Bechukotai – Punishment Warning
This proclamation describes the background to the "night of beatings" organised by the Irgun on December 29, 1946.
On December 13, 1946, the Irgun robbed a bank in Jaffa. Whilst two of the perpetrators were convicted of robbery and subsequently jailed for a lengthy period of time, Benjamin Kimkhi was sentenced to 18 lashes. Upon receiving notification about the punishment, the Irgun headquarters convened and decided that such a "humiliating" punishment was not to be tolerated. It published a warning, in Hebrew and English, to the British authorities not to carry out the flogging, threatening to do the same to British officers.
On Saturday, December 28, Kimkhi was lashed eighteen times. As a result, a number of British soldiers were abducted and given 18 lashes by the Irgun. With the British forces then placing a curfew in many areas across the country, the subsequent action resulted in 4 more Irgun men were captured (one already having been killed when the Brits opened fire on their car), and 3 of them were eventually executed by hanging on April 16, 1947.
Connection to the Parasha
Our parasha is one of two in the Torah which discusses the punishment that the Jewish People would receive should they not follow G-d’s commandments. There are a number of curses which are then placed on the Jewish People, particularly as a result of not having adhered to the laws surrounding shmittah.
The notice is useful for a Jewish History teacher in order to discuss the period of time between the end of World War 2 and the establishment of the State of Israel, which saw increased tensions between the British Government and the yishuv.
A Jewish Studies teacher could use this notice to discuss the concept of revenge in Judaism, and whether such action is permitted according to Jewish law.
Which languages are featured on this notice?
Who composed this notice?
In what year did this notice appear?
Who is the subject of the warning?
In response to which episode did this warning appear?
Reading Between the Lines
Why did the warning appear in both Hebrew and English?
What did the authors of this notice expect to achieve?
Why did the Irgun decide to threaten British troops?
Why did the British authorities ignore this threat?
How are the victims of this entire episode remembered today in Israel?
Had you been living at the time in the UK as a Jew, what would your reaction have been? Why?
To what extent did actions such as these by the Irgun convince the British to leave Palestine?
Write a letter to the Jewish Chronicle in support of/to decry the actions of the Irgun. Explain the stance that you took?