This Week in Israeli History: Jewish Brigade Established, Rebel Shofar Blower and Zionist James Bond

(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Jewish Brigade
On September 20, 1944, the British War Office officially announced the formation of the Jewish Brigade Group, an independent Jewish military force consisting of 5,000 Palestinian Jews who fought under the auspices of the British army.
The formation of the brigade was the product of years of lobbying from prominent Zionist leaders, notably Chaim Weizmann. Although the British allowed singular Jewish units to fight under their command as early as 1940, they were reluctant to establish a unified Jewish force, which they feared could pose a potential threat to their rule in Mandatory Palestine.
Fighting under the Zionist flag (and future flag of the State of Israel), the Jewish Brigade participated in military offensives in Northern Italy where they engaged Italian and Nazi troops on the front lines. By the end of the war, the brigade’s casualties amounted to 83 dead and over 200 wounded. 20 soldiers received military decorations for their bravery.
After the brigade was disbanded in 1946, many members remained in Europe to assist in the illegal immigration to Mandatory Palestine known as Aliyah Bet. Other members founded the Tilhas Teezee Gesheften (colloquially meaning “You Can Kiss My Ass”), a group that hunted down and assassinated former Nazis, smuggled weapons for the Haganah, and assisted in the Aliyah Bet.
Many members of the Jewish Brigade brought their military experience to the fledgling IDF and went on to become high ranking generals. Some of the notable members of the Jewish Brigade include Dov Gruner, Mordechai Maklef (3rd Chief of Staff), Haim Laskov (5th Chief of Staff), Israel Tal and Danny Matt.
Pictured: "A present for Hitler"
Rabbi Moshe Segal – The Rebel Shofar Blower
Moshe was born in the Russian Empire in 1904. At the age of 20 he immigrated to Mandatory Palestine and joined the Haganah, and was also one of the first Jews in the Holy Land to join the Revisionist Zionist movement, Betar.
In 1929, Rabbi Segal organized the first of his many activities against the British in the form of a protest march to the Western Wall on Tisha B’av, a Jewish fast day on which the British did not allow Jews to pray at the Wall. The following year, the rabbi performed perhaps one of the most significant and galvanizing activities of his life: sounding the shofar at the Western Wall.
Due to the restrictions placed on Jewish worshipers by the British, sounding the shofar at the Western Wall was deemed illegal. Nonetheless, Rabbi Segal could not fathom ending the Yom Kippur service without sounding the ritual shofar. As the prayer concluded, Moshe sounded the shofar and was immediately arrested by the British.
When news of his deed reached Chief Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, he announced that he would not break his Yom Kippur fast until Moshe would be free, which he was later that night. From then on, Jewish youths carried on Moshe’s tradition of sounding the shofar at the culmination of the Yom Kippur service. Every year the British would lurk, waiting to arrest the Jewish “felons,” and every year another Jewish youth would blow the shofar.
In 1931, Moshe was appointed commander over the Betar movement in Jerusalem, and soon joined the Irgun (Etzel) and served on its High Command. During that time, Rabbi Segal founded the “Brit Hashmonaim” (lit. The Alliance of the Hasmonean), a religious nationalist youth movement whose members often joined the Jewish underground. After Yitzhak Shamir escaped from jail and sought to revitalize the fading Lehi, Rabbi Segal joined the Lehi and decided to direct his Brit Hashmonaim members to join as well.
As a result, over 150 Brit members joined and helped bolster the organization at a time when it was much needed. After Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War, Rabbi Segal was the first Jew to resettle in the Old City of Jerusalem. There he lived with his family and headed many organizations and initiated many plans to restore old synagogues that were destroyed.
In 1974, he received the coveted “Yakir Yerushalayim” prize for his contributions to the city. Rabbi Segal passed away in 1985 on Yom Kippur (September 25).
Michael “Mike” Harari – “The Zionist James Bond”
Harari was born in 1917 in Tel Aviv and joined the Haganah at the young age of 13 where he served as a courier. At age 16, he joined the Palmach (lying about his age to do so) and participated in many daring missions, including the Atlit Prison Break and the Night of the Bridges.
In 1946 he was sent to France to facilitate the illegal immigration of over 1,000 Holocaust survivors and upon his return, joined the Shin Bet (Shabak) and headed the security at Israel's international airport. In 1954 he was recruited to the Mossad and served there for 37 years.
Mike climbed the ranks of the Mossad and was appointed as head of Caesarea, the special operations unit of the Mossad that specialized in targeted killings. It was under Harari's command that Operation Spring of Youth was orchestrated, a reprisal operation of targeted assassinations against those responsible for the 1972 Munich Massacre.
Harari, who was referred to as the “The Zionist James Bond,” also played a crucial role in Operation Thunderbolt/Yonatan - the raid on Entebbe. It was reported that Harari, disguised as an Italian business man, flew to the Uganda and scoped out the Entebbe airport prior to the mission.
Although the majority of Harari's intelligence achievements remain unknown to the public, he is widely regarded as one of Mossad's greatest and most respected intelligence officers. Mike passed away on September 21, 2014.