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[Page 150]

My Destroyed City
Holy Smorgon

by Eliahu Galob

Translated by Jerrold Landau

(Excerpts from the book “Destruction”)

A.

Tell me, heavens, why do they lie
Dead and hollow in the city
Who strangled their breath
Which is most desolate, G-d?

See the chimneys of the factories
Like a sparse forest
They stand up, above the living
Dark and cold.

And motionless machinery
Is silent, not active, desolate
Parts of rotting iron
Lying black in rubbish

And the streets stretched out
Like a long corpse;
Heads bent to the ground
Hanging on by a miracle.

Roofs half torn apart
Windows peering blindly.
Reveling freely in the palaces
Every evil wind.

[Page 151]

Balconies fell to the ground
Pillars were twisted,
Sculptures of gods, wildly damaged
Roll about dead.

And the orchards and the flowers
See, they cover the house –
See, the desolation devour still further
Not satisfied with its prey.

Reltzn[1] peer out from the grass
Broken, twisted;
And from afar, hangs wire
Twisted, mute.

Protruding, twisted pipes
Like withered hands,
Hang in pieces in the air
From the crooked walls.

And no drop of force flows
From energy-power;
Absorbed into the nerves
The entire life juices.

The city is covered with a white darkness
In the blind night.
The shadows are swallowed up in themselves,
Not protected by any beam.

Also over the dead does the desolation
Blow its sword,
Rotting bones lie around
On the damp earth.

Graves appears as the wounded
From a sick body,
Naked, dark – like worms
They slink around.

[Page 152]

Hunger begs from everywhere
Lamenting without a voice;
Dogs are gnawing on a human bone
Already for the tenth time.

Tell me, heavens, who harmed
The life source,
And the desolation calls out
Enjoying its celebration?

B.

Then the early morning is ill and pallid
And weary on the fields, the hollowness spreads out.
Somewhere, a lone bird with its melody
From the sparse grove, prepared for tomorrow.

From somewhere around, a weakened sky
Silently the clouds begged for rays
And just as they ruled palely from under the wings
Of the angel of death, they fled to save themselves.

And quietly in the heavens, and quietly in the fields
A quivering terror pervades –
Suddenly a flame bursts forth from somewhere
And is extinguished so quickly from somewhere.

And the air cuts as sharply as a knife
A shaking zuz-ziz[2]… and they were terrified,
An explosion went off, and immediately like a bomb
It had the power of thunder.

And it was calm again in the air –
But immediately the heart of the city felt its pain,
This was a greeting from there
Where life and death go arm in arm.

[Page 153]

And it became desolate. The streets died,
Winding long, without edges, and silently
Escaping in terror, and going somewhere into cellars,
And hiding in damp, crooked pits;

And then, there was a thunder, a second,
And from somewhere afar, a third answered;
These were hostile forces, with flames
Alternating around the city-head.

Lightning appeared high in the air
And cracking sounds shook the ground
Followed by thousands of small bangs
The kettle was boiling hot, as in hell.

The earth and the heavens moaned terribly
A lament of worlds stood in the air.
Tens of thousands of window panes shattered into pieces
And towers fell like shepherd's tents.

A mute fear wandered through the streets
The ill and tired glances gazed.
When will the world curse end
And the sun again send its rays from heaven?

The mother presses the child close to her heart
So that death will not beat him during the moments,
Every thunder rips the heart from the roots
And poisons the soul, and brings death to the blood.

The city is clothed as if in flaming chains
Corpses of horses and people already lie around
Bloody blossoms blanket the streets.

The houses nestled in silence
As the air became filled with death
And the flames frequently burst forth from above
A ball – and they are sent into burning graves.

[Page 154]

C.

Night
A night crept up
Black with silent winds,
Something thunders and crashes
Not sleeping and not calm.

Every knock in the city echoes
It beats against the hard walls
Lurking like a black god
Something is burning far in the heavens.

Red and colorless flames fall
Angry shadows cover
No light is burning on the street
Wandering at the edges of the sky
Quiet, no sound, desolate and silent
From a projector a sharp light,
A magical-red hand
Seeking something with the fingers.

One looks from the cellar of the house
A terror crawls deep into the heart,
Suddenly, tearing out of a pit
A cannon's angry caprice.

_____

D.

A camp tore through
And entered the city
A thousand living heads move
Heavy with iron hanging through[3].

Breathing angrily with flames and fire
And they shudder for a thousand miles.

[Page 155]

They step, hard, numbered, and certain
Going in quick, numbered, steps.

Wagons with people move
Horses and men harnessed together
Both with a common intention,
Pushed far one from the other.

Suddenly, they move apart
On the courtyards, streets, and alleyways;
With angry, fierce eyes
And faces, wild and hot.

They pour out in blind fury
On the stone-gods, images,
They drag everything, to the abyss
Angry and wild words storm forth.

They tear into the cellars
Raping daughters with their mothers.
Beating, destroying everything without stop
Metal, stone, and people together.

The killed sick people in the beds
They tore the tongues out of the mouths
They robbed the dead of their belongings
They twisted the rings with the fingers.

Does it not seethe with wild anger?
That sullies the holiness, empty
It goes, drunken laughter
With the appearance of the faces of beasts.

It becomes wilder in its turbulence
Its evil fury is not satisfied
It attempted then to destroy the city
The creation of a thousand years.

[Page 156]

E.

Shadows wander through the street
Some of them crawling home,
Who will now interfere with the night
When no ray comes from above?

Something moves quietly and leisurely
Lying pale with a package
And a second near a flute
And a third accompanying him.

Flames leap out near a corner,
And hide in the yard
Going from place to place
Ascending into the air in rings.

Quiet, no word is heard,
Who obeys the warnings?
Which are still prepared
In the city that now lies dead?!
_____

Suddenly an agonized shout bursts forth
Going forth from end to end –
It is burning!... It is burning!... the city, woe!
A red terror hovers in the air.

People wander outside
Women, children, naked, and bare,
One falls over the other
Who lost a child and a friend?

And from heaven, from the red
The city is decorated with flames
Flames burst forth from the roofs
Sending red tongues high up.

[Page 157]

And they twist about in clusters
Standing in black columns
Of smoke mixed with flames
Streets and alleyways are deserted.

Sighing from the high balconies,
And the walls tremble
Flames fall from cannons
In the red city that is burning!

Resounding with terror and angry pain
Street out and street in
Th city has become a sea of fire
The people run wildly from the flames.

They do not know where to run
Caught up in rings of fire,
And forgetting street and house
Seeking salvation in a pit.

Mothers grab strange kids
Mothers beat themselves with rage
They pull them out of the flames,
So they will not be lost in the smoke.

It becomes more terrible by the hour
Youth suddenly become grey
And darkening the judgment
They go to save a stone,
They throw themselves into a plume of fire
And are themselves burnt.

_____

And from behind, charging
The entire people with a naked sword,
People free from the fiery kettle
Old, young, people, and horses,

[Page 158]

People run to the forests, the fields
There where the steps are cooking
Dark, but from afar fall
Flames are spreading far and wide.

Still echoing in the air, the knocking
Of collapsing walls
And, in contrast – shooting
Flying around endlessly.

One runs form one place to the next
Behind – terror, and in front – death
The clothes become heavy on the person
The last bread is cast away

They chase people and animals
And rob young and old;
They toss children off the wagons,
And drag women deep into the forest.

F.

The beast went through
And sowed destruction far and wide
A wagon stands in the middle of the path
With its wheels turned backward.

Blades of the windmill hang
Shot through, plucked apart,
And one solitary house protrudes
Without a roof, pushed to the ground.

Lying, tossed around, somewhere or another
Human limbs – covered with dust.
A cap lies without a person
With dark specks of brains.

And on the side, small graves
Without markers, quiet and silent –

[Page 159]

Crows circle around in the air
Wolves smell the air around.

A roar hovers in the air
Someone still moans in the forest,
Dug in the bushes
Orphan-guns stand cold[4].

And in the city, there remains
Not one person and not one house;
An insane person
Wanders around as if a grave.

The black night arrives, and shadows
Lie on the empty street –
The insane person goes around quietly
Digging and seeking in the black ash.

He drags himself around, half burnt,
His arm is bound with a string
He moves through the empty streets
And digs near a wall.

Dogs chase after the victim
A sorrowful hunger pervades on the street –
Death interrupts its desolate slumber
With a crazy scream.

Krakow, May 1918, “Kunst Ring”, Literary and Artistic Almanac, Second Book, second edition, Publishing House, Yiddish.

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. I am not sure of the translation of this word. Return
  2. Zuz-zuz is a word sound like vroom, etc Return
  3. Meaning is unclear. Return
  4. Meaning of orphan-guns is unclear but perhaps guns whose owners died or abandoned them. Return


[Page 160]

Eliahu Golub
(Autobiography)

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay and Frieda Levin Dym

After the October Revolution, Eliahu Golub fought on the Ukrainian Front against the Germans. In 1918, he started to produce songs steeped in Yiddish Literature and embedded with Russian-Soviet undertones. His works include: “In the Storm”, Poems, in 1934, Krakow 1918, “To a New World”, Symbolic Drama in 4 parts, in 1948, in 1919, “Between two Worlds” (songs and poems), in 1971, Krakow 1921.

Note: the dates are transcribed exactly as in the original Yiddish


[Page 161]

Gershon Broide (1888-1947)

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay and Frieda Levin Dym

Gerhon Broide was born in Smorgon in 1888 into a wealthy family in the Leather Business.

He studied in Bern, Switzerland. During the years of the First World War and the October Revolution, he lived in Moscow. In 1921-1925, he remained in Berlin. In 1925, he immigrated to Israel. He died in 1947, at the age of 59.


[Page 162]

G–D and Samael (The Devil)[1]

by Gershon Broide

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay and Frieda Levin Dym

Samael, with might and fury, descended from the skies
Upon our land.
The first song, one in which the world had never known before
Was to G–D.

And we endured this Holy Melody for eternity
No one disturbed the choir!
He stood young and steadfast
He forgot about us in his Creation.

The world sang! And in every corner
Where there was silence–we felt the THUNDER!
Suddenly, the earth was destroyed
The song was forever silenced.

[Page 163]

Our voices, pitiful and tearful, from…
“Let go of me”
“The higher I raise my voice
Eventually you will succeed”

“If you want to leave me here in pain
A man who still believes in a G–D
A corpse from the earth–to remain on this earth
With hope to understand my request.”

And G–D took a mountain of earth
And from it made a Holy corpse,
But before he could give him ….
He was lost in his thoughts.

In the meantime, Samael, flies down
From the skies, with speed, to attack
The corpse, and ….

With great stealth, he finished his work
G–D alone remarked!
And blew his spirit into the corpse
A spirit that is Holy and Pure!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Translator's Note

  1. Samael “Venom of G–D” or “Poison of G–D” or “Blindness of G–D” is an important archangel in Talmudic and post Talmudic lore, a figure who is an accuser (satan), seducer, and destroyer, and has been regarded as both good and evil. Return


[Page 164]

Nissan Meckler

by David Yosifon

Translated by Sara Mages

Was born on, 11 Tevet 5662, in Smorgon, Russia, to his parents, Avraham Sheraga Feivel and Chana. At the age of five and a half he entered the “Heder” and a year later a disaster happened to him: one of his eyes was blinded in an accident. He continued to study at the “Heder.” A year and a half later he was hit on the head and lost sight in the other eye. His parents traveled with him to the best physicians in Russia and Germany, but to no avail. They were advised to put him in an institution for the blind in Europe, However, R' Avraham Sheraga Feivel, an honest Jew who read the Torah in his Kloiz (in return for his service he lived in a narrow and wet cellar without paying rent), absolutely refused to give his son to an institution where Christians were also educated. At that time the father was still working in his profession, shoemaking (and was very poor along with that), sent the boy, accompanied by his grandfather, to the Institute for the Blind in Jerusalem.

In 1913, a year before the outbreak of the First World War, Nissan was accepted as a student at the School for the Blind. It soon became apparent that the boy had excellent talents: was active, focused, a good friend, virtuous and level-headed.

Thirteen years later his younger brother, who left the Yeshiva, immigrated to Israel and became a laborer in the country. After that his parents and sister also immigrated.

When he got older, Nissan stood out in the institution as a young man of spirit, alert to public life, idealist, who was very interested in the life of his blind brothers' to faith. Over the years he became their spokesman in the institution and outside it.

To fulfill his aspiration to attain higher education he had to obtain a matriculation certificate, but, at that time, it wasn't yet customary to take external matriculation exams in our country. Meckler was examined at the Hebrew High-School in Jerusalem by the Board of Education, according to authorization and special arrangement, and passed the exams. He entered to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and chose to study humanities: general philosophy, history and sociology. In 5695, he successfully completed his studies at the university and received,

[Page 165]

despite his blindness. a master's degree in humanities. He did not settle for the education he had acquired and aspired for further education. In the meantime, he also urged his friends at the institution to study in teachers' colleges and to continue their studies at the university. After graduating from the university, Dr. Sheraga Feivel Kalai, the principal of a high school in Baghdad, asked him to come to Baghdad and serve as a teacher at the Jewish school for the blind which opened there that year. Meckler, who already had an experience teaching at the institution where he had been educated, accepted the job and prepared to travel and teach reading and writing in Braille, crafts and musical instruments.

But, in the meanwhile, Dr. Y. L. Megnes, who lived at that time in the United States, tried to get him a scholarship so he could study at Columbia College in New York in the Department of Blind Education. Meckler preferred to take this good opportunity and rejected the teaching work in an Arab country…

When he returned to Israel at the end of 1936, he entered to teach at the Institute for the Blind in Jerusalem, where he grew up and was educated, and immediately became the central figure in the teaching faculty. One of the teachers at the institution defined him well after she returned from the cemetery: “He was the conscience within us!” The conscience of the institution, that's how everyone knew him.

He acted according to justice and morality in matters between man and his friend. There's no one among the institution's employees, today and in the past, that Meckler did not make every effort to help him in time of need. He was the driving force behind the establishment of the employees' committee in the institution, and in 1946 he managed to reach an agreement between the institution's committee and the employees' committee that he headed from its inception to his last day. The agreement was signed at the initiative of “Histadrut Hapkidim” [The Office Workers' Union] in Jerusalem and at Meckler's initiative. Since then, all of Meckler's free time was given to the interest of the workers in general and the personal and professional matters of each of them in particular, without exception.

The night of the UN vote on Israel's independence, everyone is sitting by the radio tense and anxious, but Meckler, in his typical peace of mind, comments: “I'm sure that we will succeed.” Jerusalem is shelled, especially in the vicinity of the institution. Everyone is sitting in the shelter, crowded and shaking. A fifty kilogram shell explodes in the institution's yard destroying part of its building. Meckler sits and tells the students funny stories - childhood memories and mischievous acts, and fascinates the children with his stories. Everyone forgets the magnitude of the danger they face.

No one had ever heard Nissan Meckler slander anyone. He always spoke well about a person, could not see sin, understood everything and forgave. Loved peace and pursued peace. For that, everyone loved him - young and old students, employees and teachers, all of them did not take a step without him in the field of education and teaching at the institution. He was

[Page 166]

the fortress to which everyone turned to. He worked tirelessly at home, without getting paid, in different areas of the education system and in the area of printing Braille books by volunteers that he alone was in contact with them. He directed and guided, wrote and answered, in the field of improving the situation of the blind and rehabilitating them, even those who were outside the institution. For that reason the members of the blind association, “Sheshet,” canceled the party that was going to take place on the day of his burial and rushed to his funeral. Also all the members of the blind cooperative, “HaTikvah,” closed their workshop and came to Jerusalem to pay their last respect.

He supported his family with all his savings. His niece wrote him that she had been sent home from high-school, where she was studying, because her father, who was out of work, could not pay the tuition, and the good uncle sent the required amount without hesitation, He did not build a family home for himself, but purchased an apartment in Beit-Hakerem and put in his old friend, Emanuel Schaffer and his wife, the printer at the school for the blind. Such was the man that few like him were in our generation.

He was the main speaker in all the teachers' meetings and, when Meckler spoke. everyone listened because his words were never empty, everything - to the point with no trace of selfishness, but, for the common good or for the individual to whom he came to help and fight his war of deprivation. Everyone knew that when Meckler opened his mouth, only justice and truth, to which he aspired, spoke from his throat.

May his memory be blessed!


[Page 167]

My Brother Avraham Forsite
(1896-1954)

by Benjamin Forsite

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay and Frieda Levin Dym

Avraham, while still in his younger years, brought into our home in Smorgon a new style and set of ideas and views of a broader world that lay beyond our shtetl.

Quite young, he left for the Ukraine and found work in a little town called Mena, in the district of Chernigov. Here he familiarized himself with the lives of the peasants (i.e. the peasant way of life).

When he returned home to us in Smorgon for the holidays, he brought with him the revolutionary (Russian) songs and taught them to us. He was being indoctrinated with Revolutionary ideals in Mena and was forced to flee. When he returned to Smorgon in 1915, he accompanied us on our wander-years through Smorgon- Moledechno, Minsk-Kharkov, and then Rostov on the Don.

He started working immediately as a bookkeeper and began to think of his future in the Commercial Institute. But the [political climate] state of affairs at that time, the Revolution and the civil struggle, beckoned him to abandon his studies.

He was tormented by his convictions. Not being able to pursue his dreams, he helped our father with his earnings.

These times were uneasy and turbulent. Pogroms organized by the White Russians were awaiting for us in Rostov. Avraham immediately got involved, bringing home a revolver and teaching us how to defend ourselves in the event of a Pogrom. Times were always changing in the Ukraine. Jews were living in “Holy Fear”!

In 1921, our mother and father died, and the livelihood of the family was left to Avraham.

In 1922, we used up all our means, and our last option was immigrating to relatives in America. We arrived in New York in 1923.

[Page 168]

The process of starting life anew and adapting to a new profession became very difficult. Our relatives, to whom we arrived, were far from being rich folk, but Avraham developed an idea. He became a businessman. In 1925 he got married.

World War II began and our entire Jewish world suffered.

Avraham threw all his energy into relief work to help his fellow Smorgoners who persevered through these most difficult times and miraculously survived their destruction [lives].

He was weak and sick, but Avraham hid his sorrow and longing for our homeland Israel. He could not make himself too comfortable here and he was tormented by his yearning to be in the “Homeland”.

Avraham arrived in Israel in 1954 with his wife Sima, his sister, and the Rebbetsin[1], Ester Warshavski, for a visit. On the second day of Pesach, he died suddenly.

He produced 3 works: one was “Bar Kochba” [published] in New York in 1941. It is a historical book. Below is an excerpt:

The Bar Kochba uprising, that started in 132 A.D. was a National Liberation War where the Zealots fought for over 60 years. The spirit of the Zealots, their idealism, courage and bravery and their willingness to fight until the end, surely found resonance in the ranks for the Bar Kochba”s heroes.

Bar Kochba's fighters are referred in this book as “Zealots” even though, in fact, the fighters actually were soaked in Blood and Fire in the destruction in the year 70 (the same year of the destruction of the Holy Temple). The Bar Kochba uprising serves as a symbol for the future Jewish struggle for National survival.[2]

The book was 256 pages. In 1947, his “In the Red Glow”, is introduced (a work in 3 parts) and here is an excerpt from his book:

[Page 169]

The most important event in our time was the Russian Revolution, the events of which influenced the world and change the whole of mankind. I was in Russia in those fateful days, I lived and breathed the turmoil, and vowed to write my thoughts and remember those images of these times. During the moment, it was still so fresh and new. I would not have been able to put it in perspective and to comment objectively, so I held myself back from writing about these events for 20 years.

The rise of Fascism and more importantly, the years that the Nazis engulfed all of Europe, compelled the necessity to bring to the Jewish readers my modest works.

 

 

His third work was, “To a Bright Future”, which was introduced in 1953, shortly before his untimely death.

[Page 170]

In this work, he goes back home to satisfy the great longing to return to his little shtetl of Smorgon among his old friends and personal belongings. He returns to his Jewish roots, to the Hassidic customs and to the Mitzvoth in all its Holiness. And he returned to his melodious songs that ring from the Torah, with the singing and blessings that remember “Israel” (In praise of Israel)

May his memory forever live on and be a blessing.

Translator's Notes

  1. Rebbetsin or Rebbetzin is a wife of a Rabbi or alternatively a female teacher. Return
  2. More information can be found here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bar_Kokhba_revolt Return


[Page 171]

Yitzchak Bar'Eli (Izik Brudny)
(1888–1956)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Yitzchak Bar'Eli, the director of Bank Hapoalim, died in Tel Aviv on Iyar 3, 5716 (1951). He was one of the heads of the workers' movement and forgers of the shape of the economic and financial institutions of the Israeli workers' movement. He was born 67 years previously, on Marcheshvan 1, 5649 (1890), under the name of Izik Brudny, in our town of Smorgon, to his father Meir Brudny and his mother Sheina (nee Sapir) Brudny.

He was the scion of a Smorgon family. Ten generations of his ancestors are buried in Smorgon, and he was able to discuss them all within the family circle. Apparently, the ancestors of the family arrived in Lithuania from the city of Brody (from where the name Brudny stems) during the time of the Chmielnicki disturbances. At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, this family was called by the Jews of Smorgon by the name of Eliahu–Leib (for example, Izak Brudny's father would be called Reb Meir Eliahu–Leib's)[1]. Therefore, the name was changed to Bar'Eli in Israel, named after that great–grandfather. In this rabbinical family, the grandfather of Izik Brudny, Shlomo Mordechai Brudny, stands out. He is a native of Smorgon who served for many years as the rabbi of Steibitz (Stolbtsy), and was the first teacher of Zalman Shazar (Rubashov), the third president of Israel. Shlomo Mordechai Brudny was the author of the “Ohel Shem” responsa book.

After cheder studies in Smorgon and Yeshiva in Slobodka, Y. Bar'Eli traveled to the Land. He toured it and then studied in the American University in Beirut, as a preparation for life in the Land of Israel. Only after he gave up on the educational level in Beirut did he transfer to Berne, Switzerland, where he completed his academic studies. During the First World War, when the retreating Russians burnt Smorgon [likely 1915], the family moved to Kharkov. This was a year after Bar'Eli married Dr. Chava Yahalom. He only succeeded in leaving the Soviet Union for Lithuania in 1921. He remained there for about five years. He built the largest banking institution of Lithuanian Jewry, the Central Bank, which he headed. His only son, Meir, was born there [in Lithuania].

He made aliya to the Land in 1926. He directed the Mashbir Hamerkazi [Central Distribution]. He took upon himself the leadership role during the period of the difficult depression, when the first Solel Boneh weakened, and the

[Page 172]

entire economy was in the pits. After he succeeded in extricating the central consumers' cooperative from its difficulties, he transferred to lead Bank Hapoalim. This became his life's work for close to 30 years.

Even though he occupied himself in communal affairs to no small degree before his aliya to the Land, as one of the builders of Tzeirei Tzion and later, [another institution], Tz. S. (Socialist Zionists) (at first in Soviet Russia, and later in Lithuania); after he arrived in the Land, he dedicated his talents and energy solely to business. Even his communal work in Mapai (Israel Labor Party) was both directly and indirectly tied to economic affairs. He was a member of the directorship of almost all the important economic institutions of the Histadrut, and dedicated time, talent, and energy appropriate to what was needed in various eras. He was also a member of the leadership of several primary economic institutions in the Land, such as Bank Leumi LeYisrael.

 

 

Yitzchk Bar'Eli's work in Magbit Hitgaysut VeHatzala [Campaign for Enlistment and Rescue] was unique in his communal activities. He was a member of the leadership throughout all the years. In essence, this fund laid the groundwork for independent Hebrew taxation in the Land even before there was a sovereign Jewish state. He became ill during his final years yet he continued to work with great energy despite his

[Page 173]

physical weakness. He laid the foundations for a great expansion of Bank Hapoalim during the years of the state.

He was also a delegate to the Zionist congresses from the tenth congress until the end of his days (except for two or three congresses to which he was unable to travel). He was at the center of the financial activities of the congresses and headed a few of the financial committees. He was also the chairman of the budget committee of the Jewish Agency for many years.

His memory remains etched in the hearts of his friends and acquaintances, not only on account of his deeds and achievements, but also because of his personal integrity, his good heart, and his willingness to assist anyone in need of help. He assisted with a full heart and an abundance of charm, wisdom, human, and great knowledge of Jewish popular folklore.

Translator's Footnote:

  1. Nicknaming after an ancestor with the possessive form was a common form of appellation among Eastern European Jews. Return


[Page 174]

David Raziel

Translated by Jerrold Landau

His remains were transferred from Iraq to Cyprus, and brought to burial in the Jewish Cemetery in Margo, near Nicosia, on December 20, 1955. They were transferred to a military grave on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on March 17, 1961.

 

His Roots:

He was the descendent of rabbis, great in Torah and mighty in faith. David Raziel was born in the city of Smorgon, Vilna District, on 18th Kislev 5671 (1910) to his father Reb Avraham–Mordechai Rozenson and his mother Bluma.

In his parents' home, he was imbued with a nationalistic consciousness rooted in the early generations: the strong faith in the greatness of the chosen people and the pain from the degradation of the pride of our nation under the oppressive conditions of exile. From his ancestors who lamented the destruction of the temple during the nights, he inherited the burning desire for redemption and the feeling of the bitterness of Diaspora life that bent the Jewish image.

He was three years old when he made aliya with his parents to the Land of Israel in the summer of 5674 (1914). His father was invited from the Diaspora to serve as a teacher in the Tachkemoni School of Tel–Aviv Yafo[1]. After approximately a half a year, on account of the persecution and deportations by the Turkish Army during the First World War, the family was deported along with other Jewish families on account of their Russian citizenship. [The child] David wandered with his parents through Egypt to Ukraine, central Russia, Georgia, Moscow, and Kovno. They wandered from country to country, from exile to exile, for eight years. During this time, he received his education from his father and mother. He studied a great deal of Torah, and learned the Hebrew language from his early childhood. He already knew almost the entire Bible by heart by the age of eight. He knew the six order of Mishnah by heart by the age of 12.

During the years of wandering, David read a great deal of modern Hebrew literature. Through his reading and study of Bible, he became very impressed with the bravery and glory of our ancestors in the olden days. During his wandering, he saw the Jewish nation in the degradation of exile. The months of his childhood in which he lived in the Land of Israel with his parents remained etched in his memory. He aspired to return to the Land, and his will to follow the paths of our early heroes and to fight for the liberation of our homeland was great.

He returned to the Land with his parents at the age of 12, after his father was invited a second time to serve as a teacher in the Tachkemoni School. On Chanukah 5683 (1922), eight years after they were deported from the Land, David returned, rich in experiences from their time of wandering, and rich in the spirit that he absorbed from the study of Bible and Hebrew literature.

David Raziel completed his studies in Tachkemoni, and took the government matriculation exams. He studied in the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva of the Gaon Ra'yh (Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen) Kook of blessed memory for two years. Then he began

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to study in the department of spiritual sciences at the Hebrew University. He also studied mathematics and philosophy, and excelled in those subjects.

David Raziel's soul was a wonderful blend of the wisdom of Shem and Japheth[2]. His compositions from his childhood excelled in artistic sparks that foreshadowed the sprouting of great talent. He wrote a great deal about the heroes of the Bible. Two plays that he wrote have been preserved from that childhood era: The Spies, and Korach; as well as comprehensive monographs: Saul and David. These creations from his childhood days excelled in their artistic refinement and the enchanting spirit that testified to the strong yearning of the young author for ancient heroism, the judges and kings of Israel, the greats of the nation and its martyrs. Later, the child became impressed with the bravery of the Hasmoneans, the heroes of the wars of the Second Temple period, Bar Kochba, and Rabbi Akiva. In his eyes, Rabbi Akiva was a symbol of the spirit with his studies and might, and he aspired to follow his path, to gather troops, to strengthen the hands of the fighters, and to teach the bow to the children of Israel[3].

 

 

His Activities

The bloody disturbances of 5689 / 1929 consolidated within him the consciousness that the redemption of Israel will not come without fighters for the redemption. The slaughter of the students of the Hebron Yeshiva without opposition created in him the strong desire to build up the strength of the Hebrew youth. His

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childhood dreams took on form [lit: skin and bones]. He joined a group of volunteers of the communal council of Jerusalem. His first task was to accompany the tens of Yeshiva students who were slaughtered in Hebron to their eternal rest.

In the wake of the disturbances of 5689 / 1929, a portion of the important officers separated from the ranks of the Haganah and set up the Irgun Tzvai Leumi. David Raziel joined the separatists immediately upon the founding of the Irgun. From then, he dedicated his talents to studying military professions. On account of the dearth of Hebrew military literature, he went to foreign sources, and studied with great diligence until he became one of the top officers. He was given the responsibility for conducting courses for officers of the Irgun Tzvai Leumi, or, as the Irgun was nicknamed in those days “Haganah Bet”. In order to instill, advance, and disseminate military training among the soldiers, he translated, edited, and authored professional manuals. David Raziel was a pioneer and guide in the writing of military books. His books served as the source of advanced study and knowledge during the early days of the rise of Hebrew military power.

The disturbances of 5696 / 1936 brought a fateful change to the life of David Raziel – a change that had a decisive influence on the history of our nation. Bloody disturbances broke out once again in the Land of Israel. Mass murder began. Much Jewish property was destroyed. The Arab enemy wished to stop the mighty stream of immigrants that stemmed from the countries of Nazified Europe, over whom the shadow of the Holocaust was already hovering. The official leaders of the Jewish community decreed “restraint,” and preached restraint regarding the use of force amongst the Hebrew youth, proclaiming the command “Thou shalt not kill” even when the enemy rose up and murdered Jews, men, women, and children, on a daily basis.

At the beginning of the disturbances, the activity of Haganah Bet was still restricted to guarding activities, but its commanders quickly reached the conclusion that the policy of restraint was lacking in political propriety, and was certainly lacking in military correctness. It led to an increase of Jewish victims, and gave the British a pretext to accede to the demands of the Arab strongmen.

The official leaders opposed a change to the policy of restraint, and when Haganah Bet decided to begin retribution actions, some of its officers left and joined the Haganah. The fighters remained in the Irgun Tzvai Leumi.

David Raziel quickly became known as a revered commander. The chief of the organization, Zeev Jabotinsky of blessed memory, gave him the chief command. With his talents in work, his commitment to the goals, and his readiness to serve as a personal example of self–sacrifice, David Raziel earned the trust of the officers and the soldiers, some of whom were more veteran and older than he.

He organized the ranks around the battle flag and began to act. On 10 Kislev 5698 (November 14, 1937), known as “Black Friday” he conducted the first attack against Arab gangs in Jerusalem. The restraint was broken, to the dismay of the official leaders. The battle of the Irgun Tzvai Leumi began, and did not stop throughout the period of the disturbances that continued until the year 5699 (1939), and only stopped with the outbreak of the Second World War.

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David Raziel was the head of both the planners and the actualizers. He placed himself in danger before he endangered the life of others. He shocked the enemy and proved that Jewish blood was not wanton. He transferred the battle to the gates of the enemy who stood securely in the paths of murderers. However, he did not suffice himself with that. In his spirit, he saw the rise of a Hebrew army which will storm and liberate the homeland at an opportune time. He dedicated all his strength and talent to this goal, and spent days and nights studying books of tactics and strategy in order to prepare the generation of fighters for this goal.

During this period, Raziel wrote many booklets and books on military professions. Anything he learned from foreign sources he translated to Hebrew. His works that he authored during the underground war include: The Pistol, written together with Avraham Stern (Yair), may G–d avenge his blood; The Leadership Doctrine; Exercises in the Order of Consolidation and Dispersing, as well as Notes to Klausowitz; On Reality; Principles in the Giving of Orders and Fulfillment; and the Spirit of the Kibbutz.

* * *

His activities broadened and reached the centers of Hebrew youth in the Diaspora. Underground cells of the Irgun Tzvai Leumi arose in Poland, Lithuania, and other countries, and were prepared to serve as the reserve army of the army of liberated Israel.

The reserve army broke through and rose. The Haapala (Illegal Immigration) period began. The official leaders preached against the illegal immigration. They desired to preserve the selective aliya according to the certificates of the mandate government. However, the danger of annihilation was already hovering over Europe. Jabotinsky issued his call to liquidate the Diaspora, and the soldiers of the Irgun Tzvai Leumi from all locations began to break through to the shores of the Land. Masses of other Jews, including competitors, made aliya along with the soldiers of the Irgun Tzvai Leumi. This was the “Free aliya” and every Jew had the right to save himself and leave Europe through the Haapala and the Underground, under the command of David Raziel. Thousands upon thousands of Jews are alive and well today in the Land of Israel, having been saved from the vale of murder thanks to the activities of the Haapala.

Through the narrow path of the underground, David Raziel succeeded in going to the Diaspora, and meeting Zeev Jabotinsky face to face. During that historical meeting, the warlord of Etzel[4] expressed his reverence for the “Man of Steel” David Raziel. “Sir, I have waited for him for these past fifteen years,” he said about him, and imbued him with his full reverence and trust. David Raziel bore the highest rank in Etzel, “Aluf ben Anat.” He was the only person to bear the rank Aluf (Brigadier).

During this period, Etzel broadened its activities, and opened attacks against the British government, which had been subdued by Arab terror and proclaimed the decrees of the “White Paper” against the Hebrew settlement. From that time, Etzel took upon the goal of proving that giving in to the Arabs will not restore quiet to the Land, and that the Hebrew youth will fight with all their might against the strangling plots included in the “White Paper.”

* * *

With the outbreak of the Second World War, Etzel decreed a truce in the battle against the British.

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A common enemy arose against humanity as a whole – the Hitlerist beast. The majority of the Etzel leadership reached the decision that the Irgun must decree a truce due to the immediate danger of physical destruction threatening the Jewish people by Hitler.

Through the intercession of Pinchas Rotenberg of blessed memory, Raziel was freed from prison a short time after the outbreak of the war[5]. The rest of the imprisoned Etzel members were freed after him, including Avraham Stern (Yair), may G–d avenge his blood. Then the schism in the ranks of the Irgun began, with a group of captains headed by Yair forming the Irgun Hatzvai Haleumi BeYisrael, later called “Lochmei Cherut Yisrael”[6]. David Raziel married Shoshana Spitzer, a commander in the Etzel, some time after being freed from prison.

 

The Final Mission

The German enemy threatened to conquer the Middle East. Rommel's army advanced through the deserts of Africa toward the Land of Israel. Anti–British ferment arose in the Arab lands, with the aim of helping the advancing enemy army. The “Revolt” of Rashid Ali broke out in Iraq, with the help of Germany and the support of the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin El Husseini, who was responsible for the murderous acts perpetrated by the Arabs against the Jewish settlement in the Land.

The victory of Rashid Ali and his friend the Mufti was liable to bring the enemy armies and air force to the borders of the Land of Israel, whose fate would be sealed since the forces of the Jewish settlement were insufficient to defend it. The sword of destruction was waved with full threat over the Jewish settlement.

During those fateful days, David Raziel saw three primary goals for the Etzel:

When they [leaders of war effort] approached David Raziel with the proposal to directly help the allies by penetrating behind the lines of Rashid Ali, he did not hesitate, and accepted the role. In opposition to the opinion of his friends, he decided to go himself into the line of fire, at the head of a small group of daring youths who had no fear.

They went out and fulfilled one of the most important roles in subduing the rebels and conquering Baghdad. He himself planned the defense of the airport in Habbaniya. It is characteristic that he advice was taken as literal commands. Everyone felt that standing before them was a man who was proficient in military tactics.

The members of his group penetrated in disguise the besieged capital, which was surrounded by the allies. They stood firm and did not flinch from the fear of the Iraqi and German forces that were literally within the walls of the city. This hesitation was liable to decide the fate of the battle, for the rebels had the stronger force, and could only be subdued by a flash battle. To do so required information on what was transpiring within the besieged city. A group of Etzel men brought the information and salvaged the situation. They infiltrated the enemy lines at the risk of their lives.

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They carried out sabotage actions and determined that the Iraqi army was in a state of disorderly retreat, and there was no defense of Baghdad. This revelation surprised the British command, who decided to conquer Baghdad.

The efforts to assassinate the Jerusalem Mufti did not bear fruit. The Mufti escaped to Germany when the revolt failed, where [after] he collaborated with the Nazi enemy in the liquidation of European Jewry.

* * *

David Raziel went out on his rounds of the advancing lines on 23 Iyar, 5703 (1943). His group was attacked by the German air force, and he fell victim, far from the homeland. He was buried in the military cemetery in Iraq, with the name “Ben Moshe.”

 

The Funeral Cortege of David Raziel Sets Out for Mount Herzl

The funeral cortege of David Raziel, may G–d avenge his blood, the chief commander of Etzel who fell in Iraq more than 20 years ago, whose coffin was brought to Israel from Cyprus yesterday, set out this morning from Tel Aviv on route to Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. It was accompanied by a large procession of automobiles, in them thousands of Etzel people from the entire country. There was a delegation of Beitar veterans, communal personalities, and a large, variegated crowd.

Mr. Y. Ben–Zvi, the president of the state, delegated his military advisor, Major D. Hermon, to represent him today in the funeral of David Raziel.

The chairman of the Knesset, Mr. K. Luz, passed by the coffin of David Raziel of blessed memory at 8:45 this morning in the Metzudat Zeev meeting hall in Tel Aviv. The chairman of the Knesset tarried next to the coffin for several minutes.

Immediately following him were Knesset members Argov, the chairman of the foreign and security committee; and E. Govrin, the chairman of the Mapai faction in the Knesset and leader of the coalition.

David Raziel's close friends tarried next to his coffin during the night at Metzudat Zeev, taking turns in guarding. They brought forth memories of the era of the underground, and recited words of prayer.

The elder commanders of Etzel and members of his command conducted a mourning roll–call next to the coffin.

The coffin, draped in the national flag, was taken out to the square next to the fortress at 9:30.

Member of Knesset Y. Meridor, who was Raziel's deputy, spoke emotional words. Then, the coffin was placed in a command car, and the funeral procession set out, accompanied by brigades of Etzel and many delegations from the country and the Diaspora.

Six veterans of Etzel, bearing their arms, served as the honor guard in the command car.

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A group of nurses from the national Kupat Cholim in white uniforms were prominent among the cortege.

The coffin reached the Great Synagogue of Tel Aviv around 10:30. The Kel Maleh Rachamim prayer was recited there by the chief cantor. Eulogies were not delivered.

From the synagogue, the funeral procession set out to Rechov Haaliya, where cars were waiting to accompany the cortege to Jerusalem.

“You have returned to the homeland, our commander.” The remains of David Raziel, may G–d avenge his blood, have come to their rest and inheritance after 20 years.

At a distance of several tens of steps from the grave of the visionary of the state, the grave of one of the choicest of the fighters for its independence was dug. Near to the burial place of many of the fallen of the Israel Defense Forces, the man who bore the vision of the Hebrew army is buried.

Soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces fired three volleys in his memory. David Raziel was buried for the third and final time.

All of those who knew him, who fought with him, and even who opposed him, came to accompany him on his final journey. There were members of his command from more than 20 years earlier. They marched in an upright position, in a united, honorable group. Many looked on. Others were unable to approach the event. Clods of earth were brought from atop the graves of those killed in defense of the State to be placed onto Raziel's grave.

There were younger people present, members of the generation who did not know David and his activities. These youths heard about Raziel from what was written, or from their parents.

Communal notables, the city fathers, rabbis, judges headed by the president of the supreme court, the delegate of the president, the secretary of the prime minister, and military personal followed after the coffin. Yeshiva students and workaday people who closed their businesses and locked their offices to pay their final respects to Aluf Ben–Anat marched en masse.

The elderly Rabbi Aryeh Levin, the rabbi of the underground prisoners, was present.

His faithful people stood there according to their flags: people of the command from all parts of the country came and wore black berets; members of Cherut and Beitar in blue uniforms, under their flags; nurses of the national Kupat Cholim in their white dresses; and behind them – thousands of people. Some were anonymous soldiers of the former underground. Others felt a personal need to accompany one of the first of these soldiers on his final journey.

Yafo Street, the main street of Jerusalem, changed its appearance yesterday afternoon. Instead of bustling traffic, thousands of residents of the city stood along its length, while many others filled the balconies above it. The long mourning cortege appeared before their eyes. In front was the coffin, covered with the flag of Israel. Behind it were the family members of the deceased. Marching behind them silently in one block was the group of former commanders, prisoners of Mizra, Latrun, Jerusalem, Sudan, and Eritrea – a group who believed in the path of David Raziel.

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David Raziel was an emissary of a mitzvah [holy task] – thus did [Chief] Rabbi Yitzchak Nissim state [utter] next to his grave. An emissary of a mitzvah – who gave his life for it. David Raziel raised the honor of his nation and was one of the renewers of the tradition of bravery of the Jewish nation.

Thousand surrounded the grave. The cold wind blew the clouds eastward. The final rays of sunlight caressed the peak of Mount Herzl.

“Fire!”, commanded the young army captain before the groups of his soldiers. The volley of gunshots resonated from one end of the mountain to the other: once, twice, and three times.

Wreaths of greenery were piled on the grave. The remains of David Raziel returned to the nation.

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. The Diaspora refers to the corpus of the Jewish community in general outside the Land of Israel. So one can be invited by the Diaspora (i.e. from outside of Israel). The other references to Diaspora in this article are consistent with this meaning. Return
  2. Referring to a blend of spiritual knowledge [Shem] and the arts [Japheth]. Return
  3. A reference to II Samuel 1:18, the dirge of David to Saul and Jonathan. Return
  4. Alef Tzadi Lamed – acronym for Irgun Tzvai Leumi. Ie. Irgun and Etzel are synonymous. Return
  5. Apparently he was captured by the British: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/david–raziel Return
  6. Known as the Stern Gang. Return

 

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