Hagana fighters the day after Israel declared a state 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The decision by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to relocate Army Radio (Galei Tzahal) from Jaffa to Jerusalem and house it in the Museum of Underground Prisoners has sparked concerns among the sons and daughters of Irgun, Lehi and Hagana fighters who were imprisoned there by the British.
According to Yoni Amir, whose father was among those prisoners, the installation of a modern radio station will take up a lot of the museum’s space and cause it to become insignificant.
On Monday, in an interview with Aryeh Golan on Radio Reshet Bet, Amir listed among well-known figures whose parents had been imprisoned: journalist Ya’akov Ahimeir; chairman and CEO of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra Yair Stern; Minister for Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi; and MK and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni.
This issue relates to members of all the underground movements that fought the British, said Amir, and the building represents a very important prelude to the history of modern Israel.
Equally concerned about the possibility that the museum will be reduced in size is Rabbi Benjie Levine, grandson of the famed Rabbi Arye Levin, known as the “Rabbi of the Prisoners,” who regularly visited prisoners there to bring food and offer comfort.
Levine told The Jerusalem Post that it would be a travesty for Army Radio to take over the building in back of the Russian Compound and leave only the most historic cells, such as that which was occupied by Meir Feinstein and Moshe Barazani.
Hours before they were due to be executed, the two men blew themselves up with a hand grenade smuggled into the prison in an orange as they embraced each other with the grenade between them.
Their story has become integral to pre-state Jewish heroism against the British Mandate authorities.
In response to the fears voiced by Amir, the Defense Ministry issued a statement saying it was looking into ways to house Army Radio at the site without infringing on the museum, and that it was hoped the presence of Army Radio would enhance interest in the museum.
Amir was not quite satisfied.
He emphasized the need to make the issue public before Army Radio moves in, rather than remain silent and protest only after the deed is done.
A nation cannot progress without knowing its history, he said.
Levine spoke in similar vein to the Post. He called it heart-breaking to walk past the site that for well over a century housed the Etz Haim Yeshiva.
Although the site was registered in the city’s list of protected monuments, it was nonetheless demolished to make way for a high-rise commercial, residential structure. Much of the historic environment of his childhood that characterized Jerusalem is disappearing and is being replaced by tall, modern buildings, he said.