One Jewish story leads to another. After posting “The Hebron Massacre Saved My Cousin’s Life” in The Times of Israel (May 12, 2022), I received a phone call from Ayala Mizrachi of San Jose, California, who told me that her father was also living in Hebron in 1929. But instead of being attacked by Arabs, he was saved by them.
When I first listened to her message, recorded in a strong Israeli accent, I thought I must have heard it wrong. Something about Arab neighbors hiding them in the basement. Could that be? After learning how my cousin had been brutally stabbed and left for dead, this sounded most unlikely.
I couldn’t wait to call her. When we finally connected a week later, this is what she said:
“My father’s family was living in Hebron in 1929. My grandfather was a carpenter. He and my grandmother had seven children, three boys and four girls. The family spoke Ladino and traced their ancestry back to Spain. My father, the second oldest, was 17 years old at the time of the pogrom.
“Until that Shabbos afternoon, the Arabs and Jews in Hebron had been on friendly terms. True, there were a few stabbings and knifings over the years, but generally, relations were good. In fact, the Arabs had been reassuring the Jews that they were safe, not to worry, and so the family had no inkling that an attack was in the making.
“When the Arabs started pouring onto the street, their neighbor bade them, ‘Come to our house!’ and hid them in the basement. The matriarch of that Arab family was a righteous woman who had made the Hajj to Mecca. When the mob came pounding on the door, saying, ‘We know you are hiding Jews inside,’ she told them, ‘No, we’re not!’ and shut the door.
“Toward evening, buses came and took the survivors to Jerusalem. Some cousins, who also survived, remained in Jerusalem, but my father’s family moved to Tel Aviv. Both my parents but especially my father, his siblings, and all his cousins served in the Irgun.
“After the Six-Day War, my father’s youngest brother, who was just a few years old in 1929, went to Hebron and visited the family that had saved them. My mother and older sister also visited them.
“My father never forgot that bus ride to Jerusalem. It was the probably the last thing he spoke of before he died.”
And, as it turns out, I heard the message correctly: some Arabs did save Jews during the 1929 pogrom. Thanks to them, Ayala Mizrachi is alive today to tell the story.