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Palestine The Qiryat – Haroshet Massacre

July 21 1938

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Palestine The Qiryat – Haroshet Massacre

July 21 1938

The massacre of Qiryat Haroshet took place during the Palestine Arab uprising of 1936-1939. This was one of many small attacks carried out by the gangs led and organized by the Fascist armed  Hajj Amin Al Husseini, and, as is evident from the account below, this was not the first time the settlement had been attacked. The massacre was only a "minor" one, as "only" four people were murdered. However, as the attackers numbered about a hundred, it can be assumed that many more would have died had it not been for determined defense put up by the Jewish guards.

Translator’s notes:

Historical and geographical background:

Qiryat – Haroshet and Alroi are now apart of the town of Qiryat – Tiv’on, southeast of Haifa.

The Notrim (singular - Noter) were members of a special Jewish police force set up by the British government to counter the Arab violence; most of its members were from the Haganah.

The mountain mentioned is the Carmel Mountain, the events described below took place at the Kishon region where the Carmel and the Jezreel Valley meet.

The Mukhraka is a steep slope of the Carmel.

The relevance for today:

It goes without saying that all cases of terror attacks and murders of civilians must be recorded and never forgotten. But sometimes they have relevance to today. In this case two fold relevance, one, foreshadowing  the Hezbollah, this is a not badly executed military attack. Leading 100-armed men undetected through the rugged slopes of the Carmel Mountain is no easy feat. Which brings us to waste of it all, the waste in both the case of Hezbollah and this one, of taking young men, investing in them, training them, and for what purpose? To commit mass murder and to destroy a community, this is another aspect of senseless evil of terrorism that boggles our mind. The Second is the anti Zionist propaganda that portrays Israel as a colonial enterprise. When colonial empires moved in their settlers to strengthen their hold, they gave them financial incentives, large tracts of land and vast ready-made cheap native labor. The best-known examples are Kenya, Tanzania and Namibia. Qiryat – Haroshet was a shantytown, its people hard working blue-collar workers. Their socio-economic condition was not much different then that of the rest of Jewish population. The affluent Israel did not arise until the 1970s.

Following is the newspaper report of the massacre. 

From Davar 22nd of July 1938.

Shmuel Guterman, his wife Loti and their child Bilhah, Rivka Spiegler and her 10 years old son Ya’akov, murdered during the attack on Qiryat – Haroshet.

Several losses to the [Arab] gang.

Thursday.

Only in some of the sheets of our newspaper have we had sufficient time to deliver this horrific news, now being given to us by our correspondent

A vicious and savage attack, with horrific results, was carried last night on Qiryat Haroshet, on the Haifa – Nazareth road. By burning shacks and firing guns – against the stiff resistance of  the Notrim (the guards) – 5 people were killed, women and children. The father, the mother and the child of the Guterman family, were burned and killed in a shack that caught fire. In a second shack the mother and the boy of the Spiegler family were killed by gunshots and stabbings.

The [Arab] gang also had losses.

A horrific image is revealed on entering Qiryat – Haroshet. Residents of Qiryat – Haroshet and the nearby Alroi share this fate and sorrow, wrapped in grief; their faces still show the signs of the night of horror. We headed for the place of the murder: the shack of the Guterman family. All of it went up in flames, only its remnants and three burned bodies are visible. The tableau of the poor mother lying besides her year and half old baby and embracing her was shocking

In a few days a family had been cut down.

Last Sunday they buried their only son, aged 13, who died of a heart illness, and during the seven days of mourning they were all murdered. The husband, Shmuel Guterman, made a living as a bakery worker in Haifa.

From the two victims of the Spiegler family, the mother Rivka was probably murdered first by shots and stabbings. The cruelty of the murders is noticeable in the body of the boy Ya’acov, age ten. He was shot by two Dumdum bullets, which smashed a part of his body. In addition he was stabbed in different parts of his body. Near the Spiegler’s shack lay the body of a young Bedouin, age 20-22, dressed in khaki, which was hit by bullets in the chest.

The head of the Spiegler family spent the night of the disaster in Haifa.

One of the locals informed us:

At 11.15 the guards (Notrim) noticed a suspicious movement in the thorns behind the outer shacks. On their question “who's there?” they were answered by the sound of rifles. The guards (Notrim) fired and received a volley of rifle fire from the gang; the number of its members was assessed to be a hundred men, which formed a chain of 400 meters.

By the time they were noticed they were already inside the defense line. This time the attackers came from the south side, through Tel-Kasis and not from the usual route from the western side of the mountain.

In the town there are 9 guarding posts and in each of them a Noter and a civilian armed with a government issued hunting rifle, this is because there are only 10 army rifles and 4 government issued hunting rifles. (We’ve mentioned before that at that place there is only one hired Noter).

Because of these reasons there was no possibility to increase the watch and protection. The Notrim from the outer posts and those near them immediately opened with strong fire. Given the amount of ammunition and the distance from the center – they had to withdraw inwards a bit. The attackers advanced and reached the outer shacks. The first was the school shack, which was empty and in it the belongings of one of the residents. The attackers torched the shack, broke and destroyed everything inside, but the fire extinguished itself. The nearby shack was the synagogue, from it they stole a Talit, broke the benches and the Ark of the Torah scroll.

The assumption is that they did not see the Torah scroll. A second group broke the fence of the Guterman’s shack and penetrated it., killed the 3 family members and torched the shack. After the fire was put out, the torched bodies were found. Next they entered the Spiegler’s shack. The wife Rivka they murdered immediately. The body of the boy was found covered by pillows and featherbeds, soaked in blood.

A 6 year old girl of the Spiegler family was able to evade and hide, and when the guard's came she ran to them.

The attack lasted about tenminutes. The Notrim, who were forced to withdraw inwards, rained fire on the attackers who were concentrated around the shacks of Guterman and Spiegler, while been careful not to harm the residents of the shacks. The flames from the burning shack lit the town; this helped the guards to better aim their fire at the attackers.

In this  exchange of fire a gang member was killed near the Spiegler’s shack. The light from the flames had revealed withdrawing gang members carrying their dead and wounded. At the same time another group of attackers approached the three cement houses at the southern end of the town. The outer one was deserted. They broke and destroyed the windows, the doors and furniture inside and fired from inside the house. Several of the gang members wanted to burst into a nearby house, where ten people were holed up inside. At that moment a reinforcement of Notrim arrived from the center of the town, and by opening heavy fire they saved the family. The murderers had to flee just as they started breaking the doors.

Under a rain of fire a reinforcement of Notrim came from Alroi, and then the mobile company of the (settlement) block. As they came, a white rocket was seen from the southwest and the gang withdrew in two directions. One: beside Qiryat – Amal, escaping between Qiryat – Amal and Sheik – Abreik. The second group, which carried their dead and wounded, went behind Tel – Kasis from where they came.

The town’s front, by the side of the mountain, is 2 km in length, and is 600 to 800 meters from the mountain. Between the town and the mountain there is the Jenin road. The town was always attacked from the mountain, but the murderers had never dared come closer because of the road that passes there, this time they came through Tel - Kasis. The assumption is that they came down from Muhraka, and from there crossed the road and the Kishon territory. In the town they had found hundreds of cartridges, German, British and home made. They also found part of a bomb that had exploded.

This morning at 9.30, the police dogs came, with military companies, donkeys, and a tracker, and went after the murderers.

At Qiryat – Haroshet there are 60 families, scattered over a large area, which makes the defense difficult. There is no phone over there.

Last night at 11.50  the police came from Yagur with a company of guards (Notrim). At 12:00 Notrim from the Nahalal block also came. Because they came, the fire did not resume. It is believed that the gang detected them before they entered the town.

Some of the town’s residents are now busy burying the bones of the bodies. According to the laws of the Jewish religion, the remains of the bodies are to be buried at the place of the disaster and they are digging a grave at the lot of the burned shack.

Dvar Dea

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