Places to Visit in Israel If You Really Want to Learn Its History
Are you or a family member traveling to Israel in 2019? Are you looking for something more than the average “Israel Experience”?
Trips like Birthright Israel may take you to the Kotel (Western Wall), the Sea Of Galilee, the Yad Vashem Holocaust shrine, and/or Masada — and those are all worthwhile. But there are other places to visit that will help you understand the amazing history of the pioneers who fought the battles that allowed the modern State of Israel to be declared.
Below is a list of eight places to visit in Israel that will help you to develop a more accurate picture of the struggle to build the Jewish state.
Acre Prison is where Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky and his comrades were imprisoned by the British in 1920 for defending Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem from Arab rioters. Later, the British imprisoned Irgun and Stern Group (LEHI) underground fighters there, and several Zionist fighters were executed at the site by the British. The prison is perhaps best known for the escape of dozens of fighters during an underground raid that was depicted in Leon Uris’ novel Exodus and the 1960 movie of the same name. For more on Acre Prison click here.
Museum of the Underground Prisoners
Another prison where the British held Irgun and LEHI soldiers was Jerusalem’s Central Prison in the Russian Compound. The museum there has significant exhibits that tell the stories of the heroes of the underground movements. For more information click here.
The Irgun was also known as the Etzel. This museum in Tel Aviv details the history the Irgun and the movement’s impact on the British decision to leave Eretz Israel as well as the group’s combat role in the War of Independence. For more information click here.
The LEHI underground launched a campaign to force the British to leave Eretz Israel. Its founder Yair (Avraham) Stern had been a leader in the Irgun, and formed the LEHI in order to fight the British at all costs. The LEHI museum is housed in the building where Stern was assassinated by the British in 1942. For more about the museum, click here.
Menachem Begin Heritage Center
To better understand this founding father of Israel and leader of the Irgun, there is simply no better place to visit than the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. For more about the center, go to its website.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky was the Zionist leader who created a bold, new vision for Zionism after the death of Theodore Herzl. The Jabotinsky Institute in Tel Aviv houses a museum dedicated to teaching about him and an intriguing special exhibit that spotlights the Af Al Pi illegal effort that rescued Jews from Nazi Europe and brought them to Israel.
Tel Chai was a settlement in the Galilee that was the site of a battle against Arab raiders in 1920. The Zionist hero Joseph Trumpeldor and seven other valiant defenders died in the defense of Tel Chai against a much larger force. Trumpeldor had been instrumental in forming the Jewish Legion during World War I. Jabotinsky named his Betar movement after Trumpledor.
Shlomo Ben Yosef is buried in Rosh Pina, which was an early Zionist settlement. In 1938, in response to attacks on Jews by Arab terrorists, Ben Yosef, a member of Betar and the Irgun, along with two companions, organized a reprisal attack. They were subsequently arrested by the British. Ben Yosef was executed at Acre prison.
Finally, a perfect book to bring along on your trip is Zev Golan’s Free Jerusalem: Heroes, Heroines and Rogues Who Created the State of Israel (Geffen Publishing, 2003). Golan’s book will help to make your visits to the historic sights above much more meaningful. And the book is well worth reading even if you have no plans to visit Israel anytime soon.
Moshe Phillips is the national director of Herut North America’s US section. Herut is an international movement for Zionist pride and education. More information about Herut is available at https://www.herutna.org.