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Zeev Jabotinsky

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 Greek.

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 authority.

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 noted authors.

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.

Zionist Involvement

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 thought.

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 Jewish Legion

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 at Gallipoli.

Bitterly disappointed, 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 of Jabotinsky.

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.

Jabotinsky established 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 with extermination.

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 the stake."

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 of Betar."

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."

Jabotinsky's Frantic 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: " 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 will rise."

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 Illegal Immigration

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 of view.

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 Army

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 government."

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 was won.

Massive Turnouts

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 honors.

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 and thoughts.

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 public speaker.

"...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's Social Program

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 for all.

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 rule.

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" country.

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 state.

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 Jabotinsky.

A Stirring Eulogy from His Disciples

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.

"Zeev Jabotinsky, 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 and actions.

"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 for Israel.

"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 people.

"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.



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