NAME: Tzemach (Muallem), Yona


DATE OF BIRTH: August 12, 1922

Yona was born on 12.8.1922 in Jerusalem to his father Tzemach Muallem, a manual laborer and his mother, Naomi (whose maiden name was Muallem as well), a homemaker. He was the second in a family of seven children, five brothers and two sisters. His mother had another seventeen children, who died at birth or in infancy. His parents were the descendants of prominent rabbinical families who made aliyah from Iraq in the middle of the 19th century. Yona grew up in the Shaare Zedek neighborhood, studying in Talmud Torah Mizrahi, and afterwards he completed his education in professional schools. From age eleven, he had to work in physically demanding occupations to help support the family. At home, they spoke Arabic, and he also worked hard at reaching himself to read and write it. His fluency in Arabic helped the underground greatly.

In 1938, he joined the IZL and took part in a number of operations. In early 1943, he moved to Lehi due to IZL’s policy of restraint towards the British at that time. In his family there were two more Lehi members.

In Lehi, he worked in the combat brigade and in Dept. 6. He was involved in the operation to assassinate the High Commissioner, tracking Mandatory officials and the Palestine Police Deputy Inspector General Arthur Giles. His younger brother Yehuda, ten to eleven years old, sometimes provided cover for him; sometimes Yehuda got into places Yona could not. Yona would take odd jobs to support himself; when he was told to stop working and take a monthly stipend so he could devote himself full-time to the underground, he refused. In February 1946, he was arrested by a British police officer, near Giles’ house, who recognized him based on a description the police had.

After the interrogation, he was transferred to Latrun. One of his mother’s visits provided the opportunity to pass coded information about when Dr. Eldad would be at the doctor’s office in Jerusalem; this allowed Lehi to liberate him. In early 1948, he was also transferred together with the other Jewish detainees to Atlit, from which he was released when the British left. He was made a supervisor at the camp in Sheikh Munis, and afterwards he was ordered to go up to Jerusalem. There a heart defect was discovered; this required partial hospitalization, which meant that he could not participate in Lehi’s battles for Jerusalem against the Arabs.

Nevertheless, he enlisted in the IDF and served in the home front command, in communications and transportation capacities. After his demobilization in 1949, he worked at various jobs, eventually buying a truck and working for himself. Due to his underground past, the Histadrut would not allow him to join; however, an acquaintance of his managed to help him. He eventually became a government driver, retiring in 1980 early due to his poor health. He then underwent various treatments and surgeries to treat his heart condition.