The next museum I will share with you is the HaHaganah museum in Tel Aviv. It was originally the meeting place of HaHaganah, because the building where the museum resides is the former home of Eliyahu Golomb, one of the founders of HaHaganah. Many an important meeting took place there. The topics would have ranged from how to get more Jewish refugees into Israel to defense of the settlements. The meetings held in the house were secret and they would have been conducted from1930-1945. In 1954 the building was sold to an entrepreneur and plans were made to demolish the building. Former members of the Haganah found out and intervened. They wanted the irreplaceable house built in 1923 turned into a museum. Said entrepreneur agreed. I guess anyone would. Who wants to argue with a bunch of ticked off Haganah. I suppose the owner didn’t want to mess with them. They got their museum.
HaHaganah was the evolution of Jewish Defense forces. The first group formed was Bar-Giora, named for Simon Bar Giora one of the leaders of the revolt against Rome. Meeting for the first time on September 28, 1907 in Ytizhak Ben-|Zvi’s apartment they set their goal. It was settle the land and guard it from Arabs. Their motto was
“In fire and blood did Judea fall; in blood and fire Judea shall rise.”
This was also one of the mottoes of Jewish defenders during the Russian pogroms. Members had to have a years worth of farming experience as well to be in the Bar-Giora.
The Bar-Giora became the HaShomer in April 1909. HaShomer meant the Watchman. The HaShomer was larger and more organized than the Bar-Giora. The HaShomer set it’s goal to provide organized defense for all of the Jews living in “Palestine”. One of the first challenges they faced was lack of weapons, due to lack of the necessary funds. They finally obtained a loan & the necessary weapons were purchased and distributed. Many of the new owners refused to be separated from their new weapons even for a moment. They soon adopted the dress and customs of the local Bedouins, Druze and Circassians. As well as advancing from being units on foot to horseback. This is always a good thing to my way of thinking. Another challenge the HaShomer faced was shortage of ammunition. It was expensive and hard to procure. This led to secret production centers being set up. The HaShomer were quite effective in their duties, despite the fact at no time was there ever more than 100 members. In 1920 the HaShomer were disbanded to become HaHaganah. Just a quick note here, some people at work asked my opinion on a “Hosmer”. I had no idea what they were talking about. Travel broadens your knowledge base. I now know they probably wanted to know what I thought about the HaShomer! I think they were amazing!
In June 1920 HaHaganah (The Defense) came into being. Initially a loose group, the Arab riots of 1929 changed it’s nature. It changed from a militia to a mature military body. HaHaganah was independent of paying locals to be watchmen nor did they depend on foreign recognition. Though the British Security Forces did work with it to form a civilian militia. The British were mostly pro-Arab and anti-Zionist. At times they urged the Arabs to attack the Jewish settlers. The Arabs soon discovered they could control the immigration policies of the British by rioting. At times the British would work with the Arabs. The Arabs would riot and the British would withdraw their troops & the Jewish police leaving the Jews at the tender mercies of the rioting Arabs. There were many incidences where the casualty rate would have been much, much higher if not for HaHaganah. The British, in general, were proving to be about as good a friends to the new yishuv settlers as they were to the Irish about that time frame.
But even the British get a surprise once in a while. Charles Orde Wingate was just such a surprise. Wingate was born to a religious Christian family & firmly believed in the Bible. Therefore he also firmly believed that the Jewish people belonged in Israel, and he did everything possible to make that happen. He was a talented horseman, who had also studied Arabic and Semitic culture. In 1936 he earned the rank of Captain and the intelligence officer was transferred to Israel later that year.
When he arrived the Arabs were regularly attacking the British & the Jews. Wingate sized up the situation and formed S.N.S. or special night squads comprised mostly of HaHaganah. The were effective as offensive units as well as defensive. They could pre-empt as well as resist attacks and were very effective at helping the yishuv settlers. Therefore the S.N.S. was disliked by Arabs & British. The Yishuv called him “ha-yedid” The friend. Bet he was glad he had learned to speak Hebrew then! For Charles Orde Wingate it was first, last and always about the Jews belonging in Israel and being safe there. He was the perfect man, in the perfect place at the perfect time. Therefore in 1939 the Brits transferred him out. His passport was stamped with a restriction that he was not allowed to re-enter the country. You can’t make this stuff up. His influence lived on though in the people he had trained that went on to become heads of Palmach and later the IDF.
One heart wrenching incident that HaHaganah was unable to stop was the helpless settlers in the Hebron Massacre. The HaHaganah had gone to Hebron to offer their protection, but since the local Sephardic Jews had lived in peace with their Arabic neighbors for years they were concerned that the presence of HaHaganah could irritate the situation. The Haganah were sent away by the ONE British Policeman who had been recruited from the Black & Tans. The terror didn’t end even after they made it to The Beit Romano police station. The level of trust in the British to protect them, and the Arabs not to attack them was way too high, and the cost was very dear. There were stories of Arabs that acted to save the Jews, hiding them in their basements and cellars and defending them with their swords.
When the new settlers wanted to fight back, they had another conundrum. They were facing the bigger and well armed British army and their buddies with whom they also shared arms, The Arab Legion. One of the answers was the Davidka. Not an incredibly accurate weapon, it was loud and tended to scare the heck out of it’s targets.
Yes indeed! That is a real Davidka!
On May 26th 1948 David Ben-Gurion dissolved HaHaganah, and the other defensive groups to form the IDF.
Take away thoughts from HaHaganah museum: If you are going to trust your life and that of your family to someone, make VERY sure they are worthy it. Some mistakes can not be made up.
If you are going to defend yourself against a government that has no interest in your survival and is siding with your enemies? Weapons, effective weapons and lots of them are a must.
There may be people that were not born of your group that will fight harder for your group than some natural born members. Charles Orde Wingate was just such an incredible man, a G-d given gift to Israel and her new settlers.
The cost of re-inventing the wheel would be even more astronomical this time. We don’t need to do that. Attitudes are a big key in survival.