The end began with the theft of some grapefruits.
On the morning of November 7, 1935, 28-year-old Sergeant Moshe Rosenfeld – the “best Jewish horseman in all of Palestine” – was called to investigate. He left his police station in Shatta, an outpost in the southern perimeter of the Galilee, accompanied by two Arab constables whose names have been lost to history. North of the village, at the foot of Jabal Faqquʿa (Mount Gilboa), Rosenfeld dismounted, moved into the citrus grove and sent his companions back down the wadi with the horses.
The forested southern slope of Jabal Faqquʿa is a verdant landscape of Aleppo pines and, that fall, anemones yet to bloom. While not steep, the rise up from the valley required exertion and the winding path that Rosenfeld took would have been soft, if not muddy. It was a slow walk towards the higher ground. Above him, among the caves and large outcrops of limestone, two men crouched, guarding an encampment of rebels under the command of a Muslim cleric named ʿIzz al-Din al-Qassam.
They watched as Rosenfeld slowly approached, until one of the guards, Mahmud Salim al-Makhzumi, fired his rifle, hitting the policeman once in the head and once in the side. Hearing the shots, the two Arab constables retreated quickly to their police station to report the contact.
Rosenfeld’s body was found at eleven o’clock that morning, and shortly thereafter, the Palestine Police discovered the caves in which the rebel unit had been living. There they found discarded raincoats, English and German ammunition, blankets, food stores that would have lasted days, and a man’s Scouting uniform. The rebels were long gone. What followed was one of the largest manhunts in British colonial history.
Lightning Through the Clouds: ʿIzz al-Din al-Qassam and the Making of the Modern Middle East