Israel Eldad

Israel Eldad

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Israel Eldad (born 1910 as Israel Scheib in Podvolochisk, Galicia – 1996), was a noted Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i independence fighter and Revisionist Zionist philosopher. He was an early member and later chief ideological strategist of the Lehi (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel)
Lehi (group)
Lehi , commonly referred to in English as the Stern Group or Stern Gang, was a militant Zionist group founded by Avraham Stern in the British Mandate of Palestine...

, a militant Jewish paramilitary group (the Stern gang).

Biography


Israel Scheib was born in 1910 in Eastern Galicia (today Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

) in a traditional Jewish home. The Scheibs wandered as refugees during the First World War. In 1918, in Lvov, young Scheib witnessed a funeral procession for Jews murdered in a pogrom.

After high school, Scheib enrolled at the Rabbinical Seminary of Vienna for religious studies and the University of Vienna for secular studies. He completed his doctorate on “The Voluntarism of Eduard von Hartmann, Based on Schopenhauer,” but never took his rabbinical exams at the seminary.

Meanwhile, he attended, with his father, a protest demonstration in front of the local British Consulate following the 1929 Arab riots in Palestine. The next year he read a poem by Uri Zvi Greenberg
Uri Zvi Greenberg
Uri Zvi Grinberg was an acclaimed Israeli poet and journalist who wrote in Yiddish and Hebrew.-Biography:Uri Zvi Grinberg was born in Bialikamin, Galicia, then Austria-Hungary, into a prominent Hasidic family. He was raised in Lemberg . Some of his poems in Yiddish and Hebrew were published...

, “I’ll Tell It to a Child,” about a messiah who cannot redeem his people because they are not ready to accept redemption. Two or three years later, Scheib met Greenberg at a speech Greenberg was giving entitled “The Land of Israel Is in Flames.”

Scheib’s first job after graduation was teaching high school in Volkovisk. He also published articles in Revisionist Zionist journals and became the commander of a local Betar
Betar
The Betar Movement is a Revisionist Zionist youth movement founded in 1923 in Riga, Latvia, by Vladimir Jabotinsky. It has been traditionally linked to the original Herut and then Likud political parties of Israel, and was closely affiliated with the pre-Israel Revisionist Zionist splinter group...

 chapter.

Scheib joined the staff of the Teachers Seminary in Vilna in 1937 while this city was part of Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, where he stayed for two years. During that time he rose in the Betar ranks to the position of regional staff officer. In 1938, at the Third Betar Conference in Warsaw, when the Revisionist leader Zeev Jabotinsky attacked the militant stance of Poland's Betar leader Menachem Begin
Menachem Begin
' was a politician, founder of Likud and the sixth Prime Minister of the State of Israel. Before independence, he was the leader of the Zionist militant group Irgun, the Revisionist breakaway from the larger Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah. He proclaimed a revolt, on 1 February 1944,...

, Scheib spoke in Begin's defense. The next year, when the Second World War broke out, Scheib and Begin escaped together from Warsaw. Begin was arrested by the Soviet police in the middle of a chess game with Scheib, and it was several years before they met again in British Mandatory Palestine, where Scheib was already a leader of the Lehi
Lehi (group)
Lehi , commonly referred to in English as the Stern Group or Stern Gang, was a militant Zionist group founded by Avraham Stern in the British Mandate of Palestine...

 underground and Begin would soon commanded the Irgun
Irgun
The Irgun , or Irgun Zevai Leumi to give it its full title , was a Zionist paramilitary group that operated in Mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1948. It was an offshoot of the earlier and larger Jewish paramilitary organization haHaganah...

. The Lehi was at that point waging a violent struggle for freedom from British rule and the Irgun would, under Begin, soon join the revolt in hopes of turning Palestine into a Jewish state.

Scheib adopted several aliases while living underground, including "Sambatyon" and "Eldad". Eldad stuck and became the name by which he is remembered. He worked in 1942 directly with Lehi founder Avraham Stern
Avraham Stern
Avraham Stern , alias Yair was a Jewish paramilitary leader who founded and led the militant Zionist organization later known as Lehi .-Early life:Stern was born in Suwałki, Poland...

. After Stern’s killing by the British, Eldad became one of a triumvirate of Lehi commanders, serving with Natan Yellin-Mor and future prime minister Yitzhak Shamir
Yitzhak Shamir
' is a former Israeli politician, the seventh Prime Minister of Israel, in 1983–84 and 1986–92.-Biography:Icchak Jeziernicky was born in Ruzhany , Russian Empire . He studied at a Hebrew High School in Białystok, Poland. As a youth he joined Betar, the Revisionist Zionist youth movement...

. It was in this role where Eldad condoned the assassination of Folke Bernadotte
Folke Bernadotte
Folke Bernadotte, Count of Wisborg was a Swedish diplomat and nobleman noted for his negotiation of the release of about 31,000 prisoners from German concentration camps during World War II, including 450 Danish Jews from Theresienstadt released on 14 April 1945...

, a UN mediator. Yellin-Mor was the diplomatic “foreign minister,” Shamir the operations man, and Eldad the ideologue. For the next six years Eldad wrote articles for various underground newspapers, some of which he edited. Eldad also wrote some of the speeches delivered in court by Lehi defendants.

Eldad was arrested by the British fleeing a Tel Aviv apartment, injured in a fall from a water pipe, and imprisoned in the Jerusalem prison in a body cast. He continued his political and philosophical writing from Cell 18 of the hospital ward at the Jerusalem Central Prison. Eventually Eldad healed enough to escape while on a visit to a dentist’s office, from which several Lehi fighters spirited him away.

During Israel's War of Independence, Eldad was critical of Menachem Begin's Irgun for not defending itself when its arms ship Altalena
Altalena Affair
The Altalena Affair was a violent confrontation that took place in June 1948 between the newly formed Israel Defense Forces and the Irgun, a right-wing Jewish paramilitary group...

 was attacked by Grün's (David Ben-Gurion
David Ben-Gurion
' was the first Prime Minister of Israel.Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism, which began early in life, led him to become a major Zionist leader and Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization in 1946...

) Palmach forces, commanded by Rubitzov (Yitzhak Rabin
Yitzhak Rabin
' was an Israeli politician, statesman and general. He was the fifth Prime Minister of Israel, serving two terms in office, 1974–77 and 1992 until his assassination in 1995....

). He was also critical of the IDF for not fighting harder to conquer Jerusalem’s Old City and critical of Lehi fighters who did not rush to fight in Jerusalem. Towards the end of the war, Eldad disguised himself as a foreign journalist in order to sneak past Israeli military roadblocks and join the battle for Jerusalem.

The Lehi veterans organized politically as the Fighters Party. At one party meeting, Eldad lectured on Sulam, Jacob’s ladder (based on Genesis 28, where Jacob dreams of a ladder uniting heaven and earth), thus beginning the next chapter in his life. For 14 years he published a revolutionary journal, Sulam. Eldad also spent half of 1949 writing his memoirs, entitled Maaser Rishon.

Eldad eventually got a job teaching Bible and Hebrew literature in an Israeli high school, until Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion
David Ben-Gurion
' was the first Prime Minister of Israel.Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism, which began early in life, led him to become a major Zionist leader and Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization in 1946...

 intervened and had him dismissed. Ben-Gurion was afraid Eldad would imbue the students with his Lehi ideology. Eldad went to court and won, but found few people willing to hire him after Ben-Gurion had labeled him a danger to the state. Eldad turned to literary work, wrote histories of underground battles, a biography of the mayor of Ramat Gan, a newspaper-style review of Jewish history called Chronicles, a book of Bible commentary (Hegionot Mikra), weekly newspaper columns, and many more books, encyclopedia entries and other works. In 1962, Eldad was made a lecturer at the Technion in Haifa
Haifa
Haifa is the largest city in northern Israel, and the third-largest city in the country, with a population of over 268,000. Another 300,000 people live in towns directly adjacent to the city including the cities of the Krayot, as well as, Tirat Carmel, Daliyat al-Karmel and Nesher...

. He taught there for twenty years. Since 1982 was a lecturer at the Ariel University Center of Samaria. In 1988, Eldad was awarded Israel’s Bialik Prize for his contributions to Israeli thought.

By the 1990s, Eldad was known as the doyen of Israeli nationalists. He died on the first day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, in January 1996. His funeral was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu is the current Prime Minister of Israel. He serves also as the Chairman of the Likud Party, as a Knesset member, as the Health Minister of Israel, as the Pensioner Affairs Minister of Israel and as the Economic Strategy Minister of Israel.Netanyahu is the first and, to...

, former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir
Yitzhak Shamir
' is a former Israeli politician, the seventh Prime Minister of Israel, in 1983–84 and 1986–92.-Biography:Icchak Jeziernicky was born in Ruzhany , Russian Empire . He studied at a Hebrew High School in Białystok, Poland. As a youth he joined Betar, the Revisionist Zionist youth movement...

 and Knesset Speaker Dov Shilansky
Dov Shilansky
Dov Shilansky was an Israeli politician and Speaker of the Knesset from 1988 to 1992.-Biography:Dov Shilansky was born in Šiauliai, Lithuania. He survived the Holocaust and joined the Irgun, operating in Rome and Germany. He made aliyah in 1948, arriving in Israel on the Altalena, and served as a...

. Eldad was buried on the Mount of Olives
Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives is a mountain ridge in East Jerusalem with three peaks running from north to south. The highest, at-Tur, rises to 818 meters . It is named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes...

, at the foot of the grave of his mentor and friend, Uri Zvi Greenberg.

The Israeli settlement
Israeli settlement
An Israeli settlement is a Jewish civilian community built on land that was captured by Israel from Jordan, Egypt, and Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and is considered occupied territory by the international community. Such settlements currently exist in the West Bank...

 Kfar Eldad
Kfar Eldad
Kfar Eldad is an Israeli settlement and a Communal settlement in the Gush Etzion Regional Council, south of Jerusalem. The settlement is in the vicinity of Herodion and overlooks the Judean Desert. It is named after Israel Eldad, a Lehi member and Israeli philosopher.The population of the...

 was named after him.

Awards

  • In 1977, Eldad was awarded the Tchernichovsky Prize
    Tchernichovsky Prize
    The Tchernichovsky Prize is an Israeli prize awarded to individuals for exemplary works of translation into Hebrew. It is awarded by the municipality of Tel Aviv-Yafo. Although initailly awarded annually, it is now awarded every two years....

     for exemplary translation.
  • In 1988, he was the co-recipient (jointly with Zvi Meir Rabinovitz) of the Bialik Prize
    Bialik Prize
    The Bialik Prize is an annual literary award given by the municipality of Tel Aviv, Israel for significant accomplishments in Hebrew literature. The prize is named in memory of Hayyim Nahman Bialik. There are two separate prizes, one specifically for "Literature", which is in the field of fiction,...

     for Jewish thought.
  • In 1990, he received the Yakir Yerushalayim
    Yakir Yerushalayim
    Yakir Yerushalayim is an annual citizenship prize in Jerusalem, Israel, inaugurated in 1967.The prize is awarded annually by the municipality of the City of Jerusalem to one or more residents of the city who have contributed to the cultural and educational life of the city in some outstanding way....

     (Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem) award from the city of Jerusalem.

Philosophy


Eldad did not believe that the creation of the state of Israel was the goal of Zionism. He considered the state a tool to be used in realizing the goal of Zionism, which he called Malkhut Yisrael (the Kingdom of Israel). Eldad sought what he referred to as national redemption, meaning a sovereign Jewish kingdom in the biblical borders of Israel, with all the world’s Jews living there, and the Jewish Temple
Temple in Jerusalem
The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple , refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of...

 rebuilt in Jerusalem. Eldad steadfastly refused to give legitimacy to any Jewish presence in the Diaspora, which he felt was doomed to extinction. Nonetheless, in his view of history, past generations of Jews in exile from the Land of Israel were not denigrated as passive sufferers but were considered creative players in history. Eldad and his journal Sulam wrote frequently about Jewish political figures who throughout history tried to bring redemption to their people, but who were stymied by geopolitical or other obstacles.

Eldad called on all Jews to join in the building of Israel, not for their personal fulfillment but because they are needed there.
Politically, Eldad favored an independent foreign policy, with Israel not a member of any foreign bloc. He advocated more forceful use of the Israel Defense Forces and opposed the inclusion of the word “defense” in the name of the army. He opposed ceding any land to the Arabs.

Writings


Most of Eldad’s voluminous writings have not been translated into English. A few have been: Chronicles ISBN 965-7108-15-2. The Jewish Revolution appeared in 1971, and was reissued in 2007. Free Jerusalem includes a chapter by Eldad (“Meanwhile, A European Interlude”) about Polish Jewry on the eve of war. Israel: The Road to Full Redemption, a translation of an article in Sulam, was published in 1961 and is today a virtually unobtainable brochure. A website is devoted to disseminating articles by Eldad and his underground colleagues. His memoirs of the time he led the underground, The First Tithe, were first translated and published in 2008 ISBN 978-965-416-015-5. God, Man and Nietzsche includes a lengthy examination of Eldad’s philosophy of history and excerpts from an article about Nietzsche written by Eldad in the underground.

Legacy


Many of Eldad's political and philosophical teachings continue to be espoused by the Magshimey Herut
Magshimey Herut
World Magshimey Herut is a Zionist young adult movement founded in 1999 by a group of Jewish activists who felt the need for a young adult movement dedicated to the ideals of aliyah, social justice and the territorial integrity of the Land of Israel...

 (achievers of liberty) organization, the Zionist Freedom Alliance
Zionist Freedom Alliance
The Zionist Freedom Alliance is an activist grassroots Zionist movement that advocates Israel's moral, legal and historic rights for the Jewish people to the entire Land of Israel, which they consider to include the territory captured during the 1967 Six-Day War...

, and by the Hatikva
Hatikva (political party)
Hatikva is a minor political party in Israel. A secular right-wing party, it is headed by Aryeh Eldad, and forms one of the factions of the National Union alliance.Formed in late 2007, it was officially registered on 9 December 2007...

 political party (led by Eldad's son Aryeh) in Israel.

Further reading

  • Israel Eldad, The Jewish Revolution: Jewish Statehood (Israel: Gefen Publishing House, 2007), ISBN 978-965-229-414-2
  • Israel Eldad, Maaser Rishon. Originally published in 1950 in Hebrew. English translation: The First Tithe (Tel Aviv: Jabotinsky Institute, 2008), ISBN 978-965-416-015-5
  • Israel Eldad, Israel: The Road to Full Redemption (New York: Futuro Press, 1961)
  • Ada Amichal Yevin, Sambatyon (Israel: Bet El, 1995) (Hebrew)
  • Zev Golan, Free Jerusalem: Heroes, Heroines and Rogues Who Created the State of Israel (Israel: Devora, 2003), ISBN 1-930143-54-0
  • Zev Golan, God, Man and Nietzsche: A Startling Dialogue between Judaism and Modern Philosophers (New York: iUniverse, 2007), ISBN 0-595-42700-6
  • Save Israel website