By Blood and Fire

By Blood and Fire: The Attack on the King David Hotel (1981)

…gripping account… could make a stunning film… penetrating, instructive and generally evenhanded.
—New York Times Book Review


Just after midday on July 22, 1946, Zionist terrorists, under the leadership of Menachem Begin, set the fuses on bombs planted in the basement of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

At 12:37 a huge explosion ripped through the building, killing 91 people.

Among the dead were 25 Britons, 41 Arabs, and 17 Jews. The echoes of that explosion are still being heard today.

The bombing of the King David was an unprecedented act of guerilla warfare. Based on conversations with surviving participants and witnesses, By Blood and Fire is a masterful and objective reconstruction of that terrible event that re-creates not only its history but also its powerful human drama.

More reviews of By Blood and Fire

…weaves past history and the personal stories of those who carried out the attack into a terse, tense narrative.
Los Angeles Times

…brilliant, often shocking, always well-documented.
—Los Angeles Herald-Examiner

The compelling magic of Clarke’s writing converts the Kind David into a 1946 Titanic.
—Houston Chronicle

…[a] brilliant book… Clarke does a masterful job of building suspense and bringing his characters to life.
—Publishers Weekly

…brilliant, deeply authentic, marvelously objective…a stunning exposition.
—Oxford Times (U.K.)


Three hundred and fifty kilograms of TNT became 250,000 liters of hot gas. At the center of the explosion, the gas expanded at a velocity of 160,000 MPH, heating the air to over 3,000o C and exerting a pressure thirty-four times normal atmospheric pressure. The pressure burst the hearts, livers and lungs of the clerks working on the floor above.

In the building itself, six floors of reinforced concrete slapped against one another and pancaked to the ground with a crash. More than fifty rooms and a hundred and fifty lives were trapped between the slabs. Trapped were Leah Bachrach’s beautiful ankles. The top-secret files Marion Small had just brought downstairs from the registry, Roderick Musgrave’s address book with the names of his Irgun friends, Atallah Mantoura’s favorite brown wing-tip shoes, Julius Jacobs’ letters of commendation from the High Commissioner.

The killed and wounded were not the only casualties of the King David explosion. Weizmann’s dream of a nationalism untainted by violence, a nationalism unlike any other, was also mortally wounded.