Another Tack: The first day

‘It is with great joy that I hereby close the Mandatory Police record book,” wrote an anonymous duty officer at Tel Aviv’s central precinct precisely as David Ben-Gurion recited the renascent Jewish state’s Declaration of Independence.

Just below that spontaneous hand-inscribed historic annotation, appears the first criminal entry ever in sovereign Israel’s annals. It documents the capture of a thief. He stole a book, perchance pointing to preferences peculiar to the People of the Book.

Several hours later, the first ship docked in the new state. It began its journey furtively five days earlier in Marseilles when Israel was still under British rule. Its 300 young passengers were outfitted with fake IDs, forged at the Hagana “laboratory” in France.

But the Teti would claim special distinction – it became simultaneously the last “illegal” aliya boat and the first legal one. The counterfeit visas proved superfluous. The vessel proudly hoisted the Israeli flag as the new day dawned. Because it was the Sabbath, the newcomers were issued their new country’s entry permits only at sundown.

With such seemingly ordinary bureaucratic yet emotionally charged tasks, the Jewish state adeptly began the business of self-determination. In time that would be presented to world opinion as inherently sinful. By its very brazen determination to be born, it would be asserted, Israel had displaced the Palestinians, condemning them to miserable refugee subsistence.

According to the Arab narrative, Jewish independence, in and of itself, constitutes aggressive belligerence. Incredibly, this perception sank sinister roots. It takes stronger hold abroad now than it did 64 years ago. We may speculate why. We may point to two millennia of merciless anti-Jewish hate-mongering on religious and other mundanely lucrative grounds. But whatever the motive, our legitimacy, alone among the nations, is undermined assiduously.

Expediently forgotten is the fact that never, not for a single solitary day, were Israelis allowed to savor the elation of their newfound freedom. Behind the aforementioned two matter-of-fact exemplars of sovereignty, a frightening reality festered malevolently.

Israel’s birth was legally ordained via the UN Partition Resolution of November 29, 1947. Two states – Jewish and Arab – were to be established between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. Jews cheered the patchy territorial crazy-quilt they were accorded, existentially untenable though it was, and proceeded to meet all UN prerequisites for independence. The Arabs vehemently rejected the offer of a Palestinian state and, in vituperative defiance of the UN, set out to destroy the embryonic Jewish state rather than construct one of their own.

On Israel’s first day, Arab League secretary-general Abdul-Rahman Azzam Pasha, articulated Arab priorities. Sending forth seven Arab armies to slay the newborn “Zionist entity,” he declared: “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.” The Arab agenda and intentions were unmistakable. New Israel’s citizens harbored no misconceptions.

The Arabs had already violently opposed the Jewish community which existed in this country pre-WWII and which was ripe for statehood before the Holocaust. The “Great Arab Revolt” of 1936-39 – fomented by the still-revered Haj Amin al-Husseini and financed by Nazi Germany – merely delayed Jewish independence. The Arabs denied asylum here to desperate Jewish escapees from Hitler’s hell. Thereby they doomed these refugees to death. The blood of numerous Holocaust victims indelibly stains Arab hands.

But that’s not all. Husseini, in the role of pan-Arab prime minister, spent the war years in Berlin, where he hobnobbed with Hitler, Himmler, Eichmann, et al. He broadcast Nazi propaganda, recruited Muslims to the SS and actively foiled the rescue of any Jews, even children, during the Holocaust.

The Arabs of this country were avidly pro-Nazi, saluted each other with Heil Hitler, flaunted the swastika, hoarded arms, harbored German spies and planned to heartily welcome Rommel’s invading Afrika Korps.

The war that the entire Arab world launched against newborn Israel, three years post-Holocaust, was explicitly geared to complete Hitler’s unfinished mission. Not only was there no attempt to camouflage this genocidal goal, but it was broadcast boastfully for all to hear and be intimidated. Clearly Israeli independence was fraught with the most extreme and tangible danger.

Hence no fanfare could conceivably accompany the official inauguration of the state, and with good reason. Independence was to be proclaimed at 4:00 p.m. on the 5th of the Hebrew month of Iyar, which in 1948 fell on May 14. The venue – Tel Aviv Museum’s tiny auditorium on 16 Rothschild Boulevard, in what previously was the home of the city’s first mayor, Meir Dizengoff – was no one’s top choice. Jerusalem was besieged, while Tel Aviv’s Habima Theater was ruled out precisely because it was bigger and could accommodate more participants.

Even a marginally larger affair was reckoned undesirable for fear that publicity about when and where the Jewish state’s birth is slated to be announced would invite Egyptian air strikes. It was, therefore, thought advisable to keep everything hush-hush, make do with fewer honorary guests and cram them all into a minuscule hall (although the secrecy was quickly breached anyhow, in keeping with local proclivities).

The invitation (including a request to keep it confidential) was mimeographed and sent unsigned. The declaration itself was placed for safekeeping in a bank’s basement vault, lest it be destroyed by enemy bombardments. These indeed came, just hours afterward, at daybreak (of May 15, 1948).

As Israel’s masses danced in the streets on the night that followed the declaration of independence, Abdullah I, King of Transjordan (this brainchild of British imperialism now parades under the moniker of Jordan) positioned himself dramatically at the center of Allenby Bridge over the Jordan River. At the stroke of midnight, he pulled his ornate gilded pistol from its holster, held it up in the air and fired to signal the start of the Arab invasion. Its aim was to ethnically cleanse the land – or as it was then phrased non-too-diplomatically, to “throw the Jews into the sea.”

Israel’s thwarting of the genocide plotted against its people is now presented as a premeditated Israeli-instigated ethnic cleansing of Arabs. The capacity of the human mind to tolerate falsification cannot apparently be underestimated.

The battle plans called on the Jordanian-led Arab Legion, the Iraqis, Syrians and Lebanese to converge on the Jezreel Valley and from there move in a concerted offensive on Haifa. The Egyptians were assigned to take Tel Aviv from the south, with Yemeni and Saudi participation. But hubris caused deviations. Abdullah coveted Jerusalem and the Syrians focused on the Jordan Valley.

Still, the Arab generals who drew up the blueprints for neonatal Israel’s annihilation figured it would take two weeks to complete the job, deviations notwithstanding. They had compelling reason for optimism.

The infant state, assaulted ferociously from every direction and furiously fighting for its very life, possessed no resources or military hardware. Its population of 600,000 also comprised the old, the infirm and the very young – all hardly combat-worthy.

But these noncombatants nevertheless became the enemy’s primary targets. For three days, from May 15, Tel Aviv was mercilessly bombed by the Egyptian Air Force. Spitfires swooped down on the very section of Tel Aviv, where the Teti was moored. The first aerial pounding lasted three days. Its worst came on May 18 when the central bus terminal was bombarded, killing 41 civilians in only that one incident, wounding hundreds of others, inflicting severe damage in the heart of town and even hitting Tel Aviv’s beloved attraction – its one double-decker bus.

The Egyptian planes were back two days later. They would hound Tel Aviv well into late July. Fifty Tel Avivians were killed between July 13 and 16. Hadassah Hospital was among the targets, as were queues of shoppers – housewives and children. Even the Red Cross complained about “indiscriminate bombing of non-military targets.”

Hot on the heels of independence, the makeshift Israel Air Force challenged Egyptian pilots for supremacy of the skies. This, despite the fact that the IAF was assembled from an improvised mishmash of light civilian aircraft requisitioned from or contributed by their owners and precariously adapted for military purposes.

A curious assortment of outmoded and surplus WWII planes – as well as prewar antiques – were additionally acquired, mostly from Czechoslovakia. Israel’s air fleet was more than anything powered by ingenuity and sheer pluck – like the rest of the IDF.

Because its ragtag army stood its ground, despite the worst of odds, Israel is today accused of the crime of surviving and is portrayed as a menacing ogre for having dared to come into the world rather than surrender.

But it wasn’t without a terrifying price. Besides the hundreds of Tel Aviv’s casualties, the entire country bled profusely. The Old City of Jerusalem fell to Abdullah’s legionnaires on May 29 (the 1967 Israeli reversal of the Jordanian conquest is now dubbed “occupation”). The attempts to open the bottleneck blockade on the road to Jerusalem at Latrun loomed as young Israel’s most painful failure of the War of Independence.

The British had turned their hilltop Taggart Fort at the crucial Latrun junction to the Arabs who used it to besiege Jerusalem with an eye to emptying West Jerusalem too of its Jews.

When the War of Independence was finally over a year-and-a-half later, Israel mourned 6,000 dead, a full one-percent of the fledgling state’s population. But perhaps the most tragic sacrifice – alas, hardly atypical for that era – was epitomized by the Teti’s passengers. Many of them gave their lives for their country just one week after arriving on that fateful first day of independence.

The next morning they made their way to the encampment at Tel Aviv’s Kiryat Meir (at the end of today’s Zeitlin Street) where they enlisted in the IDF. Most – fresh off the boat, with Holocaust horrors still fresh in their minds – ended up in the Alexandroni Brigade and Division 7, which were dispatched to Latrun. The battlefield training they received consisted of a few instructions, generally incoherent to them, on the way to the front line.

19 thoughts on “Another Tack: The first day

  1. When giving talks to schools here (in Suffolk, England) I never fail to mention that the many Jews, men, women and children, prevented by the Arabs and their British minders who caved in and stopped immigration in the hour of our greatest need, went up through the chimneys of Auschwitz, they murdered us vicariously by the hundred thousands, they didn’t have to do it themselves, their friends, the Nazis, did it for them. Never forget that. Palestinians then and now means Nazis.

  2. Israel succeeded against all odds in 1948 and it will continue to thrive, despite it’s enemies and false friends…the legacy of that year will prevent Israel’s defeat…
    The successors of the Nazi Arabs will not achieve their goals…not by themselves and not with the help of Iran and not with the help of Europes Antisemites !

  3. Wonderful account of Israel’s earliest days.

    However must question this statement:
    “Israel’s birth was legally ordained via the UN Partition Resolution of November 29, 1947. Two states – Jewish and Arab – were to be established between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.”

    What about the Treaty of Sevres, the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the UN Charter?

    Together they comprise in international law the legal basis for the right of the Jewish people to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in Palestine.

    The UN Partition Resolution was only a recommendation with no binding legal effect.


    • The 1947 UN partition proposal was, in my modest opinion, illegal in the first place since it indeed went against the League of Nation’s previous binding irrevocable resolution for the Jewish National Homeland and which as Mr Singer points out the UN was bound to implement by the letter as per article 80 of it’s own Charter. The previously mentioned League of Nation’s resolution was also adopted and made into law by the US Senate & Congres in 1925 which, again in my view, render “Illegal” the actual US policy to push (impose) for the creation of yet another Arab artificial entity on lands historically, morally, spiritualy and legally belongs to the Jewish People and Israel by extension.

  4. As a cynical=realistic person who made aliya 52 years ago, complete with wife and young children, I wish to focus on this sentence of your tack.
    “The capacity of the human mind to tolerate falsification cannot apparently be underestimated.”
    More than “tolerate”, I would have chosen “promote” falsification.
    Little has changed since.
    That “little” that has changed is the Jewish people’s return to its land, the founding of the State of Israel. A tiny sliver of land with a population that would fit in a suburb of any Western (and Eastern) metropolis.
    With cultural, economic and technological achievements that apparently foment more envy than recognition.
    Last but not least, with the capacity to militarily defend and preserve the State and the Jewish People. I am not happy about this capacity, I would have preferred peace, but then I am a cynical person.

    Happy Independence Day.

  5. A world (Arab or otherwise) that so vehemently opposes the the miraculous re-creation of a state after 2000 years, is a world, that I’m afraid, no longer deserves to go on.

    • You are right Noodles…the re-creation of Israel as a state, is THE most outstanding miracle in the history of mankind !

      Noodles, I am afraid to read your mind…

  6. ‘With such seemingly ordinary bureaucratic yet emotionally charged tasks, the Jewish state adeptly began the business of self-determination’

    Since then under a parade of failed secular Jewish leadership which have refused to take a firm unmovable stand Israel has now surrendered her self determination to others.
    Today the nation’s servile Prime Minister serves the enemy Quartet Fourth Reich’s agenda.

    instead of calling the 2 state final solution dead he is busy trying to put off for 3 months the removal of another Jewish neighborhood ,the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El at the hands of a Jewish court who serve the agenda of Israel’s enemies under the lie of ‘ rule of law’.
    This after the razing of Jewish homes in the dark of night in Migron and after Jews were forbidden to live in a home they purchased in Hebron by none other than Israel’s own ‘Attack Jews Minister Ehud Barak whose primary concern and service is to serve the agenda of those who seek to carve up Israel to oblivion as a gift to the Nazi’s of the Arab,Islam clan.

    “The capacity of the human mind to tolerate falsification cannot apparently be underestimated.”

    …and the weak,groveling,empty political pontificators, faith challenged leadership of Israel who have no red lines and stand firm on nothing continue to fall lower and lower in order to bend to the will of evil,to appease it ,to reward it, to make agreements with it because without faith in Someone greater than their miserable selves they always play the part of little,fearful grasshoppers and capitulate as the terrible duo Netanyahu and Barak have always done.

    • Marcel, did Israel have any more faith in this Someone greater in the pre-Oslo years, when it seemed to garner to much more of the world’s respect, not to mention having a great deal more of self-respect for itself?

      • I think there was a spurt of faith but then success went to the head of the victors and instead of thanking God they became proud and this has led to the present national division,decay,insanity and self destruction.

        Israel was determined to fight instead of going quietly unlike the failed leaders today who are determined to follow and evil agenda,always capitulating and appeasing the unappeasable.
        The biggest mistake was not sending a strong message to the world and annexing Judea and Samaria and failing to drive out the enemies of state.
        Israel and the Jewish people have the disease of sending out a weak message because they are presently faith challenged grasshoppers who still look to the devious,untrustworthy nations instead of God alone.
        Today the secular defeatists non leaders in Jerusalem are too willing to yield to a devious globalist plan for Israel that only spells disaster.
        Their crime,their sin is that they listen to corrupt liars,deviants and perverts like Hillary, Catherine Ashton ,Obama etc. and totally ignore God… and they wonder why any peace is crumbling and beyond reach.

        Numbers 33
        ‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell.’

  7. “were additionally acquired, mostly from Czechoslovakia.” – Czechoslovakia, betrayed, denuded of her defences and offered on a platter to Hitler as a sacrificial victim by Britain and France, those most “enlightened” members of civilised Europe, has always remembered her history and today still recognises her reflection in what’s happening to Israel.

  8. I was old enough in 1948 to fully understand what was going on in Israel on this terrible but wonderful day. I lived in the Panama Canal Zone and my best friend was from a Jewish family. I spent many wonderful days eating at the table with that family and learned to enjoy the fellowship of each one of them. You can’t believe how many Jews in Panama wanted to get on ships and head for Israel at that time. Although the news wasn’t moving as fast as it does now, we still kept up on what was happening. Now, in my waning years, many of the thoughts generated at that time are still there. I have some that parallel those of Sarah’s comments…lies generated by politicians and others never seem to be stopped, only believed. And the lies about Israel are almost too numerous to keep track of. Where does it all stop? Maybe the time is near! In the very near future, the Messiah will come again and will bring with Him the necessary troops to completely wipe out the Muslim/Arab hordes that have been a constant threat. The writings of Ezekiel and Daniel says it all. Peace will come again to this great land. But only after much blood has been shed by those enemies of Israel. Dear God, come again and do your thing with the enemies of Israel. And may you, Dear God, continue to protect and bless this great nation of terrific people. Amen.

  9. Thank you for this informative account of Israel’s beginnings. The refugees that were thrown into the breach at Latrun gave a good account of themselves; despite the fact that their efforts ultimately failed; as did Haganah efforts to relieve the siege of the Old City. However, amidst all of the criticism of Netanyahu and Barak(some of it legitimate, surely), is there any group/movement that has as its goal, the placement of power in the hands of the Prime Minister, to appoint judges to the Israeli Supreme Court?

  10. When I was in Jerusalem, in summer 2010, I took a guided tour of Mamilla. I well remember the tour guide pointing out those places, just a few hundred yards west of the Old City walls, from where the Hagana launched their attempts to relieve the siege of the Old City, in 1948. Sarah Honig’s column brings out, in stark detail, the desperation of those times; and has made me want to read “O! Jerusalem” yet again. What was the turning point of the 1948 War of Independence?
    The death of Abdul Khader Husseini, perhaps? How could the Hagana, so badly outnumbered and outgunned, have won? Yet they did.

  11. Judaism attracted the more intelligent and civilized person.

    Islam and its god is a construct that was refined and made rigid in its earliest years to attract the opposite. This so as to have a vehicle for both sanctioning and cheering on the personal innate proclivities of its followers. Islam must spread in order to absorb which is its only method of survival.

    We must turn our attentions to the study Islam itself, from its inception through current times, in order to understand the incentives which it provides, that which its god commands, and then the nature and motivations of its male dominated followers. In such study will be found the horrifyingly clear answers as to why we must triumph and survive.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s