This Week in History: ‘The Palestine Post’ is established

The paper was established in 1932 in British-mandate Palestine, survived a terror attack and eventually became 'The Jerusalem Post.'

Palestine Post 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Palestine Post 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
On the first day of December 1932, 1,200 copies of an eight-page newspaper called The Palestine Post were printed and sent into circulation throughout Mandatory Palestine. In its inaugural years, the paper managed to significantly increase its circulation – nearly quadrupling the number of copies printed within a year – and influence Palestine and the entire region. Eighteen years after delivering its first edition, the publication decided to take on a new name – The Jerusalem Post.
Established by Ukrainian-born American immigrant to Palestine Gershon Agron, The Palestine Post began with a staff comprised of more printers than writers. Initially facing difficulties reaching even nearby cities, the paper’s management wrote in its second-ever daily edition, an assurance to its readers, “especially those of Haifa, Jaffa and Tel Aviv, that every effort is being made to reduce delay to a minimum.” The brief note printed on page three continued, “Before long, it is hoped, the paper will be in the hands of all readers even earlier than the accustomed time.” However, foreshadowing its future success, the paper noted that supply was unable to meet demand.
Pre-state paragon
Closing a circle
From its outset, the paper held significant influence in Palestine, particularly with the “British personnel who ran the Mandatory government,” recalled Gabriel Zifroni, editor of then-rival newspaper Haboker. British servicemen and women stationed in the region were regular readers of the Post. Circulation grew throughout the region as copies were sold in Cairo and Alexandria, and the paper had a strong readership in all of the Palestinian cities, both Jewish and Arab. The Post even maintained a bureau in Beirut for some years.
The Palestine Post was not, however, immune from the tragedies faced by the state in its earliest years. On Sunday February 1, 1948, mere months before David Ben-Gurion declared Israel an independent state, tragedy struck the Post. Arab terrorists parked a stolen army truck packed with half a ton of TNT in front of the newspaper’s offices on Rehov Hasolel (Rehov Havatzelet today) near Zion Square in the center of Jerusalem. An hour before midnight, as the paper’s offices were busy trying to put out the next day’s edition, a huge explosion rocked the building.
Palestine Post employee Mordecai Chertoff recalled the incident earlier this year. “There were two or three immediate deaths," Chertoff said. "There was another guy who walked out and disappeared. Nobody could figure out what the hell happened to him. He walked home to the Bukharan Quarter barefoot. He was in shock,” he recalled in a Post interview. But the paper refused to be shut down, even by a devastating attack that destroyed much of the paper’s office and printing presses. The staffers who weren’t injured made their way to managing-editor Ted Lurie’s house where his wife first comforted the shocked employees and then immediately put them back to work. “All right, now get over to Lipshitz Press, we’re putting out a paper,” Atara Lurie told them, according to Chertoff. “The newspapermen came, shlepping typewriters, and we sat and wrote the paper from memory,” he said. The paper printed a condensed edition that morning, but was back to running at full steam by the end of the week.
Two years after the bombing on Rehov Hasolel and the establishment of the State of Israel, a young employee of the Post named Meir “Mike” Ronnen went to speak with editor Gershon Agron. As he recalled the story in an interview with this paper in 2008, Ronnen asked Agron why the publication was still called The Palestine Post. The editor responded, “What do you mean? We’ve always been called Palestine Post,” to which the young employee retorted, “Yes, but there’s no more Palestine.” After ruling out “The Israel Post,” “Ronnen suggested a name that everyone liked. The next day, without any public announcement, the paper began running a new masthead, The Jerusalem Post. The new name stuck and has become a lasting household name throughout Israel and the world.
The Palestine Post, and later The Jerusalem Post, has seen a fair number of owners and editors in its 72 years of operation. From its early days as a staunch supporter of David Ben-Gurion’s Mapai party (the Labor Party’s predecessor) to the 1990s when it moved firmly to the political right, the Post saw itself aligned with different political parties (as most newspapers where throughout Israel’s history). Remaining a Zionist newspaper throughout, the Post today has dropped any partisan political affiliation and runs as a completely independent newspaper, printing opinions from across the Israeli political spectrum.
From its name change following the state’s declaration of independence to persevering through terror attacks, the history of The Jerusalem Post is a story that in many ways reflects the history of the State of Israel.
Greer Fay Cashman, David Brinn and Jay Bushinsky contributed to this story.