Rehavam Amir

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Rehavam Amir
Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom
In office
1953–1958
Israeli Ambassador to Poland
In office
1958–1961
Israeli Ambassador to Thailand
In office
1971–1975
Israeli Ambassador to Finland
In office
1979–1982
Personal details
Born Rehavam Zabludovsky
(1916-01-01)January 1, 1916
Vilnius, Lithuania
Died April 4, 2013(2013-04-04) (aged 97)
Citizenship  Israel
Spouse(s) Avital Brandstatter
Military service
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1941-1944
Rank Lieutenant
Unit Special Operations Executive

Rehavam Amir (Zabludovsky) (1 January 1916 – 4 April 2013[1]) was an Israeli ambassador, civil servant and former parachutist with the Hagannah.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Rehavam Amir was born in Vilnius, Lithuania (then part of the Russian Empire), as Rehavam Zabludovsky. His parents were Malka (née Silman) and Yitzhak-Eliezer Zabludovsky. From an early age Rehavam received a Zionist education. He studied in a Tarbut High School and continued to the Teachers' College in Vilnius. In 1935, having received an Aliya certificate sponsored by his uncle, the poet Kadish-Yehuda Silman, Rehavam came to Eretz-Israel, then Palestine under the British Mandate. He arrived in Jerusalem and stayed with his relatives in the neighborhood of Beit HaKerem. There he completed his studies in the local Teachers' College under the directorship of Prof. Ben-Zion Dinnaburg–Dinur. Upon graduating, Rehavam went to teach in Yavne'el (then a frontier settlement) in Galilee, where in time he was to meet his wife to be Avital Brandstatter. In 1939, requested by the Hagannah, he moved to Tel Aviv and taught at the Gretz Elementary School.

In the service of the Hagannah[edit]

Amir joined the Hagannah in late 1936. He participated in one of the Hagannah's first wireless operators' courses that was conducted clandestinely in the kibbutz Ayelet HaShahar in Upper Galilee. While teaching in Yavne'el, Amir served as the contact between Yavne'el and Hagannah headquarters.

In 1941, Amir was requested to head a Hagannah communication course that was held in the Oriental Bazaar in Tel Aviv for members of the Moshe Dayan Network. The participants in the course were taught professional wireless operations by experts such as Peretz Rosenberg and others. Upon the completion of the course, Amir was invited to the home of Eliyahu Golomb, head of the Hagannah. From him Amir first learned of the possibility to be sent beyond enemy lines in Europe. He was asked whether he would be willing to go on a lone Hagannah mission, as a British soldier, in an attempt to reach one of the Jewish communities in occupied Europe. Fully understanding the dangers involved and not knowing any of the details of his intended lone assignment – Amir gave his immediate consent.

In the winter of 1941 he was sent to British HQ in Cairo where he established a school for wireless operators whose trainees were Yugoslav volunteers from Slovenia who had been captured by the British in the Western Desert. Amir's Hagannah commanders, Eliyahu Golomb and Reuven Zaslani (Shiloah), supported the venture. Thus Amir returned to Cairo in February 1942 to command the course and in addition to undergo himself further training in preparation for his lone mission: he completed a parachutist course designated for agents who had volunteered to jump behind enemy lines and which was conducted by the British "Inter-Services Liaison Department" (ISLD), a cover name for MI6.

During the following months there were various delays and postponements in carrying out the plans for his mission. Only in October 1943, about a month after his marriage to Avital, did his orders for the mission come through. Amir boarded a boat from Alexandria to Bari in Italy. Once there, he made contacts with other units from Eretz-Israel already stationed in Salerno. He transferred to them money from the Jewish Agency. Once back in Bari, in late December, he boarded an Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) that took him to the isle of Vis in the Adriatic Sea. This was the only island in the Adriatic to be under the control of Tito's Partisans or Allied forces. Once in Vis, he joined another ISLD representative and they set up direct radio contact with HQ in Bari. During Amir's three months stay on the island he made contact with various forces that passed through; amongst them other volunteers from Eretz-Israel, commandos, as well as a group of two hundred Jewish refugees from Yugoslavia who had been assisted by the Partisans to reach Vis. Amir told them about the soldiers from Eretz-Israel and the refugee camps that had been established in the liberated area in southern Italy. In fact, he assisted in having them transferred to Bari and to the camps.

In the spring 1944, Amir returned to Bari in preparation for his original mission. He was promoted to Lieutenant. During the night of May 12/13, 1944, Lieut. Allan, as Amir was known by his code name, parachuted into the "Fourth Zone", an area south-east of Lubliana, Slovenia, under Partisan control, but surrounded by the Germans. Amir's official assignment was to find a lost British mission that had previously parachuted into the area, but had gone astray and had not been contacted. He was also assigned to improve the radio communications systems amongst the Partisans' headquarters and to further train them in communications and encoding. He was also instructed to establish independent wireless contact with the HQ in Bari and, unofficially of course, to find the tracks of fleeing Jews in order to assist them in their escape to safety and freedom. Amir spent the summer months amongst the Partisans, marching with them from camp to camp. In September 1944 he left for Bari but returned to Slovenia with further technical equipment and supplies. At the end of 1944, having been three times behind enemy lines, Amir returned to Eretz-Israel.

Looking back upon the tasks Rehavam Amir said:

We were all of a generation that had been educated to fulfill the missions that were thrust upon us. I do not remember one of our fellow emissaries who looked for publicity or craved a battle. Most of us were young regular guys ... each and every one of us regarded [the mission] as a great privilege and unhesitatingly answered – Yes!

The years following World War II[edit]

Upon Amir's return to Eretz-Israel it was decided by his superiors that Rehavam would remain in the SHA"I (the Hagannah Intelligence Service), at first in Tel-Aviv and later in Haifa. While in Haifa he was also headmaster of the Reali elementary school. Upon the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948, he was appointed Military Governor of Acre and the Western Galilee.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister's Office[edit]

Rehavam Amir joined the senior ranks of the Foreign Ministry as head of Personnel/Administration. In that capacity he was in charge and responsible for the logistically complex operation of transferring the ministry from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem in the summer of 1953. This was carried out in one night and everything with all the offices and departments functioning the following day. In August 1953, Amir was appointed Israel's Consul-General to Great Britain. Together with his wife Avital and daughters Shulamit and Dalia, the family moved to London for the next five years.

In late 1958, Amir was appointed Head of Israel's Legation to Poland. It was during this period that evidence of the Holocaust was being uncovered and the sites of the extermination camps were as yet hardly known. Amir and his diplomatic staff were amongst the first Jewish visitors to the camps after World War II. At this time, Poland's PM Władysław Gomułka enabled Jews to leave Poland. Having completed another three years tour of duty in Poland, Amir returned home to Israel and held several posts in the Foreign Ministry. In 1963, he transferred to the Prime Minister's Office upon his appointment as David Ben-Gurion's Advisor for Arab Affairs. Upon Ben-Gurion's resignation he continued to work with PM Levi Eshkol. In 1964, Amir coordinated the visit of Pope Paul VI to Megiddo and Nazareth.

From 1965 to 1968 Amir served in the Jewish Agency as Director of Jewish Education in the Diaspora. In 1968 he returned to the Foreign Ministry and served as Israel's Consul-General in New York until 1971.

From 1971 to 1975 Amir served as Israel's Ambassador to Thailand. In December 1972, Amir's talents and competency were once again put to the test when the PLO's Black September attacked the Israeli embassy in Bangkok and took all the occupants as hostages.[2] Rehavam and Avital were attending a ceremony at the Royal Palace thus they were not among the hostages and could therefore conduct the negotiations with the kidnappers. Following the intense negotiations, including the King of Thailand's personal insistence that no blood be shed, and with the rare and courageous cooperation of the Egyptian Ambassador, (and it must be remembered that at the time Israel had no relations with Egypt), the hostages were finally released without use of force or anyone being hurt.

In 1975, returning to Israel once again, Amir was appointed Chief of Protocol responsible for official visits of foreign dignitaries: US President Jimmy Carter and Egypt's President Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem in 1977. From 1979 to 1982 Amir served as Israel's Ambassador to Finland.

It must be stressed that Amir carried out all his missions always accompanied by his wife Avital. Upon his retirement from the Foreign Ministry, Amir continued to be active for many years, voluntarily contributing from his experience and expertise amongst others with Teddy Kollek, Mayor of Jerusalem, serving on the Board of the David Yellin Teachers' College, ERA"N and the Board of Governors of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Rehavam רחבעם Amir עמיר (Zabludovsky) (1916–2013)". geni.com. 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  2. ^ "TERRORISM: Backdown in Bangkok". TIME. January 8, 1973. Retrieved 19 April 2013. 

Sources[edit]

  • Interviews with Avital and Rehavam Amir
  • Mission of Hope, Ministry of Defence, 1995, p. 19-28. (Hebrew)