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Shaul Avigur Dead at 79

Shaul Avigur, one of the founders of the Haganah, leader of the Jewish illegal immigration into Palestine, head of the arms purchasing adventures that brought arms to the Haganah in pre-State days and later Deputy Minister of Defense and David Ben-Gurion’s right hand, died here last night at the age of 79. Avigur was the founder and head of the Haganah’s intelligence department, which later became the Mossad.

Born in Dvinsk, Latvia, he arrived in Palestine when he was 14. He studied in Tel Aviv Herzliah School where he was an outstanding student. During World War I he had to leave Tel Aviv and he helped found Kvutzat Kinneret. In 1921 Avigur was among the defenders of Tel Hai with Joseph Trumpeldor. Afterwards he was active in the Haganah and was entrusted with the mammoth task of arming the Jewish Yishuv against the Arabs. He was instrumental in purchasing land and then settling the northern kibbutzim.

Later he became the central figure in the worldwide movement of illegal Jewish immigration, recruiting sailors in the U.S. and Canada, purchasing boats, arranging the exodus of Jews from various countries in Europe and North Africa to prearranged coastal hideouts from where the “shadow navy” of the Jews took them to their homeland. Avigur also initiated the wide effort to buy arms for the new State. His original name, Meiroff, was changed to Avigur, after his son, Gur, was killed in the War of Independence. In recent years Avigur devoted much of his time to writing a history of the Haganah and was active in campaigns on behalf of Soviet Jewry.

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