The Museum of Underground Prisoners

The Museum of Underground Prisoners

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The years leading up to the establishment of the State of Israel were marked not only by bitter conflict between the Jewish and Arab populations in Mandatory Palestine but also by an at-times violent Jewish revolt against the colonialist British presence in the Holy Land. The Jewish underground targeted British officers, infrastructures and key buildings, their most famous attack being the bombing of the King David Hotel in July, 1946.

The anti-British activities were spearheaded by three underground organizations: The Haganah, the Irgun and Lehi. When the British captured Palestine from the Ottoman’s in 1917, they converted the Russian Compound in downtown Jerusalem into an administrative headquarters, and part of it became a central prison. During these years of British occupation, hundreds of prisoners were kept in this facility, many of them members of the Jewish underground. During the 1948 War of Independence, the prison was captured by Jewish fighters in a military campaign known as Operation Pitchfork.

After the State of Israel was founded, the compound was used for various purposes, until 1991, when the prison was restored by the Defense Ministry and turned into a museum. The museum's exhibitions are the rooms themselves: The prison cells; the synagogue room; a cell that housed Jewish prisoners and is associated with legendary Jerusalem saint Rabbi Aryeh Levin, who would come there to meet with the prisoners on Shabbat and holidays; the exercise yard; the solitary confinement room; and more. The walls and spaces of the Museum of Underground Prisoners are filled with memories and stories from the pre-state days. A tour of the premises is a somber, sobering experience, but rewarding nonetheless.

Photo: Moshe Cohen

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based on 660 traveler reviews
  • Michael Wolins
    Michael Wolins
    September 29, 2023

    Just five minutes walk from downtown, well worth giving it 1-2 hours. Located behind the newly completed Bezalel campus.

  • Alan Hopgood
    Alan Hopgood
    May 12, 2023

    Let bygones be bygones. A shame the desecrated gravestone of a young Palestine Policeman is displayed near the entrance. Some inaccuracies and omissions. Both Jews and Arabs were incarcerated here for their crimes, althou...

  • Doron Ben Avraham
    Doron Ben Avraham
    April 11, 2022

    Interesting archetecture of atmospheric 1930's British imperialism. Here, the 'Tzaddik of Jerusalem' Rabbi Arie Levin z'l attended to the spiritual needs of the Jewish prisoners held captive by the British " Mandate " gov...

  • Suzy Rose
    Suzy Rose
    April 29, 2019

    Leave yourself enough time. We went to close to closing and so only managed to do half in 1-2 hours. I'm too thorough and wanted to read everything. Very interesting part of the history of change from Ottoman through B...

  • Omer Boehm
    Omer Boehm
    November 4, 2020

    Highly recommended. Make sure you leave at least an hour and a half. Very educational, so many historical facts and events are interleaved in a facinating tour. Authentic building , exhibits and amazing stories about the...

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