The Plugat HaKotel Museum tells the seldom mentioned story of the Western Wall Platoon, a group of 24 young men and women who risked their lives to keep a Jewish spark alive at the Western Wall.
Museum visitors will begin the tour with the story of the shofar and will continue to stories of the heroism of the Irgun members who were brought up on the same values instilled by the platoon.
History of The Plugat Hakotel
Under the British Mandate, aggression from the Muslim minority towards the Jewish majority in Old City of Jerusalem rose, as Jews were no longer second class citizens as they had been under Ottoman rule.
Arab aggression led the British government, in December 1928, to ban Jewish activities near the Western Wall.
A group of Betar youth refused to accept the British ban and decided to take action.
In 1930, at great risk, they smuggled a kosher shofar into the Old City and blew the “tekiah gedola” (the longest note blown on the shofar) marking the end of Yom Kippur.
They did so despite knowing that if they were caught – and some where – they would be held in prison for several months under harsh conditions.
After several years of successfully blowing the shofar, despite the consequences that followed, the Betar youth decided to establish an ongoing campaign for the return of the Jews to the Old City and the Western Wall.
As the frequency of attacks on Jews increased, the platoon formed a squad to increase the security for the Jewish residents.
Another goal was to maintain contact with the Western Wall and its surroundings.
Members of the company worked for a living during the day, and in the evening engaged in military guarding and training.
The existence of the Platoon of the Wall enraged the British authorities. Police officers wouldn’t allow members to raise the national flag on their headquarters and forbade them to go in groups larger than three people.
On the eve of Shabbat, on October 29, 1937, as the Plugat HaKotel squad returned from prayer at the Western Wall, Arab rioters opened fire on them, killing one member of the squad and wounding several others.
Following the attack, the British police raided the squad’s safe house, removed their belongings, cut off the electricity, sealing its entrance, and hung a sign stamped with a wax seal stating: “By order of the High Commissioner, this house seized under emergency regulations.”
While this decree against the Plugat HaKotel ended the squad’s operations, their heroism served as the foundation for the Irgun (Etzel), which changed the face of the history of Zionism and the Israeli military.
Solely due to the unrelenting determination of Plugot HaKotel, the shofar continued to be blown at the Western Wall every Yom Kippur until the establishment of our Jewish State of Israel.
A tradition which continues to this day.