The First Political Assassination in Israel
Updated: May 6
You know all about the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, and probably heard of the Rehavam "Gandhi" Ze'evi assassination as well, but do you know who received the dreadful honor as the first political assassination in modern Israel?
Can you guess who this is?
Did you guess who's in the picture? No?
Well, it's Jacob Israël de Haan.
Oh, you never heard of that name before? Honestly, neither have we...but it's also fun to learn something new.
So yes, on this day, June 30th, 1924, Dr. De Haan's assassination became the first political assassination in modern-day Israel. There weren't too many political assassinations in Israel over the years, which is obviously a good thing, but our young country has already seen its share. From the notoriously famous deaths of Rabin, Gandhi, and Israel Kastner, to the lesser-known incidents of Hamad Abu Rabia, and Folke Bernadotte.
Dr. Jacob Israel de Haan was born in Holland in 1981 to an ultra-orthodox Jewish family and was one of 18 children, seven of who died as infants. He was quite a unique character, he was a lawyer, poet, journalist, and writer. While studying to become a teacher, he renounced his religion and joined the socialist movement. After traveling several times to Tsarist Russia to see how he can help improve the prisoner's lives over there, he published a book about his research and findings in the neglected prisons across the country.
At this point, De Haan underwent another major transition in his life, as he became religious once again, and joined the Zionist Movement in Amsterdam. After WW1, in 1919 he decided to make his way to Israel, where he was expecting to receive a warm welcome, and he even applied to become the Dutch Consol in Jerusalem. Well, all those expectations quickly shattered to smithereens. Nobody waited for him at the airport, no claps or chant singing, his service wasn't wanted anywhere - not at the Hebrew University, not at the zionist institutions, and definitely not as Consol.
This is where he again underwent an extreme transition, this time joining the Ultra Haredi circles and becoming a member of the Eda Haredit in Jerusalem, which constantly criticized and went out against the Zionist movement. At this point, he became close with Rabbi Yosef Haim Sonnenfeld, the leader of the Eda Haredit.
While working as a journalist for a Dutch newspaper, De Haan became a key figure in the Eda Haredit, translating its papers and giving free legal advice. He helped battle the Yishuv and the Zionist movement, specifically going out against Rav Kook.
The Yishuv and the Jewish Zionist leaders saw De Haan's actions as a threat to the future of the Jewish Yishuv, so members of the Haganah came up with the plot to have him killed. De Haan was set to leave on July 1st, 1924 to London, on an anti-Zionist delegation. The day before, June 30th, on his way to pray at a synagogue, he was shot three times by a young fellow who was never caught, and the Mandate Police were forced to close the case.
Although he never admitted it, many historians believe that the killer was Avraham Tehomi, a Haganah fighter and one of the founders of the Etzel.
And so, this troubled person's rollercoaster life somehow led him to become the first political figure to be assassinated in Israel. An unfortunate case, that paved the way for similar incidents to happen in the years to come.
Let's just hope those were the last ones we will ever have to experience.