In Their Own Words



(by Ezra Yakhin - “Elnakam”)


In his early teen years, the Principal at Ha’im’s school called in his parents (concerning an essay) Ha’im had written.  Ha’im’s mother was ill and his father was busy at the pharmacy, so the task fell to his elder brother and his wife.


“Don’t you understand?” (the Principal) ranted, “Don’t you see that while he’s taking about the Hashmona’im he’s actually referring to the dissidents?  I’ve heard rumors that he has joined them and this I won’t stand for in my school!  I will not permit him to poison the whole class with his dangerous ideas!  What do you have to say to that?”


Ha’im was called to the office and asked if it was true that he had joined the dissidents.  Seeing that it was no longer a secret, he decided to confess, hoping to avoid entreaties and pressures to leave the underground.


“I have sworn by th Bible to be faithful to the underground.  This promise I shall never break nor will I give up fighting for my people’s freedom!” he declared.


Swearing by the Bible was a lie, there was no such thing, but he hoped that as this was a religious school, they would honor his oath and not ask him to break it.


He was wrong!  Out of Ha’im’s hearing the Principal suggested that the family do everything to get Ha’im away from such evil company.  He asked them if they had any relatives in a kibbutz even not a religious one.  “Never mind,” the Principal replied.  “Better that he should give up his faith, so long as he has nothing more to do with those dissidents.”


Ha’im’s father (upon hearing the episode) decided that they had no choice but to tell the story to his sickly mother.  Ha’im was a decent honest lad who loved his mother very much and knew how serious her illness was.  Surely he wouldn’t dream of continuing in the underground if he knew that the anxiety would influence her for the worse and may even shorten her life.


The mother was told, but the result was far from what the surprised family had expected.  There was no crying, no breaking down ... “Each Jew must try to serve his people in his own way.  If Ha’im thinks his is the right one - we have no right to stand in his way!”


So Ha’im was expelled from the Ma’aleh High School because he refused to break faith with the underground. 


Ha’im was not the only victim, and on that same day there were other boys expelled from Ma’aleh on the charge of belonging to the underground.


Shortly afterward Ha’im (and Israel) managed to get (jobs) in the Jerusalem office of the Ha’aretz daily paper, supplementing his meager salary by delivering the paper at dawn.  This job did not last too long, however.  Somebody saw to it that the office manager got wind of their affiliation with the underground, and they were both fired for this reason.


(Our unit pasted posters and distributed Lehi proclamations in pre-dawn hours.)


As soon as I had smeared the wall, Ha’im would put up the sheet and we would both steal a quick look of satisfaction at it.  It was a quick look indeed, and we would run along in the footsteps of Amos, picking out a suitable wall to be quickly smeared and covered with living, breathing words.  Ha’im and I felt as if we were talking to our people for needless to say - this was the only was we could communicate with them. 


Here and there we could already see a few early risers, their numbers growing as time went on.  Most of them were genuinely going to morning services at their synagogue before beginning their day’s labor.  We turned our backs to them, hiding our faces.  There was one who asked for a copy and, upon reading it, began to bless us fervently: “Be of good courage, God is with you, heroes of Israel!”  It was good to hear him.


The rest of the copies would be distributed in letter boxes that evening.


(Once) Ha’im, Israel, and I padded our bodies with Lehi proclamations and covered them with our shirts.  Then, seated “strategically” in the (lecture) hall, we listened to the fiery speakers, Dr. Aryeh Altman, Dr. Jossef Nedavah and Zvi Kolitz.  As soon as they had finished and the crowd was on its feet, singing the Hatikvah, hundreds of Lehi proclamations began flying above their heads. We left without saying a word to each other, each going his own way.  The road was already blocked and the Kalaniyot (re-bereted paratroopers) had spread out and were searching the passers-by, myself and my friends included.  But they were too late, we were “clean” and the material had already reached many hands.


Inspired by their love of their people, these six (boys in our unit) gave up any ideas of a life of ease and tranquility, surrounded as they were by constant danger.  The cell was now their family and each meeting served to strengthen the inner ties.  There was a certain compensation in this close friendship for the estrangement and oppression suffered by members of the underground.  Should one of us be late for a meeting all the rest were united in our fear for him.


In those days we used to meet in obscure alleys or on street corners, but there was nothing romantic about our meetings, whose purpose was to carry out assignments fraught with danger.  Not a day passed but (we) expected to be arrested, interrogated, tortured and possibly shot. 


The only means of safeguarding our freedom, and continuing, even intensifying our intransigence was by maintaining absolute secrecy, by assuming a kind of blurred anonymity.


Ha’im, in sharp contrast to Israel, looked like a dreamy sort of fellow, but as soon as he started talking he turned into burning lava.  When ever we met he would speak of his desire to confront the enemy of his people with gun in hand.  His attitude to the British, a combination of derision and fury, was contagious.  Again and again we would recall the bitter days of the “Season.”  Ha’im said that this was nothing new and it had been thus, brother against brother, the inferior against the superior, during the ancient Greek occupation and the Hellenists, a phenomenon that continued th this very day.


“Two thousand years this nation has been dreaming of salvation, and now, when the opportunity is at hand - it sleeps, forcing us to endanger our lives every night in order to speak to it, awaken it from its complaisance.”


We also discussed the unification of all the underground movements in the “Resistance Movement.” 


Israeli youth was basically good, ready for sacrifice and struggle. 

The problem lay in the leaders and their decisions. 


Would they be prepared to fight? 


We found it hard to believed that those leaders who had always chosen to avoid confrontation, who had vilified the underground, would actually lead the people to war.


Most of us lived out the span of our lives with nothing to show for it but bitterness and frustration.  Happy were the heroes of Israel who had found a meaning in their lives and therefore in their death.


I was well aware, of course, that I was breaking the rules of conspiracy, but those meetings (with Ha’im) were vital to me and I could not have continued without them.  Our friendship, nurtured by long dialogues about dangerous situations we had faced together, went on far into the night.  Our joint faith was so deep that we believed it would protect us from evil.  It was a bond of love, affection, friendship and mutual trust; separation would have been unbearable.


“You know, Datan (Ezra Yakhin), sometimes I envy you.  I really do ... because your sacrifice would be so much greater than mine.  I’m not seventeen yet and in their eyes I’m not worthy of the death penalty ...”


“Better so,” I comforted him.  “That way your chances are better to go on fighting.  There have always been escapes from prison and there always will be.  Those that get away get to fight again.”


“You’re wrong, Datan.  To go to the gallows is a very great privilege, for every hanging brings us that much closer to salvation.  Every hanging widens the chasm between them and our people.  They have always hated us and always will, but if it will make our nation rise up against them, then we must suffer, sacrifice our lives, go to the gallows ...  You and the other comrades are in constant danger while I, I’m too young ...”


Ha’im had been arrested.


The first real news we got of him was very disquietening.  The British police denied having arrested him at all - they had no such prisoner - and this in spite of witnesses who had seen him being forcefully dragged into a car by them.


The family began searching for Ha’im.  His picture appeared in the Yediot Acharonot above the usual information about missing persons:

          Alexander Rubovitch, sixteen and a half years old.  Address: 22 David Yellin St., Jerusalem.  Left home on Tuesday, May 6, 1947 at 6:30 p.m. and not seen since.  Description: Tall, slender, wearing a dark blue beret, a khaki shirt and long khaki pants, black shoes.  Wearing glasses.  Anyone knowing of his whereabouts please contact the nearest police station, or the family at the above address.


(Notes left anonymously) said they had seen him fleeing from an Englishman in civvies who chased him, caught him and dragged him along by force.  The boy tried to fight back, calling the passers-by to help him, when a car drew up.  The boy was thrust into the car, which then quickly disappeared.  On the ground was the kidnapper’s cap, lost during the struggle.

Despite all this evidence, the British Police maintained that they did not have the boy, vehemently denying that their men had any connection with his disappearance.


Ya’akov and Nehemia, Ha’im’s brothers, gave up their regular work and business, and spent all their waking hours looking for some clue that would lead them to their brother.


Itzhak Ben Dor, Davar reporter in Jerusalem, devoted himself completely to the search ... printing all the details known about the disappearance ... the information raised a veritable storm among the newspapermen, who proceeded to fill the papers with the details every day, regardless of their political inclinations.


The cap now established that the kidnapper’s name was Farran or Farkan.  The Lehi center, apprehensive about the fate of the by, now published a proclamation containing all the known details which the censor had held back form the public, as well as the name Farran or Farkan.




If the enemy rulers fail to reveal the boy’s whereabouts within the next few days the above conclusion will be taken as proven.



Farran’s cap was brough6t to the Mahane Yehuda Police station by the Rubovitch brothers, where they demanded that its owner be questioned.


All the police and intelligence officers insisted that there was no one of that name within their ranks.


Another clue was discovered ... a Jewish youth was arrested and brought to the CID cellars for interrogation.  He noticed the name “Alexander” written on the wall there.  It was photographed and inspected by a civilian graphologist, who identified it as the handwriting of Alexander Rubovitch.


The Lehi always kept its word.  British policemen and soldiers were found dead in different parts of the country and Lehi let it be known that they would all be hounded so long as the assassins of Alexander Rubovitch enjoyed their freedom.


The retaliatory acts of the Lehi and growing public anger forced the British to send Farran out of the country.  He was taken in secret to Syria, but it wasn’t long before he got into trouble there as well.  The Syrian papers published a story about some drunken British officers who had gone berserk and caused a disturbance in a pub in Damascus.  One of them was named Roy Farran.


The Lehi ... and the Jewish press did not take it lying down demanding insistently: “Where is Farran?”  “Where is the killer of the boy?” 


Even Ha’aretz, Davar, and The Jerusalem Post, papers that were always trying to outdo each other in condemning the operations of the underground, now felt that the British had gone too far.


The Chief Commander of the CID in Jerusalem now informed Ya’akov and Nehemia Rubovitch that he had received secret information conclusively proving that the boy was dead.  It only served to intensify the storm and everywhere, in every home and in all the newspapers the question was: “Where is Alexander Rubovitch?  Where is the boy?”


The papers were relentless in demanding explanations.


Even a child could realize that Farran and his gang had been acting, if not under government orders, at least with its unspoken sanction.


Three people declared themselves witnesses to the kidnaping.  The three remembered the face of the kidnapper well and had described it so exactly to Rubovitch’s brothers that they were sure they could recognize him passing in the street.  Farran fitted their description perfectly.  The three of them, each one separately, identified Farran beyond any doubt, a fact that was duly published by all the papers. 


But the official announcement the following day said that they had failed to identify him, pointing out another man!


This guaranteed (Farran) a military trial, which had its own rules and regulations.


Once again Farran was identified as the man who had kidnaped the boy.


A few days later feelings were raised to the boiling point; Roy Farran, the man accused of kidnaping and murder, had “escaped” from the Allenby military camp, in full uniform and wearing his insignia of “Major” ... in possession of all of his papers.


The storm had by now assumed international proportions, the affair being heavily publicized by the American press.


Ha’im’s family was adamant in demanding the boy’s body for burial in Israel and turned to the heads of the Jewish Agency and the National Committee for help in their search for it.  At first they tried to avoid the issue, on various pretexts, but finally agreed to cooperate with the family. 


The Authorities refused the family permission to search (requested areas).


In the meantime the Lehi was unremitting in its acts of retaliation.  Major Farran was finally forced to emerge from hiding and gave himself up to the authorities.  British judges refused to regard the cap (and Farran’s notebook) as incriminating evidence.  Farran was whisked away to England.


The Lehi found him there.  In May, 1948, a package containing the Works of Shakespeare reached Farran’s home.  His younger brother, Rex, who was there on a visit, opened the package and paid with his life.


The British finally realized that they had failed in combating the insurgents with the “Special Squads” so famed for their cruelty and violence, and were now hated as never before.


The mysterious disappearance of “Ha’im” the Freedom Fighter, has remained unsolved to this very day, his body undiscovered, his last words unknown ...


But we do know the things he did not tell his torturers - those they most wanted to hear.  Not a word did he say about his comrades or leaders, their plans and operations.  It was for this silence that he was tortured to death.


As many others have been martyred for their last words so has “Ha’im” joined the company of our sacred heroes and martyrs by virtue of his silence, and he but a boy, sixteen and a half years old.


My dearest, most beloved of friends.

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