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Murder in Jerusalem

This week will be 19 years since the murder of Yitzhak Rabin OBM.

His assassination was not the first time a Jew was assassinated by another Jew for political reasons. The first political assassination in the history of modern Zionism occurred on June 30th 1924. The victim was Yakov Yisrael DeHan.

DeHan was born in Holland to a religious family. When he turned 18 he went out on his own. He studied law and became swept up in socialist ideology leaving all religious sentiment behind. He closed the door on religion, seemingly permanently, when he married non Jewish women. In 1912 he took a trip to Czarist Russia to meet with prisoners. He met many Jewish prisoners and this had a profound effect on him. When he returned to Holland, he began to reconsider his ideology and returned to religion as well as becoming a staunch Zionist.

DeHan became very active in Zionist activity in Holland and in 1919 he decided to leave everything in Holland and make Aliya to Eretz Israel. When he arrived in Israel he was a member of the Mizrahi religious Zionist movement. His plan was to become one of the leaders of the Zionist establishment in Eretz Israel. He discovered that no one there was really interested in his services. He thought to perhaps get a position in the law school that was being established at the Hebrew University and there too he was rebuffed. He then tried to be appointed the Dutch Ambassador to Jerusalem and this too did not work out.

Disillusioned and frustrated he underwent yet another metamorphosis and started to become close with Rav Yoseph Chaim Zonnfeld the leader of the Haredi anti-Zionist community in Eretz Israel. Slowly, he came to identify with their values and was able to use his exceptional speaking skills to be their advocate in the European political arena. The British saw the Zionist Jewish Agency as the representatives of the Jewish community in Palestine. The Haredim did not feel that they were being represented. Dehan was about to embark on a trip to London to lobby for separate recognition of the Haredi community and possibly the rescinding of the Balfour declaration. DeHan was an educated European who knew how to speak well and maneuver politically. HeDeHan was influential enough that the Jewish Agency was very concerned about this. As is common with "converts to a cause" he was more extreme then the leadership of the community. He brought constant legal suits against Rav Kook, he met with Emir Abdullah of Jordan and in general made a lot of waves.

The Jewish Agency decided to take action against him and on June 30 1924 one day before he was to leave to London, as he walked out of mincha in the old Shaarei Tzedek hospital he was shot three times and killed.

The Haredi community considered him a holy martyr. One of the important rabbinical figures in Jerusalem Rav Yaakov Yisrael Fischer the Av Beit Din of the Eida Hachareidit was born in 1925 and named for him.

Over the years the Haredim used this terrible incident as an example of how evil the Zionists are. However, there were certain aspects to DeHan's life that the Haredim did not want to call attention to. The fact that DeHan was a homosexual being the primary one. While he identified fully with the Haredim, he expressed his homosexuality in many of his writings specifically his poetry. Despite the fact that there is no reason to connect his murder to his sexual preferences his name appears on a monument in Amsterdam memorializing people killed because of their sexual preferences.


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