History

Bloodstained Will of 1929 Massacre Victim Discovered

The last will and testament of Eliezer Dan Slonim, hero and martyr of the Hebron Massacre.

13.8.17, 17:22
August 2017 marks the 88th anniversary of the infamous 1929 Hebron Massacre. The incident and accompanying riots in Jerusalem, Tzfat and other locations throughout the Land of Israel roved a turning point in the Jihad against the Jewish community. A will, stained with the blood of its owner was recently made public and gives a harrowing insight into the riots.

Eliezer Dan Slonim was remembered for standing up to the mob that surrounded his Hebron home on that Shabbat day on August 24, 1929. Multiple accounts describe how he refused to acquiesce to the mob's demands and insisted on standing by his neighbors. According to The Martyrs of Hebron by Leo Gottesman a small book published in 1930, twenty-two people were brutally murdered in his home.

"Friendly, good-natured Eliezer Dan Slonim did much for the Arabs in general and for their leaders and politicians in particular," stated Gottesman, who visited Hebron before the riots and met many of the victims. "Many and many were the favors he did for them, the loans he obtained for them. He had very much faith in the Arabs—far more than later events justified."

Slonim was a manager at the Anglo Palestine Bank and the only Jewish member of the Hebron city council.. Fluent in Arabic, he innocently believed that when the riots began, his house would be considered a safe haven. He, his wife Chana and one of his sons, five-year-old Aaron as well as his in-laws were murdered by the mob.

Gottesman's book continues, "A number of Arabs came knocking at his door. Give out the strangers you are harboring there, they cried, and we will spare you, and your kinsfolk. His answer, a culminating step in his martyrdom, was characteristic of the man: "I have no strangers here,—only my brethren!"

A news article titled Hebron, Five Weeks After the Massacre from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency dated October 9, 1929 stated, 

"But the practical commission could not help seeing things such as the wrecked and charred Hadassah clinic, which for more than a decade cured the Arabs who turned around and destroyed the premises, pillaged the medicants which had saved them from decimation by loathsome diseases; it could not help hearing reports of the mob’s demand that A. D. Slonim should surrender the “foreigners,” meaning the Yeshiva students sheltered in his house if his and his family’s lives were to be spared and the martyr’s historic answer, “We Jews are one.”

According to Hebron: Rebirth from Ruins by Dr. Michal Rachel Suissa, "on the Friday before the massacre, two Arabs stayed the night with them in Hebron: Nase Al Adin and Yakob Habol. The Arab owner of the house, Gadoi, who lived​​  on  the ground floor, promised that nothing would happen to them. But on Shabbat he disappeared and Adin and Habol opened the door to Slonim's house 'to talk to the mob.' They forced their way in despite the many Jews' attempts to stop them."

Slonim's will was displayed at a memory lecture for the massacre given on August 9th at Midreshet Hevron by Noam Arnon, longtime resident and Israeli spokesperson for the community. Over the years Arnon has personally met many of the survivors of the massacre including Shlomo Slonim, one of the two sons of Eliezer Dan Slonim. Shlomo Slonim, who died in 2014, was only 1 years old during the massacre. He had a scar on his head and other injuries from the incident. Not even he knew of the will, which was turned over to Arnon by Slonim's children. Now is is being kept in the Hebron Archives, a repository for the community steeped in history.

Arnon noted in his lecture that a dozen or so Hebron Arabs risked their lives to rescue their Jewish neighbors. One example is that of a man named Abu Shaker Amru. The story is told of how he stood in the doorway of a house and refused to let the mob enter. Even when they threatened him bodily harm, he still stood his ground and the riots chopped him in the leg with an ax. One of those saved on that house was the grandmother of Tzipi Shlissel, a current resident of Hebron and manager of the Hebron heritage center and museum located in the historic Beit Hadassah building.

Rivka Slonim, sister of Eliezer Dan Slonim corroborates the story in Hebron: Rebirth from Ruin,
 
"Soon after my father and I shut ourselves up in our home, our neighbor Abu-Shaker appeared... From what he told us – that the British police were aiding the rioters, standing aside when the mob stormed Jewish houses and slaughtered their inhabitants... We didn’t believe that an old man would be able to save us from the bloodthirsty mob drenching Hebron in Jewish blood.  He didn’t tell us that my brother, his wife and their 5-year old son Aharon were already slain just a few houses away.  My father stood praying and I asked G-d for forgiveness for all my sins. The mob arrived at our house and we heard Abu Shaker’s voice: ‘Go away!  You may not come here!  You’ll have to kill me first.’ He was 75 years old, but a strong man.  A man from the mob raised his sword and said: ‘I’ll kill you, traitor!’  Abu Shaker replied: ‘Go ahead and kill!  There is a rabbinical family here, and they are my family.’  The sword pierced his foot, but he refused to move even after the mob had retreated. When we tried to bring him inside for treatment, he refused out of fear that they would return.”

There are other examples of Arab neighbors whom Arnon calls "Righteous Among the Nations,' a term often used for Gentile rescuers during the Holocaust. However hundreds more showed a different side. In the trials and commission of inquiry that followed, it was proven that Arab neighbors, who were on close personal relations with their Jewish neighbors nevertheless were incited into a frenzy and murdered unarmed civilians. In all, 67 Jews were killed, including men, women, and children both of Ashenazic and Separdic background. Jewish eyewitnesses at the trials that followed correctly identified former Arab neighbors who committed the atrocities.

A JTA article from September 27, 1929, covered the testimony of thirteen-year-old Judith Reizman, and is a good example of the parallel lives of the Jewish and Arab communities in Hebron

“When the Reizman girl had told her story in the breathless silence of the courtroom, the judge asked her if she could identify anyone... she calmly walked up to Ibrahim Abd El Assiz, a young Hebron merchant, her father’s next door neighbor, saying, ‘Yes, Ibrahim was nearest my father with a knife uplifted when the mob overtook my father.’ Then addressing the Arab, who hung his head in shame, the girl asked him in the kindest voice imaginable, ‘Ibrahim, how could you?’”

THE MYSTERIOUS WILL 

This brings us to the mysterious will. Why was it stained with blood and how did it end up where it did?
The translation is even more harrowing as it implied Slonim suspected that he would die before his parents.

With a clear and calculated mind, I write the following:

Because no one knows the future, so I write my will, and ask that it be fulfilled after my death.

You will find (in my name) Polis of Consolidation Company No. 80801 E for five hundred English pounds.

I ask that they pay all my debts. Anyone who presents my resume with my signature, or if a reliable person will file a debt claim, please pay without delay, even if the time has not yet come. And if they show me late, please pay the plaintiff.
Do not be astonished at the multitude of my duties, for I have not raised money for evil things.

All that will remain after the payment of the debts I wish to leave in my wife Hannah, to do with them as a sign of her soul. If someone pays his debt to me, that too belongs to my wife Chanah. Like all the furniture in the house, the books, etc. Everything is for her.

And I ask you all for forgiveness if I hurt your honor with your property or just upset you. Please take care of me and do not forget me.

I can, with God's help, be sure that Hannah and our parents will take care of our son, our son, who will be a decent person. Amen.

Hebron.
(E. D. Slonim) (Signature)

After the massacre, the will was validated by the officials at the time including Chief Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook.
Arnon postulates that although the Jewish Community of Hebron was in denial of the true danger leading up to that fateful Shabbat, there was an inkling as the riots drew closer. Slonim must have written the will close to the day of the riots and then kept it on his person rather than in a safe or locked file cabinet. His fears may have proven accuracy since his home along with the Beit Hadassah clinic and other Jewish properties were ransacked and looted.

Eliezer Dan Slonim was born in 1900 to Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Slonim, the last Ashkenazic rabbi of the Hebron community. he was the grandson of Rabbi Mordechai Slonim, son of Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel Slonim, who was granddaughter of the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. It was Menucha Rochel and her husband first moved to Hebron in 1845 as part of a wave of Chabad hasidim to repatriate the land of Israel.

Shlomo Slonim, the 1-year-old survivor went on to join the Irgun Tzvai Leumi, the Haganah, and the Israel Defense Forces. He worked for Bank Leumi for almost 50 years, was married for 50 years, and had 4 children. Every year he attended the annual memorial for the 1929 massacre and was an ardent supporter of the newly established community in Hebron.

The annual memorial for Rebbetzin Mencha Rochel still draws several hundred to Hebron. On the Sephardic side, descendant of the Castel family that date back to the time of the Spanish Inquisition still visit the city.

Today it is believed that all the survivors have now passed on although exact numbers are difficult. But documents like the bloodstained will and the tenacity of their descendants lives on.
 
# # #
 
The Last Will of the Prince of Hebron
by Noam Arnon
 
The article is based on a lecture given during the Memorial Day for the 1929 riots, which took place at Midreshet Hevron college on August 9, 2017
 
BACKGROUND
 
Eliezer Dan Slonim was born in Hebron in 1900 to a family with a special relationship in the Jewish world. His father, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Slonim, the last Ashkenazic rabbi of the Hebron community, was the grandson of Rabbi Mordechai Slonim, son of Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel Slonim.
 
Menucha Rochel was the granddaughter of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi -- the first Lubavitcher Rebbe and founder of the Chabad Hasidic movement -- and daughter of his successor, the Mitteler Rebbe. The Slonim family immigrated to Hebron in 1845 with the blessing and encouragement of the third Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, who married Menucha Rochel's sister.
 
Eliezer Dan chose a path that combined his family tradition and an active community life. After years of study in yeshivas, he left Hebron to study at the Mizrachi Teachers' Seminary in Jerusalem, and ater worked as a teacher in Haifa and Petah Tikva.
 
At the age of 22 he decided to return to Hebron and dedicate his life to the development of the small and sleepy community, one of the "four holy cities" of the old Yishuv. This decision, which stemmed from a sense of exceptional responsibility, was prominent in the atmosphere that characterized the young people of Hebron during this period, who preferred to go to the big cities and integrate into the burgeoning economic life in British Mandate Palestine.
 
Eliezer Dan married Chana, the daughter of Rabbi Avraham Ya'akov Orlansky, the rabbi of Zichron Yaakov. The couple had two sons -- Aharon, in 1926, and Shlomo, in 1928. 
 
Despite his youth, Eliezer Dan was distinguished as having unique talents. He joined the leadership of the community and began to hold key positions, including a member of the city council, the only Jewish representative in this body, and the manager of the Anglo Palestine Company, the bank of the Zionist movement, which opened in Hebron.
 
He took part in the decision to transfer the Yeshivas Knesses Yisrael which had come from Slabodka in Lithuania to Hebron. It is interesting to note that a Hasidic-Chabad family invested great effort in bringing a Lithuanian yeshiva to Hebron -- one of the most important in the yeshiva world -- to contribute to the economic and social consolidation of the community.
 
Eliezer Dan was well-connected, and a close friend of Hebron residents, Jews and Arabs alike. In his capacity as bank manager, he granted credit to the Arabs and worked for the city's economic development. He envisioned Hebron as a gateway to the Negev and the south, and his vision was to play a central role in the economy that had begun to develop in Palestine at the beginning of the British Mandate.
 
RIOTS
 
But the days of the optimistic vision did not last long: a black cloud of murderous Jihadist terror began to rise, bringing disaster to the Hebron community, and continuing to cloud the country and the world to this day. The events of 1920 - 1921 were are harbinger of things to come. In attacks on Jewish communities in the Galilee, in Jaffa, in the settlements and in Jerusalem there were casualties, among them Joseph Trumpeldor and the writer Yosef Haim Brenner.
 
During these events, the Hebron community remained silent and unharmed. But the nationwide terror attacks, which historians consider the "founding event" and the turning point of Jihad terrorism that opened a new era in the history of the country, took place in the month of Av (August 1929) and is known as the TARPAT Pogrom. (an acronym for the Hebrew date 1929.
 
These riots came to the Hebron community like a thunderstorm. No one expected or expected that the Arabs of Hebron, who opposed Haj Amin al-Husseini, the infamous Mufti of Jerusalem, and later a major supporter of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, lived in peace and good neighborliness with the Jews for many generations, would become a murderous and bloodthirsty mob. The Jews of Hebron remembered the promises of their Arab neighbors and friends that they were protected and that no one would harm them. But the optimistic vision collapsed, and the illusion of good neighbors was washed with rivers of blood.
 
The mob was incited by Amin al-Husseini's incitement cialisfrance24.com at the Temple Mount mosque on Friday, August 23, 1929 with false accusations. An angry mob attacked Jews in the streets and neighborhoods of Jerusalem, but the few Haganah fighters managed to repel the rioters after the brutal murder of about 20 Jews.
 
From Jerusalem, the wave of terror was directed to Hebron. Here the picture was completely different. The community leadership in Hebron, including Eliezer Dan Slonim, did not understand the intensity of incitement and danger. They were captivated by the concept of coexistence that prevailed in Hebron for many generations, and according to Haganah documents from the time, they refused the Haganah's proposal to send several fighters with weapons to Hebron. It is reasonable to assume that they also feared that the presence of fighters and arms might inflame the atmosphere and stir up passions. 
 
It should be noted that today it is not moral to judge the issue from a contemporary perspective with the wisdom of hindsight. In any event, it is a fact that the Jews of Hebron felt so secure that the Slonim family was preparing to hold a Sheva Brachot celebration on Shabbat for Rachel, the sister of Chana Slonim, who had been married two days earlier in Tel Aviv. In honor of the happy event, Chana's parents, Rabbi Avraham Orlansky and his wife Yenta, and her younger sister, Mina, arrived in Hebron frm Zichron Yaakov.
 
It was too late for the Jews of Hebron to discover that they had made a fatal mistake. Thousands of Arabs gathered in the city, carrying axes and knives, and began attacking Jewish homes. On Friday afternoon, after a yeshiva student was murdered, community leaders were summoned to the head of the British police, Major Raymond Cafferata. The hostile officer reprimanded the Jews and accused them of provoking the Arabs.
 
The Jews understood that the evil had overcome them, and they tried to save themselves and their families by defending themselves and barricading themselves, and at that time Eliezer Dan Slonim stood out in his responsible and unique personality. At night he moved from house to house, encouraged the frightened Jews, and offered to the frightened and afraid to leave their homes. He was certain that thanks to his good relations and his friendship with influential Arabs, his home would not be harmed. In fact, about 70 Jews left their homes and went on that night to the safe home of Eliezer Dan Slonim.
 
On Saturday at dawn, a horrific event began in Hebron, competing in cruelty the worst pogroms of eastern Europe. Thousands of Arabs besieged the houses of the Jews, broke into them, and attacked their inhabitants with unbelievable cruelty, committing acts of rape, slaughter, burning, and tearing people apart.
 
The British police, most of whom were on duty in the evenings, stood by and di not intervene until the rioters began to attack its headquarters directly; Only then were a few shots fired, which drove the assailants away.
 
One of the most horrific events took place in the Slonim house. After attempts to break through the door of the house, the defenders were standing in front of them - residents and youths from the yeshiva - with the last of their strength, the door of the roof was breached and the rioters entered. There was a terrible slaughter at home. Eliezer Dan Slonim tried to defend his family with a pistol and was killed with an ax in the head. His wife Hanna, her parents - Rabbi and Rebbetzin Orlansky and his four-year-old son Aharon - were murdered along with 24 Jews, most of whom were crushed and torn to pieces by human monsters. Dan and Hannah - Shlomo, a year old who was seriously injured in the head, and lay unconscious under the bodies of his parents, was rescued after one of the yeshiva students pushed her behind a door and hid in terrified silence.
 
During the horrific hours, dozens of Arabs who deserve the title "Righteous Among the Nations" saved Jews, some of them even at the cost of injuries. They stood out as the few who preserved a sense of humanity among the thousands of murderers.
 
After several hours of indiscriminate slaughter, the process of collecting corpses and wounded began. All the Jews, stunned and wounded, were taken to the police station and placed on a floor, in dirt and blood. The next night, mass graves were dug in the ancient cemetery, where 58 of the dead were buried. Another grave was dug into parts of the unidentified bodies and organs. Eight wounded who were transferred to Jerusalem and died there were buried on the Mount of Olives. Two days later, all the Jews of Hebron were expelled and the what was arguably the oldest Jewish community in the world ended. A few returned to the city, and one Jew, Yaakov Ben Shalom Ezra, an 8th generation Hebronite continued to live there until 1947, commuting back and forth from Jerusalem.
 
Shlomo Slonim, the baby who survived, grew up in the home of his relatives. He married Ruthie and worked for decades at Bank Leumi. He named his sons after his father and his brothers - Eliezer, Dan and Aharon. He maintained close contact with the Jewish community that was renewed in Hebron, visited the city frequently, and said Kaddish regularly at the annual memorial service for the victims of 1929 in Hebron, where he died two and a half years ago.

THE WILL
 
A few months ago, Shlomo Slonim's sons sent me an original document, surprising and touching - the original will of Eliezer Dan Slonim, stained with blood. The will was hidden and unknown in the estate of the family, and even Shlomo Slonim, the child who had survived, did not know about it.
 
In 1999, for the first time, it appeared in book called Journeys of the Rebbe in the Holy Land by David Zvi Rotenberg. Now for the first time I saw the original will, and most shocking thing was the blood that covered much of the document. Questions began to arise.
 
The will is actually made up of three documents, which were combined together with tape or glue. The original version of the will was affixed to a sheet of paper, to which another note (perhaps part of an envelope) was pasted. Both of these documents are stained with blood. At the bottom of the document were typewritten lines, which constitute the Chief Rabbinate's approval of the validity of the will. The stamp contains the stamps of the Rabbinate and the signatures of the Chief Rabbis, headed by the signature of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchack HaCohen Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael.
The original will was written in 1926. A study of it raises many weighty questions to which I will come later.
 
The following is the will:

With a clear and calculated mind, I write the following:
Because no one knows the future, so I write my will, and ask that it be fulfilled after my death.
You will find (in my name) Polis of Consolidation Company No. 80801 E for five hundred English pounds.
I ask that they pay all my debts. Anyone who presents my resume with my signature, or if a reliable person will file a debt claim, please pay without delay, even if the time has not yet come. And if they show me late, please pay the plaintiff.
Do not be astonished at the multitude of my duties, for I have not raised money for evil things.
All that will remain after the payment of the debts I wish to leave in my wife Hannah, to do with them as a sign of her soul. If someone pays his debt to me, that too belongs to my wife Chanah. Like all the furniture in the house, the books, etc. Everything is for her.
And I ask you all for forgiveness if I hurt your honor with your property or just upset you. Please take care of me and do not forget me.
I can, with God's help, be sure that Hannah and our parents will take care of our son, our son, who will be a decent person. Amen.
Hebron.
(E. D. Slonim) (Signature)
 
Studying the will raises a number of questions:
First, why is the will stained with blood? Wills are kept in a protected place, such as a safe or a file cabinet. How did Eliezer's blood come to will?

Second, why did Eliezer Dan, at the age of 26, find it necessary to write a will? It must be remembered that until his last days, his life was conducted in a safe, stable and supportive environment, with no apparent threat or danger.

Why did Eliezer Dan think that his parents would live long after him, and that they would look after his son? (Today we know that, indeed, tragically, this assumption is indeed appropriate).

Looking at the note attached to the will and pasted into the document (perhaps part of an envelope), another puzzlement is added. At the top appears the title (above which a line has been crossed out):
 
The Anglo Palestine Co. Ltd
JERUSALEM
 
Below this title, Eliezer Dan Slonim wrote in his handwriting:
 
To hand over to my father
Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Slonim
After my death
 
One must again ask - why did Eliezer Dan Slonim think that his father would live long after him?

And more - when was this note (or envelope) written? Why is it also stained with blood?

The note bears the seal of the Chief Rabbinate, after the entire will was approved by the rabbinate in 1935.

A possible explanation, which may answer some of the questions and puzzles, is the explanation I wish to suggest here:

In his final hours, after Eliezer Dan realized that his hopes had been dashed, and the Arabs planned to attack his house in order to murder all the members of the household, he took out the will and hid it in his pocket. Presumably he feared that the house would be robbed and looted, and if he did not personally bear the will, it would disappear. Was the envelope or note written near the writing of the will, or on a Friday, before the mass attack, or - perhaps, on the occasion of the fateful circumstances, just at the time of the attack on Saturday morning? This question remains unanswered.
 
In any event, on the margin of the document appears the version of ratification of the Chief Rabbinate - a version that was also attached to an original document of the Chief Rabbinate, which he also received:

Stamp of the Chief Rabbinate of Eretz Israel - Jerusalem
In the name of God, the Holy One, Blessed be He, 5768
It is clear to us that this will was written and signed by the late Eliezer Dan Slonim, and after examining the body, it is clear that this will is as valid as any will in Israel.

Chief Rabbinate of Eretz Yisrael
(Signatures)
The President - Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook
Tzvi Pesach Frank
Yerucham Fishel Bernstein
Shmuel Aharon Weber - Secretary
Chief Rabbinate of Eretz Yisrael, Chief Rabbinate of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.
 
As stated, the testament was discovered and preserved with the family. It was recently transferred to the Hebron Archives, which preserves the information, documents and memories from the long history of the City of the Patriarchs.
 
Eliezer Dan Slonim's will is an original and shocking document, not necessarily in content, but in the events that occurred to its owner which found expression on its pages. His blood which spilled over the will screams for revenge. His call of "please protect me, and do not remember me for the worse" resonates after decades. Hebron is still waiting for new building permits and the Israeli government's approval for the Jews to build and to buy a home there, and to rebuild the city of the forefathers and mothers.
 
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