Geography of Israel: Tel Hai
Tel Hai is a historic site that commemorates the heroism of the Hula Valley pioneers who stubbornly defended their homes to the death. Nearby Kiryat Shmona is named after the eight (Shmona in Hebrew) pioneers who perished here.
Tel Hai was founded in 1916 by a group of Hashomer guards. Hashomer was an organization that believed that only Jews should guard Jewish settlements. After the First World War, Tel Hai and other Galilee settlements were transferred to French rule and suffered in the Arab revolt against the French. In January 1920 two Tel Hai members were killed in an Arab attack, and on the 11th of Adar, 5680 (March 1, 1920), six more died when hundreds of Arabs attacked the settlement. Among the fallen was Yosef Trumpeldor, the guards’ young commander.
Tel Hai was abandoned, but the battles did not end for another few months, after which the settlers returned to rebuild their homes. Since then, Tel Hai has been a symbol of heroism. Each year, on the 11th of Adar, an official memorial ceremony is held for Trumpledor and his comrades at the cemetery in nearby Kfar Gil’adi, where the young fighters were buried in a common grave. A statue of a roaring lion stands in the cemetery, sculpted by Avraham Melinkov in 1926, as an expression of their strength.
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 hat 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.
Near the Tel Hai courtyard is Tel Hai College and a youth hostel that overlooks scenic Hula Valley. West of Tel Hai is a sculpture-lined path featuring stone and bronze sculptures, and to the east is Tel Hai Industrial Park, which houses an interesting photography museum and an amusing antique car museum.