Friday, August 7, 2020

Reuven Genn on the Reburial of Rosh Betar

Shalom Betarim

I am writing this to provide another angle to the return of Rosh Betar's remains to Eretz Yisrael.

In 1963-64 Efraim Dimant and I (Reuven Genn) were sent by Betar to the Machon L'madrichei Chutz Laaretz in Yerushalayim. The year was filled with dramatic events both in and out of Israel. We arrived in Early September 1963 and in November 1963 President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. In January of 1964 before official Vatican recognition of the State of Israel Pope Paul Vl a reigning Pope visited Eretz Yisrael. In June 1963 Levi Eshkol was elected Prime Minister replacing Ben Gurion. During that same month Israel won the AFC Asian Cup, and most dramatically for us, the incredible information gathered by Eli Cohen Israel put an end to the Arab (Syria and Jordan) plan to starve Israel by diverting the headwaters of the Hatzbani and Banyas tributaries of the Jordan River.

In March 1964 the cabinet of the government of Israel approved the reinternment of the remains of Zeev and Yohanna Jabotinsky. And finally, at the behest of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol of the government of the State of Israel on July 9th Zeev and Yohanna Jabotinsky's remains were flown to Israel to be reinterred on Har Herzl.

At the time of the announcement by Levi Eshkol I was working at The Metzudah ( Metzudat Zeev in Tel Aviv) dividing my time between BETAR, Machon Jabotinsky and The Herut Newspaper. (A personal note: The movement housed Betarim at the Malon Yosef, a tiny, unadorned building on the edge of the Tel Aviv beach whose most remarkable feature was fresh eggs, fresh bread and fresh vegetables served every morning by Yosef himself!) 

Menachem Begin and the leaders of all of the Jabotinsky "family" institutions including: BETAR, The Herut Party, Brit Cahayalei Etzel, Machon Jabotinsky, The "Herut" newspaper, The Nordau Circle, The National Sick Fund, Brit Neshei Herut, BETAR Youth Villages, Misdar Jabotinsky, Student Corporations, veterans of the Jewish Legion, veterans of Lechi, Plugot Hakotel v'Hagiyusus, The Revisionist Party and many others began planning ceremonies and festivities.

Begin appointed Naftali Faltin a Katzin of the Mifkedet ETZEL to organize the honor guards which would accompany the caskets of Rosh Betar and his wife on Army command cars from the time of their landing at Lod until the burial at Har Herzl and at every stop along the way. As you can well imagine, this was a huge and extremely sensitive task and I have no idea why it was entrusted to Naftali Faltin. I was asked to assist him. In the pre-computer days of 1964 the problems were technical, very human and almost over whelming. Which groups or individuals should be participants? Who should be in the honor guards? Where? For how long? What place on the command car or when carrying the casket. Who should be at the airport and who at Har Herzl?

In 1964, the Movement's institutions were poor and not highly organized. Most of the information was gathered by phone and in person, from individuals and organizations and was recorded on 3x5 cards divided which were grouped into places and times. People were notified – each participant in the hundreds of honor guards receiving a printed slip titled "Zeev Jabotinsky returns to the Land of Israel"  (in Hebrew) with their name, place and time at the honor guard.

Most of the thousands of members of the Movement's many institutions took part in the parades through the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with each group carrying a banner and participants wearing some identifying item (i.e., a beret, uniform, pin, etc.). I was lucky to be among them and carried the banner of world BETAR through those streets which were deeply lined by onlookers straining to get a glance of Jabotinsky.

In Tel Aviv the caskets were placed at what was then Lord Samuel square. A torch was lit by Carni Jabotinsky (Jabotinsky's granddaughter) while honor guards changed every ten minutes and thousands of the public silently waited on line to pay their respect throughout the night.

In Jerusalem the parade made its way through the streets where at the old Knesset the Knesset honor guard saluted and Kaddish Luz, the speaker of the Knessset eulogized Zeev Jabotinsky. At the final internment the President of Israel Zalman Shazar and his wife, Jabotinsky's family and leaders of the Jabotinsky movement participated in the traditional ritual of covering the graves with earth, soldiers of Tzahal presented arms and Hatikvah was sung.

These events occurred 1964 and it was only the recent posting on Facebook by Chaim Fischgrund of an article in Haumah describing Nissan Teman's accompaniment of Rosh Betar's remains on the flight to Israel from New York that aroused many of these memories. Nissan, who had a most remarkable memory, remembered things far better than I.

So… any distortions, deletions, omissions or other mistakes are my own.



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Avinoam Faltin said...

"I have no idea why it was entrusted to Naftali Faltin", Reuven Genn, Who?