On the border of Tel Aviv and Jaffa are the ruins
of an old house overlooking the beach and the Mediterranean Sea, with an incongruous black
cube rising from its remnants. This is the Etzel Museum, also known as "Beit
Gidi". It is dedicated to fighters of the Etzel organization,
better known as the Irgun in English, a Jewish militant organization that
operated in Mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1948. Along with the nearby Hassan
Bek mosque, the ruins are one of just two structures that remain from the northernmost
neighborhood of Tel Aviv. The house was built in 1900 by a Jewish businessman who came to
build his home in Israel. In 1914 he travelled to Russia for business and was killed
during World War I. Arabs from Jaffa then used the building for residential, industrial
and commercial needs.
The Etzel, whose emblem is a hand holding a rifle over the whole
of Palestine and Transjordan, fought to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel.
It was established in 1931 as an offshoot of the older and larger Jewish paramilitary
organization, the Haganah. They retaliated against attacks by Arabs on the Jewish
population and rebelled against the British government's White Paper policy that imposed
restrictions on Jewish emigration to Palestine.
In 1947, the UN resolution divided mandatory Palestine into a
Jewish and an Arab state. The Arabs began terror attacks against the Jews throughout the
country. Jaffa was the largest Arab city in the country, so the Tel Aviv-Jaffa residents
Etzel's leadership saw Jaffa as a great problem, especially
because of its proximity to Tel Aviv. In April 1948 Amichai 'Gidi' Faglin,
in whose memory the Beit Gidi Museum is dedicated, led the Etzel's operations against
Jaffa and, as the museum's displays indicate, Jaffa was bombarded into submission and
most of its Arab residents fled. As a result of the attacks by the Jewish forces, only
3,000 to 5,000 residents remained in Jaffa, out of a population of 70,000 to
Beit Gidi Etzel Museum 1947-1948 focuses on the battle
to liberate Jaffa during the 1947-1948 War of Independence. It is dedicated to the
memory of the 41 Etzel fighters who fell during the conquest of Jaffa and their
operations officer, Amichai 'Gidi' Faglin.
The first part of the museum deals with the organizational
structure of the Etzel. A map of Israel according to the UN partition resolution of
29th November 1947 is displayed on one wall. Another electronic map, along with
documents and photographs, shows Etzel positions, attacks and raids during 1947
Another section of the museum concentrates on the
Altalena affair. The Altalena was an Etzel armaments-carrying ship had
embarked from the port of Marseilles. Upon arrival at the beach of Tel Aviv, David
Ben-Gurion gave the ship 10 minutes to agree to hand over the armaments to the unified
Jewish forces. After the 10 minutes expired with no response, an attack on the ship
was ordered, and a massive explosion set off by a shell destroyed the ship and cargo.
A large encased flag of Israel that was flown on the Altalena hangs on a wall. In the
accompanying text one reads that the flag was saved minutes before the ship blew up.
One exhibit is dedicated to the taking of the Wadi
Nisnas Arab neighborhood in Haifa.
After the establishment of the state, the Etzel fighters
were integrated into the newly-formed Israel Defense Forces (IDF), in an agreement
signed by the Etzel's commander-in-chief Menachem Begin and the government
The museum is open from Sunday through Thursday, 8:30 am
to 4:30 pm. It is closed on Friday and Saturday. The entrance fee for adults is