From CleanPosts

Jump to: navigation, search


As a consequence of the victory over the Ottoman Turks in the First World War, Great Britain became the master of the whole Middle-East. In the closing days of the War the British Foreign Secretary. A.J. Balfour, declared that 'His Majesty's Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish People, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievment of this object.'

In 1922 the Churchill White Paper put forth the premise that Jewish immigration to Palestine could continue until such a time as there was a Jewish majority there. But by 1939 Britain bowed to threats to Brit- ish oil extraction infrastructure from Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syr- ia and Yemen and reversed this position. This reversal hit at precise- ly the same time that Jews were being exterminated throughout the growing Third Reich.

After the War, Polish Jews refused to be repatriated to their homes in Europe. Physical attacks on them continued, and several hundred were murdered in the first three months after hostilities ended. Hundreds of thousands of Jews ended up in Displaced Persons camps throughout Europe, where conditions were only marginally better than they had been in the Reich's death camps.

For the balance of 1945, only eight small ships carrying a thousand Displaced Persons reached Palestine from ports in Italy and Greece. For the first half of 1946, another 10,500 immigrants arrived on elev- en ships. Michael took Judith to the kibbutz at Yad Mordechai during this span of time.

From August 1946 to December 1947, 51,700 Displaced Persons tried to make their way to Palestine on thirty-five ships, but were captured by the British and taken to new camps on the island of Cyprus, where they languished behind barbed wire. Many of the armed guards of these camps in Cyprus had liberated some of the very same prisoners from the ex- termination camp at Belsen-Belson only eighteen months prior, and they were fully aware of this. During this period, clandestine immigration to Palestine fell to a trickle.

The British proposed a plan to divide Palestine, but it was rejected by both Arabs and Jews, and the question was referred to the United Nations. On August 31, 1947, the UN proposed the creation of two inde- pendent states in Palestine, one Arab and one Jewish, with the city of Jerusalem under separate international control to administer the holy places of the world's three major monotheistic religions. The Jewish side of the partition was to have 500,000 Jews and 400,000 Arabs. The Arab side was to have 700,000 Arabs and 10,000 Jews. Jerusalem was to have about 100,000 of each ethnicity. The Jews would get the blasted wasteland of the Negev desert, and the Arabs would get the fertile upper Galilee region.

The UN thought all these arrangements were entirely fair. So fair, in fact, that after Israel declared Statehood and the UN realized the Displaced Persons were being handed rifles as soon as they got off the boat at Haifa, another SC resolution was passed to prevent immigration of males from age 17 to 45.

David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency whose authority had been established by the League of Nations, knew the Jews would have to fight even for the lousy territory they had been assigned. He ordered every Jew in Palestine mobilized for war, both men and women alike.

On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly accepted the partition proposals by a vote of thirty-three votes to thirteen, with ten ab- stentions. The Jewish people, who had been homeless since the days of the Roman Empire, were to have their own state again. There was re- joicing in the streets, but they danced while knowing war lay just ahead.

On the day after Partition, a bus carrying Jewish civilians to Jerusa- lem was attacked by Arabs with rifles and grenades, killing five peo- ple, including a young bride named Shoshona Mizrachi Farhi on the way to her wedding The bus attack came to symbolize the beginning of the war for independence, which would claim the lives of 6,000 Jews, or one percent of the total population.

In this period, after Partition but before the official declaration of the state of Israel, the armed forces were called the Haganah (De- fense). Great Britain still occupied Palestine, and considered the Haganah an illegal organization. By the fall of 1947 Haganah had two thousand regulars and a thousand reserves.

Armed Bedoin nomads surrounded a number of isolated settlements in the south, including Judith's collective farm. The Jewish leader David Ben-Gurion swore that not one single settlement would be evacuated. Armored cars produced in Tel Aviv were used to secure the water pipe- lines that these settlements depended on, and to send weapons and re- inforcements through the Bedoin lines.

After a Jewish convoy was attacked en route to reinforcing the kibbutz at Yad Mordechai, and all forty-six soldiers killed, the Haganah de- veloped a plan to occupy those Arab communities that lay close to or directly between Jewish cities and the far-flung settlements.

In most cases, the Arabs fled their communities when they were be- sieged and occupied. In the case of the town of Dair Yassin where they did not, the Jewish terrorist groups Irgun and the Stern Gang massa- cred all the Arabs, men, women, and children, to the shock and horror of most Jews, including the leadership of the Haganah. But the Haganah was not yet willing to cut off all ties to Irgun, because they had needed manpower and rifles, and they had the same enemies. In April they even conducted joint operations along the coast while the British accelerated their complete withdrawal from Palestine.

In reprisal for the Deir Yassin massacre in March, a convoy of armored buses was attacked on April 15, and seventy-seven Jewish doctors, nurses, and patients were killed. Only twenty-eight survived, and only eight of these were not wounded.

King Abdullah of Transjordan, who was the only real ally of the Jews in the region, offered Jewish autonomy, but only if it remained under his sovereignty. A Jewish Agency negotiator named Golda Meir was pained to disappoint her good friend the king, but she had to reject his offer. After everything the Jews had suffered, especially in the Shoah (or Holocaust), it was simply not enough to be represented in a foreign parliament.

This led directly to the declaration of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948. Eleven minutes later, the American President Harry S Truman of- ficially recognized the state by cable, before he even knew what the name of the country would be.

At that time the country's army boasted nearly 37 thousand troops, but 1,200 had already been killed in combat. Britain opened the detention camps on Cyprus and thousands streamed into Israel by ship, many hav- ing already been trained in the camps by the Haganah.

On the first full day after Independence was declared, Iraqi troops crossed over the Jordan River. Simultaneously, Israeli troops raided Lebanon to delay their entrance into the war. Syria came down from the Golan heights with thirty tanks and advanced to the sea of Galilee. Two 65 mm artillery pieces checked the Syrians at the kibbutz known as Deganya, then the guns were rushed south to attack the Iraqis besieg- ing the old British police fort overlooking Gesher on the Jordan Riv- er, causing them to flee.

On the second day, Transjordanian and Egyptian troops joined the as- sault. Saudi Arabia sent a company of troops who fought with Egypt. And Egypt even landed troops on the beach at Majdal between Gaza and Tel Aviv.

The first Egyptian attack was against the kibbutz of Kfar Darom, seven miles south of Gaza, where thirty settlers held off elements of the Muslim Brotherhood with little more than grenades. When their grenades ran out, they put explosives in bags and hurled them at the attackers. When Egypt rolled in theoir tanks, the settlers fired their British- made anti-tank weapons at the lead tanks, destroying them, and causing the other tanks to withdraw.

Then Egypt bypassed Kfar Darom and moved to kibbutz Nirim, five miles away. Twenty defenders were killed but they held on. Not even a brutal air attack the next day broke their will.

In January 1948, the first state-sponsored forces from Syria began to make raids. In this instance, the Jews were aided by counter-attacks from the Royal Air Force, as the British remained the rulers of Pales- tine, at least on paper.

When the Haganah completely abandoned the coastal highway running south from Tel Aviv, Judith's kibbutz at Yad Mordechai was completely cut off. Only two private aircraft maintained contact between north and south, carrying newspapers and boxes of medical supplies. The pilots of these aircrat were called Mahal, or foreign volunteers. Ju- dith herself was part of the Gahal, or immigrant soldiers. Most of the children in the kibbutz were called sabra. That is, they had been born in Palestine and knew no other home. Judith was their guardian when their parents worked the fields, both before and during the war.

Judith Margolies's kibbutz lay just west of the road that linked Gaza to the Egyptian beachhead at Majdal. Egypt hurled two infantry battal- ions, one armored battalion, and an artillery battalion against them one dawn for an attack that lasted five days. It was Judith's baptism by fire, the battle that forged her into a fierce warrior. She would fight in every one of her country's conflicts until orthodox Jews pre- vailed to remove her from the front lines in 1973.

It was Judith's unwavering belief that the Yishuv, the People, would never be subject to something like the Holocaust again. Never again.

At Yad Mordechai much enemy armor was taken out with the PIAT (Projec- tile, Infantry, Anti-Tank) mortar. There was a subtle line about a hundred meters out where the soil of the desert made a sudden transi- tion to the soil of the kibbutz. Perhaps it was an artifact of the water table. Before the battle the kibbutzim already set the eleva- tion if the PIAT to strike this line by firing dummy rounds. Now it was only a matter of rotating the barrel on its iron pivot sunk into the ground to take aim at approaching tanks. When fired each round contained a shaped charge massing one kilogram, designed to penetrate 100mm of armor.

Those tanks which managed to breach the Yad Mordechai perimeter were set alight at close range with Molotov cocktails or attacked with hand grenades whose fragments would enter the tank through the view slit, wounding the crew and forcing them to retire. Other tanks were taken out with buried mines, and still others simply broke down and were dragged out of range by armored cars.

But there were just too many Egyptians, and the shelling never ceased. After five days the settler's ammunition was spent. Judith and the other uninjured settlers helped carry the wounded through the Egyptian lines under the cover of darkness.

Yad Mordechai lay abandoned, and in the morning the Egyptians occupied the place and burned it to the ground. But during those five days of resistance Tel Aviv was saved from being overrun. The stubborn defense at Yad Mordechai gave Tel Aviv time to bring in reinforcements and firm up the defensive line on the road between the city and Gaza.

On June 11, a truce called by the United Nations went into effect and lasted until July 9. In nearly one month of war Israel had lost 900 soldiers and 300 civilians.

Between the first truce and a second one was ten days of fighting. The IDF captured Nazareth, the home town of Yeshua, which had grown much bigger than the original five hundred souls.

The second truce lasted until October 15, and was followed with one solid week of fighting against Egypt. On the first day of that week Israeli warplanes bombed the Egyptian air base at El Arish on the Mediterranean coastline of Sinai, and cut the railway from El Arish to Rafa.

After the third cease-fire took effect on October 22, Judith and the Polish settlers who had taken her in moved back into the ruins of Yad Mordechai and began to rebuild the town. There would be a sharp bout of renewed fighting in the winter, followed by a fourth and final cease fire, but Judith judged the continued existence of her new na- tion was no longer in doubt.

Personal tools
Strangers In Paradise