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Meir Feinstein

Meir Feinstein (Hebrew: מאיר פיינשטיין‎; October 5, 1927 - April 21, 1947) was born in the Old city of Jerusalem. His parents, Bela and Eliezer, immigrated from Brisk (then Lithuania). He was an Irgun operative who was injured while planting an Improvised Explosive Device in the railway station in Jerusalem, and was subsequently captured and sentenced to death by the British authorities in Palestine. At his trial, Feinstein refused legal counsel and refused to recognize the authority of the British court or participate in the trial, other than to speak at the summation. Before the reading of the verdict Feinstein broke his silence, saying:

Do you think you can frighten us with death? We, who over the years have listened to the click-clack of the wheels of those carriages that carried our brothers, our parents, the best of our nation, to the slaughter... each day we ask ourselves: In what way are we better than them, the millions of the our brethren? ......To questions such as these, our conscience offers but one answer: we remained alive not to survive in conditions of slavery, repression and (to go to) a new Treblinka. We remained alive to ensure (the attainment) of freedom and dignity for us, our nation and children and grandchildren for all generations... for there is life worse than death and death greater than live.

Twenty years after the trial, it became known that a third co-conspirator, Daniel Azulai, whose death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, was in fact a plant of SHAI, the intelligence service of the Haganah. Feinstein was unaware of this, seeing Azulai as a close friend and Irgun sympathizer.

On April 21, 1947, a few hours before their execution by hanging in the Central Prison in the Russian Compound in Jerusalem could be carried out, he and his friend and fellow prisoner Moshe Barazani blew themselves up in their cells with improvised grenades which had been smuggled in concealed inside hollowed out oranges. Originally, Feinstein and Barzani planned to use one grenade to attack the hanging party and the second grenade to kill themselves; however, when they learned that Rabbi Goldman, the official chaplain of the Jewish National Council, was to be among the party, they changed their plans in order to spare his life, killing themselves alone.

The story of Feinstein and Barazani became one of the most famous tales in the history of Zionism.[1] Menachem Begin was so moved by the deeds of the two men that he requested in his will that he be buried next to them on the Mount of Olives, which he was.[2]

Just before his death, Feinstein gave to British prison guard Thomas Henry Goodwin, whom he and Barazani had nicknamed "the good jailer", a copy of the Bible, inscribed in Hebrew and English, "In the shadow of the gallows, 21.4.47. To the British soldier as you stand guard. Before we go to the gallows, accept this Bible as a memento and remember that we stood in dignity and marched in dignity. It is better to die with a weapon in hand than to live with hands raised. Meir Feinstein", then requested a moment of privacy for prayer, thereby saving Goodwin from being injured by the grenade (and preventing him from being able to stop the grenade being detonated.) In 2007, Goodwin's son Denis donated the bible to Feinstein's nephew Eliezar, who received it on behalf of the Underground Prisoners Museum in Jerusalem at a commemorative state ceremony.[2], [3]

References

  1. ^ The Good Jailer, Yair Sheleg, Haaretz, April 12, 2007.
  2. ^ a b 60 Years Later: Feinstein's Bible Returned to Family Begin Center Diary
  3. ^ 'The good jailer' returns Irgun hero's Bible 60 years later, Jerusalem Post, April 19, 2007

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