Tel Hai Museum
Israeli Military History
The exposition of the museum is devoted to the dramatic events of 1920, when Tel-Hai and some other Jewish settlements in Upper Galilee were cut from the central part of the country and attacked by Arabs. Yosef Trumpeldor was at the head of the battle and was killed with other seven soldiers. Every year people gather here to honor the heroes.
Tel Hai remains just as it was. The buildings are made of basalt stone, with red tiled roofs, preserving the settlement that thrived here in the early years of Jewish settlement in this region. The courtyard houses a museum that reconstructs the life of Tel Hai’s founders and an audiovisual program in seven languages portrays the battle and the heroism. Children can solve historic riddles and try on period costumes and all around the courtyard are sculptures and antique farming equipment.
When World War I broke out in 1914, there was only one Jewish community in the ‘northern corner’ (Pinat Hazafon) of Eretz-Israel Metula - founded in 1896.
The Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 16, 1916 was a secret understanding between the governments of Britain and France defining their respective spheres of post-World War I influence and control in the Middle-East. According to this Agreement, it was resolved that the Upper Galilee region would remain controlled by the French. Therefore, Metula and its surrounding communities were part of the French region.
When the northern region of Eretz-Israel was conquered from the Turkish Empire in 1918 there were only two additional spots south to Metula: The Mountain, on which the Giladi Group established its barracks who later became Kfar Giladi, and Telcha, the Courtyard that was built between the years 1907 and 1908 for the benefit of farmers of Metula, and delivered in 1918, on the eve of the Turkish retreat, to the Tel-Hai Group. In 1918, the connection between northern to southern regions of Israel was renewed.
The atmosphere among the settlers was hard. They raised the issue of security before Israel Shochat, the founder of the Shomer (in Hebrew- “the Guard” - the first Jewish security organization), who sent a new representative who had just arrived from Russia Yoseph Trumpeldor. He visited for a few days in order to study the community claims and prepare a Defense Program.
The annals of Yosef Trumpeldor who became a myth in his death began years earlier in Europe, and through the far-east and Turkey on his way to Eretz-Israel. Trumpeldor’s motive in coming to Eretz Israel was to unite the two labor factions in the Yishuv, assuming this was the only way to properly prepare for a massive immigration from Russia, actually to absorb the whole Jewish community who was at risk from the anticipated pogroms.
According to testimonies collected, and following a hazardous journey, Trumpeldor (who was missing his left hand) arrived in Tel-Hai on December 29, 1919. There he met a community suffering from a significant lack in food, clothing, equipment, arms and ammunition and above all a real fear for their safety due to Arab attacks.
Trumpeldor believed the minimum number of troops to defend the area was 200, while the total number of untrained defenders allocated at Kfar Giladi, Tel-Hai and Metula was only 100. This compared to large number of French and Arabs troops at the surrounding area, from Metula to the Hula region. Local battles were followed by major combat on March 1st 1920. This battle lasted until night and became the most heroic battle in the annals of the Jewish Yishuv in Eretz Israel. Trumpeldor and the five other defenders fell in the battle of Tel-Hai.
The Upper Galilee events in 1920 were the first security test of the Jewish Yishuv in Eretz Israel, following the relief from Turkish control. In these events the Jewish Yishuv expressed determinism while maintaining until the last day, the farm and its cattle. The saga of Tel-Hai rapidly became a myth, on which many Jewish generations in Israel and abroad, were educated.
Tel-Hai was not only a myth. Trumpeldor, the five defenders and the Jewish Yishuv in Tel-Hai and the Upper Galilee actually marked the northern border of Eretz-Israel under the British Mandate. This fact attached the blood of the defenders with the political and the settlement myth.