Thursday, August 17, 2017

How To Be Stupid vis-a-vis Trump

Whatever one's politics, can we get the facts and history correct.

Here's a Washington Post caricature:

1. Germany attacked. First.

2. The (eventual) Allied forces did nothing for six years and the US waited over two years to join the fight.  Under a Democratic administration. Under an anti-Semitic President who assisted the Holocaust happening.

3. And to be clear:

a) I oppose Nazis. 

b) I have beat up on Nazis. 

c) In America, there is a right to assemble and only a court can curtail that.   There was violence on both sides.  That is a fact, not a moral perception.

d) This is Judaism: "Rabbi Chanina, deputy to the kohanim, would say: Pray for the integrity of the government; for were it not for the fear of its authority, a man would swallow his neighbor alive."

e) Judging from here in Israel, there is more danger from Antifa than KKKooks and I think Jews on campus can attest. 

f) I am surprised people who have engaged me and stoop to using such naarischkeit comparisons and such a facile argument as " Yisrael Medad - Wait, what about those Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, didn't they use violence against Nazis? I think there's plenty of blame to place on both sides"

Or this:

Yisrael Medad You are a defender of nazis and an utter disgrace to our people.
No threat that Jewish people feel from those raised to hate us on college campuses or anywhere else should turn us into nazi sympathizers or Nazis.
Nothing Obama ever did was coming from anywhere than an honest effort to make the world a better place for all people. But yes, he was half-black. which I know caused people raised to be racist uncomfortable.
Although I have enjoyed our interactions and found your perspective interesting, for the sake of honoring the memory of my father who survived Hitler Germany and who taught me to fight nazism, I can not continue contact with you.

In fact, I feel dirty from having interacted with you at all, even if out of curiosity, for that is how disgusting and and repulsiveI find a Jew who sides with Nazis. G-d save you from your own evil heart.

g) Is Trump smart in his public spesking? No. Was he wrong, a bit. He was not comparing groups but their behavior.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Rabbi Hirschensohn and the Temple Mount

Transplanted to New Jersey from Jerusalem, Rabbi Chaim Hirschensohn, an amazing figure who held that "There is nothing in biblical law and Halakha which contradicts in any way progress or common sense. The objective of my research is to show that Halakha does not pose any obstacle to the development of private life or the life of an entire nation", also dealt with the subject of the Temple Mount which he viewed as 

"a national and religious center"

Here is from David Ellenson's "Rabbi Haim Hirschensohn: An Orthodox Rabbi Responds to the Balfour Declaration":-

In his first two responsa in Malki Bakodesh, Hirschenson addressed the questions of kingship and temple sacrifices. He acknowledged that some might think that restored Jewish national sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael might demand the restoration of the kingship and the temple cult. However, Hirschensohn argued against these positions, asserting that nothing “in biblical law and in the Halakhah is opposed in any way to the progress of civilization or logic [s’vara].” This meant that the teachings Maimonides expressed in the Guide for the Perplexed, where he maintained that sacrifices were an outmoded form of worship, had to be followed. As he wrote, “To reinstitute these practices would make us the object of ridicule before all the nations of the world. Instead of being a light to the nations, they would think of us as an unenlightened people who walk in darkness.”44

At the same time, Hirschensohn was not completely sanguine about adopting this position. After all, “If, upon our being in the Land, we agree not to build the Temple nor to offer sacrifices, will we not transgress the positive commandment of building the Chosen House?”45 As an Orthodox rabbi, Hirschensohn could not abide violating the positive duty to rebuild the Temple and restore sacrificial worship without halakhic justification. From the Orthodox standpoint, obedience to the changing standards of civilization was insufficient without authority from the Halakhah.

Hirschensohn found this authority by constructing a rather straightforward halakhic argument. He noted that Jewish law demanded that there was no obligation to rebuild the Temple without the appointment of a king...Hirschenson wrote, “The commandment to appoint a King to rule over us,” even if the Jewish people desired to do so, is impossible of fulfillment at present...Hirschenson stated, “And now, [in an era like ours] when we do not have a prophet, it is forbidden to appoint a king to rule over us, and since we do not have a king, we are not able to build the Temple to offer sacrifices, for the selection of a king must precede the building of the Temple.”48
44. Malki Badoesh, 11.45. Ibid.48. Ibid., 56

But this does not do justice to his position.

He wrote to Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook but could not obtain agreement for his outlook and that opposing viewpoint

Rav Kook, OrotThe Third Temple, the place of Israel’s light, will not be built through victory, not by a call to defeat another, a call to overcome an adversary, but rather through its deserved majesty, in the spirit of beauty and holiness, with many nations searching for God at Mount Zion [referring to the Temple Mount, not the peak that is currently called Mount Zion], through their own internal recognition that this is the proper way to express the majesty, the majesty of the just and wise King. All the world will want to worship under His flag out of love and the exaltation of the soul. 

 is held until this day in the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva:

The responsum of Hirschensohn:


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

James Joyce and...Vladimir Jabotinsky

One of those fascinating footnotes to history.

I have previously noted (here; and here) that Jabotinsky's novel on Samson was the basis for the screenplay for the 1949 award-winning Hollywood film. And a new film.

And now, James Joyce had requested the book:

Why did he request it?

Was there correspondence between the two?

Did Joyce have a "Jewish" thing?

Did this part appeal to him?


Sunday, August 13, 2017

I Tweet Linda Sarsour

Here is Linda Sarsour's tweet from last night:

Sending love to my Jewish siblings. I know watching Charlottesville & the anti-semitism on display was horrifying. We r in this together.

And my counter-tweet:

And Palestinian anti-Semitism and that of American Imams?

On the anti-Semitism from official Palestinian Authority sources

Not to mention the father of "Palestinian nationalism", the Mufti.

On my Imam reference.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Another Opinion Poll

From Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann's Peace Index:  July 2017 published: 02/08/2017 (Survey dates: 25/07/2017 - 27/07/2017)

The prime minister’s handling of the Temple Mount crisis: 

The survey findings show that a majority of the Jewish public (64%) does not see the prime minister as handling the current crisis on the Temple Mount judiciously. A segmentation of the Jewish interviewees’ responses by political camp revealed that even among those defining themselves as right-wing, most do not view the prime minister as managing the crisis judiciously, and that this view is even more pronounced in the center and on the left, though apparently for different reasons than among the right-wingers

Yes, of course.

The installation of the metal detectors at the entrances to the Al-Aqsa Mosque: 

At the same time, on the question of whether the prime minister acted properly in deciding to install the metal directors at the entrances to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, even though according to media reports the IDF and the Shabak opposed the measure, the Jewish public is almost evenly split between those who think he acted properly (45%) and those who maintain the opposite (47%). In the Arab public a lopsided majority (82%) considers that Netanyahu did not act properly in deciding to install the metal detectors. 

Is the prime minister using the Temple Mount crisis to divert attention from the investigations? 

In the Jewish public the majority (57%) rejects the claim that the prime minister is not trying to alleviate the Temple Mount crisis because he wants to divert the public’s attention from the investigations of his associates in the different corruption affairs. In the Arab public a majority—not large (54%)—believes Netanyahu is indeed making use of the Temple Mount crisis to divert public attention from the investigations of his associates.


Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Tricky Mr. Ricca

Doing some research cruising, I found this:

You see what I underlined?

He's tricky in his language. What I term 'semantic antics'.  Oh, and the book.

How tricky?

His first segment:

the outer compound of the Herodian Temple (and, by the same token, of the Muslim Haram al-Sharif) which since early modern times has been a religious focus for Jews. 

There is no "outer compound" of the Temple Mount. There's an inside and an outside.

Muslims claimed ownership of the Western Wall courtyard back in 1929 and the British gave them "ownership" as per the International Committee's conclusions.

The 2013 Jordan-Palestinian Authority agreement sacralizes "environs" and "Waqf properties" outside the strict delineation of the compound:

Al Masjid Al Aqsa with its 144 dunums, which include the Qibli Mosque of Al Aqsa, the Mosque of the Dome of the Rock and all its mosques, buildings, walls, courtyards, attached areas over and beneath the ground and the Waqf properties tied-up to Al Masjid Al Aqsa, to its environs...

Islamic expansionism of the first order.

His second foray:

Yet these changes, which seek to erase a centuries-old Arab past and replace it with a new, exclusively Jewish space adapted to the symbolism of a modern Jewish state,

is a bit more devious.

Aren't the Muslim claims to the Temple Mount reflective of what he sees above as negative?

Like this wording:-

Yet these changes, which seek to erase a centuries-old Jewish past and replace it with a new, exclusively Islamic space adapted to the symbolism of a modern Palestinian state,

What he criticises in Israel's actions and rhetoric is exactly what he would claim is proper and correct for Muslims. 

Mr. Ricca is quite tricky.


Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The 1931 Status Quo. Yes, That One

With all the talk about a policy of status quo regarding the administration of the Temple Mount, I think some history needs be cleared up.

There is the current 1967 "status quo" 

[Moshe] Dayan thought, and years later committed the thought to writing, that since the Mount was a “Muslim prayer mosque” while for Jews it was no more than “a historical site of commemoration of the past…one should not hinder the Arabs from behaving there as they now do and one should recognize their right as Muslims to control the site.” Dayan believed that the new order he designed on the Mount was the best way to prevent the national-territorial conflict from turning into a religious one that would be much more dangerous.
The basic elements of the status quo he devised included:

  1. The Waqf, as an arm of the Jordanian Ministry of Sacred Properties, would continue to manage the site and be responsible for arrangements and for religious and civil affairs there.
  1. Jews would not be permitted to pray on the Temple Mount, but they would be able to visit it. (This right of freedom of access to the Mount was also eventually anchored within the context of the Protection of Holy Places Law.)
  1. Israel, by means of its police force, would assume responsibility for security in the sacred compound, both within the site itself and regarding the wall and gates surrounding it.
  1. Israeli sovereignty and law would be applied to the Temple Mount as to the other parts of Jerusalem, to which Israeli law was applied after the Six-Day War. (This stipulation was approved more than once by the Israeli High Court of Justice.)
  1. It was later decided that the only entrance to the Temple Mount through which Jews would be permitted would be the Mughrabi Gate, located in the center of the Western Wall, whereas Muslims would be able to enter the Mount through its many other gates.  As for tourists it was established that they would enter through three gates: the Mughrabi Gate, the Chain Gate, and the Cotton Merchant’s Gate.  Today, the entrance of tourists is permitted only through the Mughrabi Gate.
  1. Over the years the raising of flags of any kind was prohibited on the Mount.

The Temple Mount will remain as is and will be managed as it is now. Arrangements for visits by Jews to the Temple Mount are safeguarded; there will be no change in them, just as the prayer arrangements for the Muslims.

and expressed more pithily:

Muslims pray on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims visit the Temple Mount

He shouldn't have been so comprehensive and public. 

There is the 1928 White Paper "status quo".  Here it is as reported by the JTA:

British Government Issues White Paper on Wailing Wall 
London (Nov. 27) 
–Asserting that the status quo, as established under the Turkish regime, was infringed by the Jewish worshippers at the Jewish Holy Site on September 24, the Day of Atonement, the White Paper of the British Government concerning the Wailing Wall incident, made public today, contains a statement of the facts and a declaration that the administration of Palestine intends to maintain the established Jewish right of access to the Holy Site.
 The White Paper, written by Col. Leopold H. Amery, Secretary of State for the Colonies, refers to the communique of the Palestine Government dated the 26th of September and explains that the intervention of the police was caused, as the Jewish action constituted an infraction of the status quo of the Wall. The paper further explains the Jewish rights to the Wall during the Turkish regime, underlining the ruling of 1912 prohibiting Jews to erect a screen on the wall pavement*. The White Paper emphasizes this year’s innovations at the Wall on Yom Kippur were made the cause of the complaints of the Mufti in charge of the Wakf (Moslem religious property) to the Palestine Government necessitating immediate action, according to the practice not to create precedent contradictory to the status quo the Palestine government is obliged to maintain under the terms of the mandate.
 Concerning the complaint that no Jew was among the police executing the order, this happened because, upon the urgent request of the Chief Rabbinate, all Jewish policemen had been released from service for the Yom Kippur holiday. In future, steps will be taken insuring a Jewish officer’s presence at the Wall on all such occasions. The further complaint that the Palestine government should have consulted Jewish authorities before taking action, is not substantiated, because if the infringement of the status quo was committed with the knowledge of these authorities, they were aware of the possible consequences from the experience on Yom Kippur, 1925 [As the Shaw Report noted, page 29, As a result of an incident, which occurred in September 1925, a ruling was made which forbade the Jews to bring seats and benches to the Wall even though these were intended for worshippers who were aged and infirm]. If, however, the Jewish authorities were ignorant of the innovations introduced, they cannot reasonably expect the Palestine government’s countenancing the unauthorized act of subordinates.
The British Government regards it as their duty and have the intention to maintain the established Jewish right of access to the pavement in front of the Wall for the purposes of devotion.



As Seth Franztman notes:

In 1912, chief rabbi of the Ottoman Empire Haim Nahoum appealed to the sultan to permit the Jewish community to bring benches and chairs to the Wall to aid the elderly...The Ashkenazi religious court judge Mendel Hacohen Pakover noted that in 1900, on certain major holidays, he encouraged religious Jews to bring a screen to separate men and women. The Muslim community regarded all of these activities as changes to the status quo, and part of a Jewish conspiracy to undermine the rights of Muslims in the city – one that should be opposed violently if need be.

Now, let's outline the 1931 "status quo", decided upon by an International Inquiry Commission, quite a demeaning document, actually:


A. To the Moslems belong the sole ownership of, and the sole proprietary right to, the Western Wall, seeing that it forms an integral part of the Haram-esh-Sherif area, which is a Waqf property.  To the Moslems there also belongs the ownership of the Pavement in front of the Wall and of the adjacent so-called Moghrabi (Moroccan) Quarter opposite the Wall, inasmuch as the last-mentioned property was made Waqf under Moslem Sharia Law, it being dedicated to charitable purposes. Such appurtenances of worship and/or such other objects as the Jews may be entitled to place near the Wall...shall under no circumstances be considered as, or have the effect of, establishing for them any sort of proprietary right to the Wall or to the adjacent Pavement...

B. The Jews shall have free access to the Western Wall for the purpose of devotions at all times--subject to the explicit stipulations hereinafter to be shall be permissible to place near the Wall the Cabinet or Ark containing the Scroll or Scrolls of the Law and the Table on which the Ark stands and the table on which the Scroll is laid when being read from, but only on the following occasions, viz.:--

(a) At any special fast and assembly for public prayer that the Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem may order to be held in the consequence of some public distress or calamity, provided due notice shall have been given by them to the Administration;(b) on New Year's Day and on the Day of Atonement,and also on any other special "holy days" that are recognised by the Government as such days on which it has been customary...(2) No objection or obstacle shall be raised to the Jews, in their individual capacity, carrying with them to the Wall hand-books or other articles customarily used at their devotions either as a general thing or upon special occasions, nor to their wearing such garments as were of old used at their devotions.(3) The temporarily enacted prohibitions against the bringing to the Wall of benches, carpets or mattings, chairs, curtains and screens, etc., and against the driving of animals at certain hours along the Pavement are to be made absolute, as is also the injunction as to keeping the door at the southern end of the Wall locked during certain hours. The right, however, for Moslems to go to and fro in an ordinary way along the Pavement shall be respected and remain inviolable as hitherto.(4) It shall be prohibited to bring to the Wall any tent or a curtain or any similar object with a view to placing it there--even though for a limited space of time.(5) The Jews shall not be permitted to blow the ram's horn (Shofar) near the Wall nor cause any other disturbance to the Moslems that is avoidable; the Moslems on the other hand shall not be permitted to carry out the Zikr ceremony close to the Pavement during the progress of the Jewish devotions or to cause annoyance to the Jews in any other way.(6) It is to be understood that the Administration shall be entitled to give such instructions as they may think fit respecting the dimensions of each of the objects that it is permissible for the Jews to bring to the Wall, respecting the particular days and hours above referred to...(7) It shall be prohibited for any person or persons to make use of the place in front of the Wall or its surroundings for all political speeches or utterances or demonstrations of any kind whatever.(8) It shall be held to be a matter of common interest to Moslems and Jews alike that the Western Wall should not be disfigured by having any engravings or inscriptions placed upon it or by having nails or similar objects driven into it, and also that the Pavement in front of the Wall should be kept clean and be properly respected by Moslems and Jews alike; it is herewith declared to be the Moslems' right and duty to have the Pavement cleaned and repaired, if and when that is necessary, upon due notice being given to the Administration. (9) Owing to the Wall's character as an historical monument its fitting maintenance shall be entrusted to the Palestine Administration, so that any repairs to it that may be necessary shall be carried out by them and under their supervision though only after consultation with the Supreme Moslem Council and the Rabbinical Council for Palestine.(10) If any repairs to the Pavement that are necessary are not attended to by the Moslems in due time, the Palestine Administration shall take the necessary steps to have the work done.(11) The Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem shall be required to nominate one or more officials to be their authorised representative or representatives for receiving the instructions and other communications that will be issued from time to time by the Palestine Administration regarding the Western Wall, the Pavement in front of it and the formalities to be observed with regard to the Jewish devotions near the Wall. 

SCHEDULE II.2.--(a) The Jews may bring daily to the Pavement before the Wall a stand containing ritual lamps, and may place on the stand a zinc case with glass doors in which such lamps are lighted. They may bring also a portable wash-basin and a water container on a stand. None of the objects above mentioned shall be affixed to the Wall or to any wall of the adjoining Waqf buildings.(b) From sunset on Friday evening to sunset on Saturday, and from sunset on the eve of any Jewish holy day recognised by the Government to sunset of that holy day the Jews may place at the Northern end of the Wall a stand containing prayer books, and at the Southern end of the Wall a table on which to stand a cabinet or ark containing Scrolls of the Law and another table on which the Scrolls are laid for reading. The tables and cabinet or ark and the stand shall be removed at the end of the Sabbath or holy day as the case may be.(c) On the two holy days of the New Year Festival and on the Day of Atonement each Jewish worshipper may bring a prayer-mat which may be placed on the Pavement before the Wall but so as not to obstruct the right of passage along the Pavement.3. No benches, chairs or stools shall be brought to or placed on the Pavement before the Wailing Wall. No screen or curtain shall be placed on the Wall or on the Pavement, for the purpose of separating men and women or for any other purpose.4. Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sabbath days and Jewish holy days recognised by the Government, and between the hours of 5 and 8 p.m. on the eve of such days, and throughout the eve and Day of Atonement, save between the hours of dawn and 7 a.m., no animal shall be driven along the Pavement before the Wall.5. The wooden door giving access from the Pavement to the Zawieh at the Southern end of the Wall shall remain locked on the eve of the Sabbath and Jewish holy days recognised by the Government from 5 p.m. and throughout such days until after sunset.

So, what we have is a degrading status quo that denies historical truth and Jewish rights. 

One more element is required for understanding what is wrong here: knowing that Jordan ignores its requirements according to a peace treaty.

The Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty:


  1. Each party will provide freedom of access to places of religious and historical significance.
  1. In this regard, in accordance with the Washington Declaration, Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.
  1. The Parties will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace.


  1. The Parties will seek to foster mutual understanding and tolerance based on shared historic values, and accordingly undertake:
  1. to abstain from hostile or discriminatory propaganda against each other, and to take all possible legal and administrative measures to prevent the dissemination of such propaganda...

Today, the King declared that

Tampering with status quo in Jerusalem would impact region

But who is tampering with that status quo?

And without working with Israel
His Majesty, the Custodian of Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, reiterated that Jordan will continue to protect the holy sites in the city, through working with the international community.

And it seems this was discussed

a habitual encroachment by Israeli forces on the Al-Aqsa compound. 

There is no status quo and no fulfillment of the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty.

And that is a shame.


Sunday, August 06, 2017

The Kfar Etzion "Massacre" That 'Wasn't'

Kfar Etzion, the national-religious kibbutz established in 1943, on the third attempt to recreate Jewish life on the road between Jerusalem and Hebron, fell on May 13, 1948 and it has been accepted that there was a massacre of the surrendering fighters.

Here is from the Wikipedia entry:

The Kfar Etzion massacre refers to a massacre of Jews that took place after a two-day battle in which Jewish Kibbutz residents and Haganah militia defended Kfar Etzion from a combined force of the Arab Legion and local Arab men on May 13, 1948, the day before the Israeli Declaration of Independence. Of the 129 Haganah fighters and Jewish kibbutzniks who died during the defence of the settlement, Martin Gilbert states that fifteen were murdered on surrendering.

And further details:

...when the hopelessness of their position became undeniable on May 13, dozens of defenders, the haverim, of Kfar Etzion laid down their arms and assembled in the courtyard, where they suddenly began to be shot at. Those not slain in the first volleys of fire pushed past the Arabs, and either escaped to hide, or gathered their weapons, and were hunted down. The number of people killed and the perpetrators, the Arab legion or local village irregulars or both, are in dispute. According to one account, the main group of about 50 defenders were surrounded by a large number of Arab irregulars, who shouted "Deir Yassin!" and ordered the Jews to sit down, stand up, and sit down again, when suddenly someone opened fire on the Jews with a machine gun and others joined in the killing. Those Jews not immediately cut down tried to run away but were pursued...hand grenades were thrown into a cellar, killing a group of 50 who were hiding there. The building was blown up.
According to other sources, 20 women hiding in a cellar were killed. David Ohana writes that 127 Israeli fighters were killed on the last day.
...The figure of 127 massacred appears to include both those who surrendered only to be slain, and the defenders who had been killed in battle over 12–13 May.
In another account, after the 133 defenders had assembled, they were photographed by a man in a kaffiyeh, and then an armored car apparently belonging to the Arab Legion opened fire with its machine gun, and then Arab irregulars joined in. A group of defenders managed to crawl into the cellar of the monastery, where they defended themselves until a large number of grenades were thrown into the cellar. The building was then blown up and collapsed on them. 

Another version:

In all, about 128 defenders were massacred by the Palestinian Arab irregulars or the Jordan Legion, counting those who had escaped to the basement of the monastery. Some accounts do not count these people as "massacred" and estimate that fifty were massacred.

In the premier issue of Mechkarei Eretz Yehuda (Land of Judea Studies) published this year, edited by Yechiel Zelinger and Nadav Frankel, Yochanan Ben-Yaakov, whose father and uncle were killed in the fighting, and the recognized historian of the kibbutz and editor of "Gush Etzion: Fifty Years of Struggle and Endeavour [in Hebrew]. Kfar Etzion: Field School, 1978" and later studies, has summarized his findings.

His conclusions, in brief, are:

A. In actuality, the fighting had not ceased the whole day as the outlying positions were unaware that two attempts at arranging an orderly surrender had been made near the center of the kibbutz.

B. Most of the 131 defenders (82 kibbutz members and 49 Hish and Palmach fighters) were killed in their positions or in the connecting communication trenches as well as in the bunker. Those in the bunker (the injured, medical staff, command staff, communications staff and a few who did manage to flee there after the surrender attempt) shot at the approaching Arabs who threw grenades in and then blew up the building which collapsed on them all.

C. At most, perhaps 30 defenders were at the school where the Arabs had opened fire and of those, four survived.

D. Many had made heroic efforts to flee from the area in front of the school, scooping up their weapons which had been placed on the ground in preparation for the surrender ceremony and ran into wooded areas where they were hunted down and shot. Some females were raped. Some headed in the direction of Massuot Yitzchak. Almost all had their weapons with them.

E. When Rabbi Shlomo Goren and his team returned over a year later to bury the bodies which had been unattended all that time, his report indicated finding them in or near the original defensive positions at various locations around the kibbutz. Some were found facing inwards as if they were shooting at Arabs who were approaching them from within the kibbutz.

F. The photographer who asked those who surrendered to pose was Yisrael Netach, it seems, a Syrian Jew who was a Shai operative. He had served as Abd El-Khader Al-Husseini's personal photographer until El-Khader was killed on April 8 at the Kastel battle. (Incidentally, his pictures 

are amazing, as the one above taken at the Kastel). He crossed the lines the following evening at Ramat Rachel but the soldiers suspected him  of being an Arab agent and exposed the film in his camera.

G. Avraham Fischgrund (a relative of my wife's cousin's husband) was the commander of the Kibbutz and was the first shot when a surrender was being attempted as he emerged with a white flag in his hands.

Ben-Yaakov insists that there was not a massacre of large proportions, that between 15 and 30 were shot while posing for the surrender photograph and the rest during the clean-up operations with those fighters defending themselves with their weapons.  He cannot verify which Arab group opened fire first, the irregulars or the Arab Legion soldiers.


Friday, August 04, 2017

Andrychow and Kocierz or, From Palestine to Poland

This past week, students of the Dekel-Vilnai High School located in Maaleh Adumin are in Poland conducting a heritage tour.  This tour is a bit unique in that it is being sponsored, in part, by the Menachem Begin Heritage Center and elements of the heritage of Jabotinsky, Begin, Betar and other elements of the Revisionist Movement are incorporated in the itinery.

One of the places visited is Kocierz, about 10 kilometers south of the town of Andrychow.

In the mountains there, for almost three months in early 1939, 25 commanders of the Irgun in Eretz-Yisrael were being trained by Polish Army officers in guerrilla warfare (the Hagana's training area [shared by Betar, too] was in Rembertów, now a suburb of Warsaw and was much less intensive):

Here is the ski lodge built, partially, on the remains of a Polish army base which served as the HQ & barracks for the group and was visited by the group, the second group to visit:

The group was lead in singing the song, Chayalim Almonim: (Anonymous Soldiers) written and composed by Avraham Stern - Yair, led by Yossi Suede of the Begin Center:

For those seeking more background and details, here are excerpts from a lecture I found:

The charismatic personality of Ze’ev Jabotinsky drew large crowds of Jews to his talks in Poland...“The style of Jabotinsky’s political Zionism, with the demand for Jewish independence in the Land of Israel and large-scale Aliyah, aroused the interest of groups in the Polish government, which increased and developed into true admiration, firstly for the resistance activities of the IZL against the Arabs during the Arab riots. The Poles, for their limitations, are a romantic people.... who understand and appreciate a revolt against a foreign conqueror. And when they first encountered a similar attitude amongst the Jews, that is from Jabotinsky and his disciples, it touched their heart-strings and inspired their imagination. And they showed their admiration for Jabotinsky himself. Count Lubienski, the Head of the Polish Foreign Office at the time, liked Jabotinsky in particular...

Count Lubienski also expressed his support in practical ways and organised many important meetings between Jabotinsky and the heads of the Polish government. Firstly, he organised a meeting with Count Lubiensky’s boss, the Polish Foreign Minister, Jozef Beck. Jabotinsky presented to Beck the ambitious plan for the “evacuation” from Europe of one and a half million Jews, 750,000 of them from Poland, to the Land of Israel, within ten years. Beck liked the plan and arranged for Jabotinsky to meet the other leaders of Poland.

Jabotinsky’s next meeting was with the Polish Prime Minister, General Felicjan Sławoj Składkowski. At that meeting Jabotisnky asked the Polish government to put pressure on the League of Nations to influence Britain to open the gates of the Land of Israel to mass immigration of Polish Jews. The Poles agreed, and at Poland’s request a discussion was held at the council of the League of Nations on the migration of Jews to the Land of Israel. However, the British, in fear of an Arab reaction, forcefully objected to opening the gates of Palestine for the Jews, and prevented the acceptance of any resolution on the subject.

The Polish attitude to the problem was clarified to the council by Foreign Minister Beck. The newspaper “Davar” reported about it in 21.9.37, as follows: Beck (Poland): …”The special interest of my government in the problem discussed here is a result of the fact that a large percentage of the Jews living now in the Land of Israel came from my country… Historical and sentimental reasons are responsible to the fact that the Jews are showing special interest in the The council of the League of Nations in session. (Photo: UN and LON Archives, Geneva) immigration to the Land of Israel. Moreover, during the lastyears a lot of technical experience accumulated in this field by the Histadrut workers union, who already showed its precious achievements in these matters… …”I am sure that the members of the council, primarily the Mandate Government of Palestine will be good enough to consider my government’s point of view… I must say, though, that my government’s main concern will be to insure that Palestine – whatever its regime – will have the maximum possibility to absorb immigration in the future. “The uncertainty among the Jews today about the future of the country, and the temporary immigration limitations by the Mandatory government are of course disturbing the constructive politics regarding immigration (to Palestine) which prove how much interest the Polish government and the Jews are showing in finding a swift solution to the problem.”

The pinnacle of the meetings that Jabotinsky had in Warsaw was with Field marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły, then the de facto ruler of Poland. This meeting also ended in full understanding. The positive impression Jabotinsky and his plans made on the Polish rulers soon went from the planning stages to practical endeavours. The Poles began assisting the “Af Al Pi” illegal immigration network, which was organized by Jabotinsky’s New Zionist Organization. The supply of Polish arms to be smuggled to Palestine by the IZL was initiated at this time. Also, training members of the Betar Jewish youth movement and IZL fighters began. The Poles advised Jabotinsky that they were willing to supply the IZL considerable quantities of arms, for the price of 212,000 Zloty (then $40,000), that they will personally loan Jabotinsky in exchange for “an honourable understanding” that the money will be returned once the Jewish State is established. After a time the Poles gave the IZL a grant for an additional 100,000 Zloty. To this amount was added approximately 125,000 Zloty, a private donation from Markovic Klez – a Romanian Jewish millionaire, who was a “groupie” of Jabotinsky and who contributed a great deal to the Revisionist Movement and to the IZL (in 1938 he donated to the IZL an amount sufficient to cover the whole operational budget of the organization for six months). However, the Poles were so generous that the quantities of arms they gave to the IZL far exceeded what they had originally committed to.

Betarim in Ostrowa

While Jabotinsky was conducting high level talks in Warsaw, a new line of communication was opened in Jerusalem between the IZL and the Poles. Avraham (Yair) Stern, a senior commander of the IZL who spoke fluent Polish, made close contact with the Polish Consul in Jerusalem, Witold Hulanicki. and the two became close friends. [Tragically, a Lechi group in Jerusalem was influenced, seemingly by Communist agents, to kill him in 1948] Yair pointed out to the Consul the mutual interests between his organisation and the Polish government and expressed his belief that the more the IZL increased the reprisals against the Arab terror in Palestine the more the Arabs will be weakened, and thus mass Jewish immigration to the country will be possible. Thanks to Yair’s efforts, Hulanicki became an avid supporter of Zionism and of the IZL. The two even wrote a draft agreement between the IZL and the Polish government, according to which the IZL will undertake the tasks of organizing training camps for Jewish youth in Poland and once graduated, move them to Palestine. The Government of Poland, for its part, would provide the IZL arms and training camps and would even try, as much as the political government situation would allow, to put pressure on the British to allow the entrance of Polish Jews to the Land of Israel. For his part, Hulanicki transmitted the IZL’s requests to the Polish Foreign Office in Warsaw. The request was approved. So at the end of 1938, Yair set out to Warsaw, to organize the training camps. In the spring of 1939 the Poles opened a special military course for senior commanders of the IZL while concurrently the supply of Polish arms to the IZL continued.

Yair’s activities in Warsaw were aided a great deal by Dr. Henryk Strassman and his wife, Alicja (pronounced Alitsya). The two came from assimilated Jewish families. Henryk completed his Law studies at Warsaw University with honours. He received a doctorate in law, and in great part due to the strength of his personality, he was appointed to the Warsaw Judiciary – a very senior position, and a level which few Jews were able to reach in the Polish public service at the time. He also taught criminology at the university. In her youth, Alicja studied political science and literature in Paris, where she was drawn to cosmopolitan left-wing activities and drifted away from Judaism. On her return to Poland, she married Henryk. The rising Polish anti-Semitism in the first half of the 1930s did not miss the Strassmans and in reaction to it they became active in the Jewish political arena, preferring the Revisionists. When Yair arrived in Warsaw in 1938, he was invited to speak at a meeting in the home of the couple. The impression he left on those present was so great, that they established a political club named “Yordan” (Jordan), where they met regularly. The high level of the discussions in the club drew many and it became a most desirable place to be for many of the prominent Jews in Warsaw. 

Yair offered Alicja to publish for the IZL a bi-weekly in Polish and she agreed. The magazine, which later became a weekly, was called “Liberated Jerusalem” and contained highly intellectual articles on various Jewish topics, including information of the armed Jewish struggle in the Land of Israel. On the cover of issue 5 of the magazine appeared for the first time the drawing of the hand holding a rifle, with the map of an undivided Land of Israel in the background. Its caption was “Tylko Tak!” (Only Thus!) – the motto of the Polish Legion, which fought in WWI on the German side, for the liberation of Poland from the Russians. The logo was drawn by the magazine’s graphic artist, Dr Bauer, following a suggestion by Alicja. Soon after the IZL adopted it as its official logo and henceforth it appeared on all the publications of the organisation. The weekly had a circulation of 4,000 copies and was in great demand by prominent Jews in Warsaw and even senior Polish officials. The enthusiastic support of his influential readers and followers helped Yair greatly in his activities in Poland. At this time, Yair began drifting away from Jabotinsky, because he thought his policies towards the British were too compromising. He did not even report to him that he had agreed with the Poles on the special military course for the IZL commanders. This caused Jabotinsky a great deal of embarrassment when he was asked by the Poles for his views on the course while he knew nothing of it... 

True to their word to Jabotinsky the Poles started to supply the IZL large quantities of arms. At this time, 24 different types of old rifles were used by the Polish army, and a decision was made to discard all of them and use only a Polish copy of the German “Mauser 98” rifle. As a result, the depots of the army were filled with many thousands of French WWI rifles, which became available immediately to the IZL, together with hundreds of French Hotchkiss machine guns (which were also taken out of military service), millions of bullets and a large quantity of explosives. 

Polish Army training session:

The weapons were stored in a building that was rented by the Strassmans at 8 Ceglana Street, in a distant suburb of Warsaw. Yaacov Meridor, a senior commander of the IZL, dealt with smuggling the weapons to Palestine. In his memoirs, he stated that the weapons in the warehouse would have been sufficient to arm a complete Polish infantry division. However, the exact quantity of arms supplied by the Poles to the IZL is not known, as most of the Polish military archive was lost during WWII. According to Meridor, cached in Ceglana street were 20,000 rifles and about 500 machine guns, of which 200 were the Hotchkiss model. In a somewhat different version, Alicja Strassman relates in her memoirs that the Poles supplied the IZL with a number closer to 8,000 rifles and 1.2 million rounds of ammunition by the end of the summer of 1939. In fact they were both right: the Polish army indeed undertook to supply the IZL 20,000 rifles, but managed to supply only 8,000 before WWII broke out. 

Even if Strassman’s version is the more accurate one, the amount of arms supplied was enough to generate a great deal of excitement. Meridor relates that “when I first entered the warehouse I almost fainted. That narrow building stored hundreds of crates of weapons and ammunition - and I was ready to kiss every one of them”. Alicja Strassman relates in her memoirs, that the Poles supplied the arms in three deliveries. The first of them was in the autumn of 1938, the second in the spring of 1939 and the third, which was the largest, in the summer of the same year. She also relates that at some stage the Poles stopped supplying the old French rifles and instead delivered the new, Polish made version, of the “Mauser 98” rifles that were manufactured in Polish factories for the Polish military. According to her, the name of the factory and the serial number stamped on each rifle were erased before being handed third and final shipment ultimately remained in Warsaw. She also relates that at some stage the Poles the over to the IZL, to prevent the British intelligence from finding out their origin, in case they were seized on their way to Palestine. A Polish army document that survived the war states that one of the deliveries contained 500 rifles “without bayonets or straps and without factory markings, packed in regular boxes at a price of 125 Zloty per rifle” and one million rounds of ammunition, as well as 40 sub-machine guns, and 250,000 rounds of ammunition for them.

On the shoulders of Meridor lay the task of smuggling the Polish arms to Palestine. One way he devised was to hide it inside heavy machinery, such as the drums of industrial dry- cleaning machines (like the one below). The machines were transported overland to the port of Constanza in Romania or the port of Varna in Bulgaria where they were loaded on ships sailing to Haifa. This method turned out to be so efficient that the British did not discover any of the arms smuggled in this way. Alicja Strassman writes about one shipment of 15 Hotchkiss machine guns and 300 rifles, smuggled via Constanza. Of course there were other shipments which for reasons of secrecy, there is no record of them. The last of the “contraband” shipments was a crate containing two Hotchkiss machine guns and 130 French rifles, as well as a few hundred Polish pistols. The crate was sent to Merridor’s residence in Ramat Gan three weeks before the Nazi invasion and it arrived at its destination after the outbreak of war. Merridor hid this crate in his backyard. It should be noted that he Poles also supplied arms to the Haganah, but only as a normal commercial transaction, at full price. In total 2,250 rifles and 225 light machine guns were transferred to the Haganah. However, British intelligence discovered this trnsaction and the British Government demanded that the Poles cease the shipments immediately. The Poles had no choice but to comply – and this source of arms for the Haganah was blocked.

Along with the supply of arms, Polish officers also started training members of Jewish Betar youth movement in the use of guns and explosives. The trainees were members of IZL secret cells, who infiltrated the ranks of Betar in Poland with the encouragement of Yair. A Polish army officer (standing on the right) instructs Betar members how to shoot a rifle. 

Pre-military training was compulsory in all secondary schools in Poland, including Jewish secondary schools. Students who completed this training, and passed their matriculation examinations, were sent to officer’s training courses upon military induction, and were exempted from regular basic training. In the photo above, students of the Jewish secondary school “Klara Ehrlich” in Kovel (today in Ukraine) in a pre-military camp during their summer holidays in the mid 1930’s.

Military drill at a Polish secondary school in the 1930’s For members of Betar who were not part of the IZL secret cells, pre-military courses similar to those at the secondary schools were taught, instructed by Jewish veterans of the Polish army.

The jewel in the crown of the training that the Poles gave to the IZL was the advanced officers’ course, which lasted for four months in the summer of 1939. Twenty five senior IZL commanders attended this course. In order not to arouse suspicion, they left Palestine separately and gathered in Krakow, being warned not to be conspicuous. One of them, Eliahu Lankin, who was later to become the commander of the “Altalena”, related that “one morning we travelled by train to an obscure station, where horse-drawn carts waited for us... After a slow journey in snowy forests we arrived at the peak of a mountain to a three-storied building with a wide yard. All around it was dense forest. Not a living soul to be seen. This was the site of the course.” The mountainous area, where the senior commanders of the IZL passed an advanced officer’s course. 

The site was in the Beskid Mountains, in Southern Poland, about 15km south of Andrychow. This site was chosen for two reasons: the sparse population and the Judea and Galilee like scenery. The course was conducted very strictly by the “second division” (the Intelligence service of the Polish army), and two agents from the Polish Foreign Office: Polonius Zarychta and Viktor Drymmer. The course consisted of two parts: regular military training and guerrilla warfare. The first part included self-defence, individual, unit and divisional field training, lectures on the management of larger groups, military tactics and topography. The second part included explosives, methods of partisan fighting and the building of underground cells. Lenkin and others reported that “Every day we went into the forest for training. The area resounded of loud explosions, automatic gunfire and rifle shots. The program was very elaborate and as time was short, the training was very intensive. “We would set off on long excursions early in the morning and return to the base after nightfall, exhausted, freezing, filthy…but feeling extremely satisfied. Our spirit was lifted and the Polish officers were very surprised by our determination and our great desire to learn.” The Polish officers lectured in Polish, as expected, a language understood by most of the trainees, who then translated for the rest who didn’t understand Polish. 

The course ended In August [I think in April] 1939. Polish General Kazimierz Fabrycy and two colonels from the “second division” – Joseph Smolenski and Thaddeus Pełczyński – came over to watch over the final exam, which was followed by a parade and other festivities. Lankin recalls that “the General and Avraham Stern, who also came for the event, inspected the guard of honour. The General spoke with the cadets and to his surprise discovered that they came from all corners of the earth, from China to South America. (Eliahu Lankin himself was the head of Betar in China before he made Aliyah in 1933).” The exam went extraordinarily well and the Polish officers did not hide their amazement and appreciation for the cadets’ achievements. The head trainer said enthusiastically, that he taught many courses before to his countrymen, but never had he received as much satisfaction from the results, as from this course. “In the end it was Stern’s turn to speak. Beginning in Polish, he expressed appreciation of the course and compared the Jewish struggle in Palestine with the Poles’ war of independence. Turning to Hebrew he told the cadets of the plan to conquer the Land of Israel by armed and well trained Jewish youth… This was the first time the cadets heard about the acquisition of large quantities of arms for the IZL in Poland”.

...In the initial stages of the military operations against the British, the knowledge gained from the course was used to prepare electrically triggered landmines and pressure triggered landmines. Other areas of knowledge gained from the Poles included the preparation of hidden transmitters, delay tactics, and additional techniques related to underground activities.” Most of the cadets returned to Palestine immediately after the course ended. Only four of them remained in Poland to oversee the military courses for Betar members [and close to 1000 Betarim had undergone such training until mid-August]. But a few weeks later war broke out and they all had to escape back home. 

Another version, translated from the Polish:

In the spring of 1939 the Beskid forests in and around Andrychów were once again bursting with explosions and shooting. 25 young men were banned from keeping contact with the surrounding population. For four months, under the guidance of instructors of the Polish Army, they learned techniques of guerrilla and sabotage, trained in terrorist attacks and bomb attacks, and learned the basics of conspiracy. As he recalled one year after taking part in the training: "Poles treated the course of terrorism as a scientific discipline, we learned mathematical formulas to demolish structures of cement, iron, wood, bricks and earth."

The four-month course ended with a party involving the commander of the Carpathians army of General Kazimierz Fabryca and the colonels of Józef Smoleński and Tadeusz Pełczyński, who represented the famous Double, or II Corps General Staff, as pre-war military intelligence. When the officers had been drinking a little, General Fabry asked the commander of the training group where the participants came from. "From all over the world, this one is from China," the commander said, pointing to the young officer who was born in Harbin in Manchuria. "Somehow you do not look Chinese," said the general and they both laughed, because the course participants did not really have anything to do with China. 

The course in Andrychow was designed for the officers of Irgun, an underground army formed by the leader of the Zionist right-wing Vladimir Żabotyński to fight for the Jewish state in Palestine. They secretly entered Poland from Palestine in small groups, LOT aircraft, between Haifa and Warsaw, or Polonia liner, which linked Palestine with the Romanian port of Constanta, and from there by train to Krakow.

The course in Andrychów is the result of a contract concluded in 1936 between Jabotińsky and the Polish authorities. It assumed the help of the Polish army in the training of Jewish fighters fighting for the state of Israel in Palestine. The initial stage was paramilitary camps for Zionist youth organized under the auspices of the Ministry of Military Affairs in the summer of 1936 and 1937. The first group of about 40 Irgun soldiers [actually, members of the National Cells/Ta'im Leumiim] appeared in Poland in the summer of 1938 [in 1937], conducting regular military training in Zofiace in Volhynia and Podębin near Lodz. The course in Andrychów was supposed to be the culmination of cooperation. The training of a staff of experts who later shared their knowledge with hundreds of Jewish soldiers in Palestine was supervised by Abraham Stern, the commander-in-chief of Irgun, born in Suwalki.