Former British soldier's photos shed new light on Mandate era
A picture album, on display for the first time in the Museum of Underground Prisoners in Jerusalem, dramatically documents the end of the British Mandate and the beginning of the War of Independence.
Thomas Goodwin's name will always be remembered when the struggle against the British Mandate is chronicled. It was Goodwin who, in April 1947, was the guard for two condemned men, Meir Feinstein and Moshe Barazani. The pair cheated the gallows by taking their own lives, but spared Goodwin's life because of his humane manner.
Feinstein gave him a Bible bearing the chilling inscription: "In the shadow of the gallows, 21.4.47. To the British soldier as you stand guard. Before we go to the gallows, accept this Bible as a memento and remember that we stood in dignity and marched in dignity. It is better to die with a weapon in hand than to live with hands raised. Meir Feinstein."
The night before their execution, Feinstein and Barazani handed Goodwin the Bible and asked him to wait down the hall from their cell. A moment later an explosion shook the building; Feinstein and Barazani took their own lives with a grenade that had been smuggled to them with which to kill British guards. Four years ago, Goodwin's son Dennis returned the Bible to the Feinstein family at a moving ceremony. He also brought his father's picture album from the period of his service in Palestine. The album, on display for the first time in the Museum of Underground Prisoners in Jerusalem, dramatically documents the end of the British Mandate and the beginning of the War of Independence.
According to Goodwin's service document in the Palestine Police Force, he arrived in the country on the last day of 1946, and ended his service on May 14, 1948, the day Israel declared its independence.
The 62 pictures in the album are "like a time capsule," says Ben Zvi Institute researcher Nirit Shalev-Kalifa. Some pictures documented Goodwin's service. One shows his unit of 52 clean-shaven young men in spotless uniforms surrounding their officer and sergeant, both sporting fine mustaches.
Goodwin's soccer mates also star. In one photo, a player stands barefoot in the center, with a ball at his feet on which the words Palestine Football Team are written.
Another series was taken from the guard's position outside Musrara police station - later demolished during road construction - where Goodwin apparently spent a good many hours with his camera.
Goodwin also collected postcards of Jerusalem. Shalev-Kalifa says his collection shows that he saw the city not from an orientalist-religious perspective, but rather as a modern city, with broad boulevards and new buildings.
According to Yoram Tamir, the director of the Museum of Underground Prisoners, Goodwin did not himself photograph most of the pictures showing the period's violent incidents, but considered the events important to document in his own album.
Among them is a grisly series showing the victims of the 35 fighters massacred in January 1948 on their way to bringing help to the besieged Etzion Bloc. Shalev-Kalifa believes the photos must have been taken by investigators of the incident.