Golomb, Eliyahu

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GOLOMB, ELIYAHU (1893–1945), leader of Jewish defense in Palestine and main architect of the *Haganah. Born in Volkovysk, Belorussia, Golomb went to Ereẓ Israel in 1909 and was a pupil in the Herzlia High School's first graduating class of 1913. He organized his fellow graduates into the Histadrut Meẓumẓemet (approximately "The Inner Circle") for agricultural training, service in Jewish settlements, and the realization of Zionist ideals, and himself went to train at *Deganyah. At the outbreak of World War i he opposed the enlistment of young Jews as officers in the Turkish Army and insisted on the formation of an independent Jewish defense force. In 1918 Golomb was a founder and leading member of the movement to encourage volunteers for the *Jewish Legion, in which he served as a corporal. He hoped that the Legion would form the basis for a permanent official Jewish militia. While serving in the army, he became friendly with Berl *Katznelson and joined the *Aḥdut ha-Avodah Party upon its foundation in 1919. After his demobilization he became a member of the committee to organize the Haganah and was active in dispatching aid to the defenders of *Tel Ḥai (1920).

In contrast to the *Ha-Shomer policy, Golomb realized that Jewish defense was a matter for the Jewish population at large, and not the concern of an elite of fighters. He successfully propagated this idea among the leaders of the yishuv. From 1921 Golomb was a member of the Haganah Committee of the *Histadrut and, in 1922, was sent abroad to purchase arms; he was arrested by the Vienna police in July of that year. He purchased arms and organized pioneering youth in Europe until 1924. In 1931 he was one of the three representatives of the Histadrut in the Mifkadah ha-Arẓit, the parity National Command of the Haganah.

Golomb regarded the Haganah as the arm of the nation and of the Zionist Movement and thus brought it under the auspices of the national institutions, although these were unable to express their opinions on defense matters openly. In consequence, he was violently opposed to the dissident armed organizations, *Irgun Ẓeva'i Le'ummi and *Loḥamei Ḥerut Israel (Leḥi), but tried to avoid futile hatred and attempted to find ways of reuniting them with the main body. In 1939 and 1940 he and Berl Katznelson tried to reach an agreement with Vladimir *Jabotinsky and the Revisionists over the reunification of the Zionist movement and the formation of a single defense command.

During the Arab riots of 1936–39 Golomb was one of the initiators of the "field units" (pelugot sadeh) that went outto confront Arab terrorists in combat. He thus supported active defense and the punishment of terrorists; but, for both moral and tactical reasons, he opposed indiscriminate reprisals against the Arab population. Golomb supported all forms of cooperation with the British authorities that permitted secret stockpiling of weapons and military training, but never forgot the fundamental conflict existing between the alien regime and the clandestine Haganah. He always opposed giving information to the British concerning the strength and equipment of the Haganah. Golomb was among those who supported the enlistment of volunteers into the British Army during World War ii and proposed the parachuting of Jews into occupied Europe. He was one of the founders and builders of the *Palmaḥ and prepared the Haganah for the future struggle of the Jewish people in Palestine. He inspired and educated many commanders of the Haganah and future officers of the Israel Defense Forces.

Golomb was active in Ereẓ Israel public life. He was a leader of Aḥdut ha-Avodah (later of *Mapai), and of the Histadrut, a member of the Va'ad Le'ummi as well as a delegate to Zionist congresses. His articles appeared in the Hebrew labor press, and a number of them were collected into two volumes, Ḥevyon Oz (1950–54), which also included memoirs and reminiscences by his friends. His home in Tel Aviv was turned into a Haganah museum.


Dinur, Haganah, index; Z. Shazar, Or Ishim (19642), 182–8; S. Avigur, Im Dor ha-Haganah (19623), 143–73; M. Sharett, Orot she-Kavu (1969), 13–25; Y. Allon, The Making of the Israeli Army (1970).

[Yehudah Erez and

Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson]