Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

“Blessed is the Match:” Remembering Hannah Szenesh

To die, so young to die,

No, no, not I,

I love the warm sunny skies,

Light, song, shining eyes,

I want no war, no battle cry,

No, no, not I.

Hannah Szenesh (1921-1944), the legendary Hungarian-born Jewish poetess and parachutist, penned these words in Nahalal in 1941 aged twenty.  Three years later she left the safety of the land of Israel, where she had arrived at the outbreak of the war, on a highly dangerous volunteer mission to occupied Europe in an attempt to warn the Hungarian Jews of their impending doom.  In this Hebrew month of Cheshvan 68 years ago, Hanna, looking up to the skies with her shining eyes entered eternity as Hungarian fascists executed her in her native Budapest just weeks before the city’s liberation by Soviet forces.

As the nation of Israel commemorates the yahrzeit of Hannah, the renowned historian Sir Martin Gilbert best answers the question of whether her mission, and that of her 31 compatriots, was a success.  Gilbert noted that; “hundreds of millions of Europeans were captive peoples and here was this little group who said we are going to try and do something.”

Shockingly, their mission was the only Allied military rescue attempt for Jews of the entire war!  On paper their mission might be classified as a failure, but Hannah and her fellow volunteers understood that to sit by and do nothing would be even worse.  Dialogue concerning the mortal threat of European Jewry was not enough – action was necessary!  They understood the power of the individual to lead by example and to try and change the world for the better.  In the words of the Mishnaic sage Rabbi Tarfon: “It is not up to you to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from trying.” (Avot, 2:21)  This is why Hannah and her fellow Jewish mission members continue to serve as role models for our youth.

It takes just one small match to light up the darkness.  In that darkest night of the Jewish people, during the Holocaust of our people, Hannah’s selfless actions can best be summed up in her own words, in the last poem she wrote before she crossed into occupied Hungary:

Blessed is the heart with strength to stop its beating for honour’s sake.

Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.

May her deeds continue to be an inspiration and her memory blessed.

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He was a Senior Editor and Teaching Fellow at the Tikvah Fund. He is a research associate at the Hudson Institute. Tuvia is the author and illustrator the internationally acclaimed Israel education curriculum; "For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Studies" (Fifth edition, Koren 2017), and "Moral Dilemmas of the Modern Israeli Soldier" (Rama, 2011) and has a doctorate in Israel Education. His latest book, "Jewish Journeys, The Second Temple Period to the Bar Kokhba Revolt – 536 BCE-136 CE," was published by Koren this year. To order: