Sophia's Peace Work

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

With the Other Hand Held a Weapon

With one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon.”
-Nehemiah IV (a quote on the brochure of the “Haganah” Museum)

Yesturday I went to the Haganah Military Museum in Tel Aviv. The Haganah was the precursor to the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) … an underground Zionist army of pre-Israel State. The museum is built as an extension onto the house of its founder Eliahu Golomb and is now run by the Israeli Ministry of Defense. Here is what the Museum brochure has to say about the place:

“Beit Eliahu is one of the houses built in Little Tel-Aviv during the early
days; Eliahu Golomb, the founder and leader of the “Haganah” lived in it, and
operated from here, until the day of his death on June 6th 1945. He
devoted his life to fostering, before the establishment of the State, a Hebrew
defense force in Israel. His house served as Central Headquarters of the
After the establishment of the State, the house was turned into a museum. It covers the very roots of the IDF and many of the various pre-state and pre-Haganah militias that helped foster Jewish immigration, settlement and expansion into the lands of Palestine.

There was a lot of interesting historic footage and the whole tenor of the place was of the heroism, dedication to and faith in the Zionist movement. Coming from Hebron, it was so amazing to see what is left out in this history.

As the immigration wave of Jews into Israel was swelling, the Arab population must have looked on in horror as the new arrivals took over lands for settlement. Tensions were high and finally violence against these settlements erupted. To combat this problem, the Haganah developed the “Tower and Stockade” Settlements. Fortified settlements components would be prefabricated, transported to the site and essentially erected in a single day but large groups of enthusiastic Haganah members in an almost party atmosphere. The footage of this program depicts essentially a community barn-raising event … only it’s not a barn that is being raised but a large, fortified and well-armed settlement. Imagine living nearby and watching this happen in your midst? Even if these new immigrants had bought the land it must have been a shocking sight to see.

Going to the museum also gave me an appreciation for the myth-making that occurred during the creation of the state of Israel and how important the myth has become to Israelis. Arabs are only mentioned a few times in the museum and there are almost no images of them. The whole exhibit is focused on the “liberation struggle against the British.”

But as for me, it was time that I return to Hebron. I went to Jerusalem and was lucky enough, after some debate with a few drivers, to get a single vehicle that took me and a Palestinian couple with their small child all the way into town. We just had to negotiate a new checkpoint and drive off-road through an olive orchard to get into town. This is part of the price of maintaining the myth.


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