King David St. Attack Exactly 62 Years After King David Bombing

The tractor terror attack in Jerusalem occurred near the King David Hotel, which was bombed exactly 62 years ago by Irgun. That blast killed 91.

Gil Ronen ,

The tractor attack in Jerusalem Tuesday took place near the King David Hotel, exactly 62 years after that hotel was bombed by the Etzel ("Irgun") in the most deadly attack against the British in their 28-year Mandate over the Land of Israel. The attack had been ordered by the headquarters of the united Jewish resistance movement, and was planned by Amichai Paglin ("Gidi"), Irgun's chief of operations, and Yitzchak Sadeh, commander of the Palmach.  Advance warning was provided, however, to minimize loss of life.

Irgun fighters gathered at 7 AM on July 22, 1946 at the Beit Aharon Talmud Torah in Jerusalem. It was only when the briefing began that the assembled fighters discovered that they were going to strike at the King David Hotel, which housed the Mandate Secretariat, the British military headquarters and a branch of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Palestine Police.

Seven Milk Churns
The strike force left in a van, loaded with seven milk churns, each containing 50 kilograms of explosives and special detonators. The commander of the operation, Yisrael Levi ("Gidon") was disguised as a Sudanese waiter, and the other members of the unit were dressed as Arabs. The van stopped at the side entrance to the hotel, through which foodstuffs were brought into the La Regence restaurant in the basement. The Irgun fighters overcame the guards by the gate and brought the milk churns into the restaurant, placing them beside the supporting pillars.
Yisrael Levi ("Gidon") was disguised as a Sudanese waiter and the other members of the unit were dressed as Arabs.

Telephoned warnings were sent to the main switchboard of the hotel, the Palestine Post newspaper and the French consulate, but no evacuation was carried out by the British. Some 25 minutes after the telephone calls, a shattering explosion shook Jerusalem. The entire southern wing of the King David Hotel - all seven stores - was completely destroyed. 91 people were killed: 28 British citizens, 41 Arabs, 17 Jews, and five others. Around 45 people were injured.

Why didn't the British evacuate?
Since the bombing, much controversy has ensued over the issues of whether and when warnings were sent and how the British authorities responded. According to Irgun leader Menachem Begin, who later became Prime Minister, the British had been warned of the bombing but refused to evacuate the building because of the attitude "we don't take orders from the Jews." Other accounts estimated that the British did not take the warning seriously because they did not believe the Irgun could infiltrate their heavily-guarded HQ.

Begin himself, in his memoirs, gives a much more chilling answer: the British took the threat seriously, but decided to make martyrs of their workers and vilify the Jewish resistance by allowing the explosion to occur.

British Prime Minister Clement Attlee commented on the attack to the House of Commons, calling it a "dastardly outrage." The Chief Secretary for the Government of Palestine, Sir John Shaw, declared that most of the dead had been members of the Secretariat staff: "British, Arabs, Jews, Greeks, Armenians; senior officers, police, my orderly, my chauffeur, messengers, guards, men and women - young and old - they were my friends."
The Jewish political leadership publicly condemned these attacks. The Jewish Agency expressed "their feelings of horror at the base and unparalleled act perpetrated today by a gang of criminals", ignoring the fact that it was the united resistance movement which had ordered the attack.

Begin upset at casualties
The Irgun issued an initial statement accepting responsibility for the attack, blaming the British for the deaths due to their failure to respond to the warning and mourning the Jewish victims. Begin reportedly was very upset that the British did not evacuate and that there were civilian casualties, which was against the Irgun's policy. The Irgun's radio network announced that it would mourn for the Jewish victims. It would not mourn for the Brit
"They will be punishing the Jews in the way the race dislikes as much as any by striking at their pockets and showing our contempt for them."
ish ones, though, because Britain had not mourned for the millions of Jews who died in the Nazi Holocaust.

The British army commander in Palestine, General Sir Evelyn Barker, in an order written only a few minutes after the bombing, commanded that "all Jewish places of entertainment, cafes, restaurants, shops and private dwellings" be out of bounds for British soldiers and officers. "I appreciate that these measures will inflict some hardship on the troops," he added, "but I am certain that if my reasons are fully explained to them, they will understand their propriety and they will be punishing the Jews in the way the race dislikes as much as any by striking at their pockets and showing our contempt for them." The order was rescinded two weeks later, after much outrage at its "anti-Semitic nature."

In the days following the attack, over 120,000 citizens of Tel-Aviv were interrogated by CID and the British decided to imprison illegal Jewish immigrants to Palestine on Cyprus.