Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Hill of Life

A few posts back I mentioned our overnight stay in the northern settlement of Tel Chai and promised to tell you more about it. Tel Chai, meaning "Hill of Life" in Hebrew, lies just a few kilometers south of the Lebanese border (the STOP - BORDER AHEAD! sign can be seen, above). It is home to a small community college, the 'Hatser' (courtyard) museum that reconstructs the life of Tel Chai’s founders (above, top row, on the left), a fantastic youth hostel which overlooks the scenic Hula Valley and Tel Chai Industrial Park. It was once however the site of an early battle in the Arab–Israeli conflict and was one of the first Jewish settlements of the far north in the early years of the 20th century.
The settlement was founded in 1916 by a group of Hashomer guards who built a fortress (now the museum) and began to cultivate the land (Hashomer was an organization that believed that only Jews should guard Jewish settlements). After the First World War, Tel Chai and other Galilee settlements were transferred to French rule and suffered in the Arab revolt against the French. In 1920 the settlement was attacked by hundreds of Arabs and and eight members were killed. Among the fallen was Yosef Trumpeldor, the guards’ young commander and a Russian Jewish military hero. Trumpledor's last words are famous in Israel until today. "It is good to die for one's country" he said, and some believe that he added "And it is good to have a country to die for".
The young fighters were buried in a communal grave at nearby Kfar Giladi which,  in 1926, was marked by a stone lion, the traditional symbol of independence and courage, (above, middle row, on the left), sculpted by Avraham Melinkov. It stands as a monument to the bravery of those who fell, determined at all cost to defend what they had built.
It is hard to imagine the drama that was played out in this spot. When we visited the courtyard museum the sun shone on it's well-tended lawns and the scenery around us was breathtaking. Yet this small yard witnessed one of the most dramatic moments in the life of the young Zionist community of Israel.
The exhibits in the museum explain the history of the settlement and the ideology which brought further groups of settlers to the area after the original settlers of Tel Chai were forced to leave. The nearby town of Kiryat Shmoneh, meaning "Town of Eight" is named after the settlers who died in 1920, and visitors are left with the understanding that Israel's existence today is due to them, and people like them, who put their own personal lives at risk for the ideal of a Jewish State.


UniqueNique said...

Thank you it is always inspiring to read the reasons behind some of the most beautiful places and sometimes hard to imagine the conflict that took place when you stand amongst the serene beauty. History is fascinating

Meeling said...

Great post!
I love the history tidbits...always fascinating and that shot is beautiful, the scenery looks breathtaking.

As always thanks for stopping by the blog...I truly appreciate it. :-)

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree it is probably good to have a country to die for but personally I think its good to have a country to bring life too.
Im doing my bit and travelling and enjoying the sites is also a way to let lives live...Keep up the travel titbits , Tel Hai truly is a lovely place to vie from the top!

LizzieJane said...

What a wonderfully inspiring post today Lisa. I enjoy learning about the history of other countries.
Have a wonderful New year.