The Voice of the Fighting Zion
by Menachem Begin
by Menachem Begin
Salute to the Heroic Dead
by Menachem Begin
[This speech was given on the first anniversary of the death of the martyrs Avshalom Habib, Meir Nakar and Ya’akov Wiess (August 1948) at their graves in Safed during a large Irgun memorial service.]
We have come before you from all corners of the land and stand before you with trepidation, resignation and holiness. We are here to inform you that the wicked arm, which plucked you from amongst us, is broken and that the British oppressive rule has been removed from our homeland. The hangmen who led you to the gallows have been driven out. The land has been rid of the British army of occupation. The basis has been laid for Jewish independence in the land. The state of Israel has risen and tens of thousands of Jewish soldiers stand ready to beat back the enemy, destroy the foe and realize the national hope of independence for the entire homeland.
Valiant soldiers - gather today from Jerusalem, the Eternal City, from the Negev, from the north, from tumultuous Tel Aviv, from Netanyah, from Haifa, the city of the future, and from all sections of the homeland; valiant soldiers - your brothers in arms and battle, those who stormed the Acre prison and liberated Acre prisoners whom you freed and protected with your bodies and for whom you gave souls in purity - all of us have come here today to bring you tidings of your victory. Your work has been rewarded! Your sacrifice has not been in vain! Your blood has not been spilled for naught! You have not laid down your young lives needlessly. You have been victorious, for the cruel enemy who snapped your necks on the gallows and who wished to break our people were themselves stopped by you and your fighting brothers.
Your brothers from all ends of the land report to you that your dream has been realized! A Jewish army and a Jewish government are now ours! There is hope in our generation for the liberation of the entire homeland? No longer do we stand alone on the battlefront, and it is not only our fighting sons who have taken up the struggle; the entire people carries high the flag of freedom - the same flag which you raised in the open and also in the Underground, in the death sell and also on the gallows. It is the same flag that you refused to relinquish until the last gasp of your holy, pure breath.
You are not alone, our holy and pure brothers, who shine as the brightness of the firmament, you are not alone in these mountains of Galilee. You decreed that fate of the oppressor’s rule by storming the Bastille. At your side lie the four who went to the gallows with a song of faith and freedom, and not far from here lies the first of our national martyrs, the first who sang and fulfilled the command Lamut o Lichbosh et ha-Har (To Die or Conquer the Mount). Not far from here rest the fallen raiders of Acre and those who died before they could be liberated; and nearby lie the heroes of Galilee who fell in the recent war and those of times of old. None of them gave up until the last drop of blood.
And you converse amongst yourselves during the night, you who died heroes‚ deaths in our time and the ten Martyrs of old - you who have fallen in Galilee in our time and who died of old. There is conversation among you, the greatest conversation of its kind ever heard on the world. A golden chain links you all. At night your souls commune with one another concerning Galilee and the entire land, concerning our eternal people which ahs been beset by so many enemies and has been able to withstand them because it never abandoned its faith. It is not the voice of lamentation and bitter weeping which is heard when you speak to each other, but joy breaks forth from the heavens above and gladness and delight are heard in the world. By virtue of this faith there are heroes whose like has not been seen among our people wince the days of Rabbi Akiba and Bar Kochba. By virtue of this faith we renewed the ancient days of our land.
From the depths of Jewish sorrow and anguish there arose those who stormed the enemy’s fortresses and beat him back, those who sent to the gallows singing a song to the very end. It is therefore no longer the voice of lamentation and bitter weeping which is heard but rather that of joy, gladness and delight, both from your own holy and pure souls and those of our fathers.
For we never shamed our fathers nor abandoned their way when we embarked on our march toward freedom. And if many fell by the way, others have taken their places and carry high the flag of the war of liberation, so that we are able to report to you that the vision for which you have fallen and sanctified the Name of G-d has been fully realized.
For the entire land [of Israel] on both sides of the Jordan [River] is ours. It was and will be ours and our people will dwell in it forever.
You mountains of Galilee that have received the bodies of the heroic dead of Israel for seventy generations, let there be dew and rain upon you! We have liberated your forever. Because of this sacred blood, the crown of Hermon will be ours.
Members and soldiers of the Irgun Zvai Leumi: Attention!
At the graves of our national martyrs let us all take the oath to Jerusalem, which as yet has not been fully liberated, and to whose liberation they dedicated their lives and their death.
If I forget thee, Oh Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not make Jerusalem above my greatest joy. (Psalm 137)