11th Adar

(Tel Hai Day)

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> Background

In the course of World War, I, two new groups of cooperative settlers made their homes in Kfar Giladi and Tel Hai, near Metula, which had till then, been an isolated colony. And a little while after the war, the formation of a new workers camp in Hamra was embarked on. At the culmination of World War II, there was unrest in the region. The boundary between the British Mandate for Palestine and the French Mandate over Syria and Lebanon passed near Ayelet Hashachar, leaving the northern settlements of Galilee in French territory. The French had a hard time asserting their sovereignty in face of the rebellion of the Sheriff Hussein, who attempted to have the promise made by the British during the war and to appoint his son Faisal as king fulfilled. He would head a  large Arab state that would include Syria and Trans-Jordan. In addition to the disorder created by the revolt, local bandits exploited the situation to attack their neighbors in the area. The Jewish settlements in the Northern Galilee tried to maintain neutrality in face of the rebels' demand to cooperate with them and their suspicion that they were assisting the French.

During the winter, Metula was abandoned following the French army withdrawal. Hamra was raided and burned shortly after the settlement attempt, and the groups located in Tel Hai and Kfar Giladi remained isolated. On the 11th of Adar, 5680, March 1, 1920, a large battle broke out in Tel-Hai between the defenders of the group and a group of Arabs from the neighboring village who wanted to check whether the Tel Hai people were hiding French soldiers.

Six of the group's defenders were killed, and although the attack was halted, they decided that they could not defend the place, burned it and retreated to Kfar Giladi. On the next day they retreated with the Kfar Giladi inhabitants to the British Mandate territory. Only in October after the forces of Sheriff Hussein were defeated and things calmed down, did the settlers return to Metula, Tel Hai and Kfar Giladi. At the end of that year the area was annexed to the territory of the British Mandate.

> The Story

Despite the retreat, Tel Hai immediately turned into a symbol of heroism and dedication to one's hometown. In the days of the events, prior to its fall, Aharon Sher, a member of the Kineret group who volunteered to protect Tel Hai, wrote a proclamation that was published in the newspaper of the Ahdut Haavoda Party, containing a "call  to recruit the public to assist the defenders in the Galilee, out of recognition that "the place is not to be abandoned and what was built is not to be relinquished". As a man of work and settlement he proclaimed: "We must expand the borders of our protection and to have it spread out from the four halls of our homes to the entire surrounding field. We do not need a conquering army that lives on its sword to safeguard our positions until the difficult days are over, what we need is a camp of workers who also know how to use weapons. We need the type of worker who can defend his plough – and not merely use it to plough and he must realize that he does not only protect himself and the walls of his house but he also defends his land and his work on it. At a time of danger several people should work with a single pair of cattle – field must not be waived".

Following Sher's death on Feb. 6, 1920, his friends held a memorial event in Jerusalem at which they called out for public recruital and volunteerism in assistance to the Upper Galilee. The question of the defense of the settlements was discussed at a meeting of the Provisional Committee of the Jews of Palestine at the end of February. At the meeting the question of the ability to protect the settlements was raised. Ze'ev Jabotinsky, who did not believe in the capability of the organized Hebrew Settlements to defend those settlements without the assistance of the British or the French, said: "I think that everyone in the French region should return to the Land of Israel [...] You must tell your friends: Return from there and build what exists"!

Since he did not believe in the capacity to defend those settlements, he considered their position as a demonstrative act whose political value was questionable. Berl Katznelson replied sharply: "We are honest people, not demonstrators, we did not intend to demonstrate, not by going to the [Hebrew] Legion, and not via our work, carried out under all conditions, and not by our surveillance at nights. We are not sent by commanders, and the loss of a comrade is not easy for us to accept, because it is not a political issue, and we are - for ourselves, for our lives. We want life and know what awaits us [...] and we go because we fulfill our mission. Because it is a matter of respect of the settlement in Israel and its vitality, it is not the question of a plot of land and some Jewish property here, but the question of the Land of Israel." The members of the Labor movement did not view settlement as a demonstrative act designated to determine the borders, but rather as a real act of the return of the people to their land by means of agricultural work they would do on their own. Since they believed that the actual privilege to the land is obtained by working it and not by political promises or by army forces. They viewed agricultural work as a daily manifestation of the vision of a nation dwelling in its land and personally fulfilling the essence of the Zionist doctrine, rather than a demonstrative act. Thereby this, calls for the moral privilege and obligation to protect it from its oppressors.

> In Zionism

The memory of the events of Tel Hai and Joseph Trumpeldor turned into a myth immediately after the battle, especially after the return to the abandoned communities. The 11th of Adar became a date marked throughout the country, and especially since members of youth movements arrived at Tel Hai, which in 1946 also served as a cover up for the struggle over yet another settlement in the Galilee, Biriya, which was evacuated by the British and reestablished by members of youth groups. The contents of the myth of Tel Hai itself became the subject of value struggle between the Labor movement and the Revisionist movement that adopted Trumpeldor's image and who also commemorated him by the name of its youth movement - Beitar.