Sunday, March 14, 2010

PM B. Netanyahu's Knesset Speech Commemorating the Gallows' Martyrs

PM Netanyahu’s Speech at the Knesset Special Session in Memory of the Jewish Prisoners Hung from the Gallows

Today, we honor the memories of the nine Irgun fighters and the three Lehi fighters who were tried and sentenced to death by hanging. They were willing to pay the heavy price for their actions which were, at times, controversial.

There is an argument about the character of the Jewish underground movements. Those who claim symmetry between them and Arab terrorist organizations need to examine what their intentions were and what the intentions of Arab terrorists are, which is generally and almost always to methodically harm civilians in thousands of attacks. On the other hand, in the case of the Jewish underground movements, both the Irgun and Lehi, such occurrences were exceptions and targets were, for the most part, military – targets that were indisputable. Therefore, the exceptions prove the rule and not the other way around.

Today, we honor the bravery of the 12 Israeli underground fighters, 12 men who, even when the hour approached for them to be summoned to the gallows, did not despair. Instead their belief in their mission to liberate their homeland only grew stronger.

Menachem Begin wrote about the 12 hanged men as follows: “Our generation has had ten martyrs in the homeland and two in Egypt and until their final breath on this planet, each of them exhibited such bravery as few have had in the history of mankind. More bravery was not possible.”

Indeed the heroism of Shlomo Ben-Yosef, Eliyahu Hakim, Eliyahu Bet-Tzuri, Dov Gruner, Mordechai Elkahi, Yehiel Drezner, Eliezer Kahani, Meir Feinstein, Moshe Barazani, Yaakov Weiss, Avshalom Haviv and Meir Nakar continues to serve as a symbol of profound sacrifice, even decades after they lost their lives.

Members of Knesset,

The lives of the 12 men who went to the gallows were brief, but their actions earned them a place of honor in the history of the struggle for our rebirth, and their names are forever engraved on our hearts.

Which of us does not remember the almost unbelievable story of Moshe Barazani and Meir Feinstein? Grenades were smuggled to their prison cells in a basket of oranges. Their original plan was to blow themselves up together as they were being hung. However, it then became clear to them that one of the rabbis of the Jewish community intended to be there as they were executed. In order not to endanger him, the two decided that after his visit, they would take their fate into their own hands. They embraced firmly and exploded the grenades up against their hearts.

It is doubtful that anyone could invent such an unbelievable story, a story which expresses supreme heroism, sublime love for country and people. Yes, love of country, love of the homeland, love for their people. I have no doubt that, because of this, decades later Menachem Begin of blessed memory, per his request, was buried near Barazani and Feinstein on the Mount of Olives.

Anyone needing further proof of the spiritual forces that drove them can find it in the resolute words written by Dov Gruner only two days before he was led to the gallows: “I write these lines 48 hours before our persecutors carry out their murderous act, and at such times one does not lie.” Gruner adds: “I swear that if I had the choice to start over, I would choose the same path…”

Members of Knesset,

The heroism of those who went to the gallows and their devotion left each and every one of us with an important mandate: remember the fallen, their moral strength, because this faith in their people and their land, and their willingness to sacrifice their lives is the key to our national existence. Therefore, I welcome the plan initiated by the Minister of Education that deals with values of heroism and sacrifice as it relates to those who went to the gallows.

We will never forget that their sacrifice was not in vain. We will teach our children about the sanctity of life and love for their country, but at the same time we will remember and know that there is such dedication, which went as far as a willingness to sacrifice one’s life if needed for our country.

From those who went to the gallows until today, from the ‘30’s through the reality of our lives, the message of sacrifice and heroism didn’t fall silent.

The people of Israel bow their heads in memory of the 12 who went to the gallows.

May their memories be forever blessed.
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