Israel Eldad

picture of Israel Eldad  

Israel Eldad was a controversial Revisionist Zionist figure, who was born in Galicia in 1910 as Israel Scheib. He attended the University of Vienna, where he graduated with a doctorate. He also enrolled in the Rabbinical Seminary of Vienna but did not end up taking his ordination examinations.

He became a high school teacher, and at the same time the commander of the local Betar youth group. At this time, Eldad also published articles in Revisionist Zionist journals. Eldad spent two years from 1937 to 1939 at the Teachers Seminary in Vilna, while it was part of Poland. He was also the Betar regional staff officer at this time. 

In 1938, he escaped with Menachem Begin from Warsaw. Begin was arrested by Soviet police, and the two met again only several years later in British Mandate Palestine. 

Scheib changed his name to Eldad as one of the aliases he used during working in the Lehi underground organization. In 1942, he worked directly with Avraham Stern, founder of Lehi. After Stern's death at the hands of the British, Eldad became a Lehi commander, alongside Yitzchak Shamir and Natan Yellin-Mor. It was in this role that he condoned the assassination of UN mediator Folke Bernardotte. He subsequently admitted his involvement. He was arrested by the British but escaped with the help of various Lehi fighters.

Eldad published a revolutionary journal, Sulam, for 14 years and in 1949 wrote his memoirs, entitled Maaser Rishon. Eldad taught at a high school for some time until David Ben Gurion had him dismissed over concerns that he would imbue his Lehi ideology to students. Although he won a court battle against his dismissal, the incident greatly reduced his employment opportunities, so he instead turned to writing. Many of his works have been translated to English.

In 1962, Israel Eldad became a lecturer at Haifa's Technion institute and in 1982 moved to lecture at other universities across the country. He was awarded the Bialik Prize for his contributions to Israeli thought in 1988.

Israel Eldad died in January 1996.