This Week in Israeli History: A State Is Born! (On Paper), Natan Yellin-Mor and the El Al Flight 432 Attack

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Der Judenstaat
On February 14, 1896, Theodore Herzl published perhaps the most important text in Zionist history, Der Judenstaat (lit. The Jewish State).
After observing the rampant anti-Semitic trends in Europe (climaxing with the Dreyfus Affair in 1894), Herzl came to the conclusion that a Jewish state must come into existence in order to ensure the survival of the Jewish people.
In Der Judenstaat, Herzl planted the seedlings of political Zionism - the belief that the Jewish state must come about through legal and international acceptance. He encouraged Jews the purchase land in Israel and described his envisioned state in great detail.
Herzl’s writing was met with both adulation and ridicule. While many Jews embraced the idea of a Jewish state, the mainstream Jewish establishment rejected the idea as nonsensical and ridiculed Herzl. Despite this, Herzl’s writing and subsequent political activism galvanized the Zionist movement and led to the First Zionist Congress the following year. The rest is history.
An excerpt from Der Judenstaat:
“The Jewish question persists wherever Jews live in appreciable numbers. Wherever it does not exist, it is brought in together with Jewish immigrants. We are naturally drawn into those places where we are not persecuted, and our appearance there gives rise to persecution. This is the case, and will inevitably be so, everywhere, even in highly civilised countries - see, for instance, France - so long as the Jewish question is not solved on the political level. The unfortunate Jews are now carrying the seeds of anti-Semitism into England; they have already introduced it into America"
Natan Yellin-Mor – Lehi Commander
Natan was born in the Russian Empire in 1913. In his youth he became active with the Revisionist Zionist movement, and in 1941 he escaped Europe and immigrated to Mandatory Palestine where joined the Lehi (Stern Group).
In the Lehi, he was recognized for his brilliance and sound strategic counseling. Later the same year, he was arrested by the British and was imprisoned for two years until he, along with 19 others, dug a 240 feet tunnel and escaped.
After Avraham (Yair) Stern was murdered, Yellin-Mor together with Yisrael Eldad and Yitzhak Shamir formed a triumvirate of leadership that would lead the Lehi until the founding of the state. Shamir was in charge of the military operations, Eldad the ideology, and Yellin-Mor the politics.
After Israel declared its independence in 1948, Yellin-Mor formed the Fighters List, a political party compromised of former Lehi members. Later that year, he was arrested after Lehi operatives assassinated UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte and was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment. Ironically, he was convicted on January 25, 1949, the same date that Israeli voters elected him to serve in the Knesset.
Shortly after Israel’s Provisional Government granted him amnesty and he was able to serve in Israel’s first Knesset. In his later years, Natan drifted away from his hawkish views and began advocating for a pro-Soviet foreign policy and negotiations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. He passed away on February 19, 1980.
El Al Flight 432 Attack
On February 18, 1969 an El Al flight en route to Tel Aviv from Zurich was attacked by four Palestinian terrorists. As the plane was nearing take-off, the terrorists started the attack by spraying the plane with bullets and explosives.
Although the attack took everyone by complete surprise, Mordechai Rahamim, an undercover Israeli Shabak agent on the plane, sprang into action. Mordechai identified the shooters and returned fire, taking down one of the terrorists and dispersing the others who were shocked to see return fire coming from the civilian plane.
The shooting roused the Swiss guards who, assisted by Mordechai, chased down the remaining three terrorists. Despite acting in self-defense, Mordechai was arrested by the Swiss police and held in custody for a month until he was released on bail. The trial commenced later that year and he was found innocent and cleared of all charges.
Several Israeli crew members were injured in the attack, and one later succumbed to his wounds. If not for Mordechai Rahamim’s heroic actions, the terrorists would have succeeded in their goal of blowing up the plane.