Nearly two hundred men and women left Mandatory Palestine between the years 1936–1938 in order to defend the Second Spanish Republic. Despite the expressions of solidarity with the Spanish Republic, most of the political parties in the Jewish Yishuv were against sending youth from Palestine to join the International Brigades. The goal of strengthening the Jewish presence in Palestine was given priority over and above international solidarity or the anti-Fascist struggle. Therefore, most of the volunteers were Jewish members of the Palestine Communist Party.
This article relies on autobiographical writings, individual testimonies and personal correspondence, analysed here for the first time. It is here that the private voices of the Jewish men and women who left Palestine in order to fight against the nationalist rebellion in Spain ring more clearly. The paper examines the history of these Jewish volunteers, their motivations, and the process that they went through from the time they left Palestine until they became active members of the International Brigades.
As Communists, most volunteers who left Palestine to fight in Spain tended to emphasize the international solidarity of the working class and similar universalistic motivations. The idea of affirming their Jewish identity was alien to them. Reading their letters and testimonies, however, it becomes clear that their ethnic identity as Jews was certainly a key factor in their decision to risk their lives in the Spanish fratricide.
From the moment it was first introduced into the Arab community in the Holy Land, Communism had been associated with the Christian community, more specifically the Greek Orthodox (or Rum Orthodox) denomination. A large proportion of the Arab leadership of the Communist Party in Israel until the 1980s originated from this Orthodox background and the question discussed in this article is what links Communism, an ideology famous for its atheist tenet, with a particular Christian community? The discussion begins with the history of the Orthodox community during the Ottoman and British Mandate periods. It examines the historical, religious and political circumstances that first created the overlap between Orthodoxy and Communism. It then turns to examine the particular circumstances in the history of Israel that helped sustain and deepen this complex religious-political situation.