A 1915 Lee-Enfield .
(photo credit: LIRON GORFINKEL)
Conservation workers discovered an early 20th-century British rifle in the wall of a pre-state shack in Zichron Ya’acov, the northern town’s local council announced on Sunday.
The historic shed, known as the Rishonim hut, was transferred to a new complex that is slated for construction next to the First Aliyah Museum, as part of conservation work conducted by the local council and the Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel.
The Lee-Enfield rifle was apparently made in 1915, based on an engraving of the year on the gun, alongside the weapon’s abbreviated name, “SMLE” (Short Magazine Lee-Enfield). Conservation workers found the gun in the outer wall of the shack together with several cartridges. The weapon was oiled and stored in a cloth case, with the year 1944 imprinted on it. The cartridges were wrapped in the 730th issue of the Herut newspaper, dated 1951.
The Lee-Enfield rifle was manufactured in Britain between 1885-1957. In Israel, it was known as the “British rifle” or the “English rifle.” It was used by many armies in the world, including the Jewish underground, before the establishment of the State of Israel and the IDF.
An investigation conducted by the council found that the weapon was from an Irgun raid on the then-British Base Camp 80 on April 10, 1948. Two members of the Irgun stole an entire weapons depot from the base and hid its contents in the Zamarin caves.
Liron Gurfinkel, director of the Zichron Ya’acov Historical Archives, said: “The weapons and accessories that were found with it are definitely a riddle that needs to be cracked: Who owned the weapon, when was it used, did they simply forget it in the wall or it was kept there as a secret? These are questions that would be very interesting to answer.”
The hut itself was constructed in 1883 from wooden boards that the first settlers of the colony of Zichron Ya’acov imported from Romania. As far as is known, this is the last remnant of the huts of the First Aliyah, which were also built on Zamarin Hill on the main street of Zichron Ya’acov, near the spring of Bir el Hanzir.
The Lee-Enfield rifle was transferred to the Israel Police in accordance with the law, but the local council hopes to later display it in the historic shack.
“This is a historical building, a remnant of the huts built by the first settlers with the help of the Baron [Rothschild]. The finding of the weapons in the walls of this building proved that the story of the hut was not complete, even though it has stood for over 130 years, and that if we value our history, we will discover new things,” said council head Ziv Deshe.
The hut is undergoing reconstruction and will be exhibited in the First Aliyah Museum.