Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Palestine Post

"Tonight, you don't go..."

Shimshon Lipshitz's daily routine on that cold night of February 1948 was subjected to an unusual intervention by his wife, who had glossed over every detail of his household for the past eighteen years. Her trepidation stemmed as much from premonition as it did from the knowledge that the half an hour walk that Lipshitz was scheduled to undertake was, like hundreds and thousands of fellow Jerusalemites, prey to Arab sniper fire. Yet, her words beckoned him away from his greatest source of pride. Since the day of its inception, Shimshon Lipshitz had never missed a day as the chief printer of Zionism's foremost English language newspaper north of Cairo - The Palestine Post. Even Lipshitz mustn't have realized the epoch making era he lived in, as he deftly assembled blocks of lead that served to record the remnants of a history whose violence was rivalled by the resurgence of its characters. Tonight, as his pride drove him towards the three storey red stone building that served to be the Post's headquarter, his wife's gaze lingered on, as if to personally guard her love from enemy onslaught.

Two miles away, Abou Khalil Genno lit a cigarette near the village of Shofat, on a ridge north of Jerusalem. The cloak of the night had shrouded his identity, safely wrapped underneath the British uniform he had managed to procure from the two deserters who were about to aid him in an endeavor for which the trio had been specifically handpicked by the Mufti. As the British prepared to move out of Jerusalem, the Mufti had contemplated terror bombing to drive the Jews out of their promised land. Tonight, through Abou and the British deserters, the Mufti was poised to send an indication to the Jews of Jerusalem of the price they were going to have to pay for obtaining their Promised Land. The truck with its load of TNT which Abou Khalil was going to drive to its intended target lying two miles away saw one extraordinary sight. A group of black robed women, rushed wailing out of the shadows. They chanted some ancient indecipherable incantations, mumbled a verse from the Koran, and as a final act of blessing, splashed the wheels of the departing vehicle with a bowl of goat's milk.

Ted Lurie, the chief correspondent of the Post was crossing Jaffa street, when he saw a British police truck go lumbering by, smashing the concrete on the turn to bits. "Sure is in a hurry to get somewhere", thought Lurie as he crossed Zion square and made his way to Ben Yehuda street. As he was about to step into a roadside cafe, the explosion caused by Abou's TNT laden British truck, ripped into a deafening roar, sending Lurie sprawling to the ground. Scrambling to his feet, he rushed to a nearby phone to find out what had happened. To his chagrin, the number to the Post was busy. Furious, he dialled twice and then hung up. As he started to dial for the third time, the truth hit him - "My God"! He exclaimed. "They have blown up the Post".

By the time, Lurie had reached the headquarters, flames licked the debris. Almost the entire frontage had disappeared. The building which had served to document such memorable eras in history seemed to have itself been consigned to history, as onlookers stared in disbelief. Locals rushed in to cater to the wounded and cleared the dead bodies. Amidst the bedlam, Lurie's wife tugged his sleeve - "Ted" she asked, " what are you going to do about the news"? "Are you crazy" asked an incredulous Lurie. A moment later, he realized that she was right. The Post was more than a paper. It was the voice of a race that refused to buckle under the many persecutions it had been subjected to through the annals of history. He set up a temporary newsroom in a nearby apartment. Within hours a printing press was located. Two of his reporters rummaged to find any remnants of the carbons for the night's stories while their girlfriends retyped the scraps that were salvaged. By six 'o' clock, faithful to its daily rendezvous with the people of Jerusalem, the paper was on the street. Not even the excesses of the Mufti's terror tactics could blot out the proud logotype of the bedraggled, but unconquerable news paper. The Mufti had not succeeded in his major goal. He had demonstrated that, while he was capable of penetrating the city, he could not silence its spirit - The Palestine Post.

Shimshon Lipshitz had one of his eyes blown away in the blast. Typical of the man, he returned, his remaining eye bolstered by a magnifying glass, and like the Post, his indomitable spirit saw him place the blocks of type that announced the birth of an independent Jewish State later that year.