Zvi Lipschitz, Zionist Martyr

By Ben-Moshe (Johannesburg)

Originally published in the Keidaner Sick Benefit & Benevolent Society jubilee book, 1950. 

Young Zvi Lipschitz hy’d [1], from Kfar Etzion, was a Keidaner landsman. He was born in 1919 in the town of Yasven (Josvainiai), near Keidan, and came to South Africa in 1934. He was a member of the local “Hapoel Hamizrachi” and in 1945 he left for Eretz Israel. He was killed on 4 Iyar, 5708 [May 13, 1948] during the heroic defense of Kfar Etzion. Zvi was a son of Baruch and Alte Lipschitz from Johannesburg. His father died in Johannesburg around the same time that his son fell in Eretz Israel.

When I remember Zvi Lipschitz, I recall someone I thought of both as my friend and as my rabbi; my friend who believed in the Zionist idea and the rebirth of a Jewish state, and my rabbi whose soul burned with enthusiastic fervor and devotion to his ideals.

He still looms before my eyes as in life. His finely chiseled, elegant head, the black locks of hair that were always a bit tousled and the deep, black, melancholy eyes that were always overcast with a thin mist.

I believe our first meeting took place right after he joined the Hapoel Hamizrachi party. He approached me for advice about his secular education. He had plans to go to university and thereby, as he expressed it, seek a synthesis between Judaism and secular knowledge. Not having the opportunity to carry out that plan he decided to undertake university studies on his own. I gave him the necessary books and he, with diligence and enthusiasm, threw himself into the work. I was impressed by his great ability, and I proposed try to arrange for his admittance to university. But he came to me one day and said, “It is no use.” His future was tied to Eretz Israel, and therefore it was his duty to learn a trade that would be useful in the building of the land. He decided on carpentry. Yet he did not abandon his dream of obtaining a wider education, and he continued to read and learn. In that time he was also participating actively in the Hapoel Hamizrachi movement, whose activist and missionary he became. I often heard his lectures to grownups and young people. How much passion, how much conviction and faith did he impart to them. Whether his listeners agreed with him or not, they were always carried away by his enthusiasm.

Speeches alone weren’t enough for Zvi Lipschitz, however. For him his ideal was as real as life itself, and it gave him the thirst for life. He decided to leave for Eretz Israel. And although his movement was sorely in need of such an important and devoted activist, he received its blessing to follow through with his plan. He traveled to Eretz Israel and settled in Kfar Etzion – one of the hardest and most dangerous kibbutzim in the land, surrounded by innumerable hostile Arab villages. The kibbutz had already been destroyed once by the Arabs, but this did not stop Zvi from choosing such a dangerous outpost.

For a short time I took great pleasure in his frequent letters, which he would write to many of his friends, and later fate brought us together in Eretz Israel. I visited him few times in Kfar Etzion. Each of those visits is engraved in my memory, because it revealed to me the other Zvi, not the dreamer and inspirer, but the builder and creator. I remember his heavy, confident pace as he walked his land, his devotion and pride in each tree growing in the hilly desert, in each building that appeared on the stony hill of Kfar Etzion. He was particularly concerned with construction, and the last time I saw him he was busy with building a shed, which would also serve as a strategic point in case of Arab attack. I remember well how he described how they had tested a heavy machine gun against the special blocks of concrete used during construction. He spoke about the defense of the kibbutz, and about matters which, in those times, under the terror of the British power, were to be kept strictly secret. That was our last intimate conversation, and fate decided that defending the kibbutz was also to be his last deed. He fell amid the burning ruins of the kibbutz together with more than 100 of his comrades, who gave their young, blossoming lives in the defense of the holy hills of Hebron. May God avenge his blood.

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[1] Hebrew abbr. for “May God avenge his blood”

Translated by A. Cassel.