JERUSALEM, Jan. 10 (JTA) An Israeli researcher has cast doubt on the claim of a Jewish family living near Shepherdstown, W.Va., that one of its forebears was a lover of Joseph Trumpeldor, a legendary figure in Israel’s prestate history.
Journalists covering the Israeli-Syrian negotiations in West Virginia this week digressed briefly from the diplomatic developments to relate the tale of Yetta Rappelsky, who, according to her relatives, had been betrothed to Trumpeldor.
“From my family, I know that Yetta was engaged to marry Trumpeldor. She was on her way to meet him in Palestine, but I guess she received the news that he was killed in a skirmish with the Arabs in Palestine, and she was terribly upset and she attempted to end her life,” Yetta’s sister, Anita Roberts, 84, said in remarks broadcast on Israel Radio.
“She jumped from a sixth-story window. She hoped to die, but she did not die, she became a cripple,” Roberts said.
But her story was met with skepticism by Shulamit Laskov, the author of a biography about Trumpeldor, who during World War I worked to create Jewish fighting units that would liberate Palestine from Ottoman rule.
After his shooting death in 1920 by armed Arabs, he became a symbol of the pioneer movement and of the armed defense of the Jewish homeland.
“I hate to dispel such a story because it is so romantic and dramatic, but I do not believe its credibility,” Laskov told Israel Radio.
Laskov added that while Trumpeldor has been linked with several women, she had never come across Yetta Rappelsky’s name in her research.
Regarding the claims of Rappelsky’s family, Laskov suggested they could have grown out of a young girl’s fancy or from a case of confused identities.
“I could speculate” Rappelsky was a “girl and had heard stories or possibly Joseph Trumpeldor had brothers. Maybe it was a different brother.”