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LIONHEARTS by Michael Bar-Zohar

LIONHEARTS

Heroes of Israel

By Michael Bar-Zohar

Pub Date: May 4th, 1998
ISBN: 0-446-52358-5

Sometimes reading like official government propaganda for the 50th anniversary of Israeli statehood, Bar-Zohar’s collection of paeans to Zionist sacrifice and courage nonetheless forms an impressive statement about a beleaguered people’s will to exist. A bestseller in Israel, Bar-Zohar’s anthology of biographical essays covers a century of brave actions. Heroes before the founding of the State of Israel include soldier and pioneer Joseph Trumpeldor, whose celebrated quotation “It is good to die for our country” has echoed down through Israeli history. Other “trailblazers” of the years 1897—1939 and wartime heroes 1939—1947 are Sarah Aronson of the underground organization known as NILI; British captain Orde Wingate, who told his men, “You are the first soldiers of the Jewish army”; Hannah Senesh, who parachuted into Nazi-occupied Hungary; and the Warsaw Ghetto fighter Morechai Anielewicz. To the anthology’s credit, both women and men are represented, as well as non-warrior’s (like Janusz Korczak, the “father to orphans” who perished in Treblinka death camp) and the little-known, like Meir “Zaro” Zorea, the farmer turned reluctant fighter and politician, who is Israel’s equivalent of the emperor Cincinnatus. Most of the writers of these biographical sketches are familiar, and several are major war heroes and/or political leaders, including Raful Eitan, Itzhak Navon, Shevach Weiss, Itzhak Shamir, Uzi Narkiss, Zevulun Hammer, Ariel Sharon, Shimon Peres, Chaim Herzog, Ezer Weizmann, Ehud Barak, Avigdor Kahalani, and Benjamin Netanyahu. Some of the author-subject match-ups are intriguing, such as having Shimon Peres write about Entebbe rescue hero Yoni Netanyahu, who’s brother (Benjamin) beat Peres at the polls. The reader who makes it through these 50 biographies gets a front-row view of the struggles and sacrifices that have contributed to Israel’s improbable survival. (photos, not seen)