Jerusalem, my hometown: East Talpiot street names and Pre-Election sentiments

So, it was quite the winter storm! Some said it was the most snow they’d seen in Jerusalem in years. I stayed inside and tried to keep warm in my hardly-heated apartment room. Luckily, it has a southern exposure in the mornings that warms things up a little bit. Out from my window, I can see that most of the snow has melted across the wadi on the western border of Umm Lison, the Arab village below the main street, named after Moshe Barazani. Here’s Moshe’s picture and brief story:

Moshe was an Iraqi Kurdish Jew and a member of Lehi (aka the Stern Gang). He was born in Baghdad to a Jewish family from Northern Iraq. When Moshe was still a baby, his family moved to Jerusalem. He joined Lehi at an early age and took part in sabotage operations. He was arrested during a curfew, charged with conspiracy to murder a British army officer and sentenced to death by hanging by a British military court on April 21, 1947. However before the execution, he and a brother-in-arms Meir Feinstein (Barazani street connects at the bottom to the street named for Meir) committed suicide in their jail cells in the central prison in the Russian Compound in Jerusalem. They killed themselves with improvised grenades that had been smuggled inside oranges. The story of Barazani and Feinstein became one of the most famous tales of heroism in the history of the establishment of The Jewish State. Menachem Begin was so moved by the deeds of the two men that he requested in his will that he be buried next to them on the Mount of Olives.

Here’s a picture of Meir Feinstein:

But, I don’t have a picture of Alexander Rubovitch. That’s the name of the street right off Barazani where my apartment complex is physically located. Rubovitch’s story is also heroically tragic but perhaps more so. He was really just a boy, age 16, when he was, as reported, picked up by the British while posting handbills on a wall for the Haganah. Then, without a trial, as some declassified documents seem to indicate, having been abducted and brought in for questioning, a British war hero by the name of Roy Farran, supposedly smashed his head in with a rock. Mr. Farran went on to live out his days in Calgary, Canada.

Now, if you walk up Barazani street, you’ll come to a street called Olei Hagardom, which in Hebrew means those hanged in the gallows. This street name is a tribute to the Irgun and Lehi freedom fighters who were captured and hanged (Barazani & Feinstein are remembered in this group but martyred themselves first to avoid further interrogations) by the British in 1947, the same year my twelve year old father, Murray was in the Betar Youth camp, learning to hate cottage cheese while collecting and hiding guns to be shipped from the US for these same groups of Jewish resistance fighters. Here’s a picture of the memorial to the Olei Hagardom in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv:

Further up Olei Hagardom street, you’ll come to another street called Dov Gruner. Dov Gruner was one of the Olei Hagardom also. He took part in an Irgun operation against an occupational military target to gain access to weapons from a British army depot near Netanya. Ten days later he participated in his second and final operation on behalf of the Irgun – the attack on a Ramat Gan police station. When brought before the court, Dov would not admit guilt or recognize the court’s authority. He wouldn’t even work with his defense attorney. In fact, before the court and in the public record, he declared, “This court has no legal foundation, since it was appointed by a regime without legal foundation. You came to Palestine because of the commitment you undertook at the behest of all the nations of the world to rectify the greatest wrong caused to any nation in the history of mankind, namely the expulsion of Israel from their land, which transformed them into victims of persecution and incessant slaughter throughout the world. It was this commitment – and this commitment alone – which constituted the legal and moral basis for your presence in this country. But you betrayed it willfully, brutally and with satanic cunning. You turned your commitment into a mere scrap of paper…When the prevailing government in any country is not legal, when it becomes a regime of oppression and tyranny, it is the right of its citizens – more than that, it is their duty – to fight this regime and to topple it. This is what Jewish youth are doing and will continue to do until you quit this land, and hand it over to its rightful owners: the Jewish people. For you should know this: there is no power in the world which can sever the tie between the Jewish people and their one and only land. Whosoever tries to sever it – his hand will be cut off and the curse of God will rest on him for ever.” Here’s Dov’s picture:

Still on Olei Hagardom street, you’d come to Avshalom Haviv street, named after another Irgun fighter who was hanged by the British. At their trial, Haviv with other indicted Jewish prisoners sat bound and sang songs from the Betar Revisionist Zionist youth movement (my Dad’s and Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s organization), which were translated for the many foreign journalists in attendance. The defendants entered the hall under heavy guard with chains on their hands and legs. It was reported that Haviv refused to raise his legs for the manacles to be put on and in a loud voice answered the British jailer “If the British mandate wants to put handcuffs on me, may it submit!”. The presiding judge declared the accused had been found guilty of all charges. Haviv was hanged shortly after that. Below is a picture of Avshalom:

Well, it’s almost time to elect the 19th Knesset. And, I think David Horovitz has it about right that Israel’s right wing is moving further right (see his Op/Ed in the Times of Israel yesterday), right back to the right that it used to champion: right that Israel is for the Jews, right that the Jews aren’t going anywhere whether anyone likes it or not, right that we must be steady and tough-minded in a very unstable and rough neighborhood surrounded by people who hate us and don’t want the Jewish State here, right that we must depend upon ourselves and not look to the world to like us or support us.

These men that the street names of my East Talpiot neighborhood are memorialized for were right to fight the British and unfortunate to them personally, right to give their lives for the establishment of a Jewish State. It is only right for us to remember the Olei Hagardom and many others who gave their lives to make The State of Israel a reality for every Jew in the world, especially a new oleh like me.

Maybe you are wondering how a guy like me who now claims that he can see the day of peace coming (see my last post on my visit to the Knesset) can candidly celebrate the right wing’s movement to the right. Well, absent a functional, stable, ethical, rational, stateman-like and moderate center, which I’d prefer, it’s like this: Once the Arabs get it that the Jews aren’t going anywhere, they’ll have to come around to the idea of living with us. It will be their only choice. The Israeli Army is the strongest army in the region and nobody, not Hezbollah, not the Egyptians, nor the crumbling Syrian regime have what it takes to defeat us. The Arabs of Judea and Samaria and Gaza, no matter the noise, no matter the rockets, no matter the terrorist attacks, CANNOT existentially threaten Israel. The overarching fact is this: ISRAEL IS HERE TO STAY. Israel will not only survive but thrive. Once the Arabs and the rest of the world actually accepts this real fact of life, then peace is merely inevitable. The movement of the right wing more to the right sends the Arabs the correct message in response to their duplicity. Once they get tired of hating us with all the cost to them that this costs them, they will finally sue for real peace. This might take generations yet but until then, the right, however far right they become will only help to strengthen Israel’s resolve to survive and thrive during this interim pre-peace period. This shift of the right to the right gives everyone, friend and foe alike, the same message that the early freedom fighters gave the British: ERETZ ISRAEL IS THE ETERNAL HOMELAND OF THE JEWS.

Now, if you are a fairly new English-speaking oleh like me and want to know who to vote for, I can’t help you. Of course, that’s really up to you to learn about the parties and vote your conscience. But, for the sake of gratitude to the Olei Hagardom and exercising your civic duty, I recommend that you go to your correct polling station on 22 January between the hours of 07:00 and 22:00 and vote!

If you don’t know where to go, below is a great website that you can go to and plug your National ID number into one field and up pops the address of your polling station (based upon where the Population Administration has your address listed). Go to:


I recommend that you go to the above website via Google search. Then you can use Google translate to read the page in English. Besides plugging in your ID, you’ll have to enter some random letters you’ll see there (you know, to verify that you’re an actual person). Then push the button with the Hebrew word: חפש. When the next page comes up, you’ll see your nine-digit ID written differently. For example, if you plugged in: 123456789, then you’ll see: 789 456 123. Who knows why it does this but the most important thing is to look at the address it gives you. YOU MUST GO TO THAT ADDRESS AND ONLY THAT ADDRESS AND DON’T FORGET YOUR ID! Again, Google is great for copying this address into Maps and voila! There’s your polling station.

So, I hope you enjoyed the snow but now that it’s all melted, remember the Olei HaGardom and all the others who died to give us The State of Israel and please, show up on Tuesday, 22 January to vote for the 19th Knesset!


About the Author
David Lasoff is an American Jew from Southern California. He made aliyah in May 2012 and is now the director of the department of Applied English Linguistics for the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem. He teaches academic writing and supervises the school's English language learning programs.