Rehavam Ze’evi .
(photo credit: COURTESY KNESSET)
Frustrated by sit-ins, explanations, pleas, protests and media interviews that have not helped, Palmah veterans have called on President Reuven Rivlin to intervene in the planned renaming of a memorial that would forever link assassinated government minister Rehavam Ze’evi to the Harel Brigade.
No one denies that Ze’evi was a member of the Palmah, but he was not a member of those Palmah forces that fought in the Jerusalem corridor to facilitate access to the besieged city during the War of Independence. These veterans consider it a betrayal of those of their comrades who fell in action and the descendants of Harel brigade members who grew up on the legends of their fathers, uncles and grandfathers to have those memories trampled on by a man who wasn’t there. On Thursday, a representative group of Palmah veterans, all in their 90s, turned to Rivlin for help.
Out of respect for their age and in appreciation of their contributions to the country as both soldiers and civilians, Rivlin listened to their arguments and gave each the chance to express himself.
As a result, the president was close to 20 minutes late for a meeting with Portuguese Foreign Minister Prof. Augusto Santos Silva.
Rivlin apologized saying he had to meet with a group of 90-plus-year-old generals.
“When they talk, you have to give them the floor, and they know what they’re talking about,” said Rivlin.
The Palmah delegation included Yehoshua Gavish, Rafi Eitan, Haim Gouri, Amos Horev, Zvi Zamir, Eliahu Sela and Alona Keren, a member of the family of Maccabi Motzer, who was killed in action at Sha’ar Hagai in April 1948.
Members of the group said they were speaking on behalf of all those who fought to enable 250 convoys carrying thousands of tons of supplies to enter Jerusalem.
Many of the soldiers engaged in this operation paid with their lives, and their memories should be honored, said members of the delegation.
They emphasized that they had nothing against Ze’evi, and that it was simply a matter of historical fact that even though he was a member of the Palmah, he had fought elsewhere and not in that body.
Known in Arabic as Bab el-Wad, Sha’ar Hagai has been immortalized as such in song written by Gouri, widely regarded as Israel’s poet laureate.
“It is part of the Israeli ethos,” Rivlin told the delegation, saying he completely understood their objection to having a monument to one man instead of to all those who fought, and that he was certain that in the final analysis the government would take their argument into consideration.
Rivlin told the group he was hopeful Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would realize the importance of maintaining a monument to those who paved the way to independence, and voiced the belief that Ze’evi himself would not have wanted to deviate from the historical truth and symbolism of Bab el-Wad.