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May 19, 1989 - Image 41

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-05-19

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

V

LAST TWO DAYS!
May 19 & 20

fa ends and
Aviv begins,"
he says — that Am-Shalem,
65, learned to fight for
himself. The youngest of 12
children, he describes himself
as the runt of the neighbor-
hood. "I was the target of
everybody!'
One of his brohters was a
boxer and "a hero of the
school" who got tired of see-
ing Shimshon getting beat
up. The brother tried to
change the situation in the
manner of a street kid. He
told the 11-year-old Shim-
shon, "I'm going to knock you
down until you say you're go-
ing to stand up and fight!'
That marked the beginning
of Shimshon's training and
transformation. "At the end of
two or three months, it wasn't
Shimshon who ran away, but
Shimshon who would fight,"
he says.
Am-Shalem followed his
brother into the boxing ring,
the Betar youth movement
and, when the Jews of
Palestine began fighting for
independence' from British
rule, into the Irgun
underground, commanded by
Menachem Begin. In 1943,
the Irgun ordered Am-
Shalem to volunteer for the
British armed forces.
He was assigned to a
British combat vessel. Soon
after, an altercation with an
anti-Semitic officer landed
Am-Shalem in the brig. At
the trial, the charges were
dropped. And then the judge
asked Am-Shalem if he were
a boxer.
Am-Shalem became a
member of theBritish navy's
boxing team, and then a com-
bined army-navy team. This
proved to be good news for
Am-Shalem, who had joined
the British navy to fight for
Israel's independence. "Every
time I had a fight they gave
me a chance to come home,"
he says.
He used those shore leaves
to smuggle guns and gren-
ades to the Irgun.
He was still with the Irgun
after independence on "the
most terrible day of my life!'
That was the day when the
Altalena, a cargo ship carry-
ing arms for the Irgun, was
ordered destroyed by Prime
Minister David Ben-Gurion.
"The Haganah (the defense
force of the community's
Jewish mainstream) knew
the strength of the Irgun
came from that ship," Am-
Shalem explains. "Ben-
Gurion was afraid that Begin
would be the strongest in the
country."
Ben-Gurion's view was that
the Irgun would try to set up
an alternative to the fledgling
Israeli army and provoke civil
war.

The ship was bombed, and
Am-Shalem said he went
crazy. "I knocked everybody
down," he says. "Jews were
starting to kill Jews."
He recalls a tearful Begin,
surrendering the ship in a
radio-broadcast speech. The
Irgun was integrated into the
Israel Defense Forces and
Am-Shalem joined the Givati
Brigade that battled the
Egyptians on Israel's
southern coast.,
Over the last four decades,
Am-Shalem has been a busi-
nessman, but boxing has re-
mained/ his love. He says
he has fought round after
round to have Israel recog-
nized in the world of boxing.
He says that, despite par-
ticipation in international
competitions, for political
reasons Israel has been re-
jected for membership in both
the Asian or European boxing
associations.
For Am-Shalem, boxing is a
way to education and chan-
neling energy. It is as con-
tradictory a pursuit as his
own name.
"Shimshon is Samson," he
says. "That's strength. Am-
Shalem means 'people of
peace: " 0

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banning contacts with mem-
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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

41

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