Ya’acov Poliakov-Polani, son of Matityahu and Dvora, was born 1914 in the town of Slonim, White Russia, where his parents had settled two years earlier. His grandfather and father were Habad Hassids. He studied at the local ‘Tarbut’ School and the Jewish High School. His parents owned a delicatessen and his mother raised their three children and helped out at the store. Ya’acov joined the ‘Gordonia’ Movement, planning to come establish a kibbutz. In 1932 his family decided to make aliya and settled in Herzliya, where his father had purchased an orchard. In 1934 Ya’acov joined the National Defense and did weapons training. He was later recruited to Etzel. As Commander of Etzel’s Herzliya branch, he engaged among other activities, in absorbing the new immigrants who had arrived through the ‘Af-Al-Pi’ illegal immigration enterprise. Before the start of WWII, he was sent to a commanders course in Poland, within the framework of Etzel’s agreement with the Polish Army. He later ran a commanders course in Zopfiyovka. A week before war broke out, he managed to return to Eretz Yisrael and begin running courses for the combatants. When Etzel split up, he joined Yair, and is considered as one of Lehi’s principal founders and chief commanders. He took part in organizing weapons training and sabotage courses in Shuni and Kfar-Saba, and dealt with all activities of the underground. During one of these, the secret police arrested him along with Yehoshua Zetler, his friend, but both managed to escape. In 1941 he left Lehi for ideological reasons and joined Kibbutz Ma’aleh-Hahamisha. However, he remained ‘Wanted’ .The British CID hung his photo, along with Yair and others, throughout the land. In 1942 Haganah members kidnapped him, turning him in to the CID. He was imprisoned at Mizra, later at Latrun. October 1944, with other prisoners, he was exiled to Eritrea and Sudan. After release, he returned in 1946 to Eretz Ysrael and joined Kibbutz Beit-Hashita. Later on, he joined Palyam (Palmach’s naval arm) and upon Statehood, took charge of Jaffa-Port Base.
In 1949 he married Pnina Rubinstein and the couple had three children and nine grandchildren. Discharged from the army in 1950, he settled at Moshav Batzra and tried his hand at agriculture. This proved insufficiently lucrative so he studied, and became a Property Appraiser for the Justice Ministry. He sculpted wood as a hobby, with works exhibited in Israel, and at Beit–Yair. He wrote an autobiography, ‘Walking in Fields of Horror’.
Ya’acov passed away on March 31,1991, and was buried in Moshav Bnei-Zion.