Lone Wolf in Jerusalem

Lone Wolf in Jerusalem

by Ehud Diskin

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626345164
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication date: 08/14/2018
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 109,599
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Ehud Diskin was born in Jerusalem. He served as an officer in combat roles during Israel’s wars, as detailed in his memoir, Yes, It’s Possible, and ended his military career with the rank of colonel. After attending the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he earned a PhD in business management and became the director of the LIBI fund, collecting contributions from all over the world to provide support for the education of soldiers. Later, he left the public sector and became a businessman, establishing several successful enterprises in the United States. 

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

"KILL THE ONE WHO COMES TO KILL YOU"

(FROM THE TALMUD, TRACTATE SANHEDRIN, 3RD–5TH CENTURY)

Sergeant John Perry wrapped Sarah tightly in his arms once more, pressing his body to hers. The last thing he wanted this early in the morning was to relinquish the warmth of her embrace and step into the wintry darkness of Jerusalem. Had he known someone was lurking downstairs, waiting anxiously to snuff out his life, he surely would have stayed in bed.

He reluctantly shrugged off the blanket and fumbled through the dark room for his clothes. After dressing, he put on his coat and then paused to touch the cold Webley .38 revolver heavy in his pocket, loaded and ready.

"John? You're leaving already?" Sarah whispered in a voice hoarse with sleep.

"I have to report to my post within the hour," he replied. "I'll see you again next Tuesday night."

It was February 1946 in the Land of Israel, or Mandatory Palestine as it was called at the time. The League of Nations had granted Britain control over the historic Jewish homeland in the wake of the First World War. But Jerusalem was hardly a safe place for the British soldiers and police stationed in the ancient city, as their regime was frequently attacked by Jewish underground organizations. The darkness of night brought even more danger, especially in the quiet corners of the city.

I WAITED DOWNSTAIRS IN THE exposed stairwell, wincing from the sting of the icy wind blowing in from the street, reminding myself that life isn't always fair. While Perry was feeling the soft curves of a woman against his body in the apartment above, I stood shivering and alone. But soon he would lie eternally cold, I thought, taking grim comfort in the fact. My plan to send Perry to the gates of Hell did nothing to warm my own body, but it did warm my soul.

Killing has never been my first choice, and I only resorted to it when I didn't see any other choice. Perry was one of those cases. An agent in the CID, the intelligence unit for the British Mandate, he identified Jewish underground activists for arrest or assassination by the British army. He was in his late twenties, in excellent physical condition, talented, with a sharp mind — a real thorn in the side of the Jewish underground. It was essential to get rid of this guy for good. The rule of survival says, "Kill the one who comes to kill you."

I planned to strangle him. I'd have preferred to use a gun, as I often had against the German soldiers I once fought as a partisan. But shooting him would wake the neighbors, not to mention leave unmistakable evidence that he'd been assassinated. By strangling him, there would be an outside chance that a British investigator would rule his death a robbery gone wrong.

I heard Perry shut the door on the floor above and then his heavy footfalls on the stairs. I hid in the dark alcove at the entrance to the stairwell, having already knocked out the overhead light to conceal myself. When Perry passed me, I leaped at him from behind, gripping his neck between my two forearms and pulling him back at the same time. He resisted, kicking his legs wildly as he tried to keep his feet on the ground.

I tightened my grip on his neck, using all my strength to drag him backward. Finally, the gasping stopped, and his body fell limp. I let go, and Perry slumped to the floor. Kneeling beside him, I checked his pulse — he was gone.

I quickly rifled through his pockets and was pleased to find his Webley, which I would add to my growing collection of weapons that I accumulated in the last five months, since I came to the Land of Israel. To create the illusion of a botched robbery, I slipped the money from his wallet into my pocket.

I didn't want to leave any traces around the building, so after checking to make sure the coast was clear, I hoisted Perry's body onto my shoulders and carried him to a nearby street, where I dumped him in one of the courtyards. With dawn about to break, I hurried back to my place on Zephaniah Street, not far away.

My apartment was a single room at the back of a one-story building. I silently opened the gate to the yard and followed the path to my private entrance in the rear. Before heading inside, I stopped in the backyard, which was enclosed by a fence of large stones. This part of the yard was visible only from my room. Crouching behind an apricot tree, I removed a large, loose stone from the fence to retrieve the locked metal box I kept in the hollow behind it. I placed the Webley inside. My arsenal of weapons and ammunition had become quite impressive.

Back in my apartment, I undressed and headed straight for the bathroom. A hot shower would have been welcome, but that required lighting a fire under the boiler and waiting for the water to heat. Instead, I stepped straight under the flow from the showerhead. It was a true Jerusalem winter, and the water was ice cold, but I had grown used to bathing outdoors in the Belarusian winters as a partisan and wasn't going to let a little icy water trouble me. All I wanted was to wash away the last traces of that lowlife Brit as quickly as possible.

Afterward, I lay in bed but couldn't fall asleep. My mind wandered back across the past five years, since the Nazis had invaded my home in Belarus in Eastern Europe. I tried to recall the faces of my mother, my father, my older brother and sister, all dead and gone, like most of the hundred thousand Jews who had lived in our now-destroyed community in Minsk.

As I stared at the ceiling, I tried to remember how I'd been back then — a sentimental seventeen-year-old boy who couldn't bear the sight of a chicken being slaughtered. How could acts of war come so easily to me now? But necessity can drive men to do unfathomable things. As I witnessed the unspeakable evils the Nazis had unleashed on my people, on my family, it had hardened my spirit. In the face of such devastation against the entire Jewish race, how could I not commit myself to doing everything in my power to create a safe and secure home for the Jewish people and for myself?

Of course, the British were not the Nazis, but they had taken control of our ancestral homeland and enacted policies to explicitly limit Jewish immigration. Their navy was blocking Israeli shores, stopping boats full of Jewish immigrants, most of whom were concentration camp survivors; then they were sending those survivors right back to camps in Cyprus or, even worse, in Germany.

We had no choice but to fight the British for a homeland where we could live free, and I knew I must use the skills I acquired fighting the Nazis in the forests of Belarus to accomplish that. I wouldn't stop until an independent state for the Jewish people in our ancient homeland became ours again.

At that moment, I couldn't shake the feeling that safety was an illusion. There I was, lying in my cozy bed, seemingly safe and secure, but at any moment something could intrude on this blissful state or even bring my brief but eventful life to an abrupt end. Once these thoughts crept in, they dragged me back to when the blood of the Jews of Belarus ran like rivers, when I struggled desperately to preserve my life and the lives of my comrades — and to kill as many Germans as possible.

I was the youngest in the Gabinsky family when life as I had known it was forever changed. In 1941, my brother and sister had already left home, married, and started their own lives by the time the war began. Only I remained at home with my parents. My father managed a flour mill in Minsk, and we were relatively well off. He was a tall, dark, well-built man, and my mother, a devoted housewife, was a pretty blond. They made a good-looking couple.

My mother would always tell me, "David, my dear son, you got your big brown eyes from your father and your blond hair from me."

Father wasn't religious, but he respected the Jewish religion and made sure I received a traditional education, which included private lessons in Hebrew. I adored my teacher, Rabbi Leib Briskov, who not only taught me Hebrew but also instilled in me Jewish values and wise teachings about life. Because the Communist authorities in Belarus had imposed a ban on Jewish studies, our lessons were conducted in secret.

On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany violated the nonaggression treaty it had signed with Russia two years earlier. The German military advanced eastward, intending to occupy Russia and topple the Communist regime. Four days later, while we were eating dinner, we heard the blasts of the artillery shells coming ever closer and then the sound of small-arms fire.

"The Germans are approaching," my father said. "And quickly. It's only taken them four days to reach Minsk."

We felt no loyalty to the Russian regime — the Communists, like the czars before them, were not particularly fond of Jews, nor were our gentile neighbors — but the Germans were something completely different. We had heard terrifying stories about their hatred for Jews. Rumors from Poland told of them executing our people just for fun.

I was seventeen at the time. But instead of studying and hanging out with friends, I was destined to fight for the survival of my family and the Jews of Minsk. Thanks to my strength and size, I had taught my anti-Semitic schoolmates to fear me, but I knew I'd be helpless against a German soldier with a gun.

My father was right; the Germans had reached Minsk.

They soon appointed a Judenrat, a Jewish council, whose members, my father included, were tasked with compiling a registry of the entire Jewish population in the city and its suburbs. Through the Judenrat, the Germans made us wear yellow stars on our clothes, and within five days, all the Jews living in Minsk were forced into a newly formed ghetto, a warren of thirty-four streets ringed with barbed-wire fences and watchtowers. The size of the ghetto was about one square mile. The Judenrat, instructed by the Germans, assigned Jewish families to apartment buildings within that area, and it was extremely crowded. Often two to three families had to live in the same room.

One minute, I was lying in a warm bed, and the next, I found myself evicted from my home and forced to live in what amounted to a prison. My family and I were under constant threat of death or torture.

The Germans issued a warning that any Jew attempting to leave the ghetto without a permit from the military commander would be shot on sight. Gentiles were forbidden from entering the ghetto, but that didn't stop them from raiding our homes, robbing and killing indiscriminately. German soldiers and police officers — mostly Ukrainians, Lithuanians, and Latvians who hated the Russians and welcomed the arrival of the Nazis — would kick in our ghetto doors and take whatever they fancied. Anyone who dared resist was summarily shot.

These events had occurred five years earlier, but I lived with them every day.

SINCE ARRIVING IN THE LAND of Israel five months ago, my reality had changed. There was a new enemy that we, the Jews, needed to get rid of: the British forces occupying our homeland. Sergeant Perry was not the first scumbag I had eliminated here; there were others. This was my mission, my quest — to help my people establish a Jewish state. My arrival in our ancient homeland was the most meaningful event in my life, and that memory was never far from my thoughts, especially in the days that followed.

CHAPTER 2

"WITH HEARTS ABLAZE AND ARMS OUTSTRETCHED — HOMEWARD"

(FROM "HOMEWARD," A SONG BY AHARON ASHMAN, 1945)

The engines stopped abruptly, and the boat shuddered strongly before it came to a complete halt. Some of us fell down on the deck. A few seconds later, Uri, the Mossad officer who had organized the trip and joined us in Bari, Italy, appeared on the deck. He signaled us to be silent and instructed those who were smoking to put out their cigarettes immediately.

"We're about five nautical miles from the shore, and we have detected a British destroyer very near us," he whispered in Yiddish, the language spoken by most of us. "They are looking for Jewish illegal immigrants who are trying to enter the Land of Israel. If they detect us, we'll be stopped, arrested, and expelled to a displaced persons camp in Cyprus or, even worse, in Germany.

"There is a chance," Uri went on, "that due to tonight's darkness, and with a little bit of luck, we will not be detected, but for that we must be completely unheard and unseen. So please — no movement and no talking until we give you a signal that the alarm is over."

I looked at the people around me; they seemed fearful, and despair set in rapidly. Nelka, my Polish travel mate, sat nearby, huddled with a bunch of women.

She began to weep quietly, and I could only guess what she, who had barely survived Auschwitz after losing her husband and young children there, must be feeling now. After Uri spoke, most of the people around me immediately lay down on the benches. I did not. I stood on the deck, staring at the high waves.

Anxiety flooded over me. What would happen if we got caught? Should I jump overboard and try to swim to the shore? Although I was physically fit, I had no experience in swimming such a great distance in open sea and in pitch darkness. No, that would be suicide, and after all I had gone through, I was not going to risk my life unnecessarily.

And at that very moment, it dawned on me, almost like a prophecy. I now had a duty, a responsibility, toward my lost family members, toward my beloved Leah, toward all my brothers-in-arms — and, yes, toward the Jewish people as a whole — to fight for the most important, the most moral cause in the world: a homeland for the Jewish people. A homeland that would ensure that Jews in generations to come would never experience the terrible fate my loved ones and friends had endured.

I had been saved from their fate, but that survival put a burden on my shoulders, which I must now carry proudly. I would make use of the skills which I acquired in the forests of Belarus and use them to help restore the ancient homeland of my people.

I had no idea how long I stood there contemplating, completely disassociated from everybody else. All I knew was that suddenly I heard the soft murmur of the boat's engines and felt the jolt of the engines coming to life as the boat started to sail again, first very slowly, then gradually picking up speed. I continued to stand on the deck, motionless, until the Mossad officer approached me, smiling broadly.

"David," he said, touching my shoulder gently. "I signaled to you that the alarm was over, but you continued to stand there. In any event, the danger passed, and we will soon arrive." His eyebrows pressed together in concern. "You seemed so withdrawn from everyone around you ..."

"Doesn't really matter much, Uri," I answered. "It's good to hear that we're no longer in danger." He was a nice man, but I did not want to share my thoughts and feelings with anyone else at that time.

When we approached the shores of the Land of Israel, Uri told us that the captain would try to land us on Caesarea Beach. We were warned there was a chance the British would be waiting on the shore to arrest us and place us in internment camps. It was a tense night for all.

We disembarked around midnight, with no sign of the British. Instead, members of the Haganah, the largest Israeli underground in Israel, were waiting for us. As soon as I stepped ashore, I dropped to my knees and kissed the ground.

"Mother and Father," I whispered, "I'm home. It tears me apart that you aren't here with me, but you will always be in my heart."

The Haganah escorted us to Sdot Yam, a nearby kibbutz, where we were welcomed with tea and sandwiches. Then we slept in a large hall filled with mattresses and blankets on the floor. We were all worn out but also very excited. It took me a long time to finally fall asleep.

In the morning, I approached one of the kibbutz members and asked him how to get to Jerusalem. I had decided to live in the ancient city my father had always spoken of with great longing.

"A driver comes here every day from Tel Aviv to bring us newspapers and various supplies," the man said. "If you have money, you can pay him for a ride to Tel Aviv. From there you can get a bus or taxi to Jerusalem."

I went to the kibbutz secretary and exchanged some Swiss Francs for local currency. I had no financial concerns. After the war, my group of partisans had robbed a Belarusian criminal named Nikolai, who had collaborated with the Nazis and amassed a huge fortune by stealing from Jews. We found him with diamonds, precious jewelry, gold coins, and cash — primarily Swiss Francs and US dollars. My share of the spoils went into an old but sturdy knapsack that I carried with me wherever I went.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Lone Wolf in Jerusalem"
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Copyright © 2018 Ehud Diskin.
Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
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Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Lone Wolf in Jerusalem 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Story+of+the+founding+of+the+land+of+Israel+told+from+a+first+person+voice.++
Anonymous 6 months ago
Description of final days leading to the establishment of Israel.
Jacob90 More than 1 year ago
One of the best novels I have read in a long time! I loved every page of it; the history, mystery, suspense, action, and romance. The history of Israel is greatly tied into the story line. It gives a new perspective to what life was like in WWII Israel. This story line would make for a great film, I am hopeful it does become one!