A window for the world

'The Fleet Street of Jerusalem in the 1930s and 1940s was Rehov Hasolel [today Hahavatzelet], the location of the Haaretz, Haboker and Davar offices, as well as the Jerusalem Press, which printed The Palestine Post," notes Alexander Zvielli, who was a printer in Warsaw before coming to Palestine. From 1945 to 1948 he was a linotype operator for the Jerusalem Press, and has been with the paper as it evolved into The Jerusalem Post. More than 60 years later, Zvielli still works in the Post archives, of which he is the former head. The first issue of The Palestine Post, which incorporated the Palestine Bulletin (published since 1925) appeared on December 1, 1932. Founding editor Gershon Agron (Agronsky) said of the newspaper's purpose: "We are the window through which the outside world views Palestine." "The Jerusalem Press was owned by publisher Zalman Schocken. The Palestine Post was printed there until the War of Independence," Zvielli relates. "Schocken then wanted the Post to relocate to Tel Aviv. Agron insisted that The Palestine Post never leave Jerusalem. Agron was a strong man who showed great respect for his employees, and took special care of the print workers." By the late 1940s, the Hebrew papers had moved to Tel Aviv because Jerusalem had turned into a battleground and the printing presses were near a Hagana-run arms workshop - a target for the enemy. The night of February 1, 1948, The Palestine Post made headlines. An explosives-loaded truck was detonated outside the newspaper's offices off Zion Square. Three staffers were killed and 37 people were wounded in the blast, which destroyed its press. "During the explosion, I was working on the linotype, and it saved my life," recalls Zvielli. "The explosion caused the building opposite The Palestine Post to collapse. Our building caught fire and was hit by the debris from the blast. We were lucky that Hadassah had a clinic up the block. So I took some of the wounded." Fortunately, the Post's building had been fortified after a 1933 earthquake and did not collapse. "The newspaper came out that day, although it was a small edition of two pages." As the popular Column One proclaimed the following morning: "The truth is louder than TNT and burns brighter than the flame of arson. It will win in the end… The bomb in Hasolel Street for a moment closed the mouths of the messengers of the world, and shut off, as a telephone is shut off, the news from a score of capitals. It did but throw into still sharper relief, and sound with still farther-reaching voice, the truth of this land and the sureness of its triumph." "In those days, when the British were in the country, and Jewish refugees were trying to immigrate, we were a fighting newspaper. As the only newspaper in English, we realized that whatever we printed was for the readers' morale," Zvielli recalls.