Dr Judith Guedalia

We Are Walking On The Shoulders Of Heroes: Alexander Rubowitz, aged 16 forever, HY'D.

There is a song in the musical "My Fair Lady", that goes something like this: "I have often walked down this street before..."

Well I have often walked down Ussishkin Street close to the corner of Keren Kayemet Street.  I have also often noticed the blue plaque emblazoned with the Municipality of Jerusalem emblem, designating it a site of note.  I am usually rushing to get somewhere and give it a perfunctory glance.   This time the date May 6th, which is coming up, held my attention.


That date is also near the date of my father's Nachala (Yaarzeit).  At his death I thought of my grandparents' yaarzeits and how with my Dad Z'"L's passing, there would be no one to say Kaddish for them.  On the other hand, I thought, maybe that was Hashem's way of defining mourning and the sadness of loosing a loved one.   Two generations mourn for each other.  A child has to say Kaddish for a parent, and Has-ve-Shalom, Heaven Forefend, if a parent looses a child; the parent is obligated to commemorate that 'out-of-sequence-of-life' death, by saying Kaddish for the child.  But grandchildren do not (have to) say Kaddish for grandparents.  In a sense that is a blessing, for wouldn't the world be a sadder place if we were all mourning generations of family members daily!!!

But the above, sheds some light on the somewhat emotionally weakened state I am in, when I read the plaque:

         Abduction of Alexander Rubowitz.

         On Monday the 16th of Iyar 5707, May 6th 1947 at this spot,         
         members of the 'special forces' of the British Police abducted 16
         year old Lehi (Jewish 'underground' fighters Fighter Alexander         
         Rubowitz while he was carrying Lehi handbills.   Alexander was  
         tortured to death and his body has never been found.  (It is in both 
         Hebrew and English.)

Then I started to research this horrible event, using the internet and I found an official record from July 13th 1947, of the United Nations General Assembly.   Which I quote:

 "...the murder of 16-year old Alexander Rubowitz who was kidnapped by a British terror squad under Major Farran is known to you from the press. During the disturbances of 1936-39 a British constable was injured. Thereupon a British patrol picked three youngsters at random in the nearest village, Gilat el Harithiya, and murdered them in the village yard.

June 1947, Palestine. The terrorist Stern gang opened fire on British soldiers waiting in line outside a Tel Aviv theater, killing three and wounding two. Another Briton is killed and several wounded in a Haifa hotel. This action was claimed by Jewish terrorists to be in retaliation for British brutality and the alleged slaying of a missing 16 year old Jew, Alexander Rubowitz while he was being held in an Army barracks on May 6.

June 19, 1947, Jerusalem. Major Roy Farran, held in connection with the disappearance of a 16-year-old Jew, escaped from custody in the army barracks in Jerusalem.

June 29, 1947, New York. The UN Committee votes 9-0 to condemn the acts of terrorism as "flagrant disregard" of the UN appeal for an interim truce as Stern terrorists wounded four more British soldiers on a beach at Herzila. Major Roy Alexander Farran surrendered voluntarily after his escape from custody in Jerusalem on June 19. He had been arrested in connection with the Rubowitz case.

It seems a long time ago and we have so many 'newer' tragedies to absorb, just last Monday a terrorist blew himself up, killing 9 and injuring many more, it hardly seems possible to look back to those horribly difficult times before the official establishment of Israel's Statehood, but as I said it captures my attention.

What was 'Lehi'?
Lehi, An acronym for Lohamei Herut Yisrael (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel) was an underground organization that operated from 1940 to 1948. Lehi rejected the authority of the yishuv's elected institutions and the worldwide Zionist movement, and sometimes clashed bitterly with the Haganah.   Lehi's goals were maximalist: conquest and liberation of Eretz Israel; war against the British Empire; complete withdrawal of Britain from Palestine; and establishment of a "Hebrew kingdom from the Euphrates to the Nile."

In contrast to the scope of these goals, Lehi's strength was limited; it never had more than a few hundred fighters and its arms stores were meager. The disparity between its aspirations and its real power dictated Lehi's method of fighting: bold, extremist 'actions', intended both to obtain funding and weapons and to demonstrate that it was possible to strike at the enemy successfully.

-         February 12, 1942, Avraham ("Yair") Stern, the leader of Lehi, was captured in a Tel Aviv apartment and murdered by British detectives.
-         November 6, 1944, two Lehi members assassinated Lord Moyne, the British Minister for Middle East Affairs in Cairo. The perpetrators, Eliyahu     Beit-Tzuri and Eliyahu Hakim, were caught, tried by a military tribunal, and hanged on March 23, 1945. 
-         May 31, 1948, the IDF was established, Lehi was disbanded and most of its members enlisted in the IDF.
-         September 17, 1948, Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte, a UN mediator, was assassinated in Jerusalem, and Lehi members were suspected. The government outlawed the organization's branch in Jerusalem and shut down its publication.  The leaders of Lehi, Natan Yellin-Mor and Mattityahu Shmuelevitz, were sentenced to long jail terms by a military court, but were released in a general amnesty. (Source on Lehi: Israeli Foreign Ministry)

However, how could I just walk by this plaque of the kidnapped, tortured and killed  sixteen year old Alexander Rubowitz, I wanted to understand more and possibly find out about his family.

So I continued my search on the internet of the events.   And then I saw an article by a British site describing the following;

"In 1948 Rex Farran was killed by a parcel bomb which was delivered to his family home in Codsall.   He was the brother of Captain Roy Farran, one of the action heroes of the Second World War.  He was involved in the fighting in Crete, where he was captured by the Germans.   He escaped and drifted in a small boat for days before being picked up.  He was soon back in service in North Africa where he was a founding member of the Long Range Desert Group, the forerunners of the SAS.   (He later wrote a very popular book about it - "Winged Dagger" - which is still in print).  After the war he was with the British Forces in Palestine where he was involved in the fight against the Jewish Stern Gang, by then renamed the Lehi Group.  In 1947 one of that gang's members, Alexander Rubowitz, disappeared.   He was never found but Roy Farran was accused of his murder and acquitted.  The Lehi group were out to get him."

I was shocked by the violence on every side.  But who am I, living here in Jerusalem, as the 58 th Yom Ha'Atzmaoot approaches, walking on the shoulders of heroes, teenaged ones at that, who were kidnapped, tortured and murdered, to judge anything!  This year, I decided, on the eve of the 16 th of Iyar (Saturday Night the 13th of May) to light a Ner Zicharon (literally a 'memory candle') for Alexander Rubovitz HY'D (May Gd Avenge His Blood).

We can only look at the recently completed Hagada service for direction, Veyehi Sheamda... When our enemies come up against us, in every generation, Hashem has stood by us and vanquished them.   May He continue to do so.


Originally published in the Jewish Press on May 3, 2006.

Tags: Alexander Rubowitz | Jewish Press | Jewish Stern Gang | Lehi | Lohamei Herut Yisrael | Roy Farran