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  • Dr. Dov Ber-Kotlerman (left) presents a collection of articles he edited on Jewish Studies in the Far East to Israeli Ambassador to Japan Nissim Ben-Shitrit

    Bar-Ilan Scholar Talks Trumpeldor in Tokyo

    Date: 2012-12-11 Hour: 14:30

    The late Russian Zionist activist Joseph Trumpeldor is most often remembered for, among other things, bringing Jewish immigrants to Palestine and losing his life defending the settlement of Tel Hai.  In fact, the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona ("City of Eight") is named for Trumpeldor and seven others who died in the battle for the adjacent village.

    Now, through careful inspection of Israeli archival documents, Dr. Dov Ber-Kotlerman, of Bar-Ilan University's Berman Department of Literature of the Jewish People and Rena Costa Center for Yiddish Studies, has discovered something never before known about Trumpeldor.  While he fought in the Russo-Japanese War that broke out in 1904, Trumpeldor himself buried a Russian Jewish soldier who died of his wounds in the Takaishi prisoner of war camp in Japan.

    Kotlerman recently managed to identify this soldier and the place of his tomb.  At the invitation of the Japan Society of Jewish Studies and Rikkyo University Prof. Chizuko Takao, he traveled to Tokyo in late November to report the findings.  His lecture there, entitled "The Japanese Origins of Trumpeldor's Zionism," was funded by the Japan Society for Promotion of Sciences and Ministry of Education, and held at Rikkyo University.

    "A joint Israeli-Japanese initiative to erect a monument for the Jewish soldiers who fell during the Russo-Japanese War has been underway for quite some time," said Israeli Ambassador to Japan Nissim Ben-Shitrit, who attended Kotlerman's lecture. "The new findings will enable us to speed up the implementation of this initiative."

    On one monument erected in 1911 by the government of Czarist Russia for fallen Russian prisoners of war, a Hebrew inscription reads "In memory of military personnel captured in Japan".  Alongside the inscription engraved on the monument is a Star of David, along with the Greek Orthodox Cross, a Latin Cross and a Muslim Crescent.  The monument stands at the entrance to the military section of a cemetery with a few Jewish gravestones in the Japanese township of Izumiotsu near Osaka.

    "To all appearances it was precisely the Russo-Japanese War that gave birth to Trumpeldor the Zionist," said Kotlerman in his lecture. "Consequently, the Far East episode in his life, including the year he spent in Japanese captivity, deserves special attention."