Daily Israel Report

Op-Ed: Yair Stern, LEHI Founder: In Memory of a Hero

Yair was the nom de guerre of brilliant leader Avraham Stern, who in 1940 broke away from the Irgun Tzva'i Le'umi (Etzel) to found Lohamei Herut Yisrael (LEHI, the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, called by the British the "Stern Gang".
Published: Tuesday, February 05, 2013 10:37 PM


Shvat 25 (this year February 5, 2013) Exactly 71 years ago, to the day, British detectives and plainclothes men searched the flat belonging to the S'vorai family and discovered the man hiding there.

Excitedly, they handcuffed him, stood him up, and shot him in the back.

This person, hastily and barbarically murdered without trial in such a brutal and cowardly fashion, was Avraham 'Yair' Stern, founder of the FFI – Freedom Fighters of Israel (Lechi) - who fought for Israel's independence from foreign (British) rule.

The British hoped they were dealing a deathblow to the FFI as many organizations do not survive after their leader is killed, but Yair had already set on paper the ideology of the movement. His songs could also persuade one to adopt his aims and even his difficult and often harsh Underground lifestyle.

However, had he so wished, Yair could easily have lived a very different, and surely much longer and more enjoyable, life.

His academic background was that of studying the classics; he was considered one of Hebrew University's most promising students, and had started his doctorate in Florence, Italy with a grant from Hebrew University.

He had a girlfriend with whom he was enraptured, and whom he would marry after a long courtship. Considering that his father was a dentist and his mother a midwife, his life should have followed academic middle-class lines.

If only he hadn't gotten involved with the revolutionaries, what a pleasant life he could have had! And yet it was never too late for him to withdraw from the fight; until the very end Yair received appeals from both the Left and the Right to cease his struggle and in return gain protection from the ongoing British manhunt against him.

Needless to say, he refused. He paid with his life.

Yair started the fight against the British before it became acceptable in the then-Palestine Jewish community. While David Raziel was attacking Arab cafés in the 1936-1939 riots, Yair realized that the important thing was for the Jews to rule their own country. Therefore, he believed, they had to attack the British; not just because they were bad or broke promises, but because they were the foreign rulers.

He founded the FFI in 1940 and set to work. It wasn't until 1944 under Begin's leadership that the NMO – National Military Organization (Etzel) proclaimed their rebellion against the British. And in 1945, after WW2, for nine months, the Hagana actually worked together with the FFI and the NMO against the British.

Each organization had its own standards and mode of operation. The FFI, being the most ideologically and operationally extreme, was the spearhead.

The spear was thrust, and a Jewish State gained in return. We mustn't forget the debt we owe to those who fell along the way.


 

A translation of Yair's songs from the Hebrew appears on the writer's website (scroll down): http://myvoiceinisrael.insightonthenews.net/?page_id=242. Shifra's book can be read about at http://myvoiceinisrael.insightonthenews.net/?page_id=20.