Monday, February 17, 2014

France and The Underground Martyrs of Eretz-Yisrael

At the end of October 1793, almost two-dozen opponents of the Revolutionary Regime in France were executed, at the guillotine.  Scouring the Internet (on a not-quite-related topic), I found something interesting.


The execution of Marie Antoinette was closely followed by that of twenty-one patriotic Girondists, who, on their way to the scaffold, and while awaiting their turn, heroically sang the "Marseillaise," to prove their devotion to their native country. Only one of their number dared not face the ordeal of the guillotine; but although he succeeded in committing suicide, his inanimate corpse was nevertheless borne to the scaffold to be beheaded with the rest. The strong chorus of a score of manly voices dwindled gradually as one head after another fell beneath the knife, but even the last Girondist kept up the strain, undaunted to the final minute.

That reminded me of another historical event:

At 4:00 a.m. Dov Gruner was awakened and taken to the execution cell. Present there were the Director of prison services in Palestine, the Governor of Acre Jail, a physician and six British officers. As was the custom in Britain and in the colonies, the prison governor acted as hangman but in violation of custom, no rabbi was present. Dov Gruner went to the gallows without religious solace, as did Yehiel Drezner, Eliezer Kashani and Mordechai Elkahi. All four were hanged, each singing the anthem Hatikva as the noose was tightened around his neck. When the muffled voices of the condemned men were heard throughout the prison, all the Jewish prisoners rose to their feet and sang the national anthem

That was in May 1947.  Earlier, in Egypt, in 1945,

At their execution, the Eliyahus proudly sang HaTikva and then calmly allowed the hangman to do his job. The hangman, who was so overwhelmed by the composure of the two fighters, later remarked that after twenty years as an executioner, this was the first time that he had felt like a murderer.

And in 1938:

As Shlomo Ben-Yosef approached the gallows, he began to sing HaTikva – the Jewish national anthem. The prisoners of Acre, including his two companions from the attack, arose and joined in the singing. When the hangman’s rope cut off Shlomo’s voice, the prisoners finished their anthem without him. Shlomo Ben-Yosef was the first Hebrew executed by a foreign regime in the Land of Israel since the Roman occupation nearly two thousand years prior. On the wall of his cell was found a third message.
“You cannot conquer the mountain without leaving graves behind”


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