This Week in Israeli History: Tuvia Grossman – The Bloodied “Palestinian,” Bar Giora and Menachem Ussishkin

Tuvia Grossman- The Bloodied "Palestinian"
On September 30, 2000, an image of a bloodied “Palestinian” teenager crouching in front of a club-wielding Israeli policeman made front page headlines in the Associated Press, New York Times, and other major media outlets. The caption, “An Israeli policeman and a Palestinian on the Temple Mount,” implied that the Israeli policeman was the cause for this unknown “Palestinian’s” battered state.
But this teenager was not a Palestinian Arab – he was Tuvia Grossman, a Jewish American yeshiva student who was pulled from his taxi in Jerusalem by a mob of Arabs and beaten to an inch of his life. Tuvia managed to make a run for it and found an Israeli border policeman before collapsing due to blood loss. The policeman, Gidon Tzefadi, succeeded in warding off the assailants and called an ambulance for the severely injured Grossman.
Upon seeing the image of his son in the New York Times, Alan Grossman sent the following letter to the newspaper: “…that Palestinian is actually my son, Tuvia Grossman, a Jewish student from Chicago. He, and two of his friends, were pulled from their taxicab while traveling in Jerusalem, by a mob of Palestinian Arabs, and were severely beaten and stabbed. That picture could not have been taken on the Temple Mount because there are no gas stations on the Temple Mount and certainly none with Hebrew lettering, like the one clearly seen behind the Israeli soldier attempting to protect my son from the mob.”
Although a retraction was issued, considerable damage was already done as the infamous picture circulated worldwide casting the Israeli policeman as the perpetrator. Today, Tuvia’s image can still be found in anti-Israel propaganda.
In 2010, Tuvia (who immigrated to Israel five years prior) finally met the police officer who saved his life.
Bar Giora - First Modern Jewish Defense Organization in the Land of Israel
Bar Giora was established in the basement of Yitzhak Ben-Zvi’s Jaffa residence on September 29, 1907, when pioneers from the Second Aliyah gathered to find a solution for the escalating Arab attacks on Jewish towns.
Up until that point Jews did not guard their own settlements, rather the Yishuv outsourced the work to Arabs and Circassians. Led by Ben-Zvi (later Israel’s 2nd president), Alexander Zaid, Yisrael Giladi, Yisrael Shochat and others, Bar Giora sought to establish a precedent of Jewish defense in the Land of Israel.
Named after Simon Bar Giora, a prominent leader of the Jewish Revolt against the Romans, the organization elected Yisrael Shochat as commander. Members of Bar Giora trained in weaponry and guarded Jewish villages, property, and crops.
Bar-Giora chose a line from Yaakov Cohen's poem, Habiryonim, as their slogan - a slogan that would later be adopted by Hashomer and the revisionist self-defense organization, Brit HaBirionim: "In fire and blood Judea fell; in blood and fire Judea shall rise!"
In 1909 Bar-Giora evolved into Hashomer, the precursor to the Haganah that would later evolve into the Israel Defense Forces.
Menachem Ussishkin
Menachem Ussishkin was born in Belarus in 1863. As a youth he became entranced with the revival of the Hebrew language and Zionism, ideas which were reinforced after a slew of violent pogroms ripped through the Russian Empire in the 1880’s.
During his time at Moscow Technical Institute, Menachem founded a Jewish youth group that promoted settlement in Ottoman-ruled Palestine. His group was one of the many that composed of Hovevei Zion, an umbrella organization comprising of dozens of Zionist groups throughout Russia and Eastern Europe.
As a prominent member of Hovevei Zion, Ussishkin was sent to the First Zionist Council in Basel and served as the council’s Hebrew Secretary. At the Second Zionist Congress, he was elected to the Zionist General Council where he served for the rest of his life.
After the Kishinev Pogrom in 1903, Ussishkin traveled to Palestine and published a booklet envisaging a strong an organized Jewish presence in the Holy Land. Soon after, he published “Our Program,” a detailed book outlying the steps needed to establish a Jewish state.
In 1919, Menachem was invited to speak at the Paris Peace Conference. Giving an unprecedented address in Hebrew, he spoke about the need for a Jewish state following WWI. In the same year he immigrated to Mandatory Palestine as was elected president of the Jewish National Fund (JNF). During his over twenty year tenure, the JNF made major land acquisitions throughout the country that enabled future Jewish settlements to thrive.
A lifelong advocate for a Jewish university in the Land of Israel, Ussishkin was instrumental in purchasing Mount Scopus that was to be used as the land for Hebrew University. Menachem passed away on October 2, 1941.