The Jewish world today faces so many challenges; from the rampant anti-Semitism in Europe to the Iran nuclear issue, the high rate of assimilation among American Jewry to terror attacks which face Israel daily. It is with these in mind that the legacy of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the great Zionist leader, is remembered and needed now, perhaps more than ever.
Betar then was, first of all, a code of personal behavior.
Jabotinsky, a noted author, orator and deep thinker, is the forefather of the Likud Party which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads today (Netanyahu’s father Bentzion also served as long-time secretary to Jabotinsky.).
Jabotinsky taught, "The essence of revisionism… is that basically, instead of surrendering to fate, we force our lives to head in a certain direction." His youth movement, Betar, honed that message into an enduring lesson.
It means we are not observers – we are people of action, for in the words of our eternal teacher, “Silence is Despicable.” Jabotinsky was not alone in this theory - as the 18th Century philosopher Edmund Burke believed, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
One of the most vital concepts Ze’ev Jabotinsky precepts is “hadar” which can best be defined as Jewish honor, or splendor, which to a large degree is sorely lacking in American Jewish life today.
In Lone Wolf: A Biography of Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky”, the nearly 1,800 page biography of Jabotinsky written by his confidant Shmuel Katz, Katz wrote “Betar then was, first of all, a code of personal behavior. Jabotinsky gave it a name: Hadar. In its original sense, it conveys a sense of splendor, of glory; in the context of Jabotinsky’s code, it is almost untranslatable. The closest rendering of its meaning would probably be 'overall impeccability.'” …
"Jabotinsky’s own statement of the virtues inherent in Hadar included all the trivia that make up our daily lives – external sightlines, cleanliness, tidiness, punctuality, courtesy, chivalrous and considerate behavior towards women, the old and the very young. … Hadar, which he considered should be a universal code, was especially important to the masses of Jews.”
Jabotinsky believed that we need to first take pride in who we are as Jews, and also demonstrate a level of courtesy and respect that would project a powerful light on who we are.
As Jabotinsky wrote in his “Letter to Betar Naval Cadets”: You must be generous, if no question of principle is involved. Do not bargain about trivialities, you, rather should give something instead of exacting it from somebody else. Every word of your must be a 'word of honor,' and the latter is mightier than steel. A time must eventually arrive, when a Jew desiring to express his highest appreciation of human honesty, courtesy and esteem will not say, as now: 'He is a real gentleman!' but 'He is a real Betari!"
Being involved in issues matters deeply and betters all aspects of ones’ life.
I own a Public Relations agency which employs more than 125 people, have a family, children, and am very involved in multiple charities. I exercise daily, collect art, play chess, read vigorously and always look to learn and improve. On a regular basis, I write articles and commentary on issues that I care about for the very reasons Jabotinsky emphasized Hadar. I care and feel the need to speak up, and to not be quiet on matters of such extreme importance.
Jabotinsky wrote, “Every word must be a ‘word of honor’- and the latter is mightier than steel,” If only the whole world could live by these words it would be a better place.
In these days after Rosh Hashana, may this year be a year where Jews stand up, take pride, speak the truth and then fight for what is right.