Simple, beautiful, thoughtful and inspiring Hebrew for those who have just finished the tree.

מכתבי יוני /

The Letters of Jonathan Netanyahu is a collection of personal letters penned by Lt.-Col. Jonathan Netanyahu (, the hero of Operation Entebbe (, over a period of thirteen years, from high school in Philadelphia to the raid at Entebbe. Since the same content is presented both in Hebrew and in English, it gives readers with limited experiences with Hebrew literature the much needed reference to check their own understanding.

The letters were written in plain yet stunningly beautiful Hebrew and translated into English with superb accuracy and readability, as testified by Herman Wouk in his introduction to the English translation of the book, “in it I did glimpse an ember of sacred fire. He wrote a simple pure Hebrew. Scriptural words and phrases showed up naturally in his jottings, sometimes with arresting force. Modern Hebrew rests on that ancient vocabulary, and the best modern writers - so I am told, and so I believe - tend to hold to the strong old roots and forms, resisting the flood of loan-words and neologisms that can turn newspaper Hebrew into puzzling jargon. Thus I can read Ahad Ha’am, Bialik and Agnon with no strain; and Yoni’s Hebrew flowed for me like their prose. It may have been only his intelligent directness of style, but it worked. I was enthralled.

“I confess I started to read the English version of Yoni’s Letters with misgivings, but it is good. Yoni’s brothers, Benjamin and Iddo, who figure much in the correspondence, have infused it with Yoni’s authentic notes: sometimes dry and tough, sometimes beautifully tender and now and then - writing though he did at odd moments in field tents or bouncing Army trucks - starkly poetic. Few translations ever match the original, but Yoni’s letters preserve in English much of their clarity and force.”

The Hebrew version is available in most on-line Israeli bookstores (such as this one ) and many of them do ship to the US. Though it may take up to 10 days for a registered mail to arrive, it definitely worth the waiting.

The English version is available both in print and as ebook (

Here are two sample letters (shortest). One from a wise big brother (18-year-old) tenderly guiding his beloved youngest brother, one from a caring son trying to comfort his parents who longed to see their son:

1.8.64 עדו אהובי, מזל טוב לך, עדו, ליום הולדתך ה”12. עלה והצלח בכל דבריך. כשם שאבא מציע לי עצות הרשה לי להציע לך דבר - הלימודים הם הדבר החשוב מכל. הרצון ללמוד ולדעת, לפתור בעיות, לקרוא ולהבין הם שעושים את האדם גדול. יחד עם זה עליך להסתדר עם החברה הסובבת אותך - עם חבריך ויותר מזה עם אבא ואמא. אל תרגיז אותם והיה בן טוב. למעשה, תמיד היית טוב, ונראה לי שאני, יותר מכולנו, הייתי גורם להם התרגזויות לפעמים. למד מנסיוני, עדו. שלך, יוני

August 1, 1964 Beloved Iddo, Congratulations, Iddo, on your twelfth birthday. Succeed and excel in all you do. Just as Father offers me advice, let me suggest something to you - learning is important above all else. The desire to study and acquire knowledge, to solve problems, to read and understand - these are the things that makes a man great. At the same time you have to get along with the society in which you live - with your friends and most of all with Father and Mother. Be a good son and don’t upset them. Actually, you have always been good, and it seems that I’m the one, more than any of us, who used to irritate them sometimes. Learn from my experience, Iddo. Yours, Yoni

5.8.66 אבא ואמא אהובים, אני נמצא בדיוק 2 ק”מ מכם. אם תעלו לברכה שמעל ערד ותסתכלו לאורך הדרך המוליכה למצדה, תוכלו אפילו לראות את המאהל שלנו. מעולם עוד לא הייתי בשדה במקום כל-כך “מרכזי” ונוח. בדרך כלל אנחנו בלב ה” nowhere, ללא דרך, ובמרחק של קילומטרים ממקום ישוב. איזה מזל! אני שולח לכם מכתב זה כיון שבימי ששי ושבת הקרובים לא אוכל אפילו לבקרכם. אנו יוצאים היום למקום די רחוק מכאן, לתרגיל שימשך עד יום ראשון בלילה. אבל אל יאוש! יתכן ובמשך השבוע אוכל לקפוץ לערד בערבים, או בשעות”הלילה לזמן מה, ואז נתראה. בלו בנעימים. נשיקות יוני

August 5, 1966 Beloved Father and Mother, I am exactly a mile away from you. If you go up to the pool above Arad and look down the road leading to Massada, you’ll be able to see our camp. Never before have I been, while in the field, in such a comfortable and “central” location. As a rule we are in the middle of nowhere, without a road, and many miles from human habitation. What luck! I’m sending you this letter because I won’t be able to visit you next Friday and Saturday. Today we’re leaving for a spot some distance from here, to conduct an exercise that will last until Sunday night. But don’t despair! Maybe I’ll be able to hop over to Arad in the evenings during the week, or for a while at night, and then we’ll see each other. Enjoy yourselves. Kisses, Yoni

October 17, 2017


Learn Hebrew in just 5 minutes a day. For free.