back to the front, He knew he had a mission to accomplish, and insisted showing the Russian generals that Jews are strong and do not give up. Everyone in the Russian army knew of Trumpeldor's bravery. He was an inspiration to all those around him.

After the fall of Port Arthur, Trumpeldor was taken prisoner by the Japanese forces, together with the rest of General Stoessel's army. He spent many months in a prisoner of war camp with deplorable conditions, but kept his spirits up because he came to the realization of the most important thing he had to do - transform the Jewish people from oppression to a strong nation. He then, while In captivity, organized Zionist societies and collected money for the Jewish National Fund.

After the war he was granted a reserve officers rank, and until 1917 he was, with the rank of Captain, the only Jewish officer in the Russian Army. He then entered the University of St, Petersburg, completed his law studies, and immediately left for Eretz Israel. There he worked in Degania and other settlements, not as an attorney as he was trained, but rather doing any job that had to be done. All the other settlers agreed that with his one arm he was yet the strongest and the best of the agricultural workers.

Later he worked with Jabotinsky to form the Zion Mule Corps of the British Army. Formed in April, 1915, this was the first Jewish army in nearly two thousand years. The Zion Mule Corps was led by Lieutenant Commander John Henry Patterson until he could no longer serve. At that point, Trumpeldor became the officer in charge. This made him the first Jew to command a Jewish army in two thousand years. Later this group evolved into The Jewish Legion.

Five years later, at Tel-'Hai, Trumpeldor was immortalized with the words 'ein davar', never mind.

Jabotinsky and Trumpeldor disagreed on the importance of the northern region. Jabotinsky felt it was impossible to defend the north. Trumpeldor, on the other hand, felt it was vital and took the mission upon himself.

As the leader of a group of fifty legionnaires, he defended the fortress of Tel-'Hai in northern Eretz Israel against an attack by 5000 Arabs. Being the northern most as well as virtually inaccessible outpost, it was almost impossible to defend, and Trumpeldor knew it. He felt strongly that someone had to defend the northern boundary. He took the challenge himself because he knew it had to be done.

During the battle to defend northern Eretz Israel from Arab takeover, the fortress fell into siege. Without any sign of reinforcements on the way, the residents of the fortress protected themselves with the limited supplies they had left.

They were surrounded. There was no way to call for help. They were isolated from the rest of the yishuv. They were alone in their battle. One night, Trumpeldor found a way to get one person past the surrounding enclave, and was able to send for help. The reinforcements were on the way, but did not arrive in time on that fateful day.

Fighting with only one arm, he was known as the strongest fighter in the fort. Wounded, he remained in battle. But even that was not enough. The settlers realized Tel-'Hai was about to fall. Instead of allowing the fortress to be captured by the attacking Arabs, they burned what they could. Only the stones remained. Trumpeldor was taken to a hospital. Then his last words were spoken. 'Tov le'mut Be'artzanu' it is good to die for ones country.

Trumpeldor is regarded as a hero of Israel by all. His vision and fortitude secured Israel's northern section. Trumpeldor influenced Jabotinsky with his strong belief in providing to the Jewish people a new idea. Trumpeldor stressed what was needed of jews, rather than what a Jew wanted for himself. "If you need a hammer, I will be a hammer, if you need a nail, I will be the nail" he would say. Jabotinsky realized Trumpeldor was right, and in his honor, Jabotinsky named Betar - B'rith Yosef Trumpeldor.

The First Kinus

At the first Kinus, or governing convention, an exceptional hush fell over the conference hall as Jabotinsky walked to the platform. A sea of eager eyes turned up toward him. This was the moment they had all been waiting for - those scores of earnest young men and women who had traveled to Danzig, many of them came from hundreds and even thousands of miles away. Everyone was impressed to see the Betar groups from three continents welded into a powerful instrument for Jewish national liberation.

It had been strange at first in that unfamiliar Baltic city. The delegates from one country did not know their colleagues from the next, and the fact that they all belonged to an organization which was loosely call B'rith Trumpeldor seemed to help little in overcoming their sense of isolation. Each delegation wore its own taste of uniforms. The profusion of shades, cuts, and insignia of rank made this look like a convention not of a single movement, but of a whole galaxy of movements.

But soon they found how easily people speaking in the same ideological language can get to understand each other, and how magnetically an ideal shared in common can draw the most divergent spirits together. Complete strangers were thrown into a melting pot of committees and secretariats, and emerged as life long friends, bound by ties infinitely stronger than self-interest or class solidarity.

But now Jabotinsky was speaking. He minced no words. Like a stern father reproving his wayward family, he told the assembled Betarim exactly what he thought of them for not practicing what they preached. He told them that every stage of the recognized Betar training had to be undergone thoroughly, whether or not the material and the instructors were available. There was simply no excuse, he said, for neglecting our education for statehood, because ways and means could be found to overcome every difficulty. "If you haven't hand-grenades and targets you can still learn to throw stones of a fixed weight at a point a fixed distance away."

Then Jabotinsky laid down the four principals by which Betar must stand or fall. The principals that were to take the mind of European Jewry by storm, and fire the imagination of Jewish youth as nothing had ever fired it before.

MONISM - The devotion to a single ideal of a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan river.

HADAR - The abandonment of the slovenly habits adopted in the ghetto, and the adoption of ways of living that would mark the Jew out as the aristocracy among nations, with the Betari as the aristocrat among Jews.

LEGYON - Military training for the defense of Jewish life and honor.

GIYUS - National service in the homeland without thought of personal gain.

Significantly, Jabotinsky ended with the demand that each member of Betar learn Hebrew. "At our next Kinus," he warned them, "only one language will be spoken. That will be Hebrew."

The delegates unanimously elected Jabotinsky as Rosh Betar, decided to establish the movements headquarters in Paris. They left Danzig as inspired missionaries of the faith that was to save 100,000 of Europe's despairing Jewish youth from the worship of false idols.

The Stavsky Scandal

On friday, June 16, 1933, Chaim Arlosoroff, the Histadruth leader, was assassinated while scrolling on the beach of Tel Aviv with his wife. Leading personalties declared that the dying Arlosoroff said his assailants were not Jews. The socialist press, however, immediately exploited the occasion by charging the Revisionists with the murder.

Captain Harry Rice, Deputy Inspector-General of the Palestine Police and intimate friend of Mrs. Arlosoroff, arrested a Betari named Stavsky, who was promptly identified by Mrs. Arlosoroff as one of the murderers. The three other Betarim - Zvi Rosenblatt, Yehuda Mintz, and Abba Achimeir were taken into custody. Mrs. Arlosoroff, with equal promptness identified them as accomplices.

During Achimeir's trial, collusion between the police and the witness was proved. The evidence was shown to have been deliberately falsified and his release was ordered by the embarrassed Government.

At Mintz's trial, Mrs. Arlosoroff was caught in a whirl of self-contradiction. Mrs. Arlosoroff was accused by the court of lying and Mintz was freed.

During Rosenblatt's trial, it was established that he, whom Mrs. Arlosoroff has branded as the actual killer, had been addressing a mass meeting in a different city at the time of the murder. The court acquitted him.

On June 10th, 1934 the government condemned to death the last available victim, Abraham Stavsky. The idiocy of the verdict was at once evident from the fact that Mrs. Arlosoroff had charged Rosenblatt with the killing and Stavsky with holding the torch for him. It was not possible, therefore, for one to be guilty without the other, yet Rosenblatt had been cleared and Stavsky sentenced to hang.

The chief Rabbi of Palestine, Hacohen Kook declared his belief in Stavsky's innocence. His cable to world Jewry said "Strive with all your might for the triumph of justice." Jabotinsky, Jacob De Hass, Col. Wedgewoood, and Horace Samuel rallied to Stavsky's defence.

The case was brought before the Palestine Court of Appeal and Stavsky was set free. The Mizrachi issued declarations of satisfaction. The Zionist Organization of America greeted the acquittal.

On the other hand, Hashomer Hatzair, the extremely anti-religious and socialist youth organization, was so incensed at the development that they stoned the synagogue in which Stavsky was praying and carried posters condemning Rabbi Kook - "Pity the nation whose priests protect murderers."

After the Stavsky case, the Jewish Agency, controlled by the Mapai, intensified the bitterness by depriving Betar of certificates to enter Palestine, thus hindering Betarim from obtaining employment. The Jewish Agency also collaborated with police in deporting Betarim who had arrived in the country without visas, even though many of their own members had arrived the same way. The Mapai acted as if Eretz Israel was not the property of the Jewish Nation, but of a special class.

The Histadruth contemptuously rejected the Jabotinsky-Ben Gurion pact which had endeavored to restore peace to the tortured Yishuv. The Stavsky scandal and its repercussions eventually led to the establishment of the New Zionist Organization.

The Second Kinus

The second World Kinus was help in Cracow in 1935. Never before had the old Polish city witnessed such scenes. The townsmen gaped in bewilderment at the thousands upon thousands of excited young Jews who thronged the streets leading to the conference hall. They came from every corner of Europe. It was four years since the first Kinus in Danzig. There had been fewer of them then.

In danzig, they were a self conscious, ill-sorted crowd, making conversation awkwardly in all the languages and jargons of the Galut. No two countries uniforms were the same. But in Cracow it was possible to see how those four years had welded Jabotinsky's disciples into one movement that extended across Europe.

The B'rith Trumpeldor had been tested in an ordeal greater than any ordeal of hate, slander, starvation, ostracism, physical violence, and blood libel combined. It had survived the ordeal, and from the shadow of strength had emerged with an intensity of purpose and inner strength never equaled in Jewish history since the times of Bar Kochba's legions.

The Betarim marched through the resounding streets of Cracow. Thousands of them dressed in the same uniform, wearing the same insignia to determine their ranks, Walking tall, looking proud, and this time speaking one language - Hebrew.

No longer was there any outward differences between them, no longer could one tell which country a Betari came from by the uniform he wore or the language he spoke. They were now an army of brothers united in suffering and martyrdom, facing a hostile world with a defiant "Tel Hai" on their lips. On their shoulders they carried in Abraham Stavsky, now a free man, who had come to Cracow to gather with Rosenblatt as a delegate of the Palestine Betar.

Jabotinsky spoke to them in a packed hall. Thousands clamored for entrance at the door, unable to find as much as a foothold within. The Rosh Betar wore the uniform of Betar, just like the one they are were wearing. But when they saw him in it for the first time, his young disciples burst into a storm of delirious enthusiasm. Jabotinsky had aged somewhat since those days at Danzig. He had suffered with his Betarim, and now he looked down at them with a stern tenderness in which there was more than a hint of awe.

What makes them stay with me? He wondered. L-rd, haven't I given them enough pain, heartbreak, and suffering for them never to want to see me again and to take another road that offers more peace, more prosperity, more security? But here they still are - more than ever before... He put his thoughts into words. "Who can understand this phenomenon called Betar? There you are stronger, more resolute, even more happy after going through immeasurable suffering. They promise you everything - certificates for Palestine, money for your settlements, praise without limit. We promise you only pain and hardship.

"The road that leads into Betar is very small and narrow, but the door for those who want to leave Betar is big and always wide open. Yet thousands and still more pour in through the small door, while only a few slink rather shamefully out the big one."

He turned his head and looked straight at Stavsky and Rosenblatt: "You will have to suffer far more than you have, The bodies of men like you will have to pave the way by which our people will cross into their liberated homeland."

The delegates were more excited now than ever. Here, standing before them, and just for them, the Rosh Betar spoke. Now their mission was clearer than ever.

Two hundred and sixteen official delegates were present at the second World Kinus, representing more than 60,000 organized members. The number of Maozim by this time numbered 689.

A burning necessity demonstrated by the second Kinus was a greater Aliyah Bet - Aliyah in the face of British opposition and in spite of Jewish Agency interference.

In 1935, Rosh Betar and the Revisionist movement came to the conclusion that there was no hope of changing the policy of the Jewish Agency. They were convinced that Jewish patriots should themselves take the offensive without waiting for the meek and the timid. About three-quarters of a million Jewish votes gave Rosh Betar the mandate. He travelled to Vienna, where, On September 8, 1935, he proclaimed the fundamental principals of the New Zionist Organization.

Shlomo Ben Yosef

During our long history in the diaspora, others shaped destiny for us as we, the Jewish people, produced many martyrs. The moment we took our future in our own hands the names of martyrs gave way to the names of heros. These heroes were simple men and women, but their names mark the beginning of a new era in our history.

Shlomo Ben Yosef in an example of such a hero for generations to come. His name became a symbol for the Jewish struggle for liberation and freedom. Yet he did not die on a battlefield, but on the gallows of Palestine - the first Jew to receive the death sentence in Eretz Israel for nearly two thousand years.

He was Born Shalom Tabachnik in the Polish town of Lutzk in 1913. From his father he inherited his modesty, his quietness, his stubborn will, and his strong character. As a son of a very poor family, the conditions of his childhood were difficult, but these difficulties helped strengthen his character. Even as a child he kept himself back from the general jokes of his friends at the cheder - the Jewish religious school. He was always quiet, dreaming, and reserved.

His study days were over soon after his Bar-Mitzvah. He now had to help support his poor family and worry about his future. A period of hard and bitter work to earn a living set in as he took positions as a clerk, a waiter, as well as many others to support his family.


He joined Betar Qen of Lutzk in 1928 and from that moment his life took on new meaning. In Betar he learned how to love his homeland, Eretz Israel. There he also learned to dream of a new life for himself and his people. He was taught that he was not a "Zhid", "a poor dirty Jew" - the epitaph that had been flung at Jewish youth by the gentiles till they no longer questioned or even resented it.

While working he learned more about the world around him. He saw how he, his parents, and all the other Jews around him were called Zhids. He saw the torment in the eyes for fellow Jews. He saw how the Poles made pogroms on them. But most of all, he saw something better in his heart.

That young heart burned with protest as his young fists were clenched in sorrow. He entered Betar through an instinctive feeling and the movement enriched his life.

Here he felt a new spirit. He studied the history of the Jewish nation. He heard about the Jewish heroes of the past. He found out that Jews were not always enslaved, insulted, and oppressed. He was taught that he was not a weakling who had to be afraid of all around him. He learned that he was the son of kings, the descendant of prophets, and a brother of the Macabees. He yearned to go to Palestine where there would be no more Zhids, but a free nation in a free "Kingdom of Israel." And here, in Qen Lutzk, he learned his first Betar song - The song which he sang ten years later with so much courage on the gallows of Akko.


When his father died in 1930, the seventeen year old boy took it upon himself to support his whole family. Yet he never missed an evening in the Qen, and he became one of the most active of it's members.

When the Polish Government gave permission for a military Hachshara, he was he first on the drill field to study the "Torah of the gun." He was always the first one, whether for a hike or a meeting. The broad-shouldered youth could be seen everywhere, a fiery glance in his eyes - always the first one.

Everyone in the Qen knew him - from the youngest Nesher, lion, to the oldest Mifaked, officer, and he in turn knew everyone. When anything had to be done, from the smallest thing like lighting of the stove in the Moadon, the meeting place, or distributing of pamphlets from town to town, he could be relied on to volunteer his services.

In 1931, a Betar Hachshara was founded in the town of Kazhitz. Shalom Tabachnik left home, despite the difficulties which faced his family, and arrived at Hachshara. He completed his Hachshara and returned to Lutzk in 1932, where he then completed his term of Hachshara Haganatit, military hachshara, and took charge of the Mazkirut HaQen. He also organized a Plugat Aliyah, an Aliyah platoon, which prepared to go to Palestine.


At that time, no certificates were available for Betarim to go to Palestine. Despite that obstacle, he joined a group of "illegal immigrants" and without a penny in his pockets left for Eretz Israel in August 1937. After smuggling himself across borders and as an "illegal" immigrant aboard a ship that landed in Beirut, Lebanon, he climbed aboard a Greek fishing boat heading south. When he asked to be taken further, they demanded money from him. Having none, they began to quarrel and he was cast overboard. He swam the stretch of water and finally, after crossing the Galilee hills, arrived at Naharia, thus fulfilling his life-long dream to be in Eretz Israel, and the Betar group of Rosh Pina.

The many months he spent on the way, and the hardships which he and many others endured has formed an undying part of Jewish Legend.

After he arrived safely in Eretz Israel, he immediately reported to the Plugat Ha-Giyus, the service platoon for Eretz Israel, at the settlement of Rosh Pina. Here he began cultivating the fields of the Galil.

Eretz Israel

He arrived in the midst of bad times in palestine. For two years, the Arabs had been rioting and terrorizing the Jewish population. Women and children were killed, settlements were raided, fields were burned and Jews were attacked at will. In the face of all this, Jewish youth remained silent.

But that did not deter Shlomo Ben Yosef, the Hebrew name Shalom Tabachnik adopted and was known by in Eretz Israel. He worked hard in the fields to help support the Maon. When the pogroms got bad, he went to the port of Haifa were he worked to send money back to Rosh Pina. It was dangerous to work in the open fields and he wanted to guarantee his fellow Betarim would not go hungry. When one days work in the Galilee would feed one person, His single days labor in the ports would feed twelve. Thus he supported his fellow Betarim, and with the extra money he earned, he purchased weapons to protect them with.

The Jewish leaders had proclaimed the policy of Havlaga, self restraint. This was a policy the British Government not only favored, but encouraged. The British did not want to have a Jewish majority in Palestine, else they may loose control of the land. The Arabs could therefore attack whenever they wished, but the "Jews had to prove that their intentions were peaceful."

The Palestine Police and Government were "unable" to find the Arab terrorists who would shoot Jews, such as Leiberman, the young Betari from Rosh Pina who was murdered while working in the fields. At the same time, Jews could not venture from one city to another, they were hostages in their own homeland.

To Shlomo Ben Yosef the way was clear. If the Government would not police this country, the Jews would protect themselves.

The Shot

On April 21, 1938, news was received that a contingent of Arab terrorists was on its way to attack Rosh Pina, but the report didn't say when. Preparations were being made in the near by Arab village of Djani. Open preparations in the Arab Village proved more and more evident of an imminent attack. Although the were exhausted from working the fields for sixteen hour a day and then spent six hour a night on guard duty for months at a time, they knew they had to do something. They could not just sit back while fellow Jews were about to be murdered.

In desperation, three of the youngest Betarim at Rosh Pina, Abraham Shein, Sholom Djuravin, and Shlomo Ben Yosef went out on the Taberias road. Perhaps they may get there before the time of the attack. Perhaps they might intercept the Arab terrorists in time. Perhaps they might frighten them away.

A car approaches. It was an car filled with Arabs who did not live in the neighborhood. The three young men stepped out into view to stop the car headed for Rosh Pina.

These, thought the youngsters, must be the terrorists. They fired a single shot in the air. The Arabs gained speed and within a few seconds vanished from sight. Shein, Djuravin, and Ben Yosef then waited until the a Jewish bus had safely passed, and with elated feelings that they had prevented a tragedy, returned to the Betar Maon in Rosh Pina. This time the police were not long in arriving.

The first was a Jewish policeman who suggested that Ben Yosef throw away his weapon. He refused to do this and within a few minutes, Shein, Djuravin, and Ben Yosef were led away in chains to Akko prison. They were proud of their actions. They did not resist.

The Trial

The trial opened May 24, 1938. On a very late Friday afternoon, June 3rd, with a face as pale a ghosts, the President of the Haifa Military Court pronounced the verdict. Shalom Djuravin was to be placed under medical observation, Abraham Shein and Shlomo Ben Yosef were to hang by the neck until they were dead.

The tense electric silence of the court room was broken by a dreadful shriek from Shein's sister. She understood no English, and for ten days she had been listening - a pitiful, hopeless, bewildered creature - to the evidence that would decide whether her little eighteen year old brother - now standing so proudly in the dock - was to live or die. This friday afternoon, she could see from the see of blurred faces around her, which it was to be. She collapsed in a fit of uncontrollable sobbing.

In a voice that stammered and shook, a Jewish interpreter tired to read out the verdict in Hebrew. He sat down, overcome before he got to the end.

The prisoners were led out. Ben Yosef stood up and shouted: "It is good to die for the Jewish State on both sides of the Jordan" and he went out with his two fellow Betarim - the only cool, detached and unaggravated people in the entire court-room.

After that came three and a half weeks of unceasing attempts to secure a reprieve. Appeals to the British Government and the Palestine Administration came from the Jewish national organizations, from the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, from two Anglican Bishops, The Lancaster Guardian, from the Polish Government, from Chief Rabbi Herzog of Palestine, from British Members of Parliament, newspaper editors, churches, and synagogues,

The cries of Ben Yosef's aged mother in Poland, who begged only that her young son's life be spared until she could reach Palestine to see him for the last time, went unanswered. Jabotinsky himself went to plead with Britain's Colonial Secretary, Malcolm McDonald. In thousands, the petitions came, but only in vain. Shein's sentence was commuted, but Ben Yosef was to be sacrificed.

Ben Yosef was executed in June, 1938. The entire Jewish world was shocked by this injustice and was deeply moved by the heroism of the young man in the face of death.

A Betari Until the End

On the morning of Wednesday, June 29, 1938, Shlomo Ben Yosef rose early. It was the day after he had told his last visitor "I will die like a man and a Betari. I am proud to be the first to be sacrificed for the Jewish People." He kept his word. Calmly, without haste, he washed, brushed his teeth, combed his hair, and dressed in the white clothing supplied to him.

The British refused to give him his simple blue trimmed Betar uniform, even though they promised him he would be allowed to wear it. He told them he would not go willingly if not in uniform. After much deliberation, he agreed to go without it as long as he was able to apologize to his fellow Betarim for not having it on. "Very well," he said, "I will go. Let it not be said that a Jewish soldier is afraid of death."

He took a final glance at himself in a mirror, made sure that he looked as smart and clean as if he were in a Betar parade. He then walked out unflinchingly toward the scaffold. On the way, he heard the terrified shriek of an Arab murderer about to be hanged, He smiled contemptuously, and remarked to the escorting guards "It appears that we will even have to teach them how to die."

Shlomo Ben Yosef could then be heard throughout the prison singing Hatikvah. He climbed the scaffold fervently singing Shir Betar - "Lamut o Lichbosh et Hahar, to die or conquer the hill," - the first song he had learned in the far away Plugah at Lutzk. On the gallows he faced the executioner. Pride and defiance shone in his eyes, as he spoke his last words.

"I die with the name of Jabotinsky on my lips, sacrificing my life in the hope that the Jewish nation may learn the lesson that Havlaga, Self-restraint, is fatal.

The Third Kinus

Autumn, 1938. In Warsaw the 3rd World Conference of Betar is taking place. Thousands have crowded into the Norvitz Hall. Thousands of others have remained in the streets waiting for the arrival of Rosh Betar.

A short while before the opening of the Kinus, a common pride embrace them all. Before your very eyes unfolds an unforgettable scene - Jews of all sections - orthodox, workers, and intelligentsia all have come to greet our leader, and through him the whole of our movement.

Here you meet Betarim from the whole world and once again you feel Lo Alman Israel, Israel is not orphaned.

Your thoughts are interpreted by a mighty Tel Hai which bursts forth from the street and penetrates every corner of the hall.

Rosh Betar has arrived.

And even today I see him standing on that platform delivering the opening address.

A prophet is speaking. He castigates, he teaches, and when from his lips the words are heard "Whither Jewish Youth?" then you fell that before you stands a father with a big heart, a heart that bleeds because of the fate of his children and at the same time does not fail to show the only true way.

And when his last words were heard in that hall, a mighty Hatikvah was in was the answer to the call of the teacher.

I leave the Norvitz Hall. Here one meets dozens of friends and acquaintances. Some are old participants in Betar schools and conferences - are all touched by the holiness of the occasion. Rosh Betar is among us.

I enter the Jewish Academy Hall in the suburb of Praga, Warsaw. Here it is quiet and restful, but today is a festive occasion. The sittings of the 3rd World Kinus Betar are taking place here. And, as in a motion picture, there pass before you unforgettable scenes.

Joseph Glazman speaks. He urges the Jewish youth to be prepared for the great battle in Eretz Israel. As yet, he did not know or feel know that he himself was about to enter the pantheon of the fighter-heroes from the Jewish Ghettoes. He certainly did not realize that Shir Hapartisanim, the Song of the Partisans, would be dedicated to him.

And as one sees the picture of Joseph Glazman standing so firm and straight, you hear the words dedicated to him, "Do not say this is the last road..."

A distance away, Ariah Radal notes down his impressions. This Betari from Kielco certainly did not know then that in a few years he would be one of the founders of the Betar underground and creator of the first Jewish military organization in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Further away, you see alexander Rosenfeld running from the secretariat of the Kinus, carrying with him a bundle of bulletins, talking at the same time to some of the most important delegates. Now he is talking to Irma Halpern, asking questions about the interview he had with American journalist from Knickerbocker, concerning the Jewish marine schools. With the pen he served our information department with devotion, but even with greater devotion and even greater energy did he serve the Betar underground in the Warsaw Ghetto. Together with Dr. Stirkofsky, Frankel, and others, that defended Jewish honor, they wrote in golden letters that chapter of history known as the Warsaw Revolt.

I remember the general debate. The news of Eretz Israel is tragic. The report is given by David Stern who has just come from Eretz Israel, and the delegates want to know "Where is the way out?"

The Yishuv serves the golden calf of Havlaga, self restraint. As against this, Betar has erased this shame from Jewish history with its sacrifices of Ben Yosef, and through the hundreds of its members imprisoned in Akko, Bethlehem, and Sarafani.

The leadership of the Yishuv belongs to the so-called moderates. From the platform, Aryeh Ben Eliezer puts forward the pathetic question: "Rosh Betar, How much longer shall we endure this pain?"

But this question cannot become the main problem of the Kinus. Hitler's annexation of Czechoslovakia places this Betar Parliament before a tragic reality: In Eretz Israel pogroms, Jewish Havlaga and British provocations. In the Galuth, Jabotinsky's evacuation plan was rejected. A year later, the beginning of Hitler's march and the start of the extermination of European Jewry. And like the sword of Damocles, the prophetic words of Rosh Betar hung over our heads: "If you will not liquidate the Galuth, the Galuth will liquidate you."

And like an answer to this warning of Rosh Betar, Menachem Begin suddenly appeared on the platform. The vast multitude is electrified. Short, but sharp words fall from his lips:

"We do not wish to become subjects of ridicule and shame. Let Jewish youth collect iron, let it create the military potentialities and then we shall ensure for the Jewish nation a better tomorrow!"

We felt that we were living in an historical moment. The words that were heard everywhere were like words of prophecy: "Begin is not only the hope of our movement, Begin is the hope of our nation."

It is early on Friday morning. The last hours of the Kinus. A tired Rosh Betar faces the world conference and draws before us a picture of the pain and suffering which faces our movement.

"Elokim Leyagon Be'hartanu, G-d has created us for pain and suffering. For the hangman's rope, and for prisons, these will accompany your lives in the struggle for the freedom of our land and nation. But the day will come when the nation will choose you to lead and the crown that will truly be yours. And if today, the youth in Eretz Israel have taken up arms, then remember: This is the work of Betar. Therefore, carry with dignity and pride your name: Betari."

Betar Marine School

In 1934, under the guidance of Qatsin Hashilton Halpern, Betar established a marine school in Civitavechia, Italy to train young Jews how to man sea-going vessels. Unlike the British and French, the Italian government then allowed foreign students to enter its naval schools. The Betar marine section was an autonomous detachment, with Hebrew as a subsidiary language, self-government in its own barracks, kosher foods, and shabbat services. Instruction was given to about one hundred Jewish cadets by Italian officers, under the supervision of Betar Mifakdim.

The Betar marine section purchased its first ship and named her Sara I. She was a beautiful four-master, originally the yacht of an American Admiral, and the largest sailing vessel in the Mediterranean. The hull was painted blue and white, and the hold rebuilt to accommodate sixty cadets and the crew. She made training cruises lasting from six months to a year, touching in at ports of the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the Pacific. During the winter of 1938, which was the stormiest the Mediterranean had seen for over half a century, the Sara I, during a regular training voyage, rode out thirty storms, four hundred squalls, eleven waterspouts, four hurricanes, and two typhoons. The behavior of the cadets during this period when scores of ships went down and hundreds of men drowned was characterized in the marine press as "constituting a chapter in the history of Jewish navigation that future generations will be proud of."

At Riga, Latvia, Betar opened another marine school. In 1936 Betar chartered a sailing vessel, which was renamed Theodore Herzel, for the training of able bodied seamen. The Theodore Herzel made voyages all along the Scandinavian coast. In 1938 two more vessels were added in Civitavechia, the Nekha, and Lea. The cadets from the Betar marine section proved to be valuable assets in another area of Betar activity - Aliyah Bet.

Wings For Betar

Not only were Betarim the first to stress the importance to Israel of trained sailors, but they also led the field in aeronautics.

Led by Eri Jabotinsky, son of Rosh Betar, Betar became air minded in the early 1930's. Under his direction, a group of Betarim constructed the first aircraft in Israel - a glider. On it, many Jewish youth won their wings.

In the state of New Jersey, on the east coast of the United States, the outbreak of World War II saw the formation of the Betar Jabotinsky Air School, where scores of Jewish youth learned the art of flying airplanes.

In south Africa, a Betar formed a third Air School. At this point it was certain that Betar was the leading trainer of sailors and pilots for the soon the be reborn Jewish State.

During Israel's fight for independence, graduates from the various air schools provided an invaluable service. With their help, badly needed weapons were flown in, all of which were put to immediate use. While in the air, many pilots were able to fend attacks from the ground, while others were able to get a view of the battle unavailable any way else.

Today, Betar still emphasizes the increasing need of trained pilots to the State of Israel, and continues to encourage youth to take to the skies.


Aliyah - Immigration to Israel.

Aliyah Bet - The second major wave of immigration of Jews to British administered Palestine without the consent of the British government.

Bar Kochba - The leader of the Jews fighting against Roman takeover in the days of Massada.

British Mandate Palestine - The area now consisting of Jordan and Israel. The British government was given the responsibility by the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations, to establish the Jewish National Home. Over 75% of the land was taken away from the Jews to create the Arab Palestinian State, Jordan.

Eretz Israel - Originating in the Torah, the name means Land of Israel.

Galut - The world outside of Eretz Israel.

Hachshara - Military Training.

Hashomer Hatzair - The youth organization of the Jewish socialist parties. Not only are they typified as being anti Jewish religious practice, but anti-religion as well.

Histadruth - The collective of all Jewish socialist parties.

Jewish Agency - The group recognized by the British as Representatives of Jews in Palestine.

Kinus - A governing convention of Betar that decides the future of the movement. Today, a Kinus occurs every two years in each country as well as another for the World movement.

Maoz (Maozim Pl.) - A Betar chapter.

Mapai - The socialist party dominating Jewish policies in British Mandated Palestine and Israeli politics until Menachem Began became Prime Minister.

Mifaked (Mifakdim Pl.) Officer.

Mizrachi - The organization of Sefardic Jewry.

New Zionist Organization - The anti-socialist political organization.

Plugat Hakotel - Translated as the Platoon of the Wall, this is the name of the group of Betarim who protected Jews as they went to pray at the Wailing Wall before Israel was established.

Revisionist - The name of the group that saw a new vision of the future establishment of the State of Israel. While the Zionist establishment was working to establish the Jewish state based upon socialist ideals, Jabotinsky wanted to see a democracy and a free market economy. He explained how we should not work toward socialism. The only ism we should work for is Zionism. (not to be confused with the term 'Holocaust revisionist' that implies a rewrite of history itself)

Torah - Jewish Bible.

Yishuv - The settlement of Jews in Eretz Israel.


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