Ramat Gan and Bnei Brak, which were strongholds of the Irgun, were also targets of the 'Season'. In the general curfew in Bnei Brak, policemen armed with lists of names arrested dozens of members of the organisation. Among them were members of the Fighting Force who had taken part in military operations, including the armorers who had helped to conceal weapons. The wave of arrests created the urgent need to fill the ranks again and to appoint new commanders. After one of the meetings of my unit, my friend Yosef and I were asked to remain behind and our commander, Yehoyada, informed us that it had been decided to appoint us armorers. "It's a very responsible and difficult job," he said. "but it is also extremely interesting." We were thrilled to have been chosen from all the candidates, and were well aware of the heavy responsibility that rested on our shoulders. The armories were the heart of the organisation and we would be required to exercise great discretion. For safety's sake my code name was changed, and I now became 'Zefania'.
During the 'Season', the Haganah had succeeded in seizing large amounts of weapons from the Irgun armories. Petah Tikva's main arm cache, containing three tons of explosives, revolvers and ammunition, had been found in an orange grove, and in Haifa the Haganah had emptied all the Irgun's arsenals. After these setbacks the caches were re-located to Ramat Gan, where we were assigned the task of digging the new sites. The arms' caches, code-named 'Haystacks', were contained in milk churns, which could be hermetically sealed. We placed each churn in a large can, which we then buried. (The garbage cans were 'borrowed' from a local park, the churns 'appropriated' from a local dairy). Since it was impossible to do the 'borrowing' and digging on the same night, we used to hide the cans and churns in disused and empty water tanks on Mount Napoleon. The following evening we would climb into the tank in order to move our loot to the orange grove. After choosing a suitable spot under a tree we would start digging. The hole had to be quite deep, with at least half a meter of soil over the cache. When the work was completed, we filled sacks with the freshly excavated soil and scattered it at a safe distance. We then carefully placed the can in the hole, first making several holes in its base for moisture to trickle out, and finally we placed the churn in the can. The most difficult part was the camouflaging of the area. The digging left a conspicuous patch devoid of vegetation. To prevent this, we covered the patch with grass, which we brought with us.
In the milk churn we concealed revolvers, submachine-guns (dismantled), explosives and ammunition. Bullets which were to be stored for lengthy periods were placed in bottles, and the aperture was plugged with wax. The storage of rifles was trickier. The base of one of the churns was removed in our workshop, and it was then welded to another churn, creating a receptacle long enough to hold rifles.
Our task was complicated by the ban on making lists of any kind. We were obliged to remember by heart not only the site of the cache, but also its contents. The simplest way of marking the site was by counting the number of trees on either side. As an additional aide-memoire, we would carve a seemingly innocent mark on a tree trunk. We usually had no problems finding the hidden weapons, but once a cache simply 'vanished'. We counted the number of trees once and then again, but found nothing when we dug up the area. We were perplexed: if the Haganah had visited the spot, they would at least have left the can there. When we re-counted for the third time, we finally understood where we were going wrong. One of the trees had been uprooted and had thrown our counting scheme into confusion.
The rapid disappearance of garbage cans from the local parks prompted municipal inspectors to chain them to pillars. This still did not deter us - we simply brought along pliers to break the chains.
As the quantity of arms in Ramat Gan increased, we began to construct larger caches. Instead of milk churns and garbage cans, we used large hermetically sealed barrels, which were stored in wooden boxes made of planks which could be fitted into one another. The planks and the barrels were obtained from a workshop in Tel Aviv and all that was left for us to do was to bury them deep in the ground. The excavation work was now too arduous for two laborers and we were assigned several reinforcements. It was not difficult to dig up the soft soil, but disposing of it was problematic and time-consuming.
One winter night we set out to replace arms in a cache in a Bnei Brak orange grove, near the abandoned "Sheinkin" packing-house. After the job was finished it started raining, and Josef and I debated how best to return home. Yosef wanted to walk to nearby Bnei Brak and from there to take a bus to Ramat Gan, while I wanted to go across the fields, where I would be less likely to encounter anyone. We went our separate ways, the rain pelting down. The dark of the fields was impenetrable and I could barely see ahead of me. After hitting a tree, I stumbled onto a building site and promptly fell into a lime-pit. Initially stunned by the fall, I soon began to think how on earth I would get out. At first I tried to wade through the lime, but got nowhere. The thought of the workers arriving the next morning and finding my corpse, spurred me into renewed action and I began to move my arms and legs in swimming movements. I finally reached the edge of the pit, crawled out and started on my journey home, thankful that the rain was washing the lime off my clothes. When I arrived back home, soaked to the skin, my sister Rivka was startled, but without asking superfluous questions helped me remove my clothes and dispatched me to the bathroom. I took a cold shower while she rinsed the lime out of my clothes. My brother Aryeh, awakened by the noise, brought me a glass of cognac and I soon crawled under the warm eiderdown of my deliciously inviting bed.
The 'Haystack' personnel had two major tasks in the Irgun: the first to prepare weapons for action, to clean them and return them to the cache afterwards. The second, more mundane task was to supply weapons for training the Fighting Force. It was our job to remove the arms from the cache and hand them out to representatives of the various units. Later the same night we would return to the meeting place to replace them in the cache. It was boring and dangerous work, but very important.
We had a special problem with Saturday morning training. Since we could not venture near the cache in daylight, we had to work under cover of dark, store the arms elsewhere temporarily and hand them over in the early morning hours. On a small mound near Mount Arnavot, which was concealed from view, we buried a small can, which served as our 'Saturday armory'. Very early one Saturday morning we arrived and, confidant that there was nobody in the vicinity, took out the weapons we had buried the previous evening. Contrary to our usual custom, we left one revolver in the can for security purposes. That afternoon, I made my way there again to collect it, and was stunned to discover that the can was empty. I was shocked. Scanning the area, I spied an Arab shepherd with his flock. He roused my suspicions, but I was afraid to go over to him in case he was armed. I watched him with his flock until the evening drew in.
I discovered that the flock belonged to Abed, the watchman of the Muslim cemetery on Salameh Road (now an army camp). Armed with this information, I went to meet Yehoyada to report on the events. He received the news gravely, but agreed to give me time to find the revolver before taking action. The same night I collected several of my friends, and together we visited Abed and his family, who were on peaceable terms with their Jewish neighbors. I woke him from his sleep and demanded that he return the revolver. He denied any connection with the theft. We asked all the family to come out of the tent and conducted a careful search of his home. When I asked him which of his sons had been out with the flock that day, he replied that the shepherd was a relative from a nearby village and promised to talk to him the next day. I explained that we would be back in two days' time and advised him to make sure the revolver was found. We shadowed him to make certain that he did not contact the police, and returned after a few days on another nocturnal visit. Abed told us that the shepherd totally denied the charges and this time we conducted a careful search of the family and their belongings. I told Abed that we would return every night until he gave back the revolver. He promised to talk to his relative again and we arranged another meeting. At the scheduled time, I hid behind the bushes and after checking that the area was clear of police, went over to Abed who was waiting patiently for me. This time he had news for me; he told me that the shepherd had confessed to taking the revolver, but claimed that he had sold it to someone else and spent the money. Abed asked me if I would be willing to pay to ransom the pistol. At first I refused, arguing that the gun was mine and I did not have to pay for it twice over, but then I changed my mind and enquired how much was involved. Abed replied that he did not know, but was willing to find out. In the end I suggested that he bring the revolver to our next meeting and I would pay. The next day we met again, but I still did not receive the gun. Abed explained that there were still some difficulties, but promised that two days later I would find it back in its place. I was bitterly disappointed; the prospect of its return seemed to be rapidly diminishing. Nevertheless, at the appointed time I went to the mound and carefully removed the soil, which covered the can. I opened the can cautiously and to my great surprise, found the gun wrapped in a silk stocking. I was delighted. I took it out, removed the clip, and discovered that it was loaded exactly as it had been on the day it was taken. I put the clip back, stuck the revolver into my belt and descended the mound with a light heart. Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder: I pulled out the revolver and pointed it at the person standing behind me. It was Abed, who congratulated me on finding my property. He told me he had paid to get it back from his relative and had awaited my arrival. I put the revolver back and explained to Abed that his relative had done something very serious. Not only would I not pay him but he should be happy that I was not asking him to pay damages. We parted as friends and I ran to tell my friend Yosef what had happened. On the way, I saw Yehoyada sitting in a cafe and whispered to him to join me in a nearby building. After reprimanding me for coming over to him in public, he noticed the revolver in my belt and congratulated me.
Before I had time to recover from this adventure, I was witness to another incident connected with my task as armorer. It was a clear winter day, and the pupils of the municipal school on the corner of Yahalom Street (present-day Krinizi Street), were playing marbles during the break. During their game, one of the marbles rolled into the bushes in the school courtyard. One of the children ran to look for the lost marble and as he scrabbled in the damp soil, he suddenly encountered metal. He scraped off some of the dirt, and after lifting the lid, found a tightly sealed milk churn. The boy called his friends and they pulled the churn out of the ground and brought it into the gymnasium. Together they managed to open it, and found inside two submachine-guns, cartridges and ammunition. The story spread through the school like wildfire and everyone rushed to see the find. Among those who came was Yehoshua Bornstein, the school janitor. Yehoshua, a member of the Irgun, was aware that there was a cache among the bushes, and knew that it had been exposed after the heavy rain of the previous night. He kept calm and informed his colleague, Shlomo Appelbaum. Shlomo arrived swiftly, piled the weapons into a sack and made his escape, hotly pursued by an intrigued group of children. Shlomo was more agile than they and slipped into the nearby Moslem cemetery. From there he made his way through Victory Park (present-day Abraham Park) and reached Zvi Koller's home safely. He threw the sack onto the balcony and made his way to Koller's office to warn him of the strange parcel on the balcony of his home. When night fell, the sack was handed over to us and we placed it in a safe hiding place.