Remembering a Heroine of Israel's Founding Generation

“A woman of valor, who can find?” - says King Solomon in Proverbs 31. Shulamit Shamir was one.

Moshe Phillips

OpEds Moshe Phillips
Moshe Phillips

 The widespread renewed interest in American Civil War history this year caused by the marking of the 150th anniversary of the start of the war has been mirrored somewhat in Israel. Recently a rekindled spotlight has been focused on the history of the Zionist underground’s revolt against British rule in the Land of Israel in the 1930s and 1940s.

From Jeremy Ben-Ami, the founder of J Street, the American Jewish political pressure group founded in 2008 to agitate for a Palestinian State, to Prime Minister Netanyahu to Israel’s nationalist settlers everyone these days seems to be recalling these heroes.

Netanyahu’s government has launched a project to recover the remains of the Irgun arms ship which was sunk off of Tel Aviv on orders by David Ben-Gurion during Israel’s War of Independence. American scholar Professor Jerold Auerbach recently released a book about the Altalena tragedy and his article on the controversy regarding the archeology appeared on the American Thinker website in August:

Also in August a play based on the love letters between Avraham “Yair” Stern and his wife Roni Stern premiered in Tel Aviv at the LEHI Museum on the ancient Jewish romantic holiday, Tu B’Av. Yair Stern was the founder and leader of the Stern Group which is remembered in Israel as the LEHI (Fighters For the Freedom of Israel.) Soon the LEHI Museum will release a new English book by historian Zev Golan titled STERN: The Man and His Gang.

On the other hand the death of Shulamit Shamir, wife of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir on July 29 in her Tel Aviv home did not receive the coverage it should have. (Ed. note: Arutz Sheva is not in that category as opposed to msm.  We wrote on the Shamirs' life as a couple after reporting  the sad news of her death and covering the funeral, but felt that this article is a worthy addition to the stories we posted.)

And that is an injustice we shall try to rectify here.

 Prime Minister Netanyahu recognized that there was something significant to be recalled about Mrs. Shamir beyond that her husband held Israel’s highest office. Netanyahu said, "Shulamit was Yitzhak's right hand in the LEHI…we join all of Israel's citizens in mourning her death."

Here Netanyahu zeroed in on her most important contribution to the Jewish State. She was a soldier in the LEHI underground movement. She was a vital part of Israel’s founding generation.

Mrs. Shamir was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1923 with the name Sarita Levy. In Bulgaria she was an active member of Ze'ev Jabotinsky’s Betar Zionist youth movement. With Betar she immigrated to the Jewish homeland. Her immigration was illegal according to the (immoral) British law and she was interned in a British controlled detention camp called Mizra. Yitzhak Shamir was interned at Mizra at the same time.

Upon her release from British custody she joined the Stern Group.

She was assigned as a courier to Yitzhak Shamir who was then part of the three man high-command that led the LEHI after the British assassinated Stern.

The two fell in love and because Yitzhak was a wanted man living under an assumed identity their wedding was performed in secret by Rabbi Abraham Adler in 1944. The biography A Tzaddik in Our Time by Simcha Raz about Rabbi Aryeh Levin, known as the “the Prisoners’ Rabbi,” tells the story of how the wedding was arranged by Rabbi Levin and his wife and by Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Segal. Rabbi Segal was the leader of the Brit HaShmonaim, a religious nationalist youth group with hundreds of members in Jerusalem. The Brit was eventually absorbed into the LEHI through an agreement between Yitzhak Shamir and Rabbi Segal.

Raz writes about Mrs. Shamir stating that as a LEHI courier she was a “sweet, simple girl who performed her duties with loyalty and devotion.”

In 1945, while in the underground, Mrs. Shamir gave birth to a son and the couple named him Yair in honor of Stern. To get a sense of how the Shamirs viewed Stern see The Poet Who Wrote First With Pen, Then With Sword at

When Mrs. Shamir was arrested by the British in 1947, Yair was taken away from her. At once she began a hunger strike. The twelve day hunger strike brought her near to death and made headlines throughout the world. Rabbi Levin finally persuaded her to eat.

There was nothing “simple” about her complete devotion to her family, the Jewish People, the LEHI and Zionism.

Later, she was placed in the Bethlehem Women’s Prison and Acre prison. She was not released by the British until shortly before Israel declared independence in 1948.

Prime Minister Netanyahu eulogized Mrs. Shamir at the start of the weekly Sunday Cabinet meeting stating:

"Shulamit was a woman of principles, an idealist, who stood at her husband's side throughout his life. She was a member of the LEHI; she fought for Israel's freedom. She was always faithful to the principles of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel. She and her husband raised the wonderful Shamir family, which has contributed, and is contributing, to the State of Israel in so many areas. I am certain that I speak for all ministers and all Israelis as we convey our condolences to the Shamir family on Shulamit's passing.

She is survived by her husband.

Mrs. Shamir is also survived by her son Yair, her daughter Gilada, born in 1949, five grandchildren, Shai, Michael, Dror, Tali and Elad, as well as six great-grandchildren.

Her funeral was Sunday July 31 in Jerusalem. That her final resting place would be in Jerusalem was certainly most fitting: the LEHI’s motto was “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem” from Psalm 136.