King David Hotel Is Bombed
The King David Hotel shows extensive damage after the Irgun bombing July 22, 1946. (credit: Hugo Mendelson, Israeli National Photo Collection)

July 22, 1946

Members of the Jewish defense organization Irgun bomb the British administrative headquarters in Palestine, based in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Ninety-one people are killed, including 28 British, 41 Arabs and 17 Jews. The Irgun’s goal is to drive the British out of Palestine, and the British decide six months later to ask the United Nations to decide the future governance of the mandate area.

The Irgun was founded in 1931 by Vladimir “Ze’ev” Jabotinsky, who believed that the Haganah (official defense organization of the Yishuv, or area of Jewish settlement) was not sufficiently aggressive toward the British. Known commonly as the Irgun, the organization’s full name was Ha-Irgun HaTzevai HaLe’umi B’Eretz Yisrael (the National Military Organization of the Land of Israel). It was also known by its Hebrew acronym, Etzel. Menahem Begin, the prime minister of Israel from 1977 to 1982, was one of the Irgun’s early leaders and is believed to have planned and executed the King David Hotel attack.

The bombing took place after a team of Irgun fighters set up the explosives, and two female Irgun members telephoned both the hotel’s operator and the editors of The Palestine Post. Intending to prevent casualties, they delivered this message: “I am speaking on behalf of the Hebrew underground.  We have placed an explosive device in the hotel. Evacuate it at once. You have been warned.” Despite this warning, many officials stayed in the hotel.

The attack was condemned by David Ben-Gurion, who was serving as head of the Jewish Agency at that time. He told a French newspaper that the Irgun was an enemy of the Jewish people.

For more information about the King David Hotel bombing see:

A 1946 British newsreel report of the attack:

The Irgun historical website has more background about the Irgun as well as the bombing:

An article from July 2012 in Tablet magazine is about the author’s grandfather’s role in the King David Hotel attack: