Rav Moshe Segal ztz’l*

Rav Moshe Segal was an unusual combination of revolutionary, Torah scholar and chasid. He was accomplished in all of these fields and more.  He was born on the six of Shevat in the year 1904, in the Ukrainian city of Poltava. He joined Joseph Trumpeldor’s organization, Hechalutz, received agricultural training and journeyed to Israel together with other Ukrainian youth.

In 1927, Segal was “expelled” from the Hagana, which was the Jewish Defense Force founded by Jabotinsky (but which drifted away from his philosophy).  During roll call, he refused to recite the standard Hagana statement of purpose (“To defend lives and property”) and instead, he declared, “To become a Jewish army for a Jewish state.”  Later that year, he heard Jabotinsky speak in Tel Aviv, and immediately joined his youth organization, Betar.  He was the seventh Betari to enroll in the land of Israel.

On the ninth of Av in 1929, upon hearing that the British had decided to curtail prayers at the kotel, Segal saw that as a call to action.  He left his task as a watchman in Rehovot and began publicizing a call to Jews to meet in Jerusalem and walk en masse to the kotel. Thousands heeded his call, and they walked from Yellin Street in Geula to the old city, Israeli flag in hand.  He announced to the British authorities, “We will chase you from this land and establish a free Hebrew state!”  He became a “wanted man” by the British and was forced into hiding.

Nevertheless, he took part in the defense of Tel Aviv against marauding Arab terrorists during the riots of 1929. Together with some thirty comrades, they formed the nucleus of what was to become the Itzel – (Irgun Tzvai Leumi, or Irgun for short) and the Lehi (Lochamei Herut Le’am, otherwise known as the “Stern gang”).  These were the groups who, acting independent of the Hagana, actually chased the British out of the land of Israel in the 1940’s.

After the war of Independence, R’ Moshe lived with his wife and family in Kfar Chabad.  Among other things, he founded the girl’s school there, Beit Rivka, and served as the mayor of the “village.”  With the liberation of the Old city of Jerusalem in 1967, R’ Moshe was the first to blow the shofar at the kotel.  He then proceeded to move into, clean up and renovate the Chabad synagogue (the Tzemach Tzedek shul), and organize a Chabad minyan.  Many of his friends protested that it was not safe for Segal, who slept with a pistol under his head, to remain in the old city by himself.  They appealed over his head to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who replied that, “if he sleeps with a pistol under his head, he’s safe enough.”

R’ Moshe joined a group of much younger people who locked themselves in a bunker in 1981 in Yamit, the Israeli settlement in the Sinai that the government infamously abandoned and destroyed in the framework of the agreements with Egypt.  He also aided in the establishment of the Temple Institute in the old city of Jersualem. He passed away in 1985.  He is survived by his son, Yishavam, now living in the Golan Hts, and another son in Kfar Chabad.  His daughters are married to the famous Rav Yitzhak Ginzburg (K’far Chabad) and to translator R’ Uri Kaploun (Jlm) and R’ Shmuel Schneerson (Kfar Chabad).  May his memory be blessed and serve as inspiration for all of us!

*Information on this page taken from Free Jerusalem, by Zev Golan

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