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Study and Theory/
Tel Hai

Berl Katznelson

Tel Hai as a Symbol of Heroism

Preface to the Book "Events of 5696", June 1938

Hannah, the mother of seven, the heroine leading her sons to be sacrificed in the battle of their faith to their essence, was allowed to tell Abraham our forefather: You brought a sacrifice on one altar and I brought a sacrifice on seven altars.

The generation of siege and stronghold, that was the target for arrows and did not retreat, that did not abandon any spot and did not allow the evacuation of any settlement it built and fortified and captured in a siege, that dedicated sons, daughters and grandchildren to live a life of defenders, that carried up to the besieged colony, ships of immigrants rushing to man positions in the front of labor and defense. This generation is entitled to tell Joseph Trumpeldor and Aharon Sher, of Tel Hai: "We have not let you down, you have not gone barren. When we encountered a battle, we accepted it and sanctified it. We have not merely maintained a single Tel Hai; the entire land became a Tel Hai for us. Lots of Tel Hais (or, as interpreted in Hebrew – live wires)."

Berl Katznelson, Preface to the Book "Events of 5696", June 1938.


The comparison between Hannah, who sacrificed seven sons in contrast to Abraham who was willing to sacrifice a single son, when tested, is utilized by Berl Katznelson to compare between the Tel Hai defenders who attempted to guard a single spot, to the generation that confronted a much wider struggle in 5696. But in contrast to Hannah and her seven sons, the generation of 5696 does not only emerge with its honor. Its heroism allows it to maintain the entire land as "Tel Hais" (or as interpreted in Hebrew 'live wires').


"And the heart asks: What is the fate that awaits the Hebrew heroism with the renewal of life in the homeland? Shall we merit the heroism of the Hasmoneans, whose reimbursement is not merely its conscience, but also its victory?

"From generation to generation there was no purer blood spilled than that of Tel Hai ploughmen." But not as rebels in despair and not like dead inquisition martyrs in a land of ploughmen and defenders. The sorrow of their death is the grief of Saul and Jonathan, who established the freedom of Israel. In their fives and also in their death, they tell us: "Be consoled, be consoled my nation."

Berl Katznelson "The Book of Heroism", part 1, Tevet, 5711

Berl's words also echo the statement of Trumpeldor. In contrast to the heroic fall for honor in the Diaspora, death over the protection of the mission of building the land of Israel is a death that is significant and has implications for the future.  

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