Yitzhak Sadeh

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Yitzhak Sadeh
Yitzhak Sadeh 1950.jpg
General Sadeh, 1950
Birth nameIzaak Landoberg
Nickname(s)HaZaken (the old man)
BornAugust 10, 1890
Lublin, Congress Poland, Russian Empire
DiedAugust 20, 1952(1952-08-20) (aged 62)
Tel Aviv, Israel
Allegiance Russian Empire
Service/branchImperial Russian Army
Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Sadeh, and Yigal Allon. Kibbutz Hanita, 1938
Sadeh visits the Police fortress at Iraq Suwaydan, November 8, 1948
Sadeh (left) and Yigal Allon, 1948

Yitzhak Sadeh (Hebrew: יצחק שדה, born Izaak Landoberg, August 10, 1890 – August 20, 1952), was the commander of the Palmach and one of the founders of the Israel Defense Forces at the time of the establishment of the State of Israel.


Sadeh was born as Izaak Landoberg to a Polish Jewish family in Lublin, in the Russian Partition of the Russian Empire (now in Poland). His mother, Rebecca, was the daughter of rabbi Shneur Zalman Fradkin. In his youth, he studied with rabbi Hillel Zeitlin. Sadeh married three times. His third wife, Margot Meier-Sadeh, died of cancer a year before he did. He had two daughters, Iza Dafni and Rivka Sfarim, and a son, Yoram Sadeh.

Sadeh died in Tel Aviv in August 1952. By then he had become a charismatic and colorful figure whose nickname in the Palmach was HaZaken (The Old Man). He is buried at Kibbutz Givat Brenner.[1]

Military career[edit]

When World War I broke out, he joined the Imperial Russian Army. He saw action and was decorated for bravery. In 1917, he met Joseph Trumpeldor, and between 1917 and 1919 assisted him in the founding of HeHalutz (The Pioneer) movement. In 1920 Sadeh made aliyah to Eretz Israel, where he became one of founders and leaders of Gdud HaAvoda (The Labor Battalion).

In 1921 Sadeh was a Haganah (defense) commander in Jerusalem. During the 1929 riots he took part in the battle defending Haifa. When the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine began, Sadeh established the Nodedet (Wandering Troop or Patrol Unit) in Jerusalem, that confronted the Arabs in their villages and bases. He demanded that his troops "leave the defences" and initiate military operations.

In the summer of 1937, as commander of the Jewish Settlement Police he founded the FOSH (Hebrew abbreviation, FO'SH, for Plugot Sadeh, lit. Field Companies), the commando arm of the Haganah. It was an elite Jewish strike force, whose members were hand-picked by Sadeh.

Sadeh commanded the establishment of Kibbutz Hanita on an isolated hill on the southern border of Lebanon. In 1941, he was instrumental in the founding of the Palmach (acronym for Plugot Mahatz, lit. Striking Companies), the Haganah's enlisted military forces of volunteers). The purpose of this clandestine elite unit was to prepare to undertake a guerilla war in the event of the Axis forces entering Palestine. During the 200 days of dread Sadeh worked on the Carmel Plan, which was a detailed strategy to withdraw the entire Jewish community in Palestine to Mount Carmel, forming a large enclave to withstand the invaders.[2]

He was Commander of the Palmach until 1945, when he was appointed as the Haganah's Chief of the General Staff, and among other activities was in charge of the movement's operations against the British Forces during the British Mandate of Palestine and in operations that brought clandestine Jewish immigrants to Israel. He was also instrumental in founding the Gadna in 1941, and became the program's first unofficial commander.

8th Armoured Brigade captures Lydda airport (1948)

War of Independence[edit]

At the beginning of 1948 Sadeh was in commanded of Haganah training camp at Mishmar HaEmek. In early April he successfully defended the kibbutz against a full-scale attack by the Arab Liberation Army. In the counter-attack that followed, his troops conquered a large section of the Jezreel Valley. At the end of April he commanded two brigades in a series of attacks on strategic areas in and around Jerusalem, Operation Yevusi.

During the truce in June he was responsible for the establishing the first armored brigade of the IDF. In July this Brigade played an important part in Operation Danny, capturing Lod airport, and in October, Operation Yoav, the taking of the Iraq Suwaydan fortress blocking the road to the Negev. In December 1948 he participated in Operation Horev in the Negev, when the forces under his command crossed the Egyptian border and threatened El-Arish as well as the Egyptian army in the Gaza Strip.

Literary career[edit]

When the war of independence ended in 1949 and the Palmach was dismantled, Sadeh left military service. He wrote essays, stories, and plays. The book Misaviv Lamedura (Around the Bonfire) includes a collection of articles he wrote under the pen name Y. Noded (Y. Wanderer).

Sports activism[edit]

Sadeh was a promoter and educator of Jewish sport. When in Russia he participated in wrestling meets and became the wrestling champion of St. Petersburg. As an active sportsperson he recognized physical education as having important cultural and educational values. As a member of the Hapoel (The Worker) board he set policies and established guidelines and created the Hapoel motto, Alafim lo Alufim (Thousands not Champions). Thousands of sports people and soldiers now take part in the Mount Tavor Race, devoted to the Sadeh's ideals.

Legacy and commemoration[edit]


  1. ^ "Yitzhak Sadeh". Jewish Virtual Library.
  2. ^ Yigal Allon (1970). Shield of David: the story of Israel's armed forces. Random House. p. 123. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  3. ^ "Yitzhak Sadeh". The complete guide to Israeli postage stamps from 1948 onward. Boeliem. Archived from the original on 2016-03-10. Retrieved 2010-11-07.

Further reading[edit]

  • Dror, Zvika. (1996). The Life and Time of Yitzhak Sade. Tel Aviv, Israel: Hakibbuts Hameuchad (in Hebrew).

External links[edit]