Guns into microphones
By Matania Ginosar
The three Lechi Underground leaders, (Lechi = Lohamai-Herut Israel , Fighters for the Freedom of Israel ) the energetic, thoughtful, Itzhak Shamir, contemplative Natan Yelline-Mur , and the elderly, but feisty Dr. Shieb, were seating in rickety chairs, on the sand in front of me, while I placed the microphone on the small table before them. They were fidgety, clearly uneasy to be so exposed, after their many years hiding from the British and spending years in jails.
I stood two feet behind them adjusting the amplifier to get maximum sound in that open natural theater, in Lechi’s largest military base - Shech Munes. Tall cypress trees bordered the open, sandy grounds and the place was lovely and peaceful. I smiled to myself remembering that just a few months earlier, I had been nearly blown up in that very spot by a huge, accidental truck explosion full of old dynamite. Just a few minutes before I had looked into the trucks, and saw the dangerous, oozing dynamite, so I had sped quickly away, in time to miss the big fireball.
This was the one and only full gathering of our Lechi members, after years of hiding underground from British forces: a very rare event for all of us. Some 700 young men and women stood in a huge semi circle facing the three leaders. Old friends were chatting with friends they had not seen for years and even had not known were in Lechi together. In the underground we were divided to small cells with code names so it would be hard, even under torture, to get the whereabouts of other Lechi members. And here we were, all together in the open. When I had joined Lechi four years earlier, at fifteen, we had less than two hundred members sparsely spread all over Israel.
Not only that, few had ever seen our well known, highly respected, even revered, but rarely seen, leaders alone. Now, here they were all three of them together, in the open.
It was a final act, on this May 29, just two weeks after the State of Israel was declared, on May 14, 1948, we were now adding most Lechi members to the newly organized Israel Defense forces, IDF. Israel needed every available person; we were under severe Arab armies’ attacks from all sides.
Our Shech Munes base, a rural setting, was just an hour from the busy metropolitan city of Tel Aviv . It was previously the vast holding of an Arab Muchtar, a rich leader of his tribe. As soon as we had heard that they left the area, we took it for our base of operation and training.
I knew many of the Lechi members since our home was a clandestine center of Lechi activities. My older brother Pinhas was a senior Lechi member and from time to time used our fourth floor apartment at 115 Rothschild Blvd, for operation planning. That was where I met Itzhak Shamir the first time disguised as a heavily bearded Rabbi. That disguise did not help him; he was arrested later despite it. Pinhas and many other Lechi members were not in the this parade. They were on a British ship returning from detention in British Africa to the new Israel .
Despite the war 50 members of Lechi got deferment from immediate military service to create a political party led by Shamir. I was one of this group who got military deferment, selected for future technical operations. I just finished a year of operating the Lechi second underground transmitter then, much of it from our family’s apartment.
All of us felt somewhat strange, uneasy, with the breaking up of the underground, with our solitary lives full of daily danger; now we were going into national military service, with its heavy toll of young people. During the years I was in Lechi and the War of Independence, a quarter of all my friends, from Lechi, and schools died in the this period. Yes, one in four of my friends died to get Israel independence!
In this “parade” our Lechi troops attempted to dress in military-like uniform but lacked military discipline so the lines were not straight, and their shoulders were not pulled back in a military style. But what they lacked in polish they had in determination and dedication. The Lechi group joined the Dayan Brigade and fought bravely, with many casualties, to liberate Israeli territories.
But we did not know that yet.
I looked at these 700 brave members who joined Lechi to fight for freedom and who would have given their lives without hesitation to fight the British forces if Itzhak Shamir would have asked them to. We admired him, revered him and would have followed his orders willingly, we trusted him so much. An unassuming 32 year old, small humble man, with unlimited courage, honesty, fully dedicated to Israel .
As the three leaders were talking quietly getting ready for the formal event, I heard Yellin-Mur, our political specialist, complaining with some irritation as I placed the microphone closer to them to improve the sound in that open space: ”I do not like this setting,” he said, “ I don’t like microphones.”
Shamir, with a steady quiet, but clear voice, looked at him and said: “You better get used to microphones; these are our new weapons now.”
from the August 2012 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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