Monday, September 10, 2007

Mandate History

My father had clear memories of Arab hostility in Old Jerusalem. For example, he remembered that every year in the spring the Arabs in Hebron, the Halilis, would come to Jerusalem to go to the mosques on the Temple Mount. The Jews would be terrified and stay in their houses while the Halilis worked themselves up into a state of frenzy and, if not stopped, begin mini-pogroms in the Jewish Quarter.

On other occasions he would describe how a gang of Arabs entered the Jewish Quarter on such a mini-pogrom where they first encountered one of the Jewish "toughs," a butcher who could defend himself. The latter took a chair from a nearby cafe, broke off a leg, and began to whale away at the Arabs until they withdrew. When we bought our apartment on Jabotinsky from the two contractors, Lifshitz and Bibas, my father recalled Bibas as a boy in the Old City; he was one of those Jewish toughs who was part of the Old City's self-defense and he used to defend simpler Jews from Arab assaults very vigorously. He must have obviously recalled that family connection as well since he was especially kind to us during the purchase and construction of the apartment (he was "Mr. Inside," responsible for the construction crew), although he was a man not known for his gentility.

Daniel Elazar.

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