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The breakaway


Going underground
Uri Avnery Social activist
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That is when the Irgun was established.  In fact, it had been established before that, but then it began taking shape as an organization calling itself the National Military Organization. It had been underground, I hadn’t heard of it, until one day one of my colleagues, a lawyer’s clerk, began asking me what I thought about the situation.  I told him what I thought, that the restraint was a disgrace, and that if there was going to be a fight then we would need to fight. Then he revealed to me that there was something called the National Military Organization and asked if I wanted to join. My immediate reaction was, ‘Yeah, sure, of course!‘ but nevertheless I took my father aside and asked him, and he told me: ’If you feel you want to, then do what you feel is right’.

Then one day I got a note, someone pushed a note at me saying, ‘You are to come to the Hatabor school, here, near the Carmel market at precisely 09:00 in the evening. At the entrance they will ask you for the password. The password is 'Samson and Delilah' and then from there they will tell you what to do’. Naturally I was very excited and I arrived an hour early and walked around until it was exactly the right time. I went into the school. At the entrance there was a young couple pretending that they were making out. ’Samson and Delilah‘, ‘Go upstairs’. A pitch black corridor. I sensed that people were sitting. Every now and then a door opened, someone came out, someone was taken in, until they called my name. I went in. There was a spotlight of 1000 watts or something on my face, completely blinding me, and they started asking me questions: ‘What do I want?’ This and that. ‘What do I think about the restraint?’  This and that. ‘What do I think about the Arabs?’ I said, ‘I actually like the Arabs’. A moment’s silence. ‘And what do you think about the English?’ I said: ‘I rather like them’. Another moment’s silence. At the end someone asked me: ‘Why do you want to join the organization?’ I said: ‘I think that we need to expel the foreigners from power, to establish Hebrew rule − and for that I do not have to hate anyone’. Apparently I convinced them because I received an invitation to come and I joined the organization. I was happy for three or four years, I must say, in the youth battalion of the National Military Organization. They were all my age − 16-17 – and it was a period of activities, the so-called response activities: bombings in the Arab markets and shooting Arabs and so forth. I was in favour. We couldn’t be sent out for operations, we were much too young, but our main job was to throw leaflets out at gatherings of people. For instance, people gathering and standing in front of a cinema, before a performance.  The method then was to take a stack of leaflets, roll them up like that, throw them so that they would scatter over a large area and people would pick them up. That was what I did. 


ואז קם ארגון, למעשה הוא קם לפני זה אבל אז הוא קיבל את צורתו, ארגון שקרא לעצמו "הארגון הצבאי הלאומי”. הוא היה במחתרת, לא שמעתי על זה, עד שיום אחד אחד הקולגות שלי, פקיד של עורך-דין, התחיל לחקור אותי מה אני חושב על המצב וכוליי. ואני אמרתי מה אני חושב, שההבלגה זה בושה וחרפה ואם לוחמים אז צריכים להילחם. ואז הוא גילה לי שיש דבר שנקרא "הארגון הצבאי הלאומי" ושאל אם אני רוצה להצטרף. התגובה המיידית שלי הייתה "כן, בטח, כמובן!”, אבל בכל זאת לקחתי את אבי הצידה ושאלתי אותו, והוא אמר לי: "אם אתה מרגיש שאתה רוצה, תעשה כפי שאתה מרגיש”. ואז יום אחד אני מקבל פתק, מישהו דוחף לי פתח: "עליך לבוא לבית-ספר 'התבור'", פה, ליד שוק הכרמל, "בשעה תשע בערב בדיוק, בכניסה ישאלו אותך לסיסמא, הסיסמא היא 'שמשון ודלילה' ואז משם כבר יגידו לך מה לעשות". כמובן הייתי מאוד נרגש והגעתי שעה לפני הזמן והסתובבתי בסביבה עד שבאה השעה בדיוק, נכנסתי לבית-ספר, בכניסה עומד זוג צעיר כאילו מתמזמזים. "שמשון ודלילה”, "עלה למעלה"; פרוזדור שחור משחור. אני חש שיושבים אנשים. מדי פעם נפתחת דלת, יוצא מישהו, מכניסים מישהו, עד שקראו בשמי. נכנסתי. על הפנים שלי אור של זרקור של אלף וואט או משהו, מעוור לחלוטין, ומתחילים לשאול אותי שאלות: "מה אני רוצה?" ככה וככה, "מה אני חושב על ההבלגה?" ככה וככה, "מה אני חושב על הערבים?" אמרתי "אני דווקא מחבב את הערבים". דממה דקה! "ומה אתה חושב על האנגלים?" אמרתי: "אני די מחבב אותם". עוד דממה דקה. בסוף אחד שואל אותי: "למה אתה רוצה להצטרף לארגון?" אמרתי: "אני חושב שצריכים לגרש את הזרים מהשלטון, להקים שלטון עברי ובשביל זה אני לא צריך לשנוא אף אחד". כנראה ששכנעתי אותם מפני שקיבלתי הזמנה לבוא והצטרפתי לארגון .והייתי שלוש-ארבע שנים מאושרות, אני מוכרח לומר, ב"ארגון הצבאי הלאומי" בפלוגת נוער. כולם היו בגילי – 16-17, וזה היה תקופת הפעולות, פעולות התגובה מה שנקרא: הפצצות בשווקים הערביים ויריות בערבים וכוליי. אני הייתי בעד. אי-אפשר היה לשלוח אותנו לפעולות, היינו הרבה יותר מדי צעירים, אבל התפקיד העיקרי שלנו היה לזרוק כרוזים בקהלים. נגיד התקהלות לפני קולנוע, לפני הצגה.השיטה הייתה אז לקחת ערימה של כרוזים, לגלגל אותם ככה, לזרוק אותם כדי שיתפזרו על שטח גדול ואנשים היו מרימים. וזה מה שעשיתי.‏

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Irgun

Duration: 4 minutes, 48 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 10 March 2017