The Pre-state Struggle Remembered At The Underground Prisoners’ Museum
Prison garb was brown for regular prisoners, black if you’d tried to escape, and red for those condemned to hang… This Jerusalem museum makes for a particularly appropriate visit around Independence Day
One Friday evening in 1946, British guards dragged 16-year-old Benjamin Kimchi from his cell in Jerusalem’s Central Prison and lashed him 18 times. But instead of flogging him in the exercise yard in front of the other inmates, prison authorities thrashed him in private. This in the futile hope that they could keep it secret: Palestine’s Jews were already enraged that young Kimchi had been condemned to 18 long years in prison for carrying a weapon.
Menachem Begin, leader of the Etzel (Irgun Tzvai Leumi) underground, was livid when he heard about the incident. Jews had been continually shamed and degraded in the Diaspora, and he was not about to permit the same kind of humiliation in the Jewish homeland. Earlier, the Irgun had published a warning whose upshot was “a lash for a lash” — but it was ignored by the British. After the Kimchi beating, Etzel fighters kidnapped an officer and three sergeants, whipped them 18 times and released them. Flogging was never again carried out under the British Mandate.