Study and Theory/
Tel Hai

Did He or Didn't He Say, "It's good to Die for our Land"?

One of the main questions dealing with the Tel Hai myth is that of - whether Trumpeldor did or did not say, "It's good to die for our land?"

In today's situation, it may be difficult to imagine such an utterance. You can witness a current example of reference to the Tel Hai myth and to Trumpeldor in satire performances from the program "Eretz Nehederet" (the Great Land) and "HaYehudim Baim"(the Jews are coming).

 

But aside of the evidence given by those who were present at the time, you can find in Trumpeldor's letters several instances of the message of, "It's good to die for our land" - not that it is good to die, but if already to die, it is better to die for our country. This saying is expressed by a person who has already been to war and had been injured for two lands (Russia and Great Britain), to whom he felt no connection.

 

My Dear Samusha (Samuel)

...

My thoughts are occupied with plans for founding a settlement, and if a war breaks out in the Land of Israel, I'll probably be appointed as a commander there, although I'm willing and ready to serve as a simple soldier as well. There we will be at home, not with foreigners. And you ought to know what it means "at home", not with strangers, as one who had knocked on strangers' doors all of his life, with no response, as a person who had always experienced aggression and scorn instead of support and peace.  And I believe: the day will come and I, tired and fatigued of hard work, shall walk through, and inspect my fields in my own country with joy. And no one will tell me: "Go away you wretch: you're a stranger in this land!" And if there would be a man who would speak this way, I would defend myself forcedly and with a sword, I'd get up and protect my fields, my rights. Let him come! My fields are behind me, on my right and my left is my friend... and if I fall in the battle, I'd be blissful, knowing for what I have fallen... But probably we will not fight, and we will not fall. There would be no reason for this. There would be a need to work and we'll work, yet my heart is very bitter, since life is so bad, and by the time a man gets a chance to engage in a work he wishes to do, many long days that shall not return, go by.

Be well!

Your loving brother, Osiyah

From the life of Joseph Trumpeldor, page 4-5, a compilation of letters and reports:

To Firah [Esther Rozov, daughter of a family of orchard workers of the early settlers in Petah Tikvah, his girlfriend and fiancée] he wrote from Gallipoli on June 27, 1915: "If I shall die, I'll do it in joy, with a light heart, since it is for something that's dear to me. Isn't it a joy to die out of awareness, that this for this price my nation will receive something in return in our dear homeland, in the Land of Israel?" And then again, he had written to Firah, this time from London, on June 13th, 1917, before setting out on a ship to Russia: "Sometimes I imagine that a submarine is sinking my ship. If this does occur, I'd like to die a beautiful death, out of joy, as fit for a Jew dying for the Land of Israel".   

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