Eliyahu Golomb

Eliyahu Golomb was the defacto commander of the Hagana – the underground military organization of the Yishuv (the Jewish community in the Land of Israel prior to Independence) and the precursor of the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces, Tzahal).

Eliyahu Golomb was born in 1893 in Russia and immigrated with his family to the Land of Israel, then under Turkish rule, at the age of 16. He completed his high school studies at the Herzlia Gymnasium where he was a member of the first graduating class. Following his graduation, he organized the first group of students to prepare themselves for a pioneering life, and moved with the group to Degania Alef (the first kibbutz established in the Land of Israel; founded in 1909).

Golomb resented the Turkish rule (his father was ordered to operate the family-owned flour mill on the Sabbath for the Turkish army; when he refused he was publicly whipped by order of the Governor of Jaffa) and therefore opposed those members of the Yishuv who encouraged Jews to volunteer for the Turkish army. In 1917, after the British conquered Palestine, he volunteered for the Jewish Legion.

Golomb objected to the exclusiveness and small-scale modus operandi of the Ha'Shomer ("The Watchman", a Jewish defense organization in Palestine founded in 1909 to provide guard services for Jewish settlements). He was therefore one of the initiators and molders of the Hagana (established in 1920) as the supreme defense body of the Yishuv. The charter and the structure of the Hagana allowed the organization to mobilize the Jewish masses into a fighting force capable of supporting the Zionist movement's goals. Golomb was also an outstanding workers' leader and one of the founders of the "Akhdut Ha'Avoda" party (a major labor party in the past, established in 1919 under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion and Berl Katznelson) and the General Labour Federation (Ha'Histadrut Ha'klalit).

During the period 1922-24 he was engaged in purchasing arms for the Hagana in Vienna, Berlin and Paris. On his return he became the chief figure in the Hagana and was, in fact, its commander although he had neither title nor rank. His authority was personal, moral and political. Under his leadership, the Hagana was first operating under the auspices of the Workers Union, and later, following the Arab rioting of 1929, as the underground military wing of the Zionist Jewish Agency and the National Jewish Committee (Ha'Vaad Ha'Leumi) of Palestine. The organization and financing in the late 1930s of Aliya Bet – the clandestine Jewish immigration to Palestine – was in large part directed by Golomb.

Golomb's home on Rothschild Boulevard, Tel Aviv, served as the Hagana's headquarters for many years. It was from there that most of the major decisions of the time originated - the decision not to undertake reprisals at the time of the "disturbances", the setting-up of "Tower and Stockade" settlements, the formation of the Hagana's Field Force and the Palmach (the elite forces of the Hagana), and the dispatch of parachutists to occupied Europe in WW-II.

Golomb died in 1945 at the age of 52. Shortly after his death, Aliya Bet operations were resumed, and the first Aliya Bet vessel after WW-II was named "Dalin" – Golomb's clandestine nickname – in his memory. Another Aliya Bet vessel was called Eliyahu Golomb.

Golomb's house today houses the Hagana Museum and Archives,"Bet Eliyahu – Bet Ha'Hagana". The neighborhood of Yad Eliyahu in Tel Aviv, kibbutz Nir Eliyahu (near the city of Kfar Saba), streets in several cities, and the prestigious yearly award of Bitchon Israel (awarded to individual or organizations with outstanding contribution to the defense of Israel) are all named after him.

The stamp was issued in 1978, part of a series of 5 stamps of prominent personalities, commemorating Israel's 30 years of independence. Design: Z. Narkiss.