Jerusalem (Nov. 24)
Haim Corfu (Likud-Herut), the new Minister of Transport, is a scion of a well-known Jerusalem family, established in the city for six generations. His grandfather, Rabbi Avraham Frost-Corfu, was one of the pioneers who left the walled Old City to help found new Jewish suburb-settlements in the western reaches of the Jerusalem area.
Haim Corfu was born in Mea Shearim — once the quarter where the dynamic sector of the Ashkenazi religious community lived. He grew up in a poor family (his father owned a small bakery), receiving a traditional religious education through heder and yeshiva. Later, however, he attended a modern high school.
Because of the family’s constantly precarious finances, the young Haim was required to work — he filled an assortment of jobs — through the years of his education. In his early youth, Corfu made up his mind to join Betar — and soon after the Irgun Zvai Leumi which was the Zionist Revisionist movement’s underground military arm. He rose through the ranks to become a key figure in the organization.
MOTIVATION FOR JOINING THE IRGUN
Describing his motivation in joining the nationalist militant movement, Corfu told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he “had the feeling that things needed to be changed — and could be changed.” He was hurt to the quick by the humiliating attitude that many Arabs displayed towards the Jews living alongside them in Mandatory Palestine. He could not stand the daily harrassments and attacks launched by Arab terror groups against Jewish communities and settlements.
Gradually the young Corfu developed within himself a proud and stiff national awareness that moved him to join the Irgun underground — and risk life and limb in the fight for independence.
In the Irgun, Corfu’s technical facilities were utilized in the assembly of mines and booby-traps. He displayed such talents in this field that within a short time he became the organization’s foremost explosives expert. His bombs and mines were used in numerous actions against the British forces in Palestine.
Even today, almost 40 years after those dramatic days, Corfu’s eyes flash with pleasure as he recalls the memories of that period.
In addition to his technical contribution to Irgun’s struggle against the British, Corfu performed “intelligence” assignments — keeping tabs on several leaders of the Yishuv whom the Irgun regarded as “collaborators” with the British Mandatory government. Through this activity Corfu came to despise several of the better-known yishuv personalities of the period.
In March 1944 he was arrested by the British Criminal Investigation Division. He spent time in several local prisons, eventually winding up — as did many of his Irgun comrades — in British detention camps in Eritrea and Kenya in East Africa.
Together with his two brothers, who were similarly exiled, Corfu made his way back to his homeland in triumph as soon as the Jewish State was established In 1948. He joined Herut, the political party that evolved out of the Irgun and soon became secretary of its Jerusalem branch.
RISE UP THE LADDER OF PARTY POWER
His rise up the rungs of party power was steady and solid. After 15 years of faithful service in the Jerusalem branch, Corfu was elected a Herut member of the Capital’s City Council. In 1969 he entered the Knesset on the Likud-Herut slate — and soon became a faction whip.
He was plainly disappointed in 1977 when Premier Menachem Begin passed him over for ministerial office in his first government — but now he has been compensated.
Asked how he intends to fulfill his ministerial role, Corfu says his chief aim will be to reflect and strengthen his Herut Party’s positions within the Likud and the Cabinet. It is Herut’s historic task, he believes, to prepare Eretz Yisrael for the eventual settlement there of the majority of the Jewish people.
Begin’s autonomy plan, Corfu says, while granting self-government to the Judaea and Samaria Arabs, will at the same time pave the way for many, many Jews to settle in these areas.