Themes

AFTERMATH

 

It now required a considerable effort to calm the storm in the ranks of the Irgun.

 

Whether in the units already absorbed in the Army or among those whose integration was still being organized, the pain and the shame at the murder of the Altalena were finding expression in a wave of revolutionary bitterness, directed for the first time against their fellow Jews.

 

Had we called for a revolt there would have been no lack of volunteers.

 

This was indeed the first subject Begin raise when I went to his home straight after my arrival at Haifa, the day after the Altalena climax.

 

The boat was still smoking off the beach.

 

A Palmach unit had made a night raid on Metsudat Zeev, the headquarters of the Revisionist Party where also the Jabotinsky Museum was housed.

 

They had played havoc with furniture and historic documents and had arrested a number of the people from the Altalena sheltering there for the night.

 

All over the country an atmosphere of emergency was being manufactured.

 

On the road from Haifa our taxi had been stopped five times at road blocks and our papers examined.

 

Scores of Irgun members were being arrested.

 

There were signs that Ben Gurion and his allies would now cause as much havoc as possible under the pretext of “putting down a revolt.”

 

The mood in the Irgun was explosive.

 

Begin was haggard and tense.

 

HIS EXPRESSION WAS SET: THERE MUST BE NO CIVIL WAR.

 

Within a fortnight at most the war with the Arabs would be resumed.

 

ONLY BEN GURION HATED JEWS ENOUGH TO RISK CIVIL WAR. 

 

Our accounts with him would be settled in the ballot box.

 

We would set up a political party.

 

Meantime we must influence our people to join the Army: it was our Army now no less than Ben Gurion’s.

 

Begin had sent out a call to all Irgun officers who were in the Tel Aviv areas to come to a meeting that day.

 

We met there together.

 

About two hundred of them had come.

 

They heard Begin out quietly.

 

I BELIEVE MOST OF THEM KNEW FROM THE BEGINNING THAT EVEN THE RECKLESS PROVOCATIONS OF BEN GURION WERE NOT ENOUGH TO NULLIFY THE YEARS OF IRGUN TEACHING AND PREACHING AGAINST FRATERNAL WAR.

 

No voice was raised against Begin’s appeal.

 

Only, there were some who announced that as the Irgun continued to exist in Jerusalem they preferred to go to the Jerusalem front.

 

So it came about that in spite of the vigorous check exercised against this purpose by the Palmach on the road to Jerusalem, about 150 Irgun officers and soldiers arrived to reinforce our unit there.

 

Some of them found some stratagem for getting by the road blocks. 

 

Others left the road and made their way, on foot by day and night, through the Judean hills.

 

          *        *        *

 

We nursed our wounds.

 

Among the men killed on the Altalena were two boys from Cuba.

Three of them had arrived in Paris after the final date fixed for joining the camp at Marseilles.

 

They asked me for an order to the camp commander to accept them nevertheless.

 

I hesitated.

 

They were overcome with emotion.

 

How could I deny them when they had come all the way from Cuba?

 

I gave it.

 

With the delay in the boat’s departure they arrived at Marseilles in good time.

 

I never discovered why and how they had come to remain on the boat at Kfar Vitkin.

 

They searched for the body of one of them, 21-year-old David Mitrani, found only after a week.

 

It was hard even to think about Stavsky’s end.

 

He had been struck by bullets in the water but had not died of his wounds.

 

He had died of a heart attack.




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