Israel Eldad (Scheib) was an Israeli underground leader, educator, geographer, writer, and translator who was also known by his underground name and nom de plume Sambatyon. Eldad was born in Podvolochisk, in Eastern Galicia. In 1914 his family moved to Vilna, and finally settled in Lvov. He completed his studies at the rabbinical seminary in Vienna and studied for a doctorate in philosophy and history at the University of Vienna, writing his thesis on Schopenhauer. He returned to Poland to teach Jewish studies at the Jewish Teachers Seminary in Vilna. He was active in Betar, and wrote literary and political articles for various Polish-Jewish publications in Yiddish. In 1938, he participated with Avraham Stern in the World Conference of Betar. Back in Vilna he and his wife lived with Menaḥem *Begin's family.
In 1941, Eldad and his wife were allowed to leave Sovietoccupied Vilna and travel to Turkey, from which they then made their way to Palestine. In Palestine he taught Bible in Tel Aviv. He soon joined the leadership of the Leḥi underground, becoming its ideologue, and editor of its underground publications, the monthly He-Ḥazit, and the weekly Ha-Ma'as. After Avraham Stern was murdered by the British he became one of its triumvirate of leaders. In 1944, he was wounded in the back while trying to escape arrest by the British and was held in a prison hospital in Jerusalem, and later in the Latrun detention camp. In 1946 he managed to escape with the help of Leḥi members and continued his underground activities until the establishment of the State of Israel.
After the establishment of the State a breach occurred between the supporters of Nathan Yellin-Mor, who sought to establish a neo-socialist party, and Eldad's supporters, who took a right-wing, nationalist line and focused on extra-parliamentary activities. The political group that Eldad founded was called Ḥazit ha-Moledet, but after Count Folke Bernadotte was assassinated in September 1948, the Israeli government declared the group to be illegal. Several of its members were detained while Eldad managed to escape detention. Eldad then started to publish a periodical called Sulam, which continued to appear until 1964. In Sulam, he advocated Revisionist maximalism, according to which the goal of Zionism is a kingdom of Israel (Malkhut Yisrael), from the Nile and the Euphrates.
In the 1950s, Eldad was frequently accused of incitement to violence and underground activities, but no concrete evidence was ever found. Upon orders from David Ben-Gurion as minister of defense Eldad was fired from his post as a high school teacher and was prohibited from teaching in the public school system. Even though the Supreme Court decided in his favor he could not find work as a teacher. Subsequently he established a students association called the Nationalist Cells and earned a living as a translator. Later on he became a lecturer in humanities at the Haifa Technion and Beersheba (now Ben-Gurion) University.
After the Six-Day War, Eldad became a leading figure of the radical right and was one of the founders of the Greater Israel Movement. In the elections to the Seventh Knesset in 1969 he ran at the head of a list called Le-Ereẓ Yisrael but failed to win a seat. In 1979, he was one of the founders of the Teḥiyya party with Geula Cohen but did not run for the Knesset.
Eldad published articles regularly in Haaretz and Yedioth Aharonoth.
His son, Arie Eldad, was elected to the Sixteenth Knesset, on the National Union list. Among his books are Ma'aser Rishon (19753), memoirs of the underground, and Hegyonot Mikra (19842) on the Bible.
A. Amichal-Yavin, Sambatyon: Ideologiyah be-Mivḥan Tamid (Biografiyah shel Dr. Yisrael Eldad) (1995).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.