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Study and Theory/
Tel Hai

Berl Katznelson

Tel Hai Defenders in their Life and in their Death

Adar 2, 5689 (1929)

The handful of people who endangered their lives on guarding the north, isolated and abandoned, torn and worn, hungry and freezing, were privileged by Jewish history to be highly regarded as heroes of the nation after their death. This entails a symbol of that era, that they were not forgotten and that their honor was not desecrated, that they hadn't been regarded by the people as bandits and hoodlums.  It holds a memento of that era that the heart of a Jewish child looks up to them, that the Jewish-English Lord puts up a monument for them, that the Zionist politician [1], that had taught, during the events of Tel Hai, that "if we alone would attempt to proceed and defend these places, it would be to no avail" – had praised and exalted them. It is a remnant of that era, that that lonely corner, which Hebrew laborers toiled for years to revive from its bareness, both before and after the tragic events – without assistance nor understanding from our "political" circles – Tel Hai has now become – the "Tel Haim" (Hill of Life), the road to which, is filled will hordes of people.  


But also on a holiday, the historic truth must not be blurred nor distorted, and may the Tel Hai people beware of illusionary conclusions that does not suit them. They must not forget that Tel Hai heroes have combatted and fallen in a double battle: not only in a confrontation with actual robbers and looters from the outside that had attempted to destroy establishments of peace and labor, but they also stood up against the confrontation with indifference, laxity, alienation and fear from within – emanating from the Hebrew settlement at large and from its leaders. We must not forget the terrible isolation, the people endured during their lifetime, and what the attitude was to them, and the help they received from those in power, the influential people, and those claiming to have "pure political understanding" [2]. And we must remember and not forget what the ethical and social image of the Tel Hai people was: These were people of labor, part of a group, adhering to ideals of revolution and socialism. Their spiritual world is considered an intermingling of concepts by others [3]. In our words: they portrayed an essential combination of love of the people and of the land with the belief in principles of work, ethics and social justice. And perhaps this fusion that nurtured their souls and that was defamed by the prophets of "pure" nationalism, is what turned them – and not others – to the sanctifiers of the name of the nation at a time of test, it is what turned them into genuine pioneers, into people that turn to the future, into the pavers of the path of a lifestyle of labor to the redeemed nation.

1) This refers to Jabotinsky who said as an observer at the meeting of the Provisional Committee for the Jews of the Land of Israel: "I believe, that all those who are located in the French territory ought to return to the Land of Israel"

2) Berl Katznelson alludes, both here and in other places in the essay, to the revisionists, headed by Jabotinsky, who claimed that the crisis in the north is to be resolved by a political act that would lead to the involvement of the superpowers.

3) Both here and where mentioning the prophets of the "pure" nationalism, Katznelson refers to the central parties and the revisionists who claimed in the name of "pure" nationalism, free of interests who oppose the "status based" struggle that the Labor Party combined with the Zionist act, a struggle that Katznelson and the Labor Party viewed as an integral part of the Zionist enterprise, towards building an ethical Jewish society in the Land of Israel.

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