As a result of the 1929 disturbances, the Yishuv leaders understood that they must no longer rely on the British to protect the settlements, but must strengthen their self-defense capabilities. Since the Mandate Government initially objected to forming a Jewish police force and refused to equip the Jews with proper armories, the Yishuv turned to its underground military organization—the Haganah.

During the riots, the Haganah had played a crucial role in safeguarding life and property until the British forces arrived. In Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa and other settlements where the organization was active, the Haganah had prevented massacres from taking place, while Hebron and Safed, having no Haganah personnel, suffered far greater losses. However, it was clear to the Yishuv leaders that the Haganah was disorganized. They criticized it severely, pointing out its weaknesses in financial security, coordination between commanders, gathering of intelligence, fighting strategy, and arms and ammunition. Worst of all, it was in want of properly functioning headquarters.

For years the Haganah’s activity had been directed by one man—Yosef Hecht—who, though officially subordinate to the Histadrut (Labor Federation), led the Haganah almost exclusively, making most of the decisions by himself. The time had come, decided the Jewish leaders, to reorganize the Haganah’s command and bring it to full cooperation with the civil institutions representing the Yishuv. Only then would it be possible to improve its operations. Hecht objected to these changes, as they went against his concept of the clandestine, independent nature of the Haganah. Following a heated dispute in which many members were involved, Hecht was relieved of his command.

This conflict led to another crisis in Jerusalem, this time concerning the Haganah’s professional approach. A group of commanders led by Avraham Tehomi, the Jerusalem district commander, opposed the defensive nature of the organization, demanding a more militaristic attitude. The dispute escalated and the group of commanders seceded from the Haganah. Joining forces with a clandestine armed group of Revisionists in 1931, they formed a parallel, more activist military organization. This was the Irgun Zeva’i Le’ummi (National Military Organization).

The Jerusalem crisis must be understood against the backdrop of the growing political tension between the Labor movement and the Revisionist movement, whose mentor—Jabotinsky—was at the time breaking away from the World Zionist Organization. The fallout about the Haganah’s leadership, too, reflected a deeper conflict between the different sectors of the Yishuv, who were all eager to secure for themselves a standing in the central defense organization. The power struggles continued for two years after the 1929 disturbances and culminated with the secession of Tahomi’s group.

About a month later, the civil institutions of the Yishuv arrived at an agreement by which the national command of the Haganah was established on the basis of equal representation—three Histadrut delegates and three representatives of the non-labor sector. Despite the official parity, the Socialist factor in the Haganah still had the upper hand, as most of the commanders were associated with the Labor movement. Many issues—for example, budget plans and appointment of commanders—were decided according to factional considerations, and the arguments continued. In the long run, however, the Haganah benefited from being an institutionalized organization. It had financial backing, a firm leadership, and public support.

The following years (1931–35) were a period of development and growth for the Haganah, as the number of its members increased from hundreds to thousands. The administrative work was centered in three urban branches—Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa—and training was held in the rural settlements. The national command handled the acquisition of arms, especially from abroad, and supervised the development of workshops to produce hand grenades. Intelligence gathering improved too, as the national command strengthened the communications branch (consisting of visual communications—flags, lanterns, and heliographs). During this period, the Haganah consolidated its basic principles- the rejection of militarism for its own sake, the preservation of independence of non-Jewish factors, and the acceptance of the authority of the Jewish national institutions.


אבידר, יוסף, “מאורעות 1929- השלכות מדיניות וביטחוניות”, מערכות, 272 1980, עמ’ 46–47.

סלוצקי, יהודה ואחרים (עורכים), ספר תולדות ההגנה, ירושלים- הספריה הציונית, 1954, כרך ב’, חלק 1, עמ’ 415–434.

Sela, Avraham, “The ‘Wailing Wall’ Riots (1929) as a Watershed in the Palestine Conflict,” Muslim World, 84(1–2) 1994, pp. 83–84.

Slutsky, Yehuda, “Haganah,” Encyclopaedia Judaica, Jerusalem- Keter, 1972, vol. 7, pp. 1066–1074.

Slutsky, Yehuda, “Israel, State of (Historical Survey)- Internal Changes and Controversies,” Encyclopaedia Judaica, Jerusalem- Keter, 1972, vol. 9, p. 345–6.