Leader of the Jewish defense effort in Palestine and chief architect of the Haganah, the secret military organization for defense of the yishuv between 1920 and 1948.
Eliyahu Golomb came to Erez Israel, then under the Turks, from his home in Volkovysk, Belorussia in 1909. He first organized agricultural training courses and worked in Kibbutz Deganyah Alef. When World War I broke out in 1914 Golomb opposed the enlistment of Jews as officers in the Turkish Army and instead insisted on the creation of an independent Jewish defense force. In 1918 he became a founder of the Jewish Legion which he hoped would form the basis of a permanent official Jewish militia. After his demobilization he became a member of the committee entrusted with organizing the Haganah and in 1920 was active in sending aid to the defenders of the northern outpost of Tel Hai.
Golomb opposed the view that defense should depend on a small elite, and instead insisted that it was the concern of the Jewish population at large. In 1922 he was sent abroad to purchase weapons for the Haganah and until 1924 organized pioneering youth in Europe. During the Arab riots of 1936--39 Golomb was one of the initiators of the field units (pelugot sadeh) that confronted Arab terrorists in combat.
He supported active defense and retaliation bu t opposed reprisals on the general Arab population. Although supporting Jewish enlistment in the British Army during World War II and the parachuting of Jewish agents into Nazi-occupied Europe, Golomb never forgot the necessity for the removal of the British mandatory power from Erez Israel. He became a founder of the Palmah, the commando arm of the Haganah and foundation of the Israel Defense Forces, and trained many of its future commanders.