King David Hotel Bombing – 1946

The King David is the most famous hotel in Jerusalem. Opened not far from the Jaffa Gate in 1931, its pink sandstone has always been a conspicuous landmark of opulence; and with a clientele of political, military and wealthy international elites, it has been a de facto government building for whoever is in power. In 1946 the hotel was home to the British Secretariat.

The south wing was the British Mandate’s military, civil, judicial, police and communications headquarters.

It was a red rag to Irgun, the Stem Gang and Haganah, three underground Jewish groups with a track record of ruthless political violence. Whether you call them terrorists or freedom fighters depends on your point of view. Irgun’s leader, the future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, paid lip service to avoiding ‘individual terror’ but was happy to kill indiscriminately to fight his ‘war’. Briefly united as the ‘Jewish Resistance Movement’, the gangs feared British betrayal of the promise of an exclusive Jewish homeland. They were also unscrupulous about taking what they wanted at gunpoint. Their protest was to bomb the King David. Dressed as Arabs, they smuggled 225 kg (500 lb) of explosives in milk chums into the hotel basement. The blast brought down all seven stories of the south wing, crushing more staff and fellow Jews than British administrators.

The international response was universal disgust. The Jewish Agency, attempting to achieve some sort of parity at the negotiating table, called the gangs ‘criminals’, and Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion denounced Irgun as ‘enemies of the people’. Ben-Gurion understood how the global confusion following World War II had delayed the peaceful resolution of legitimate Jewish aspirations. Bombing the King David Hotel was a cowardly demonstration of contempt for the broader Jewish consensus: menschlichkeit (humanity) and murder don’t mix.

When was the King David Hotel Bombing: July 22 1946

Where was the King David Hotel Bombing: King David Hotel, Jerusalem, Israel

What was the King David Hotel Bombing death toll: 91 dead (including 41 Arabs and 17 Jews) and 45 injured. Because the hotel was such a potent symbol, the bombing achieved a disproportionate significance. It increased British jitters and hastened the setting up of Israel. The bombing was not an Israeli disaster, but an Arab disaster, because it taught the fledgling Israeli leadership that by force of arms they could disenfranchise the Palestinians. The King David Hotel was bombed in the cause of Eretz Israel (greater Israel), a policy which was fundamental to Israeli aspirations.

You should know: The attainment of menschlichkeit, or humanity, is one of the ideals of the Jewish faith: to live the life of a well-rounded, ethically grounded, ‘good’ man (mensch).

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  1. Technically at the time of the bombing the hotel was in Palestine, not Israel which did not exist at that time. The “where was it” should reflect this and be listed as “King David Hotel, Jerusalem, Palestine (now part of Israel)”. This should also be true of all locations that had a different name at the time of the incident with both the former and current location name listed.

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