The former residents of the recently-destroyed Jewish community of Sa-Nur perpetuate a town custom: remembering the hero and Moslem convert Baruch Mizrachi, who was executed by Arabs in 1948.
Mizrachi’s story is one of physical, spiritual and societal courage. He was born as Hamuda Abu-La’inin to a prominent Arab family in the Galilee in 1926; his mother, known to have been of Jewish origin, died when he was very young. Around age 13, after having studied in a public Arab school in Tzfat, he transferred to the Jewish “Alliance” school in Haifa, where he studied Hebrew and Bible. This brought him close to the Jewish People, and he decided to convert to Judaism.
The youngster went to the Chief Rabbinate inJerusalem, but in accordance with custom, he was twice rejected. The third time, at the tender age of 16, he was accepted and allowed to convert to Judaism. He lived in Haifa as a religious and observant Jew, worked as a clerk, and joined the Etzel organization in fighting the British occupation.
He was ultimately arrested by the British, and was among those exiled to Eritrea.
In Africa, Baruch was offered a release if he would merely agree to return to his Arab and Moslem roots – but he refused. He was then made to suffer cruel abuse by the Sudanese guards, at whose hands he was seriously wounded.
Upon his return, shortly before Israel declared its independence in May 1948, he undertook a mission to destroy an Arab headquarters in Jenin, where war was being prepared against the future Jewish state. He was caught by Arabs, who executed him the same day in the village of Kfar Jaba – near what became, close to 50 years later, the Jewish town of Sa-Nur.
Assumed to have been buried in the Shomron, which remained under Jordanian control until 1967, Mizrachi was memorialized only by a plaque at Har Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem. After the Six Day War,the IDF Governor of the Jenin Region, Lt.-Col. TzviResky, arrived in the village of Kfar Jaba, and began to seek information about the fallen hero.
Resky learned of a burial cave in the area, and together with IDF Rabbi Lt.-Col. Dov Shachor, Etzel representative Ben-Tzion Katznellenbogen, and local geographical expert Tzvi Hermoni, they paid a visit to the cave and the local Mukhtar. The Mukhtar, known to have saved a Jewish unit from death at the hands of his fellow Arabs in 1948, told the Israelis what he remembered of the period.
He said that the village was the seat of an Arab military court, which executed three Arabs and Mizrachi. Baruch Mizrachi did not plead for his life, the Mukhtar said, but simplydecided to die as a Jew.Yossi Dagan, spokesman for the former residents of Sa-Nur, said, “Baruch Mizrachi has no family and no one to say Kaddish for him. We therefore decided to adopt his memory and to serve as a replacement for hisf amily. We will tell his story and preserve hislegacy.”
The people of Sa-Nur were planning to build a monument in his memory – but these plans, and others,were cut short by Ariel Sharon’s Disengagement of last summer. Following the recovery of his body in 1967, Mizrachi was reburied in the Netanya Military Cemetery (Plot 1, Row 2).