Shlomo Ben-Yosef
As previously mentioned, on April 21, 1938, three members of the Beitar labor company at Rosh Pina (Avraham Shein, Shalom Jurabin and
Shlomo Ben-Yosef) fired on an Arab bus on the Safed Rosh-Pina road in reprisal for Arab violence. None of the passengers were hit. The three men fled, hid in an abandoned building nearby and were arrested some time later by the police. They were tried by a military tribunal in Haifa and charged with illegal possession of arms and with 'intent to kill or cause other harm to a large number of people.' Under the Emergency Regulations, each of the charges was a capital offence. The three defendants announced that they intended to exploit the trial for political purposes.

The court pronounced Jurabin mentally unstable, and he was sentenced to incarceration in a mental hospital 'at the discretion of the High Commissioner'. Shein and Ben-Yosef were sentenced to death by hanging and accepted the sentence with exceptional stoicism. The Commander in Chief of British forces in Palestine confirmed Ben-Yosef's sentence, and later commuted Shein's sentence to life imprisonment on account of his youth.

On the morning of June 29, 1938, Shlomo Ben-Yosef prepared for his final hour. He stripped off the scarlet garments of the condemned man, and dressed in shorts, a shirt and work-boots. After breakfast, he brushed his teeth and awaited the police guard. He walked erect to the gallows, singing the Beitar anthem. On the wall of his death cell, Ben-Yosef had written in his poor Hebrew:

What is a homeland?
It is something worth living for, fighting for and dying for.
I was a slave to Beitar to the day of my death


Eliyahu Bet Zuri
Lord Moyne, who was known to be an anti-Zionist, had been appointed Minister of State for the Middle East, and from his place of residence in Cairo, was responsible for implementing the
White Paper policy. Lehi, which considered Lord Moyne to be responsible for the deportation of the immigrant ships, decided to assassinate him. Two members of Lehi - Eliyahu Hakim and Eliyahu Bet Zuri - were dispatched to Cairo, and on November 6, 1944, they carried out the assassination, but were caught shortly afterwards. On January 10, 1945 they were charged with murder. Hakim and Beit-Zuri, manacled, stood calmly beside their Egyptian guards with red fezzes. Both were, and had been since their capture, completely self-possessed. They did not take part in the proceedings, and when the testimony was completed, Eliyahu Hakim rose to his feet and said:

We accuse Lord Moyne and the government he represents, with murdering hundreds and thousands of our brethren; we accuse him of seizing our country and looting our possessions...
We were forced to do justice and to fight.

Eliyahu Hakim
After being sentenced to death, they rose to their feet and sang the national anthem. On March 23, 1945, they were dressed in the traditional, ill-fitting red burlap suit of condemned men, marched barefoot to the gallows, were blindfolded at the scaffold, and hanged.

On Tuesday, April 23, 1946, a military vehicle approached the Ramat Gan police station, and let off about a dozen 'Arab prisoners' , escorted by 'British soldiers'. The 'prisoners' were taken into the station, and the 'British sergeant' in charge of the convoy informed the desk sergeant that the Arabs had been caught stealing at the Tel Litvinsky army camp (present-day Tel Hashomer) and were to be detained. While the desk sergeant was deciding what to do with them, the 'prisoners' and their escorts took out revolvers and ordered the policemen to put up their hands and file into the detention cell. Within moments, the unit had taken over the police station, and then moved towards the armory, blasting open the door. Meanwhile the 'porters', led by
Dov Gruner, had entered the building. They removed the weapons from the armory and loaded them onto a waiting truck. A policeman on the upper storey noticed the activity, and directed machine-gun fire at the attackers. He shot the Irgun Bren gunner, who had taken up position on the balcony of the building opposite the police station, and then fired at the 'porters', who continued to load weapons while bullets whistled around them. When they had completed their task, the truck drove off to an orange grove near Ramat Gan.

Dov Gruner
The commander of the operation,
Eliezer Pedatzur (Gad), counted his men and discovered that three were missing: the Bren gunner Yisrael Feinerman, who had been shot and killed while covering the 'porters' from the balcony of the building opposite the police station; Yaakov Zlotnik, who was fatally wounded while running to the truck (his body was discovered hanging on the barbed wire) and Dov Gruner, who had sustained jaw injury, had fallen into the trench beside the fence and was taken captive. The British took Gruner to Hadassah hospital in Tel Aviv, where he was operated by Professor Marcus. Gruner spent twelve days at Hadassah, with an armed guard posted outside his room around the clock. From there, he was transferred to the government hospital in Jaffa, and then to the medical division of the central jail in Jerusalem.

On January 1, 1947, seven months after his arrest, Gruner's trial opened at the military court in Jerusalem. He was charged with firing on policemen, and setting explosive charges with the intent of killing personnel 'on His Majesty's service'. When asked if he admitted his guilt, Gruner replied that he did not recognize the authority of the court to try him, had no intention of taking part in the proceedings, which he did not want translated into Hebrew for his benefit. Instead, he read a statement to the judges:

I do not recognize your authority to try me. This court has no legal foundation, since it was appointed by a regime without legal foundation.
You came to Palestine because of the commitment you undertook at the behest of all the nations of the world to rectify the greatest wrong caused to any nation in the history of mankind, namely the expulsion of Israel from their land, which transformed them into victims of persecution and incessant slaughter throughout the world. It was this commitment - and this commitment alone - which constituted the legal and moral basis for your presence in this country. But you betrayed it wilfully, brutally and with satanic cunning. You turned your commitment into a mere scrap of paper...
When the prevailing government in any country is not legal, when it becomes a regime of oppression and tyranny, it is the right of its citizens - more than that, it is their duty - to fight this regime and to topple it. This is what Jewish youth are doing and will continue to do until you quit this land, and hand it over to its rightful owners: the Jewish people. For you should know this: there is no power in the world which can sever the tie between the Jewish people and their one and only land. Whosoever tries to sever it - his hand will be cut off and the curse of God will rest on him for ever.

There was a silence in the courtroom after Gruner's statement. The prosecutor delivered his address and summoned witnesses .In an unusual move, the prosecutor pointed out several factors in favor of the accused: his five years' service in the British army, his good conduct during his service, his participation in fighting on the Italian front and the severe injury he suffered, which left him disabled. This statement had no effect on the judges, and after a brief consultation, the president of the court announced that Gruner had been found guilty on two charges. On the first charge, he was sentenced to be hung by the neck. The court reserved the right to determine the punishment for the second charge. Immediately after the reading of the sentence , Gruner rose to his feet and declared:

"In blood and fire Judea fell, in blood and fire Judea will rise again"

- a quotation from a poem written by the poet Yaakov Cohen after the 1903 Kishinev pogroms, which became the slogan of the Hashomer organization.

A poster published by the Irgun

Dov Gruner was taken to the death cell under heavy guard, and dressed in scarlet garments. He spent 105 days in the cell, alternating between hope and despair, while leaders and public figures in Palestine and abroad interceded with the British government to commute the death sentence to life imprisonment. Heavy pressure was also exerted on Gruner to plead for clemency, but he insisted on being treated as a prisoner of war and refused to sign the request.

Forty eight hours before the date fixed for the execution, Gruner wrote a letter from his cell to the Irgun commander, which he concluded with the following words:

I am writing these lines 48 hours before our oppressors are due to carry out the murder, and at such times one cannot lie. I swear that if I had the choice of starting again, I would choose the same path I have followed regardless of the possible consequences for me.

Benyamin Kimchi, who was arrested after the Irgun attack on the Ottoman Bank in Jaffa, was sentenced in December 1946 to 18 years imprisonment and 18 lashes. It was the first time that an underground fighter had been given this humiliating sentence. The Irgun General Headquarters took a very severe view of the sentence, and cautioned the British against carrying it out. "If it is implemented," they wrote in a leaflet which was widely distributed, "the same punishment will be inflicted on British army officers. Each of them will be liable to receive 18 lashes."

The British ignored the Irgun warnings, and on Friday, December 27, 1946, Kimchi received 18 lashes in the Jerusalem jail. Immediately afterwards, a unit of Irgun fighters was sent into action. A captain from the Sixth Airborne Division was whipped in Netanya, two British sergeants in Tel Aviv, and another sergeant in Rishon Lezion.

Another unit (composed of Yehiel Dresner, Mordechai Alkahi, Eliezer Kashani, Haim Golovsky and Avraham Mizrahi) set out by car from Petah Tikva on a similar mission. Not far from Wilhelma, they encountered a road-block and came under heavy fire. Mizrahi, the driver, was hit and died later. The other four were dragged out of the vehicle and taken to a nearby army camp, where they were stripped, beaten and humiliated. After five days of torture they were taken to the central prison in Jerusalem.

Yehiel Dresner
On February 10, 1947, 43 days after their capture and arrest, their trial opened at a military court in Jerusalem. The defendants did not take part in the proceedings, refused to answer questions and did not cross-examine prosecution witnesses. When the testimony was completed, Dresner and Golovsky rose to their feet and declared that they did not recognize the authority of the court; they considered themselves to be prisoners of war and hence the authorities were empowered to detain them, but not to try them.

Yehiel Dresner, the first to speak, said:

We set out to prove to you that a new Hebrew generation has arisen in this country, which will not tolerate humiliation, will not accept slavery and will fight for its honor at all costs. We will break your whip...
No longer will you whip the citizens of this country, whether Jews or Arabs, for we, the soldiers of Israel, have rebelled against your rule and its despicable methods.

Golovsky's statement was also directed at 'the officers of the occupation army' and was devoted mainly to a description of the persecution, torture and humiliation to which the four defendants had been subjected. His aim was to inform the world, through the foreign journalists present in court, of the degrading treatment they had received at the hands of the British.

Eliezer Kashani
The trial was brief and the sentence was handed down on the same day: death by hanging for
Alkahi, Dresner and Kashani, and life imprisonment for Golovsky on account of his youth (he was 17). After hearing the sentence, the four rose to their feet and sang the Hatikva anthem. They were taken to the central jail, where Dov Gruner was in the death cell. Forty-eight hours later, General Barker, who left the country the same day, confirmed the sentences.

Public figures and institutions tried hard to have the sentence commuted. A petition was submitted, signed by 800 residents of Petah Tikva (three of the defendants lived there), and an appeal was submitted to the Supreme Court, claiming errors in legal procedure, but to no avail. It should be stressed that all these steps were taken on the initiative of public figures and relatives of the defendants. They themselves authorized nobody to act on their behalf and, like Dov Gruner, refused to sign an appeal for clemency. They even issued a public statement in which they said:

Do you not understand that your requests for clemency are an affront to your honor and the honor of the entire people? It represents servility towards the authorities reminiscent of the Diaspora. We are war prisoners and we demand that they treat us as war prisoners...
At present we are in their hands... We cannot resist them, and they can treat us as they choose... But they cannot break our spirit. We know how to die with honor as befits Hebrews.

Mordechai Alkahi
On April 15, the British transferred the four condemned men:
Gruner, Alkahi, Dresner and Kashani from Jerusalem jail to Acre prison. The move was carried out clandestinely, and the authorities hinted that they had no intention of carrying out the sentence in the near future. When their lawyer, Max Critchman, approached the Acre prison authorities, and asked why they were being moved, he was told that "...the governor has received no instructions regarding preparations for executions, and the procedure is that the jail administration receives such instructions several days before the executions."

The next day, at 2.45 am, three British policemen and one Arab policeman came to the apartment of Nehemiah Katriel Magril, the only Jew living in Acre. Magril was a scholar, who acted as emissary to the Jewish inmates of the jail and led the prayers there on the Sabbath and festivals. He had never been ordained as a rabbi, and was known among the Arabs as 'Hakham Abu Mussa'. Ha'aretz, Sapril 17, 1947, describes the visit:

The policemen awakened Magril and asked him to accompany them to the jail. They refused to reveal the reason for their request and urged him to hurry, saying that they had no time. When Magril asked them how long they needed him for, they replied: 'About two hours'. Then he understood the meaning of the request and replied: 'I refuse to go with you. You must contact the chief rabbinate in Haifa'.

The policemen left without him. Magril learned of the execution of Dov Gruner and his comrades only a few hours later, from a Jerusalem radio broadcast.

At 4 am, Dov Gruner was roused from his sleep, and taken to the gallows. Present in the cell were the head of the prison service in Palestine, the governor of Acre jail, a physician and six British officers. As was the custom in Britain and the colonies, the governor served as hangman, but, in violation of custom - no rabbi was present. Dov Gruner went to the gallows without confession, as so did Yehiel Dresner, Eliezer Kashani and Mordechai Alkahi. All four were hanged within half an hour, and each of them, as his turn arrived, sang Hatikva until he died. Each was joined in his singing by those awaiting their turn.

As the condemned men walked through the jail, all the Jewish prisoners rose to their feet and sang the national anthem.

In March 17, 1947, the day on which martial law was lifted, the military court in Jerusalem sentenced
Moshe Barazani to death by hanging. Barazani, a member of Lehi, had been arrested eight days previously in the Makor Baruch quarter of Jerusalem, not far from Schneller camp. In a body search, a grenade was found, and he was tried on a charge of bearing arms and intent to assassinate Brigadier A.P. Davis, who was in charge of implementing martial law in the city. Barazani declared that he did not recognise the authority of the court to try him, and would not take part in the proceedings. He made a political statement, in which he said that the Jewish people regarded the British as alien rulers of their country:

In this war, I have fallen captive to you, and you have no right to try me. You will not intimidate us by hangings nor will you succeed in destroying us. My people and all the people you have enslaved will fight your empire to the death.

Moshe Barazani
The trial was brief; ninety minutes after it began, the judge read out the death sentence.
Barazani rose to his feet and sang Hatikva, but the police guard interrupted him and dragged him away. He was chained hand and foot and taken to the condemned man's cell, where he joined Dov Gruner and his three comrades - Eliezer Kashani, Yehiel Dresner and Mordechai Alkahi, whose death sentences had already been confirmed by the British Commander in Chief in Palestine.

A week after Barazani's trial, on March 25, 1947, the military court convened again - this time to try the four Irgun fighters who had been caught after
the explosion at the Jerusalem railway station. Two of the defendants, Mas'ud Biton and Moshe Horovitz, were apprehended at some distance from the station, and the Irgun General Headquarters decided that they should deny any involvement in the deed. Horovitz was arrested with a bullet wound, but one of the traders at the commercial center agreed to testify that Horovitz had been in his store, had heard shots fired and had gone out to see what was happening and been wounded. The other two, Meir Feinstein and Daniel Azulay, announced that they did not recognize the authority of the court to try them, and would not take part in the proceedings. Before sentence was passed, the two made political statements. Feinstein said:

A gallows regime, that is what you are trying to impose on this country, which was intended to serve as a beacon of light for all mankind. And in your foolishness and malice, you assume that by means of this regime you will succeed in breaking the spirit of our people, the people for whom the whole country has become a gallows. You are wrong. You will discover that you have met up with steel, steel forged in the flame of love and hatred, love of the homeland and of freedom and hatred of slavery and of the invader. It is burning steel, and you cannot shatter it. You will burn your own hands.

Meir Feinstein
The court accepted the alibi of Horovitz and Biton and released them.
Meir Feinstein and Daniel Azulay were sentenced to death by hanging. They were removed from court and taken to the death cell in the central prison in Jerusalem, where they joined Gruner, Alkahi, Dresner, Kashani and Barazani.

On April 17, 1947, the day after the hanging of Gruner, Alkahi, Dresner and Kashani, the British Commander in Chief in Palestine confirmed the sentences of Feinstein and Barazani. Daniel Azulay's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

In the death cell in the central prison in Jerusalem, Feinstein and Barazani resolved to blow themselves and their executioners up. They wrote to their comrades in adjacent cells:

Brethren, greetings.
You have not done well in failing to send it to us. Who knows if by morning it will not be too late. Do not allow time to lapse. Send it to us as soon as possible. All you have been told was merely an emotional storm which passed swiftly. We are fully resolved. Our greetings to all. Be strong and so will we.
M.F., M. B.

"It" referred to the two grenades which Feinstein and Barazani planned to hurl at the executioners when they came to escort them to the gallows. The idea was not new; it had been broached when Dov Gruner was in the death cell awaiting execution. The explosives were smuggled into the prison in parcels of food earmarked for prisoners who received "special treatment". When Dov Gruner was moved with his comrades to Acre prison, the explosives were left behind in the Jerusalem jail.

It was not easy for the Irgun and Lehi prisoners to carry out the wishes of their condemned comrades, but each of them knew that if he had been in their place, he would have asked the same. On the day on which they received confirmation of their request from the Irgun and Lehi headquarters, the prisoners started to prepare the grenades. They sliced off the top of an orange, scooped out the fruit and filled the space with gelignite and small metal strips. Into this they inserted detonators connected to a fuse. Finally, the top of the orange was replaced with thin toothpicks, so that it appeared intact.

Three times a day, the condemned men were handed food prepared by inmates who worked in the kitchen. The prison guards, who examined the food carefully, were accustomed to the sight of oranges, and passed them through without particular scrutiny. A basket of fruit was prepared, which included two 'special' oranges. The food was taken into the cell by one of the non-political prisoners, and a note on a tiny scrap of paper hidden in the leftovers was removed from the cell:

Greetings, dear friends.
We have received the "press". Everything is clear to us, and we rejoice at this last opportunity to take part in avenging our four comrades. As for us, we are convinced that our organizations will avenge us to the proper degree and in the proper fashion. But they may take us by surprise and move us to Acre, and therefore please ask outside that they prepare the same thing for us in Acre, so that we can be sure of doing it.
We are strong.
M. Feinstein and M. Barazani.

On Monday, April 21, 1947, about a week after the hangings at Acre, curfew was imposed on Jerusalem and it was rumored that Feinstein and Barazani were about to be executed. At 9:15 in the evening, British officers arrived at the home of Rabbi Yaakov Goldman, chief rabbi of the prison, and asked him to accompany them to the central prison. They did not give reasons, but it was clear to all that Feinstein and Barazani were about to be hanged. Rabbi Goldman was taken into the death cell, and tried to hearten the two fighters. He read the Viduy (confession) and, at the request of Feinstein, they sang the Adon Olam (the most hail and praise to God prayer). Then the two condemned men sang Hatikva, and the rabbi left with the prison governor, promising to return to be with them in their final hour.

Feinstein and Barazani did not reveal their secret to the rabbi, but urged him not to return for the execution. The rabbi was adamant, and in order not to hurt him, the two decided to change their original plan and to blow themselves up before the hangman arrived. About half an hour after the rabbi's departure, two explosions were heard from the cell:
Moshe and Meir stood embraced. The grenades were held between them, at the height of their hearts. Meir lit a cigarette, with which he ignited the fuses that Moshe held, and they died together as heroes.

On the instructions of the chief rabbi, Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, the two men were buried on the Mount of Olives in the section of the martyrs of the 1929 and 1936-38 riots. Rabbi Aryeh Levin (the prisoners' rabbi) and Benyamin Feinstein, Meir's brother, eulogized them at the graveside.

The courageous stand of the underground fighters in their final hour won them great esteem in Eretz Israel and throughout the world. A new generation had emerged in Palestine, ready to sacrifice itself for the noble objective of liberating its people and country. The poet, Nathan Alterman, who was an opponent of the Irgun and Lehi, published a poem in praise of Feinstein and Barazani in 'Davar', the Histadrut newspaper.


Avshalom Haviv
On May 28, some three weeks after the Acre prison break, the British tried
Avshalom Haviv, Yaakov Weiss and Meir Nakar, who had been caught just outside the prison wall carrying weapons. Haviv and his comrades did not acknowledge the right of the court to try them, and chose to exploit the forum in order to make political statements. They did not take part in the trial, which lasted nearly three weeks, with more than 35 prosecution witnesses being called. After the prosecutor's summing up, the defendants made their statements.

The first speaker was Avshalom Haviv, who compared the struggle of the Jewish underground to that of the Irish, and said, among other things:

When the fighters of the Irish underground took up arms against you, you tried to drown the uprising against tyranny in rivers of blood. You built gallows; you murdered people in the streets; you banished some into distant lands. You thought, in your great folly, that by force of persecution, you could break the spirit of resistance of the free Irish, but you were wrong. The Irish rebellion grew until a free Ireland came into being...You wonder how it came to pass that those Jews whom you thought to be cowards, who were the victims of massacre for generations, have risen up against your rule, are fighting your armies, and when they stand in the shadow of death, they scorn it... Their courage and spiritual force are drawn from two sources: the renewed contact of Hebrew youth with the land of their fathers, which has restored to them the tradition of courage of the heroes of the past, and the lesson of the Holocaust, which taught us that we are conducting a struggle not only for our liberty but also for our very survival.

Meir Nakar
Meir Nakar, in his statement, also spoke of the 'bankruptcy' of British policy in Palestine and the collapse of a regime "whose officials are forced to live in ghettoes" (an allusion to the security zones in which the British enclosed themselves).

Yaakov Weiss
Yaakov Weiss attacked the anti-Zionist policy of the British government and denied the legitimacy of British presence in Palestine:

Your very presence here, against which everyone protests, is illegal. This land is ours from time immemorial and for ever more. What do you, British officers, have to do with our homeland? Who appointed you rulers of an ancient and freedom-loving nation?

On June 16, the sentence was passed: death by hanging for all three.

The Irgun General Headquarters ordered its Fighting Force to take hostages so as to save the lives of the condemned men, but the British ignored the warnings of the Irgun, and the pleas of leaders of the Yishuv and of many prominent people throughout the world. On July 8, the governor of the British military forces in Palestine confirmed the death sentence handed down three weeks previously. Several days later, an Irgun unit seized two British sergeants in Netanya as they were leaving a cafe. The sergeants were pushed into a waiting car and taken to a pre-arranged hiding place.

The kidnapping of the sergeants stunned not only the British, but also the leaders of the Yishuv. They knew only too well that the Irgun would carry out its threat, and feared the reaction of the British army.

As soon as the kidnapping became known, curfew was imposed on Netanya and the surrounding area, and a house to house search began. Haganah forces joined in the search, but without success. The two sergeants were held in a bunker which had been dug in a diamond factory on the outskirts of the town, with enough food and oxygen for a lengthy period. The taking of hostages by the Irgun did not deter the British government, and in the early morning hours of July 29, the three Irgun fighters - Avshalom Haviv, Yaakov Weiss and Meir Nakar - were hanged at Acre prison. It should be noted that the decision to carry out the sentence was taken at a special session of the Cabinet in London, despite the knowledge that the decision would seal the fate of the two sergeants. Rabbi Nissim Ohana of Haifa, who was asked to accompany the three condemned men in their final hour, wrote of their conduct:

They showed no sign of fear or shock. They were very brave...
I stayed with them about an hour, and when I left, they asked me to send their greetings to the Yishuv, and expressed the wish for redemption for the Jewish people. I said to them: be blessed, heroes of the nation.

The British left the Irgun no alternative, and the following day, July 30, the two sergeants were found hanged in a wood near Netanya. The Irgun hoped that this action would bring to a halt the spate of executions meted out by the British. Indeed, after the hanging of the two sergeants, no more death sentences were carried out in Eretz Israel.

The hanging of the sergeants shocked the British government and people. The press denounced the act which, more than any other, caused the government to re-think its attitude towards the future of Palestine. Begin writes in his book "The Revolt" that the "cruel act" was one of the events which tipped the balance in the British withdrawal from Palestine. Colonel Archer Cassett,.one of the senior British Mandatory officials, said in a lecture in 1949 that "the hanging of the sergeants did more than anything else to get us out of Palestine".

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