Jewish Underground

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The Jewish Underground was a Jewish terrorist organization formed by prominent members of the Israeli political movement Gush Emunim that existed from 1979 to 1984.[1] The group's highest profile plot was to destroy the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.


In 1980, the Jewish Underground carried out a series of terror attacks, including car bomb attacks against Palestinian officials. As a result of these attacks, Bassam Shakaa, the mayor of Nablus lost both of his legs and Karim Khalaf, the mayor of Ramallah, lost one of his legs.[2][3] On hearing the news, co-founder of Gush Emunim, rabbi Haim Drukman, is said to have exclaimed, citing the Song of Deborah, 'Thus may all Israel's enemies perish!'[4]

In 1983, three of its members were involved in a retaliation attack following the murder of Aharon Gross, a yeshivah student in Hebron.[5] In broad daylight, two men entered the Islamic College of Hebron, spraying bullets and tossing a grenade. They murdered three students and wounded thirty-three.[6]

On 27 April 1984, Shin Bet agents arrested 15 people with ties to Gush Emunim. The suspects were taken into custody immediately after placing bombs under six Arab-owned buses in Jerusalem. The arrests followed an extensive two-year investigation led by the head of the Serious Crimes Division and employing ninety policemen. The bombs were set to detonate on Friday afternoon as Muslim worshipers returned home from celebrating Isra and Mi'raj. A week later security forces raided the settlement of Kiryat Arba, finding a cache of stolen regional defense program weapons and explosives linked to the bomb plot.

A string of arrests followed with police bringing in a number of settlement and political leaders, including future Knesset member Eliezer Waldman and Rabbi Moshe Levinger. Twenty-five of the arrested Gush Emunim members were tried on a host of charges relating to the plot to destroy the Dome of the Rock, the 1983 attack on the Islamic College, the attempted assassination of West Bank mayors, the aborted bus attacks and a few other incidents.[7] Three of the men, Menachem Livni, Shaul Nir and Uzi Sharbav, were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the Islamic College attack and attempted assassinations.

Their sentences were controversially commuted three times by then President Chaim Herzog and they were released after serving less than seven years. After their 1990 release the three were hailed as "heroes" by leaders of the Gush Emunim movement.[2] The Jewish Underground caused a rift in Gush Emunim. The existence of a violent underground had, until the mass arrests, been dismissed by most Gush Emunim members as falsehood circulated by Peace Now to discredit the movement. Reports from the terrorists' release suggest tremendous support for them by their fellow settlers.[2] However, the majority of Israelis condemned the Underground's unprovoked killing of innocent civilians and contempt for secular law.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ian S. Lustick, For the land and the Lord: Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, chapter 3, par. The Gush Emunim Underground. 1988, the Council on Foreign Relations
  2. ^ a b c "3 Israeli Terrorists Are Released In 4th Reduction of Their Terms," New York Times, 27 December 1990
  3. ^ What's Next For Israel? Time Magazine, July 9, 1984
  4. ^ Ian Lustick, For the land and the Lord: Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, Council on Foreifgn Relations, 1988 p.131. Lustick writes:'Book of Deborah', an evident lapsus calami.
  5. ^ Hebron Jews: memory and conflict in the land of Israel by Jerold S. Auerbach
  6. ^ Gorenberg, Gershom. The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount. Oxford University Press: 2000. 128–137
  7. ^ Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices affecting the Human Rights of the Population of the Occupied Territories, July 17, 1985
  8. ^ Brother against brother, Ehud Sprinzak, pg. 214