Jacob Israël de Haan (31 December 1881 – 30 June 1924) was a Dutch Jewish literary writer, lawyer and journalist who immigrated to Palestine in 1919. There he became more religiously committed and served as the political spokesman of the Haredim in Jerusalem. He was assassinated in 1924 by the Zionist paramilitary organization Haganah for his anti-Zionist political activities.[1]

Jacob Israël de Haan
Jacob Israël de Haan
Cause of deathGunshot wound
Occupation(s)Writer, Journalist, Lawyer

Early life


De Haan was born in Smilde, a village in the northern province of Drenthe, and grew up in Zaandam. He was said to be one of eighteen children[2] and received a traditional Jewish education.

In 1904, while living in Amsterdam, he wrote the novel Pijpelijntjes ("Lines from De Pijp"), which falsely pretends to be a thinly veiled version of his own gay life with Arnold Aletrino in Amsterdam's "Pijp" working-class district. The homo-eroticism of the book, shocking to readers in the early 20th century, led to his dismissal from his teaching job and social-democratic political circles. Aletrino and Johanna van Maarseveen, de Haan's fiancée, bought almost the entire print run of the book, to keep a lid on the scandal.[3] In 1907, he married van Maarseveen, a non-Jewish doctor; they separated in 1919, but never officially divorced.[citation needed]

Work on behalf of Russian Jewish prisoners


In 1912, de Haan made some trips to Russia, and he visited a number of prisons there, in order to study the situation of political prisoners in Russia.[4] He published his shocking findings in his book In Russian prisons (1913).[4] He also founded a committee, together with Dutch writer Frederik van Eeden and Dutch poet Henriette Roland Holst, which aimed at collecting signatures for the sake of inducing especially Russia's then allies France and Great Britain to exert pressure on Russia to alleviate the fate of the prisoners.[4] In a publication of Amnesty International he was, because of these activities, described as "a precursor of Amnesty International".[4]

Move to Palestine


Zionist beginnings


Around 1910, De Haan developed an interest in the Land of Israel and Zionism. This seems to have begun as a result of his two-year activity on behalf of imprisoned Jews from Tsarist Russia, which made him deeply aware of the threats of anti-Semitism.[citation needed]

This is a description of de Haan prior to his departure for Palestine:

In 1919, two years after the Balfour Declaration, this Poet of the Jewish Song took the next logical step and emigrated to Palestine "anxious to work at rebuilding Land, People and Language" as De Haan put it to Chaim Weitzman in his application for a passport. The same letter assumed his stance with aplomb. False modesty was never one of his faults... De Haan wrote: "I am not leaving Holland to improve my condition. Neither materially, nor intellectually will life in Palestine be equal to my life here. I am one of the best poets of my Generation, and the only important Jewish national poet Holland has ever had. It is difficult to give up all this."... The Palestine De Haan entered on a bitter stormy winter day in January 1919 was above all an intricate country. Arguably it had the most confusing political conditions of that politically complicated moment when the Versailles Peace Conference was about to begin. One might call it a natural habitat for this cranky man. It was the "twice promised country," to the Arabs in the Arab Revolt T. E. Lawrence existentialised in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and to the Jews (or rather in practice the Zionists) by the Balfour Declaration calling for creation of a "Jewish homeland". De Haan arrived there as an ardent, even fanatical, Zionist. Indeed, the first secret Zionist report about him refers to his ranting anti-Arab remarks made at a party...[5]

Religious and anti-Zionist phase


De Haan wrote extensively on the subject of Eretz Israel and Zionism even before he moved there in 1919, when he settled in Jerusalem. He taught at a new law school, the Jerusalem Law Classes, established by the Government of Palestine in 1920, and sent articles to the Algemeen Handelsblad ("General Trade Journal"), one of the most important Dutch daily newspapers, and the De Groene Amsterdammer ("The Green Amsterdam Weekly"), a liberal weekly.[citation needed]

De Haan rapidly became more religiously committed. He was angered by Zionist refusals to cooperate with Arabs.[6]

At first he aligned himself with religious Zionism and the Mizrachi movement, but after meeting Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, leader of the ultra-conservative Haredi Jewish community, he became the political spokesman of the Haredim in Jerusalem. He was elected political secretary of the Orthodox community council, Vaad Ha'ir.[7] De Haan endeavoured to get an agreement with Arab nationalist leaders to allow unrestricted Jewish immigration into Palestine in exchange for a Jewish declaration forgoing the Balfour Declaration.[8]

During this time it is alleged that he continued to have relationships with men, including Arabs from east Jerusalem.[3] In one of his poems he asks himself whether his visits to the Wailing Wall were motivated by a desire for God or for the Arab boys there.[9]

The secular Zionist establishment would not allow the established Haredi community in Palestine to be represented in the Jewish Agency in the 1920s [citation needed]. In response, the Haredim founded a branch of the Agudath Israel political organisation in Jerusalem to represent their interests in Mandate Palestine. The leader of the Haredi Jews in Palestine at the time, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, chose de Haan to organise and represent the Haredi position as their foreign minister,[10] on a diplomatic level equal to that of the secular Zionists. When Lord Northcliffe, a British publisher, was about to visit the Middle East, de Haan went to Alexandria, Egypt to present the case of Palestine's Haredim before he reached Palestine:

He spoke about the tyranny of the official Zionist movement. The journalists of the Northcliffe party gleefully reported all that back home. As a result of this contact, De Haan was appointed correspondent for the Daily Express, a one-penny paper that made much of everyday scandals. Already in Dutch circles he was the reputed volksverrader, traitor of his own people, and now his views spread throughout Great Britain and its Global Empire. Although his messages were short and few compared to his articles in the Handelsblad (the news from the Middle East in the Daily Express was more concerned with the mysteries of the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt than with the intricate Palestine politics), the Zionist authorities both in Palestine and London became very worried. There was a great potential danger from these critical reports from a Jew who actually lived and worked right on this hot spot.[5]

De Haan, speaking on behalf of Agudath Israel, even opposed the British authorities allocating separate benefits to the Zionist-led Yishuv.[11]

In August 1923,[citation needed] De Haan met in Amman with the Hashemite leader Emir Hussein bin Ali, and his son, Emir Abdullah, the future king of independent Transjordan,[11] seeking their support for the Old Yishuv (the pre-Zionist Jewish community in the Holy Land). He explained the Haredi Jewish opposition to the Zionist plans of founding a state, and Haredi support for the establishment of an official Palestinian state within the Emirate of Transjordan as part of a federation.[12] De Haan made plans to travel to London in July 1924 with an anti-Zionist Haredi delegation to argue against Zionism.[12]


Avraham Tehomi, assassin of Jacob Israël de Haan

Shortly before leaving for London,[11] De Haan was assassinated in Jerusalem by the Haganah on the early morning of 30 June 1924.[13] As he exited the synagogue at the Shaare Zedek Hospital on Jaffa Road, Avraham Tehomi approached him and asked for the time. Tehomi shot him three times and ran away from the scene. De Haan died minutes later.[14][12]

At first, the Palestinian Jewish society, the Yishuv, readily accepted the theory that the assassination had to be blamed on Arabs. They didn't doubt the Zionist leadership's assurances that it had played no part in it.[11] With time doubts started rising.

In 1952, Yosef Hecht, the first commander of the main Jewish pre-state self-defense organisation, the Haganah, told the official Haganah historian in a testimony what had actually occurred.[11] In order to stop De Haan's planned anti-Zionist activity in London, Hecht discussed the issue with Zechariah Urieli, the Haganah commander in Jerusalem. They decided to assassinate De Haan.[11] Two Haganah members, Avraham Tehomi and Avraham Krichevsky, were selected for the task.[11] Hecht did not inform the Yishuv's civilian leadership until after the assassination, when he contacted Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, a senior member of the National Council.[11] Hecht stated that "he did not regret it and would do it again."[11] Before the facts were published, journalist Liel Leibovitz wrote that, while the identity of exactly who ordered the assassination was unknown, "there's little doubt that many in the senior Zionist leadership in Jerusalem knew about the proposal to kill de Haan—and that none objected."[12]

The 1985 publication of De Haan: The first political assassination in Palestine, by Shlomo Nakdimon and Shaul Mayzlish,[15] revived wider interest in his assassination.[16] Nakdimon and Mayzlish were able to trace Tehomi, then a businessman living in Hong Kong. When interviewed for Israeli TV by Nakdimon, Tehomi said that Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, who later became the second President of Israel (1952-1963), must have ordered the assassination: "I have done what the Haganah decided had to be done. And nothing was done without the order of Yitzhak Ben-Zvi... I have no regrets because he (De Haan) wanted to destroy our whole idea of Zionism." Tehomi denied allegations that De Haan's assassination was related to his homosexuality: "I neither heard nor knew about this", adding "why is it someone's business what he does at his home?"

According to Gert Hekma, Zionists spread a rumour that De Haan had been killed by Arabs because of his sexual relations with Arab boys.[17]

Aftermath and commemoration


De Haan was buried on the Mount of Olives. His funeral was attended by hundreds of Haredim, along with Zionist and British representatives. Following the funeral, many Haredim ventured into the city center to confront Zionists, and were barely restrained by the police.[12][18]

The headquarters of Agudath Israel received condolences from the British Palestine government, the French and Spanish consuls in Jerusalem, and various cables from around the world.[19] In New York, ultra-Orthodox Jews circulated Yiddish leaflets praising De Haan and condemning "Torahless Zionists, who use violence to enslave the pious."[20] The British authorities offered a reward for information leading to the arrest of the killer, but Tehomi was never caught. A young pioneer named Yaakov Gussman was briefly detained by the British police on suspicion of carrying out the assassination, but released for lack of evidence.[21]

The assassination caused shock in Palestine and Europe. Senior Zionist leaders, among them David Ben-Gurion, blamed each other. There was widespread speculation as to the identity of the assassin, with the theories postulated including him being a Zionist, a Haredi enraged over the revelations of De Haan's homosexuality, or an Arab lover.[12]

De Haan's murder is considered the first political murder in the Jewish community in Palestine. His activities were perceived as undermining the struggle for the establishment of a Jewish state, but the assassination sparked a controversy and was harshly condemned by some. Labor movement publicist Moshe Beilinson wrote:

The flag of our movement must not be tarnished. Neither by the blood of the innocent, nor by the blood of the guilty. Otherwise - our movement will be bad, because blood draws other bloods. Blood always takes revenge and if you walk down this path once, you do not know where it would lead you.

[citation needed]

German author Arnold Zweig published a book in 1932 based on De Haan's life called "De Vriendt kehrt heim" (English title "De Vriendt Goes Home"). Israeli writer Haim Beer's book "Notzot" (1979, translated into English as Feathers) also has a character based on De Haan.[citation needed]

In Neturei Karta circles De Haan is considered a martyr, killed by secular Jews while protecting the Jewish religion; nevertheless, most Haredim recoil from his homosexuality, his religious questioning, and his attempted coalition with the Arab nationalists against his fellow Jews.[22] During the 1980s, the Neturei Karta community in Jerusalem tried to change the name of the Zupnik Garden to commemorate De Haan.


Poem by De Haan on a sculpture in Amsterdam

Although De Haan's fame waned after his death, his works have been published and reprinted. Even under the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, David Koker managed to publish his Brieven uit Jeruzalem ('Letters from Jerusalem') in a small book.

In 1949, a committee was founded to publish a collected edition of the poems, which followed in 1952. A 'Society Jacob Israël de Haan' furthered other publications: philosophical aphorisms and letters, and a memoir by his sister Mies de Haan.

In the 1960s two attempts at a biography were published. After 1970 a revival of interest in De Haan brought more publicity, stimulating new editions of his works. Many of his publications about law and significs have been reprinted, as were his novels, and his earlier prose has been rescued from obscure magazines. Dozens of bibliophile editions honoured his poems and prose sketches. Many magazine articles and other publications about his life were published, and generated heated debates. A large volume of his correspondence (only of the period 1902–1908), published in 1994, shed a bright light on his life, but a full-scale biography has yet to be written.[citation needed]

Through the years, in the Netherlands there have been projects, festivals and theatre productions commemorating Jacob Israël de Haan's work and life. A line from De Haan's poem "To a Young Fisherman": "For friendship such a limitless longing...", is inscribed on one of the three sides of the Homomonument in Amsterdam.[citation needed]




  • 1900–1908 De Haan published poetry in several magazines during these years. These early poems however have never been collected in a book
  • 1914 – Libertijnsche liederen ('Libertine songs')
  • 1915 – Het Joodsche lied. Eerste boek ('Jewish song, first book')
  • 1917 – Liederen ('Songs')
  • 1919 – Een nieuw Carthago ('A new Carthage', Carthage being a metaphor for Antwerp in this case)
  • 1921 – Het Joodsche lied. Tweede boek ('Jewish song, second book')
  • 1924 – Kwatrijnen ('Quatrains')
  • 1952 – Verzamelde gedichten ('Collected poems'); complete poetry 1909–1924 in two volumes, edited by K. Lekkerkerker
  • 1982 – Ik ben een jongen te Zaandam geweest ('I was a boy in Zaandam'), anthology edited by Gerrit Komrij


  • 1904 – Pijpelijntjes (last reprint 2006)
  • 1904 – Kanalje ('Rabble'; reprint 1977)
  • 1907 – Ondergangen ('Perditions'; reprint 1984)
  • 1905–1910 - Nerveuze vertellingen ('Nervous Tales', published in various magazines, first collected in 1983)
  • 1907–1910 - Besliste volzinnen ('Decided Sentences', aphorisms published in magazines, collected for the first time in 1954)
  • 1908 – Pathologieën. De ondergang van Johan van Vere de With ('Pathologies. The Perdition of Johan van Vere de With'; last reprint 2003)
  • 1916 – Wezen en taak der rechtskundige significa. Inaugural address
  • 1916 – Rechtskundige significa en hare toepassing op de begrippen: 'aansprakelijk, verantwoordelijk, toerekeningsvatbaar (dissertatie)
  • 1919 – Rechtskundige significa


  • 1913 – In Russische gevangenissen ('In Russian Prisons')
  • From Palestine De Haan sent many sketches and articles to the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Handelsblad. These never have been completely published in book form, but there are several collections:
  • 1922 – Jeruzalem
  • 1925 – Palestina with an introduction by Carry van Bruggen
  • 1941 – Brieven uit Jeruzalem edited by David Koker ('Letters from Jerusalem')
  • 1981 – Jacob Israël de Haan - correspondent in Palestina, 1919-1924. Collected and edited by Ludy Giebels


  • 1994 – Brieven van en aan Jacob Israël de Haan 1899-1908. Edited by Rob Delvigne and Leo Ross[citation needed]

See also



  1. ^ Marijke T.C.Stapert-Eggen. "The Rosenthaliana's Jacob Israel de Haan Archive". University of Amsterdam Library. Archived from the original on 2011-05-26. Retrieved 2005-01-12.
  2. ^ "This Day in Jewish History / Zionism's First Political Assassination". haaretz.com. 30 June 2013. Retrieved 2019-05-24.
  3. ^ a b Gert Hekma. "Jacob Israel de Haan: sexology, poetry, politics". University of Queensland, Centre for the History of European Discourses.
  4. ^ a b c d "Wordt Vervolgd" (Amnesty International, Section Netherlands), March 1987
  5. ^ a b Ludy Giebels. "On de Haan". Exquisite Corpse.
  6. ^ Gert Hekma, Harry Oosterhuis, James D. Steakley (eds.) Gay men and the sexual history of the political left, Part 1, Routledge, 1995 p.106.
  7. ^ Sonnenfeld, Shlomo Zalman (1983). Guardian of Jerusalem: The Life and Times of Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld. adapted by Hillel Danziger. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications. ISBN 0-89906-459-0.
  8. ^ Menachem Friedman, 'Haredim and Palestinians in Jerusalem', in Marshall J. Berger, Ora Ahimeir, Jerusalem: a city and its future, Syracuse University Press, 2002, pp.235-255, p.238.
  9. ^ Robert F. Aldrich, Colonialism and homosexuality, Psychology Press, 2003 p.84.
  10. ^ Anita Shapira, Berl: the biography of a socialist Zionist, Berl Katznelson, 1887-1944,CUP Archive, 1984, p.146.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i Nir Mann (9 May 2020). "He Laid the Foundation for Israel's Army. His Story Was Kept Secret – Until His Diary Turned Up". Haaretz. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  12. ^ a b c d e f "Jacob de Haan, Israel's Forgotten Gay Haredi Political Poet".
  13. ^ Menachem Friedman, ibid. p.238.
  14. ^ "This Day in Jewish History-Haaretz - Israel News - Haaretz". Haaretz.
  15. ^ Shlomo Nakdimon; Shaul Mayzlish (1985). De Haan: ha-retsah ha-politi ha-rishon be-Erets Yisraʼel / De Haan: The first political assassination in Palestine (in Hebrew) (1st ed.). Tel Aviv: Modan Press. OCLC 21528172.
  16. ^ "Jacob de Haan, Israel's Forgotten Gay Haredi Political Poet – Tablet Magazine". 2014-12-07. Archived from the original on 2014-12-07. Retrieved 2023-12-03.
  17. ^ Gert Hekma, 'De Haan, Jacob Israel' in Robert Aldrich, Garry Wotherspoon (eds.) Who's who in gay and lesbian history: from antiquity to World War II, Routledge, 2003 p.143
  18. ^ "Funeral of De Haan Attended by All Factions". 1 January 1924.
  19. ^ "Headquarters of Agudath Israel Receive Condolences". 4 July 1924.
  20. ^ "Dehaan Followers Issue Anonymous Leaflet". 1 January 1924.
  21. ^ "Chalutz Accused of Dehaan Murder to Be Released". 5 August 1924.
  22. ^ Prof. M. Friedman, Society and Religion, pp. 230-247