Explosion at the New Palestine Broadcasting Service Studios, Jerusalem, August 2, 1939

August 2, 1939, terror struck. Three time-bombs rocked the studio, killing two local members of staff. Mrs May Weissenberg, originally from South Africa, was organizer of the English Children's hour, English announcer, actress and producer, and Mr. Adeeb Mansour, one of the control-room engineers.

Who planted the bombs remains a mystery. The timing, 5:20 PM made it appear that the target was the English Children Hour, to kill as many children of diplomatic and military families as possible. Luckily, in that fateful day the program scheduled was actually for a request program of favorite records, so the children that would normally be there were not even at that studio when the bombs went off.

Could this be an "inside" job? Certainly a possibility. After an investigation, one of the young office clerks on being questioned admitted to being a member of the outlawed Irgun "Etzel" group. The Irgun were regarded by the British Authorities as terrorists, plain and simple. The Clerk was arrested and sentenced to one year administrative detention under the Emergency Regulations Act, for being a member of the Irgun. This light sentence suggested that the British authorities were not totally convinced that he had anything directly to do with this particular act of terror. Otherwise he could have been sentenced to death. Why the Irgun? On May 21, 1939 The White Paper on Palestine had been issued. The Yishuv from all factions, left and right, protested this document which among other things limited legal immigration, at this tim, of all times, when Jews were fleeing European countries as refugees, following the rise of Hitler in 1933. But could this be enough for the Irgun to directly target the new Broadcasting House, which was inaugurated only in July 24, 1939? It could be.

The PBS were so proud of their acheivement they practically gave anyone with a grudge a blueprint of the premises in both a narrative form and a set of photos showing off the rooms and layout in two separate issues of the Jerusalem Radio, June 30 and July 14 (see below). This was a perfect "target of opportunity".

It was convenient to blame the Irgun, but there was no direct evidence linking them to this terrible crime, targetting children? Surely even the Irgun would have thought that the reaction to such a horror would be totally counterproductive. In the end, and till this day, no-one admitted to bombing the PBS. Not even a death-bed confession. It is just assumed the Irgun did it.

It could have been a "work accident" and the bombs, intended for somewhere else, exploded prematurely. that is a possibility, but to bring three bombs into the studio, passed all the security and strategically place them. Clearly that was no accident.

However, there is one other track that didn't seem to be voiced aloud in public at that time ... taking into consideration the timing, and not linked to the White Paper. There was in Jerusalem an active branch of German Nazis Party. Even if British authorities thought there was a possibility that these NAZIS had targetted the radio station, that would have to be considered an act of war, and Britain wasn't quite ready to go to war. See below, Winston Churchill's article that appeared in full in the Palestine Post, July 17, 1939. Churchill was not yet Prime Minister, he was just a member of Parliament. Britain wouldn't attack first. "No Blood will flow unless Fuerer Begins" screamed the headline!. Germany was on a war-footing. In truth Britain was still in the final process of rearming, setting up defense systems, as fast as possible. And that included setting up RADAR station defenses in Britain, and in Palestine. Radar? That was to be the secret weapon against enemy aircraft and shipping. RADAR as its name suggested used radio waves and that meant in the case of Palestine sharing the the radio station and transmitter. Broadcasting House in Jerusalem was a strategic asset. By August 1939, the German government sent call-up papers to all eligible Germans in Palestine, and by the end of the month some 249 had left Palestine to enlist. Had any of these die-hard Nazis been involved in planting the bomb, the evidence would have disappeared with them.

It was convenient to blame the Irgun and divert attention away from what could have been labeled an act of war and possibly force Britain to react - even if this was just a month earlier than they were prepared for.

On 3 September 1939, Britain, as ready as they could be, declared war on Germany, ostensibly over Germany's invasion of Poland. Only then, all Germans remaining in Palestine were then classed as enemy aliens and the Templer settlements were sealed off and turned into internment camps.

The PBS switched its resources to fighting the war.

PBS New Studios: an Official Description. Jerusalem Radio , Volume 2, Issue No. 27, June 30, 1939. Page 2.

Broadcasting House, Jerusalem. Jerusalem Radio, Special Supplement. Volume 2, Issue No. 29, July 14, 1939. Pages 1-3.

If Hitler Wars... No Blood will flow unless Fuerer Begins, By Winston Churchill, PC, Member of Parliament. Palestine Post, Monday, July 17, 1939, P3

 portrait of May Weisenberg Portrait of Adib Mansour
May Weissenberg
Adib Mansour

EXPLOSIONS IN PBS STUDIO INJURE THREE, WRECK OFFICES Normal Broadcasts Cut off By Time Bomb Havoc. Palestine Post, August 3, 1939

TWO OF STAFF DEAD IN PBS EXPLOSIONS:Announcer and Engineer; Lucky Escape of 25 Children Friday, Palestine Post, August 4, 1939

THE TWO FUNERALS: Arab and Jewess Laid to Rest Friday, Palestine Post, August 4, 1939 p.8

THE TWO PBS VICTIMS: AN APPRECIATION Friday, Palestine Post, August 4, 1939 p.2

IN MEMORIAM: May Weissenberg and Adib Mansour Palestine Post, Friday, August 4, 1939

Radio Programs produced for Palestine Broadcasting Service (PBS), in English, by May Weissenberg, 1937-1939