Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tel Hai

Last year I mentioned that I had become acquainted with a relative of some of the chalutzim that lived and died at Tel Hai, and I promised that I would follow up with more information.  So, sorry for the delay...
Here is the information I was able to secure........

Tel Hai

Below is the text of the email that my cousin Surrell Silverman sent to me in 2007 after a visit she had made to Israel and Tel Hai.    Surrell and my mother, Minnie Rissman (now deceased, sadly) are first cousins.   Surrell's father was named Charles Weintrub.  His sister was Libby Weintrub, my maternal grandmother.  Both were from Lipchan, a small village in Bessarabia (Russia or Rumania, depending on time, borders changed over time).  
Devora Drachler was Charles' and Libby's first cousin.   As we discussed and you can see below, Devora Drachler fought with Trumpeldor at Tel Hai and was one of the 8 who was killed defending it.  I don't know offhand when Devora Drachler was born, but I can tell you that my grandmother Libby Weintrub was born sometime around 1899.   She immigrated with my grandfather, Max Rissman, to Montreal in the 1920's where she lived the rest of her life. They had 3 children.  She lived to be 101 years old!

Best regards,
Sherri Federico

When I was a child my father, Charles would talk about this paternal cousin Devora Drachler who died with Trumpeldor, the one armed Russian Jewish independence fighter, at Tel Hai. These stories stayed with me through the years. Although I had traveled to Israel 3 times I had never been to Tel Hai.  You may ask what Tel Hai is and why is it important in Israel’s history. Today Tel Hai is a historic site in the northern Galil that commemorates the heroism of the Hula Valley pioneers who stubbornly defended their homes to the death.   
At a very similar time that Devora was in Tel Hai, my father was a chalutz (pioneer) in Haifa, building the Technion. The only written records that I have of my father’s stay in Israel are my mother’s notes on the back of photographs of him which show that he was in Haifa and other parts of Israel from 1919-1928.
A visit to Tel Hai was top on my agenda on this 4th trip to Israel. My husband Gene shared my enthusiasm as we looked for and found the Tel Hai settlement.
As one travels north in the Upper Galilee, passing Kiryat Shemona (Town of the Eight, named after the eight who died at Tel Hai) on Route 90 towards Metulla near the Lebanese border, the former Tel Hai kibbutz is located on the left of the road. It is on the south side of the new Tel Hai University. It was a joy to see the multitude of young Israeli college students carrying their books and walking in the campus. On the right side of the road opposite the settlement and the university is a beautiful modern structure housing the Tel Hai Photography Museum.  Seeing all of these new buildings made us feel very proud that they existed and that young people were pursuing their education in that strategic location not far south of Lebanon.    
Formerly Kibbutz Tel Hai, settled by “Russian” pioneers and intermittently inhabited since 1905, was permanently settled in 1918 following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. It remains just as it was in 1920 when the “eight” defended the settlement against the surrounding Arab population and died. The buildings are made of basalt stone, with red tiled roofs. The courtyard houses a museum that reconstructs the life of Tel Hai’s founders, showing their agricultural equipment, beds of straw, wheat grinder, and oven.
If the brave pioneers at the beginning of the last century had not had the fortitude to withstand the hardships of the day, the Galilee as we know it would never had become part of modern day Israel. Not that the Jewish people did not have a history in the area. I have read that the tribes of Asher, Naftali and Dan all in habited this region. During the Second Temple era as well as during the Talmud and Mishna periods there was a thriving Jewish community in the Galilee. Now, each year on the 11th day of Adar, an official memorial ceremony is held for Trumpeldor and his comrades the cemetery in nearby kibbutz Kfar Giladi. Here the young fighters were buried in a common grave. A statue of a roaring lion stands as an expression of their strength.
Generations of Israelis have been brought up on the words that were said to have been uttered by Joseph Trumpeldor as he lay dying, after the battle of Tel Hai, “Never mind, it is good to die for one’s country.” 
 The sister of my grandfather Weintrub married a Drachler.  Other interesting Drachler cousin’s who came here to the United States were brothers, Sam Drachler and Lou Drachler Davis; these 2 brothers were chicken farmers in Lakewood, New Jersey. Lou later became a businessman in New York State, owning a country club in Westchester County. In the late 1960s and early 70s, another cousin, Norman Drachler was Superintendent of Public Schools in Detroit Michigan. He outraged state law makers and many residents by envisioning a radical integration of Detroit Public Schools.  Still another cousin, Aaron Yadlin was Israel’s minister of Education in the 1960s. 

Surrell Silverman


Batya said...

interesting, thanks

Risa Tzohar said...

Wow! That's fascinating!