The Hebron Massacre- August, 1929

Hebron-Past,Present and Forever
by David Wilder

The Hebron Massacre- August, 1929
August 10, 1995

Next Monday, the 18th of Av marks the 66th anniversary of the 1929
riots that plagued Eretz Yisrael. Jews were murdered throughout the land, but
the worst slaughter was in Hebron.
What was the relationship between the then Jewish Community of Hebron
with their Arab neighbors? We have witnesses accounts that the Arabs spoke,
aside from Arabic, Yiddish and Ladino, and that the Jewish women would leave
their small children with the Arab neighbors when they went to the market. The
Jews and Arabs were very accustomed to each other – the Jewish Quarter of
Hebron having been founded some 450 years previously.
What happened over those fateful 24 hours. Here are portions of “The
Scroll of Blood” excerpted and translated from “The Book of Hebron” by Oded
Avisar. [] denote editor’s note.
Thursday, 16 Av 5689 (August 1929)
Members of the Hagana arrive in Hebron from Jerusalem. They requested to
leave weapons in Hebron, in the bank, so as not to be found and confiscated by
the British police. [The Jews in Hebron refused the weapons. The responded
by saying that they had nothing to worry about. Hebron’s Arabs were their
friends. They had no need for weapons.]
Friday 17 Av 5689
At 2:30 in the afternoon a young Arab was seen on a motorcycle,
arriving from Jerusalem. He announced to all Hebron’s Arabs that the blood of
thousands of Jerusalem Arabs had been shed. He called on Hebron’s Muslims’s
to seek revenge. Hebron’s Arabs were noticeably excited, especially after tens
of automobiles from Jerusalem began arriving in Hebron, notifying the Arabs of
riots in Jerusalem. Arabs called for revenge from rooftops of cars.
[In 1923 the British had appointed Amin el-Hussainei (Feisal’s granddaddy) as
grand Mufti of Jerusalem. (He later planned, with Hitler in Berlin, the “final
solution to the Jewish problem in Eretz Yisrael, when Rommel’s forces entered
the area.) Hussainei had been inciting for years, but now spread rumors that
the Jews were conquering Temple Mount in Jerusalem.]
A mass of frenzied Arab rioters proceeded towards the (Hebron)
Yeshiva. The hour was late and it was nearly Shabbat. For this reason the
study hall was empty, with the exception of two people: the custodian and one
student, nicknamed the “matmid” or perpetual student, Shmuel Rosenhaltz, from
Lita. He was already dressed in his Shabbat clothing, and was studying his
daily lessons. When the murderers appeared at the entrance to the Yeshiva,
their faces full of madness and their eyes shining like those of wild animals,
holding knives and daggers, the Yemenite custodian managed to jump into a
water pit and hide there. Rosenhaltz, the perpetual student, engrossed in his
studies, continued concentrating on his Gemara, totally unaware of the
impending danger. Suddenly, hundreds of stones flew into the Yeshiva. A
large stone hit Rosenhaltz in the head, stunning him. Blood poured from the
wound onto the pages of the Gemara. In shock, he stood and ran towards the
door. Within moments he was stabbed by tens of Arabs. He fell on the Yeshiva
floor, lying in his blood, the first victim of the Arab mob.
An English officer declared: “All Jews should remain in their houses
on Shabbat, and shouldn’t be seen outside. I am responsible for their lives.
Shabbat – Saturday 18 Av 5689 – August 1929
Hundreds of Arabs surround Eliezer Dan Slonim’s house. (Slonim was the great
grandson of Menucha Rachel [Shneerson] Slonim, grand daughter of the “Admor
HaZaken – “Ba’al HaTania.”) They charged the house in fury. The air shook
with screams from unspeakable atrocities. Over seventy people sought refuge
here, including Yeshiva students, and family members, who thought this to be
the most secure place in Hebron. For Eliezer Dan Slonim was highly esteemed
by the Arabs. He was the director of the local English-Palestine bank whose
many clients were Arabs, and was the sole Jewish member of the Hebron
Municipal Council. He had many friends among the Arab elders and they had
promised to protect him. Therefore, many families gathered at his home, for
fear of the Arab mobs, hoping to find here refuge and safety.
Wrapped in their prayer shawls and full of fear, the men stood and
prayed in awe, morning Sabbath services. Several watched the massacre at the
Borland house. Suddenly the house exploded with the sound of broken glass.
Yeshiva students moved furniture to the front door to prevent it from being
forced open.
For over fifteen minutes the sound of metal bars and axes pounding at
the door filled the air, along with the horrid screaming of the people inside.
Suddenly a hole appeared in the door. Gunshots thundered. Mr. Vilanski is
hit in the face and badly hurt. A bullet hits a yeshiva student, Yisrael
Mordechai Kaplan, killing him. Voices screaming “Shema Yisrael” fill the house
The murders enter the house through the door on the roof. The front
door is forced open. Eliezer Dan Slonim shoots from his pistol. A metal bar
splits open his head, his weapon flying from his hand. Death screams fill the
house.
[The British police stood by the entire day and did almost nothing.
Most of the police were unarmed. Towards evening, two Arabs approached an
English policeman on horseback. Feeling threatened, he removed his gun from
its holster and fired into the air. Hearing the gunshots, the Arab mobs
immediately dissipated. The riot came to an end. Sixty seven Jews were
killed and hundreds wounded. The survivors were herded into the basement of
the police station at Beit Romano and left their for three days. The Arabs
rampage their houses, stealing and destroying Jewish property, undisturbed. A
minion of 10 men were allowed to participate in the funeral for the murdered
Jews, held at night, in the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron. After three
days the Jews were loaded onto cars and sent to Jerusalem, exiled from their
homes, the city of the Patriarchs. For the first time in hundreds of years,
Hebron had no Jewish residents.]


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