'The good jailer' returns Irgun hero's Bible 60 years later

Feinstein, of the Irgun, was condemned for bombing Jerusalem train station.

meir feinstein 298.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
meir feinstein 298.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A Bible that a condemned member of the pre-state underground gave to his British prison guard minutes before he and a fellow Zionist fighter killed themselves is to be returned by the guard's son in Jerusalem on Thursday, six decades later. The saga dates back to 1947, when Meir Feinstein, 19, and Moshe Barazani, 21, were sentenced to death by the Mandatory authorities. Feinstein, of the Irgun, was condemned for his part in the bombing of the Jerusalem train station, and Barazani, of Lehi (the Stern Gang), was arrested with a grenade in his pocket while attempting to kill the city's British military commander. The two men became friends in the Jerusalem Central Prison and decided to blow themselves up rather than be hanged. Feinstein and Barazani formed a connection with a British police guard at the prison, Thomas Henry Goodwin, whom they dubbed "the good jailer." Right before their deaths, Feinstein presented Goodwin with a personally inscribed illustrated Bible. The Hebrew inscription read: "In the shadow of the gallows, 21.4.47. To the British soldier as you stand guard. Before we go to the gallows, accept this Bible as a memento and remember that we stood in dignity and marched in dignity. It is better to die with a weapon in hand than to live with hands raised. Meir Feinstein" A separate, similar English inscription was written below. Minutes later, after asking the guard for a moment of privacy to say a few prayers - thereby saving his life - the two men killed themselves with two booby-trapped oranges they'd hidden in their cell. Goodwin only realized later that there was an inscription for him in the Bible. "There is no doubt that they did not want to injure the guard. This is unequivocal," said Underground Prisoners Museum director Yoram Tamir in Jerusalem. Goodwin returned to the United Kingdom after Israel gained its independence in 1948 and kept the Bible for the next half century. Before his death, he asked his family to return it to the Feinstein family. Several months ago, Goodwin's son Dennis contacted the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem seeking to track down Feinstein's family and return the Bible. The Underground Prisoners Museum was able to locate Meir Feinstein's nephew, Elazar Feinstein. On Thursday, Dennis Goodwin will return the Bible to Feinstein at the museum. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will attend the ceremony, which will be conducted in cooperation with the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, and under the auspices of the Jewish Agency and the Prime Minister's Office. The Bible will be put on display at the Underground Prisoners Museum. Feinstein and Barazani are buried on the Mount of Olives.