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REWARD POSTER ISSUED FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO THE ARREST OF ESCAPED JEWISH PRISONERS

That has just made my day! 😃 There’s only a few left in existence, it’s a part of The State of Israels history… Along with maps, photographs, tour guides, theatre guides, Arabic phrase book… I reckon £10,000? Not that I’m selling… Im getting them framed, and preserved, if a museum in Israel is interested, they can display it all, but it stays in the family. 😎


REWARD POSTER ISSUED FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO THE ARREST OF ESCAPED JEWISH PRISONERS – PALESTINE POLICE FORCE 1947

Estimate: USD 1,800 – USD 2,500

GRAY, William Nicol (Inspector General). Wanted! Rewards will be paid by the Government of Palestine to any person providing information which leads to the arrest of any of the absconded criminals whose description appears hereunder and who escaped from the Central Prison Acre on Sunday 4th May 1947. [Jerusalem:] Government of Palestine Press, 18 August 1947.

Rare reward poster for information leading to the arrest of 29 Jewish Prisoners from Acre’s Prison Break on May 4, 1947.

Large lithographic poster (997 x 697 mm.), 29 police-type ‘mug shot’ portraits of the escaped prisoners, with descriptions in Arabic, English and Hebrew. (Extensively repaired and backed onto linen, 1010 x 710 mm., three light vertical and three light horizontal creasefolds, 130 mm. tear at top-centre margin extending through headline and into centre two portraits with small losses to two words and one image, central 40 mm. hole affecting a few words in one English description, one crease with associated small losses to central portrait in bottom row, 25 mm. hole to Hebrew text to bottom left, a few tiny marginal nicks and chips to extremities, scattered water, tape and glue stains.)

IMPORTANT HISTORICAL DOCUMENT related to the aftermath of the Acre Prison break operation orchestrated by the Jewish paramilitary organization Irgun on 4 May 1947. Under British rule, Acre’s ancient fortress was converted into a central prison where it held not only members belonging to the Jewish paramilitary groups Irgun, Lehi and Haganah, but also a large group of Arab prisoners (some serving long sentences from the Arab Rebellion of 1936-1939) as well as mentally distrubed patients. Acre prison was the most highly-guarded fortress in the country, surrounded by walls and encircled to the east and north by a deep moat, and with the sea to the west.

An escape plan was put into motion when an Arab inmate reported hearing women’s voices while working in the oil storeroom of the kitchens in the south wall of the fortress. This was reported to Eitan Livini the most senior Irgun prisoner, who deduced that the south wall of the prison bordered onto a street in the Old City. This information was smuggled out to the Irgun General Headquarters, with a proposal that the wall of the oil storehouse be exploited for a break-in to rescue inmates.

The break-in was planned for Sunday, 4 May 1947, at 4pm, the same day the United Nations General Assembly convened to discuss the Palestine issue. Livini selected 41 prisoners for escape: 30 Irgun and 11 Lehi, as this was the number of spots available at safe houses. The Irgun purchased various trucks and jeeps and disguised them as British military vehicles, while Irgun fighters dressed as British military personnel, entered into a Turkish bath house adjoining the prison as an ‘engineering unit’ in order to ‘mend’ the telephone lines. While this was taking place externally, within the prison, the doors of the cells were opened for afternoon exercise. The telephone repair team triggered a large explosion, blowing a hole in the wall of the ancient walls of fortress. The escapees changed into civilian clothing, and clambered into the waiting vehicles. The plan was extremely audacious, but the explosions attracted the attention of a bathing party of the Sixth Airborne, who mounted an impromptu roadblock half a mile outside the city, intercepting the vehicles. A fierce fire-fight erupted in which the British captured 5 members of the assault team, killing another 3 – including its leader, Dov Cohen – as well as 6 escaped prisoners. Another side effect was that over 200 Arab prisoners escaped from the fortress in the confusion. Despite this mixed military result, it provided a huge psychological boost to Irgun and the greater Jewish community, and served to underscore the fact that Britain was unable even to secure Palestine’s maximum security prison.

In the present lot, there are ‘mug shot’ photos of 29 Jewish prisoners – some, with their prisoner numbers included – belonging to Irgun and Lehi groups. Under the order of the Inspector General, W.N. Gray, a reward of £1,000 is offered in return for any leads to their arrests. Although the escape took place on 4 May 1947, and although it is dated July 1947, the poster’s imprint code states that it was printed on 18 August, suggesting that these 29 were still at large some 3 months after the event.

ISRAEL TRAVELS

In Tel Aviv, a glimpse into the turbulent years when the British ruled

Lehi leader Avraham Stern was gunned down 75 years ago in an unassuming apartment; it now houses a museum dedicated to the underground group

By AVIVA AND SHMUEL BAR-AM1 Apr 2017

Yair Stern was born four months after his father was gunned down by British police in a Tel Aviv hideaway. From the time he was a toddler, and until he was four, the child believed that his father was working in America, and that someday he would return. As soon as he mastered the alphabet Yair began writing letters, telling his dad that he missed him and couldn’t wait to see him.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into one Jewish and one Arab State. The Jews of Palestine were ecstatic, breaking spontaneously into song and dance.

When Yair asked why everyone was so happy, he was told that soon the Jews would have their own country. And then he was given the shocking news that his father had been killed in the war with the British, fighting for Jewish independence, on February 12, 1942.

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Yair’s father was Avraham Stern who, during most of the 1930s, had been a member of the underground Etzel (Irgun Zvai Leumi) movement. A paramilitary organization with a policy of violent retaliation for Arab terror and a firm belief that it was the right of every Jew to live in Palestine, it was responsible for bringing many “illegal” immigrants into the country. And after publication of Britain’s White Paper in May of 1939, severely limiting immigration, Etzel began actions against the British. Etzel’s anthem was a song written by Stern, called Anonymous Soldiers.

The entrance to the Lehi Museum, located on a street named for Avraham Stern in south Tel Aviv. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

The entrance to the Lehi Museum, located on a street named for Avraham Stern in south Tel Aviv. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

When World War II broke out four months later, Etzel halted activities against the British. After all, the British were battling the Nazis. Stern, however, fervently believed that the British were the Palestinian Jews’ real enemy, and that the fight against them must continue. He then split from Etzel and founded Lehi.

Members of the Lehi underground worshipped Stern (code name Yair) and what he represented. Most never even met him, but followed him and his precepts blindly – even to their deaths. Children as young as 15, raised to hate the British with a passion, found meaning in Lehi; it gave a purpose to their lives, and they were excited to be part of something so important.

Avraham 'Yair' Stern, commander of the Lehi, was killed 70 years ago this week (photo credit: courtesy Lehi Museum)

Avraham ‘Yair’ Stern, commander of the Lehi (Courtesy Lehi Museum)

Members of the Haganah underground, far more restrained than Etzel and certainly than the Lehi, vehemently disagreed with Stern’s view of the British as a direct threat to the Jews of Palestine and were afraid his group’s activities would harm the war effort. As a result, Lehi fighters were in constant danger of being turned in to the authorities by their fellow Jews.

When the war began, the British asked for a list of incarcerated Etzel members so that they could be released from jail. So harsh was the rift between the groups that Etzel leaders left Lehi members to languish in jail.

In 1985 the Ministry of Defense opened a museum inside the house on Stern Street in which Stern was shot and killed. Called Beit Yair (Yair’s House), it lacks the sophisticated technology found in almost every other Israeli museum these days. Yet it offers visitors a fascinating and in-depth glimpse into those tense, volatile years when the British ruled Palestine.

Your visit begins with a seven-minute movie whose drum roll, music and spoken words help you feel the atmosphere of despair that enveloped the Lehi in those dark days of British pursuit 75 years ago. It is presented within a framework of the actual room, and with the original furnishings, where Stern’s killing took place. You hear the knock on the door that sent him deep into a closet, and view the hat, razor and shaving brush – still wet – that gave him away. And you hear the three shots that ended his life.

Stern's shaving brush, hat and razor on display in the Lehi Museum. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Stern’s shaving brush, hat and razor on display in the Lehi Museum. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Afterwards you move into an area of the museum that commemorates 127 members of Lehi. Fifty-five of the men and women, boys and girls, whose photos are on display were killed while serving in the underground. Almost everyone else was among the Lehi fighters who joined the Israel Defense Forces as soon as the State was declared and fell during the War of Independence.

Also on display are photographs of “olei hagardom”. While the term sometimes refers only to members of the underground tried by the British and sentenced to execution by hanging, here are included, as well, people hanged by the Turks because they spied for the British, and Eli Cohen, the Mossad’s “man in Damascus,” hanged in a public square in the Syrian capital in 1965.

Another room is dedicated to “Yair”, with displays on his background, his brilliance at university, his studies in Italy, his charisma, his obsession with forcing the British out of Palestine, and his talent as a poet.

Stern's room in Tel Aviv, where he was killed by British security forces. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Stern’s room in Tel Aviv, where he was killed by British security forces. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

In other portions of the museum you learn about a ship called the Struma – and the hundreds of “illegal” immigrants fated to drown in the ocean after being denied permission to land in Palestine. Exhibits depict several clever Lehi escapes from British jails; a milk canister, one of many used as a “slik” (hiding place for weapons), and the printing press used for posters that had an enormous influence on budding Lehi members. On the wall next to a display of weapons is a map of the sites throughout Palestine where, in 1929, massive Arab riots took place against a defenseless Jewish population.

Displays feature descriptions and photographs from Lehi actions, including the airfield where fighters blew up eight British Spitfires and the assassination of British diplomat Lord Moyne. At the end of your tour you will view an unusual photograph of Stern, made up of tiny pictures of all 850 Lehi members.

Our guide to the museum was Moshe Ben Yehuda (code name Giora) whose tales and explanations vastly enriched our visit. Call ahead, if you, too, want a guided tour. If you are in Tel Aviv and just stop by, however, you will still see the movie and can move through the museum on your own, reading the excellent signs in English.

Tour guide Moshe Ben Yehuda speaks at the Lehi Museum in Tel Aviv. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Tour guide Moshe Ben Yehuda speaks at the Lehi Museum in Tel Aviv. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

The Freedom Fighters of Israel Heritage Association (FFI-LEHI), a non-profit run by former Lehi members and their families, occupies a room in Beit Yair where they plan memorial ceremonies and events, produce movies, and prepare books for publication. Anyone interested in Lehi can peruse the extensive archives and get information. Or browse the web site: http://www:lehi.org.il.

Lehi Forest, at Kibbutz Mishmar Ayalon is among the sites where memorial ceremonies are held.

So are other ceremonies: in 2005, soon after a monument to 127 fallen Lehi fighters was inaugurated, the Jewish National Fund held a tree-planting ceremony at the site, where people of all ages planted tiny shoots in the ground.

Last month we took our dog with us to the forest. What a difference we found. Tall, beautiful trees now surrounded the impressive monument, designed by Ayelet Bitan-Shlonsky, while bright red anemones were in bloom nearby, and a tree-shaded recreation area featured picnic tables and playgrounds for the kiddies. Scattered around in the forest were other monuments and groves, with several dedicated to the Jews of Palestine who fought with the British in both World Wars. This lovely place to visit is where the FFI-LEHI holds its annual Memorial Day ceremonies (this year, on May 1).

For more specific directions to Lehi Forest please write to us at israeltravels@gmail.com.

The Lehi monument, located near Kibbutz Mishmar Ayalon in central Israel. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

The Lehi monument, located near Kibbutz Mishmar Ayalon in central Israel. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

—–

Aviva Bar-Am is the author of seven English-language guides to Israel.

Shmuel Bar-Am is a licensed tour guide who provides private, customized tours in Israel for individuals, families and small groups.

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