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Ben Yehuda Street Bombing - Definition

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Ben Yehuda Street Bombing -On February 22, 1948, during the first phase of the Israel War of Independence, Palestinian Arab terrorists, with the cooperation of deserters from the British Mandatory forces, bombed Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem. It was possibly the first car bombing in history, and it was the first of several bombings of Ben Yehuda street in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On February 22, 1948, at about 6:30 in the morning, three men dressed as British soldiers and police drove to the corner of Ben Yehuda and Ben Hillel Streets. They passed through British and Jewish checkpoints with no problems, owing to their seeming British identity. One of these men was Azmi Djaoumi, a Palestinian Arab. The others were Eddie Brown and Peter Madison, British deserters. They were driving an armored car and two truck bombs loaded with explosives, prepared by SS-trained Fawzi el Kuttub, the master saboteur of the Arab Palestinians in Jerusalem. The bombings had been ordered by Abdel Khader El Husseini, who intended to terrorize the Jews into leaving Jerusalem.  Brown and Madison had previously carried out the  Palestine Post Bombing. For the Ben Yehuda bombing, they were supposed to get a thousand pounds sterling from the Grand Mufti Hajj Amin Al Husseini.

The bombers lit the explosives and fled. The explosion demolished four buildings and shattered windows in a large area. Various casualty figures are given. According to Collins and LaPierre, 1973, 54 people were killed. According to Yair Sheleg (2001)52 corpses were found under the rubble and 32 people were injured. Six of the injured died subsequently. Yitzhak Levi (1986) listed 47 dead. According to Levi, 1986 (p. 440), casualties were: 2 soldiers killed, 14 wounded, 47 civilians killed, 126 wounded.

Palestine War Crimes Ben Yehuda Street Bombing, Jerusalem 1948- Arab Terror Ben Yehuda Street Bombing, Jerusalem 1948- Arab Terror  

Scenes from the Ben Yehuda Street bombing, Jerusalem 1948

 

One of the trucks had been parked near the Atlantic Hotel, at the corner of Ben Hillel and Ben Yehuda Streets, where the "furmanim," those who guarded the Palmach convoys, usually stayed. British police chased the attackers, but they cried out "Explosion!" The fact that they seemed to be all British misled the police, who anyhow preferred to get away as soon as possible. 

Dr. Meron Benvenisti, a boy of 14 at the time, relates that he arrived at the site of the explosion with friends from the youth movement; they were asked to help clear the rubble. "The British offered earth-moving equipment, on condition that they themselves operate it," he recounts, "but the Jewish Agency refused, so that's how they brought us in to do the work. I remember that I bent down to clear something and suddenly I saw a human hand sticking out of the rubble. This is a sight that I will of course never forget. The roof of the Orion Cinema, which was located nearby, was blasted off entirely by the force of the explosion, and for years the cinema had only a tin roof, and when it rained you couldn't hear the films that were being screened."
Rescue workers at the scene of the Ben Yehuda Street bombing, 1948.

Map: Jerusalem - Palestinian terror - 1948 - Ben Yehuda Street bombing

Map Courtesy of Tzipporah Porath

A contemporary personal account of the devastation and rescue work is given in Palestine: Ben Yehuda Street Bombing Palestine: Ben Yehuda St. Bombing 1948 - Fierce Determination .

The Irgun and LEHI underground avenged the attack. Irgun killed a British officer, a sergeant and two British drivers near the Jewish Agency buildings, while the Lehi killed 10 British policemen,

Madison and Brown went to Cairo to get their reward, but the Mufti laughed at them and refused to pay up.  Though  Abed al-Kader al-Husseini announced to the press that it was he who was responsible for the attack, the Supreme Arab Committee, which was afraid of international censure, released a statement, authorized by the Mufti, denying Al-Husseini's announcement. This pattern of maintaining deniability was to be imitated by Palestinian Arab terrorist groups in the future.

Ben Yehuda Street and nearby Zion square have been the site of additional Palestinian terrorist bombings.  On Friday, July 4, 1975, a refrigerator with five kilograms of explosives packed into its sides exploded in Zion Square. Fifteen people were killed in the explosion and 77 were injured. On September 4, 1997, three suicide terrorists of the Izzedin el Qassam military organization of the Hamas blew themselves up simultaneously along the pedestrian mall, killing four Israelis including  two 14-year-old schoolgirls. On December 1, 2001 two suicide bombers detonated themselves on Ben Yehuda Street, followed by a car bomb that went off as paramedics arrived. Ten people were killed, including many children, and 188 were injured in the terrorist attacks. Numerous other attempts were foiled.

References

Collins, Larry, and Lapierre, Dominique, O Jerusalem!, Pan Books, N.Y. 1973, pp 180-183.

Levi, Yitzhak, "Tisha Kabin" (9 Measures) (Jerusalem in the War of Independence, (in Hebrew) Maarachot - IDF, Israel Ministry of Defense, 1986, p. 440.

Porath, Zipporah,  Letters from Jerusalem 1947-1948, AACI, 2005.

Sheleg, Yair, A short history of terror. Haaretz.


Synonyms and alternate spellings: Ben Yehudah Street Bombing

Further Information:  Israel War of Independence


Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.


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This work and individual entries are copyright 2005 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism and Israel Information Center and may not reproduced in any form without permission unless explicitly noted otherwise. Individual entries may be cited with credit to The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel

 

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