Trumpeldor postcard proves Zionist legend believed ‘it was good to die for one’s country’

The postcard, which will go on sale on June 24 with a starting price of $100,000, shows the famous Zionist fighter really believed that “it is good to die for one’s country.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A rare postcard written in Hebrew by Zionist legend Joseph Trumpeldor that is going to auction proves that he believed in the words he is alleged to have said upon his death, even if it cannot be conclusively proven that he said them at the time.

Mortally wounded during a firefight with an Arab force at the settlement of Tel Hai in 1920, Trumpeldor was carried off by his comrades. According to one of his stretcher-bearers, his last statement before he died was in Hebrew: “Never mind, it is good to die for one’s country.”

The words entered Zionist lore and inspired generations of Zionists.

Its authenticity, however, has been questioned for decades by historians, not least because the fervent Zionist military leader mainly spoke Russian, his native tongue, and not Hebrew.

At least one part of the puzzle is solved. There’s no question that he believed the words, thanks to a postcard that the King David Auction House is putting up for sale on June 24.

The card was written by Trumpeldor to a bereaved father who lost his son, Benjamin Wertheimer, at Gallipoli during World War I. Trumpeldor was serving as the deputy commander of the Zion Mule Corps., a unit he helped found to assist Britain in her war with Turkey.

After Benjamin fell in battle, Trumpeldor wrote, uncharacteristically in Hebrew, as the father, a haredi Jew from Jerusalem, did not speak Russian.

Joseph Trumpeldor

Joseph Trumpeldor (Wikipedia)

The postcard mainly deals with the ultra-Orthodox father’s request to return his son’s tefillin, or phylacteries, which Trumpeldor believed had been taken to Alexandria in Egypt by one of the son’s comrades. At the end, he tries to console the father for his loss.

“Accept my respect for having managed to teach your son in this way, that he was also a good man, a good Jew and a good soldier,” he wrote. “I know that your heart hurts immensely, but know that your son fell as a hero, for the people of Israel and the Land of Israel.”

Given that Trumpeldor expressed this idea in Hebrew in 1915 five years before his death lends credence to the possibility that he actually said them when it came time for him to lay down his life for his people and country.

Trumpeldor famously lost an arm in the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War and became one of only a few Jews in the Russian army to receive an officer’s commission.

He emigrated to Israel in 1911, but when World War I broke out, the Turks banished him as an enemy alien. He first helped form the Zion Mule Corps. In 1917, he gathered a group of muleteers together in London. They became the core of the Jewish Legion, which was organized largely by Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, to help the British wrest the Land of Israel from the Ottoman Empire.

The opening bid for the card is $100,000.