Ben Yehuda Street bombings

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Car bomb explosion on Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem, February 22, 1948 Ben Yehuda 1948 - 2.jpg
Car bomb explosion on Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem, February 22, 1948

The Ben Yehuda Street bombings refer to a series of attacks perpetrated or ordered by Palestinian Arabs, some of them acting as suicide bombers, on civilians in downtown Jerusalem, from February 1948 onwards. The attacks were carried out on Ben Yehuda Street, a major thoroughfare, later a pedestrian mall, named for the driving spririt behind the creation of Modern Hebrew, Eliezer Ben Yehuda.

Jerusalem City in the Middle East

Jerusalem is a city in the Middle East, located on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, and is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim Jerusalem as their capital, as Israel maintains its primary governmental institutions there and the State of Palestine ultimately foresees it as its seat of power; however, neither claim is widely recognized internationally.

Ben Yehuda Street (Jerusalem) street in Jerusalem

Ben Yehuda Street, known as the "Midrachov" is a major street in downtown Jerusalem, Israel. It joins with Jaffa Road and King George Street to form the Downtown Triangle central business district. It is now a pedestrian mall and closed to vehicular traffic. The street runs from the intersection of King George Street to Zion Square and Jaffa Road. The street is named after the founder of Modern Hebrew, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda.

Modern Hebrew language

Modern Hebrew or Israeli Hebrew, generally referred to by speakers simply as Hebrew, is the standard form of the Hebrew language spoken today. Spoken in ancient times, Hebrew, a member of the Canaanite branch of the Semitic language family, was supplanted as the Jewish vernacular by the western dialect of Aramaic beginning in the third century BCE, though it continued to be used as a liturgical and literary language. It was revived as a spoken language in the 19th and 20th centuries and is the official language of Israel.



1948 Ben Yehuda Street bombing
Location Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem
DateFebruary 22, 1948
TargetPedestrian shopping mall
Attack type
car bombs
Non-fatal injuries

On February 22, 1948, three British Army trucks led by an armoured car driven by Arab irregulars and British deserters exploded on Ben Yehuda Street killing from 49 to 58 civilians [1] [2] and injuring from 140 to 200. [3] [4] [5] [6] The bomb had been created by Fawzi al-Qutb. The convoy was led by a Jerusalemite militant, 'Azmi al-Ja'uni, who spoke fluent English and could pass himself off as a British officer. [4] Two British deserters, Eddie Brown, a police captain who claimed that the Irgun had killed his brother, and Peter Madison, an army corporal, had been persuaded to join the attack, also by the promise of substantial financial rewards. [7]

A leaflet stating that the explosion was in response to an Irgun bomb attack three days earlier, in Ramla on the 19th of February, was distributed the following evening. It was signed by Abd al-Qadir who assumed responsibility for the operation. [3] [8] Abd al-Qadir himself, in Cairo the day after, left a statement to Al-Ahram to the same effect and the Army of the Holy War High Command reiterated the declaration in Palestine. [4] Husayn al-Khalidi, secretary of the Arab Higher Committee deplored the act as 'depravity unfit for the Arab spirit,' [4] while the committee itself, in an attempt to distance itself from the incident, tried to throw doubt on the authenticity of Abd al-Qadir's public statements. [4]

Ramla Place in Israel

Ramla is a city in central Israel. The city is predominantly Jewish with a significant Arab minority. Ramla was founded circa 705–715 CE by the Umayyad governor and future caliph Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik. Ramla lies along the route of the Via Maris, connecting old Cairo (Fustat) with Damascus, at its intersection with the road connecting the port of Jaffa with Jerusalem.

Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni Palestinian Arab nationalist

Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni was a Palestinian Arab nationalist and fighter who in late 1933 founded the secret militant group known as the Organization for Holy Struggle, which he and Hasan Salama commanded as the Army of the Holy War during the 1936–39 Arab revolt and during the 1948 war.

Army of the Holy War Palestinian Arab paramilitary force

The Army of the Holy War or Holy War Army was a Palestinian Arab irregular force in the 1947-48 Palestinian civil war led by Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni and Hasan Salama. The force has been described as Husayni's "personal" army. The Arab League set up the Arab Salvation Army as a counter to the Army of the Holy War and as part of its plan to contain the Palestinian Arab leadership and to prevent it from exercising independent political or military options, although in practice the Arab governments prevented thousands of volunteers from joining either force.

In the ensuing confusion, Jewish residents immediately blamed the British for the attack. David Ben-Gurion, on visiting the site of the carnage, has been cited as putting some responsibility for this Arab attack on the shoulders of Jewish thugs, stating, "I could not forget that our thugs and murderers had opened the way." [9] The Irgun spread word ordering militants to shoot on sight any Englishman. [10] By day's end, eight British soldiers had been shot dead, while a ninth was murdered while laid up in a Jewish clinic for treatment of a wound. [3] The day after, on 23 February, a Jewish offensive, deploying mortars, was launched against the Arab village of Musrara, in Jerusalem, killing seven Arabs, including an entire family. The Arabs believed it was in revenge for the Ben-Yehuda Street bombing, though, according to Itamar Radai, at the time the Jews and their official institutions blamed only the British for the incident. [11] Lehi also reacted several days later by blowing up a train full of British soldiers as it drew out of Rehovot station, killing 27. [3]

David Ben-Gurion Israeli politician, Zionist leader, prime minister of Israel

David Ben-Gurion was the primary national founder of the State of Israel and the first Prime Minister of Israel.

Irgun zionist terrorist group

The Irgun was a Zionist paramilitary organization that operated in Mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1948. It was an offshoot of the older and larger Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah. When the group broke from the Haganah it became known as the Haganah Bet, or alternatively as haHaganah haLeumit or Hama'amad. Irgun members were absorbed into the Israel Defense Forces at the start of the 1948 Arab–Israeli war. The Irgun is also referred to as Etzel, an acronym of the Hebrew initials, or by the abbreviation IZL.

Musrara, Jerusalem neighborhood in Jerusalem, Israel

Musrara also known by its Hebrew name, Morasha is a neighborhood in Jerusalem. It is bordered by Meah Shearim and Beit Yisrael on the north, the Old City on the south and east, and the Russian Compound and Kikar Safra to the west.


1975 Ben Yehuda Street Bombing
Location Zion Square, leading onto Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem
DateJuly 4, 1975
TargetPedestrian shopping mall
Attack type
time bomb
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrator Ahmad el-Sukar

On Friday, July 4, 1975, a refrigerator that had five kilograms of explosives packed into its sides exploded on Zion Square, a main square leading to Ben Yehuda Street and Jaffa Road. Fifteen people were killed and 77 injured in the attack. Ahmad el-Sukar, who was responsible for placing the bomb, was released from Israeli prison in 2003 as a gesture to Arafat.

Zion Square refrigerator bombing

The Zion Square refrigerator bombing was a terrorist attack in downtown Jerusalem, Israel on Friday, July 4, 1975 in which 15 civilians were killed and 77 wounded.

Jaffa Road street in Jerusalem, Israel

Jaffa Road is one of the longest and oldest major streets in Jerusalem, Israel. It crosses the city from east to west, from the Old City walls to downtown Jerusalem, the western portal of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway. It is lined with shops, businesses, and restaurants. It joins with Ben Yehuda Street and King George Street to form the Downtown Triangle central business district. Major landmarks along Jaffa Road are Tzahal Square, Safra Square, Zion Square, Davidka Square, the "Triple" intersection (Hameshulash) at King George V Street and Straus Street, the Ben Yehuda Street pedestrian mall, the Mahane Yehuda market, and the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. Jaffa Road has been redeveloped as a car-free pedestrian mall served by the Jerusalem Light Rail.

Yasser Arafat 20th-century former Palestinian President, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient

Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini, popularly known as Yasser Arafat or by his kunya Abu Ammar, was a Palestinian political leader. He was Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from 1969 to 2004 and President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) from 1994 to 2004. Ideologically an Arab nationalist, he was a founding member of the Fatah political party, which he led from 1959 until 2004.

On November 13, 1975, an explosive charge went off near Cafe Naveh on Jaffa Road, near the pedestrian mall. Seven people were killed and 45 injured.


On May 3, 1976, thirty-three passers-by were injured when a booby-trapped motor scooter exploded at the corner of Ben Yehuda and Ben Hillel Streets. Among those injured were the Greek consul in Jerusalem and his wife. The following day, on the eve of Independence Day, the municipality organized an event at the site of the attack, under the slogan "Nevertheless." [12]


On January 1, 1979, a car bomb was found opposite Cafe Atara on the pedestrian mall and was neutralized about half an hour before it was to have blown up.

On March 24, 1979, one person was killed and 13 people were injured when an explosive charge blew up in a trash can in Zion Square.


1997 Ben Yehuda Street Bombing
LocationBen Yehuda Street, Jerusalem
DateSeptember 4, 1997
TargetPedestrian shopping mall
Attack type
suicide bombers
Deaths5 (+ 3 suicide bombers)
Perpetrators Hamas

On September 4, 1997, three Hamas suicide bombers simultaneously blew themselves up on the pedestrian mall, killing five Israelis. The bombing was carried out by Palestinians from the village of Asira al-Shamaliya. [13]

Three 14-year-old girls were killed in the attack: Sivann Zarka, Yael Botvin and Smadar Elhanan. [14] Elhanan was the daughter of peace activist Nurit Peled-Elhanan and the granddaughter of Israeli general and politician Mattityahu Peled.

The family of Yael Botvin, a U.S. citizen, filed a lawsuit in the United States against the Islamic Republic of Iran. [15]

A default judgment of $251 million in compensatory and punitive damages was awarded to the relatives of Americans killed in the attack. There were few assets of the Iranian government in the United States following the judgment. The plaintiffs threatened to seize valuable Persian artifacts located in Chicago museums and sell them for proceeds, leading to the Chicago's Persian heritage crisis, as well as suing the account of the Bank Melli Iran in the Bank of New York, but having the United States Department of Justice speak as amicus curiae in support of Bank Melli, advising that the bank had no responsibility for turning the funds over, resulted in a ruling against the students. [16]

On December 2, 2013, five U.S. families who were victims of the Iran-backed suicide bombing were awarded $9 million in federal court. [17]


2001 Ben Yehuda Street Bombings
Part of the Second Intifada militancy campaign
LocationBen Yehuda Street, Jerusalem
DateDecember 1, 2001
TargetPedestrian shopping mall, responding paramedics
Attack type
suicide bombers and a car bomb
Deaths11 (+ 2 suicide bombers)
Non-fatal injuries

On December 1, 2001, two suicide bombers detonated themselves on Ben Yehuda Street, followed by a car bomb set to go off as paramedics arrived. Thirteen people were killed, including a number of soldiers out of uniform, and 188 were injured. Hamas claimed responsibility, [18] stating that it was in retaliation for the killing of senior Hamas militant Mahmud Abu Hanoud. A Hamas spokesman in Gaza stated that these bombings did not assuage its lust for vengeance and that it would carry out further bombings. [19] [20] Lawsuits were filed against Arab Bank, NatWest and Crédit Lyonnais for channeling money to Hamas. [21]


  • Assaf Avitan, 15 [22]
  • Ido Cohen, 17 (died of his wounds on December 8) [23]
  • Michael Moshe Dahan, 21 [24]
  • Ya'akov Danino, 17 [25]
  • Yosef El-Ezra, 18 [26]
  • Sgt. Nir Haftzadi, 19 [27]
  • Yuri (Yoni) Korganov, 20 [28]
  • Golan Turgeman, 15 [29]
  • Guy Vaknin, 19 [30]
  • Adam Weinstein, 14 [31]
  • Moshe Yedid-Levy, 19 [32]

Non-lethal attacks

  • September 8, 1971: A grenade was thrown into the entrance of Cafe Alno on Ben Yehuda Street. It did not explode and there were no injuries.
  • December 12, 1974: An explosive device went off in Ben Yehuda Street. Thirteen people were injured lightly to moderately.
  • April 9, 1976: A car bomb was dismantled on Ben Yehuda Street shortly before it was to have exploded.
  • May 2, 1981: A police sapper was moderately injured by an explosive charge that had been placed in a trash can near Cafe Alno.
  • August 15, 1984: A car bomb was discovered on Ben Yehuda Street and defused about 10 minutes before it was to have exploded. In the car were about 12 kilograms of explosives and three kilograms of iron nails.

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The Downtown Triangle is a central commercial and entertainment district in Western Jerusalem. Measuring 29,000 square metres (310,000 sq ft), the area is bounded by Jaffa Road on the north, King George Street on the west, and Ben Yehuda Street on the southeast. Its vertices are the intersections of Jaffa Road and King George Street, King George and Ben Yehuda Streets, and Ben Yehuda Street and Jaffa Road.


  1. Naor, Moshe (2013-08-21). Social Mobilization in the Arab/Israeli War of 1948: On the Israeli Home Front. Routledge. p. 140. ISBN   9781136776489.
  2. Chalk, Peter (2012-11-01). Encyclopedia of Terrorism. ABC-CLIO. p. 113. ISBN   9780313308956.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Haim Levenberg, Military Preparations of the Arab Community in Palestine, 1945-1948, Psychology Press, 1993 p.202
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Itamar Radai, Palestinians in Jerusalem and Jaffa, 1948: A Tale of Two Cities,Routledge, 2016 pp.47-48.
  5. Larry Collins, Dominique Lapierre, 'O Jerusalem,' Granada Books 1982 pp.177-183
  6. Dov Joseph, 'The Faithful City - The siege of Jerusalem, 1948'. Simon and Schuster, New York. 1960. Library of Congress number: 60-10976. page 37. 'it was possible ... (that the) drivers (were) from the more than two hundred deserters who had already joined the Arab force' (as opposed to being officially sanctioned by the British Army).
  7. Collins, Lapierre, Oh Jerusalem, pp.179-180.
  8. Radai, p.47, p.63, n.115
  9. Ahron Bregman Israel's Wars: A History Since 1947, Routledge, 2016 p.20, contextualizing the reference as an allusion to the activities of members of the Irgun and the Lehi.
  10. Collins, Lapierre, O Jerusalem!, p.182.
  11. Radai p.51.
  12. "A Short History of Terror". Haaretz.
  13. Democracy Now! | "The Dominion of Death": An Israeli Mother Who Lost Her 13-Year Old Daughter in a Suicide bombing Speaks Out Against Israel Archived November 22, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  14. The Bombing, a documentary film on the 1997 Ben Yehuda Street bombing Archived 2009-10-20 at the Wayback Machine
  15. Botvin v. Islamic Republic of Iran Archived November 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  16. U.S. Helps Iranian Bank Withdraw, Then Seeks To Freeze Funds , Josh Gerstein, The New York Sun, November 9, 2007
  17. Fagen, Cynthia (2 December 2013). "Victims in Iran-backed Bombing Awarded Millions". Newsmax Media . Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  18. Archived 2004-06-18 at the Wayback Machine
  19. Israeli blunder kills two children, The Guardian, December 11, 2001.
  20. Bombers leave Arafat facing toughest battle, The Guardian, December 3, 2001.
  21. Preston, Julia (15 April 2006). "Hurt by Hamas, Americans Sue Banks in U.S." New York Times. Retrieved 16 August 2015.