Thursday, August 24, 2006

Remembering The Hebron Massacre of 1929.

Since today, August 24th, marks 77 years since the Brutal Massacre and rape of the Jewish Community of Hebron, I thought it would be important to provide the following recently found letter from a survivor who recounts the horrors of the pogrom. The letter's author requests that his surviving children read the account every year to recall the survival and the massacre:

"Just one thing, my dear children, may you live and be well, I ask of you that you put away this letter for the generations. Each year, at an agreed‑upon day, you should all meet and give thanks and praise to God, blessed be He, who saved your parents from this great catastrophe, and each one of you should make a generous contribution to charity. The miracle took place on Shabbes, Torah portion Ekev, the 18th day of the month of Av, 5689 [August 24, 1929], in Hebron."

Following is an introduction, and then the letter itself.


Blood dripping down the steps in Hevron following in the Massacre


Survivor mourning the victims of the masscare in Hebron.

The entire 1929 Hebron Massacre photo archive is here. Warning, very graphic images.

The following is required reading for all.
--Jameel.

The Hebron Massacre of 1929: A Recently Revealed Letter of a Survivor


The massacre of the Jews of Hebron in 1929 put an end to the ancient Jewish community at the burial site of the patriarchs. The riots which erupted throughout the country were an organized Arab attack against the entire Zionist enterprise with the aim of preventing the eventual establishment of a Jewish state. They were the most violent eruption until that time in the conflict that has been termed “one long war between Arabs and Jews comparable to the Hundred Years War in medieval Europe.”[1]

Unlike other parts of the country, where Jews resisted with force, the Hebron community reflected the mind‑set of the pre‑modern Jew, conditioned by almost 2,000 years of Jewish powerlessness. The reaction of the local leadership to the impending attack was to turn to the authorities -- the British appointed governor and the Arab notables -- for protection, which, when it arrived, was much too late.

The events in Hebron and my grandparents' miraculous rescue are vividly described in a letter written by my grandfather nine days later to my mother, Blanche Greenberg.

In 1907, the peak year of Jewish immigration into the United States, my maternal grandfather, Aharon Reuven Bernzweig, his wife Breine Zuch Bernzweig, and their six children left Stanislaw, Galicia (then Austrian Poland), and settled in New York City. Twenty years later, in 1927, after their children were grown and they had accumulated a modest capital, they were in a position to fulfill the dream of many traditional Jews‑‑to spend their retirement years in Eretz Hakodesh, the Holy Land.

Late in the spring of 1929, my grandparents travelled to the United States in order to attend my brother's bar mitzvah. Upon their return they decided to escape the heat of a Tel Aviv summer by vacationing in Hebron. Five days later the riots broke out.

Zeide Bernzweig's health was affected by the Hebron ordeal, and he died of a heart attack in 1936. Baba Breine continued to live at 16 Bialik Street in Tel Aviv until her death in 1945. That is where I would visit and spend Shabbat in 1937‑38, when I studied at Hebrew University.

Aharon and Breine Bernzweig were buried on the Mount of Olives. In the summer of 1967, after the reunification of Jerusalem, my wife and I found and restored their desecrated graves.

While members of the family knew that Zeide had written a letter about Hebron, we were not familiar with the actual text. I found the original in my parents' papers after their death. The Yiddish is closely written on ten pages and is difficult to read. I am therefore greatly indebted to Helen G. Meyrowitz, who deciphered the text and prepared the initial translation, which I have revised and edited.

33 comments:

bec said...

thanks for posting that. reading a first-hand account of the hebron massacre really hits in a way that reading straight facts just doesn't.

MC Aryeh said...

Very powerful and upsetting. I had only heard of the Chevron massacre, but knew none of its details before. Thank you for posting this. Is it known what directly prompted the massacre?

Jerusalemcop said...

Reading this, I was reminded about the story of Sarah Hamburger (http://www.gamla.org.il/english/memorial/e254.htm) who was saved from the massacre at the age of 5 and married one of the founders of the modern city of Jerusalem. She was tragically murdered by a terrorist 73 years later on Jaffa street in January 2002.

HYD

J.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

MCA: The "direct cause" of the massacre was the "dvar koran" given by the local muftis.

They were upset over a Betar "provocation" at the Kotel which included blowing the shofar there. I'll look up more info at post it...

BEC: The most frightening book about it was written by MK Rehavam Zeevi (HYD) -- it is full of awful pictures an heart wrenching accounts. It includes a picture of every single victim and a short biography of them...many of the victims were American yeshiva students studying at the Hevron Yeshiva.

JCop: thanks for the link!

Soccer Dad said...

About 15 years ago, I had the privilege to hear a survivor of the massacre speak of his ordeal. He was stabbed 18 times but was treated at an Arab hospital and saved.
He said later in Yeshiva in Europe the Mashgiach asked him if he felt any pain. He answered that he didn't but wanted to know why the Mashgiach asked.
The Mashgiach told him that it says (I forget the source) that some who dies sanctifying God's name suffers no pain.

Sir Chuck said...

Thanks for the letter, Jameel. It brought to mind Habakkuk's passionate plea against the Babylonian hordes, and when I turned to it I found once again the amazing conclusion...

I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.


Stay faithful...

Sir C

AMERICA~LAND OF THE FREE said...

Thank you for posting that. I did not remember that from history.
It broke my heart.
These people that continue to do these kinds of things in the world are aligned with Satin and will all surely meet up in hell as they do their evil deeds and acts.
May God bless Israel forever and always.

sheva7777 said...

I am fairly new to the blog scene, but I would like to say that I appreciate your blog immensely. Your updates on life in Israel touch my life. Thank you for this post in particular. I have heard so many references to the Chevron Massacre, but never knew any real information. Thank you for all your insights.

RR said...

Thanks for posting this, and the link to the letter. I read it...unbelievable. I've heard a lot of the details before, but reading a first-hand account like that is really heartwrenching.

Elder of Ziyon said...

Here are some details on the 1929 shofar incident and its aftermath.

KACH 613 said...

For all the people that think the poblem is the Zionists!!! Look they all have black hats,Charadim! Thay hate all jews =ly!!

Joe Settler said...

Members of my extended family were survivors of the Hebron massacre. Some of the land that is "in question" today (where the Israeli government is kicking Jews out of) actually belonged to them. It was through a series of interesting miracles that that part of the family survived.

projgen said...

"...my dear children... Each year...you should all meet and give thanks and praise to God, blessed be He, who saved your parents from this great catastrophe, and each one of you should make a generous contribution to charity."

This is the most important part of the whole letter to me. No calls to destroy the Arabs, no hateful name-calling, no sweeping generalizations about all Arabs. Just a call to remember to be thankful to Gd, and to give tzedakah.

FrumWithQuestions said...

I find it amazing that many Americans and other liberals claim the Jews and Arabs lived in peace before the State of Israel was created. I guess these people must think that this massacre never happened.

bec said...

frumwithquestions...
not to mention that muhammed murdered, if i'm not mistaken, 799 jews in one day....
i think people believe what they want to believe, even when it's pure history, even when the facts are so clear that they hit you in the face.

Liberated Land said...

If pogrum took place on the 18th day of the month of Av, 5689 why mention it now?

You are 18 days early?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Liberated Land: You mean, 12 days too late ;-) (Today's Rosh Chodesh Elul).

Why? 'Cause I just found the "letter" yesterday.

ProGen: Our problem is NOT the Arabs, but Jews. If we were unified, we wouldn't have so many problems. I don't think the message of the 1929 Hevron Porgrom is "kill the arabs" -- rather the message continue to build the land (obviously, giving thanks to G-d as well). We will continue to build the land, despite those who rise up to kill us...just as we continue to survive 2000 years since exile and the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash.

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CCCooperAgency said...

Psalms 22:30, "A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation."

I see that the "spammers" have attempted to "muddy" the true waters of life on this blog so be encouraged brothers!

Anonymous said...

My grandfather was a survivor of the chevron massacre and one of the pictures is of his family is there anyone who could contact me if they know details or some stories to tell me

Unknown said...

One thing that has to be remembered about the Hebron Massacre of 1929, is that 19 Arab families took great risk, to hide and save 435 Jews. Has a memorial been placed to commemorate them? It was done with the Avenue of Righteous Gentile at Yad Vashem. It must be remembered that out of times of hysteria and darkness, there are individuals who can see beyond it. It was done during World War II, when Europeans took great risk to hide Jews. Let us memorialize those that took great risk in Hebron in 1929, so it can serve as a role model for coexistence among both present-day Israelis and Palestinians.

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Justin Jordan said...

Great post. I like and hate reading these things give me such bad feelings and makes me angry that I can't do something about it. attorney

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