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Hadassah in Jerusalem, 1948

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The Hadassah Convoy Massacre - Prologue

These pages tell the story of the relief efforts of the Hadassah Medical organization in Israel's War of Independence, and chiefly of the massacre of the Hadassah convoy which took place on April 13, 1948.

The Haddasah convoy massacre was part of the genocidal Arab plan for ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem and Palestine in 1948. This was announced by the Arab league, but it was instigated and planned in part by the Nazi Grand Mufti Hajj Amin Al Husseini, and his able relative, Abdel Khader Al-Husseini. The strategy included ambushes such as this one, constant shelling and sniper fire, a blockade of the Jerusalem road that resulted in near starvation, and invasion by armies of the Arab states. Over a thousand Jewish civilians were killed in Jerusalem during this campaign.

In the convoy massacre, about 80 people, mostly innocent civilians, including doctors and nurses, were murdered while trying to bring medical supplies and personnel to Hadassah hospital on Mt. Scopus. The massacre was a gross violation of international military conventions, human rights and common decency.

The account below, adapted from a document by the Zionist Hadassah organization, provides proof of two very important points:

  • The massacre had been planned well in advance, and was not really "retaliation" for the Irgun and Lehi massacre at Deir Yassin.
  • British personnel cooperated and participated in the massacre.

The world has often excused the Hadassah massacre as a "retaliation" for the Deir Yassin massacre. Even if it were true, one crime against humanity cannot excuse another, especially as the Hadassah massacre was in part the work of British collaborators. However, it is evident from the account below that the events at Deir Yassin only served as a convenient excuse for a crime that had been planned well in advance. Unlike the Deir Yassin massacre, which was the spontaneous reaction of untrained troops, the Hadassah massacre was planned in advance, in cold blood.

Even without the explicit statements of the Palestinian Arab leaders, made well in advance of the Deir Yassin raid, it is difficult to believe that the Palestinians could have organized the ambush and obtained the collaboration of British authorities in the three days that followed the raid on Deir Yassin.

Nobody was ever prosecuted for this crime against humanity. British collaborators were not investigated. The Arab planners of the massacre became heroes of the Arab Palestinians. 

These pages provide a complete history of Hadassah organization activities in Jerusalem in 1948, including the convoy attack.

A summary of the massacre only, is provided here: The Hadassah Convoy Massacre

The detailed account is provided on these pages:

Hadassah Convoy Massacre-Prologue

Hadassah Convoy Massacre-Preparations

Hadassah Convoy Massacre-The Attack

The Ethnic Cleansing of Jerusalem

Conclusion - Later Phases of the war and Armistice

Massacres and Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine

The massacre of the Hadassah convoy and the expulsion of the Jews from the Old City of Jerusalem, continued a well established pattern in the land of Israel, that began even before there were Zionists, and reflected the relations between the Arab community and their Jewish subjects.

Other massacres and instances of genocidal violence, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing in Palestine include:

Palestine Massacre: The forgotten pogrom: Safed 1834:

The Kfar Etzion Massacre

Arab Riots and Massacres of 1929

Hebron Massacre

The Arab Revolt of 1936

A similar genocidal campaign was planned and announced in 1967. However, instead of resulting in the ethnic cleansing of the Jews, it brought on the Six day war which liberated Jerusalem from the longest occupation in history, and returned it to its rightful historic owners.

Following is adapted from http://www.hadassah.org/education/content/StudyGuides/Convoy_ITAD.pdf

Prologue - Jerusalem and Hadassah under Siege

At 2:05 pm on March 2, 1948 the operator at the Hadassah exchange in Jerusalem heard an Arab voice warn that the hospital would be blown up within 90 minutes. The explosion did not take place, but it was a clear signal of Arab intentions. Two days, later, Hadassah President Rose Halprin and Denise Tourover called on the State Department and the British embassy in Washington to secure Scopus, then followed up with strong protests to UN Secretary-General Trygve Lie and the International Red Cross. Shortly afterward, commander of Palestine Arab forces Abdul Kader Husseini spoke, on the record, to news correspondents: “Since Jews have been attacking us and blowing up our houses containing women and children from bases in Hadassah Hospital and Hebrew University, I have given orders to occupy or even demolish them.” Showing he meant business, he placed a cannon on the roof of the Rockefeller Museum of Archaeology opposite Mount Scopus and began using armor-piercing ammunition and electrically- detonated mines against Scopus traffic.

Surgeon Edward Joseph told Yassky that he could no longer take the responsibility of transferring cases to Scopus. Yassky replied sharply: “The time has not yet come to evacuate Mount Scopus…There is no security anywhere.” But reality won out. Yassky carried on negotiations quietly for the use of the Anglican Mission Hospice a few blocks away from the Hasolel Street clinic that Hadassah ran in downtown Jerusalem. On March 15, ten beds were set up for maternity cases and the site became known as Hadassah “A.” A century earlier, Jews in Jerusalem were running away from the mission hospitals; now they were running back into them.

By mid-March, the Hadassah Emergency Committee resolved that supplies would no longer be concentrated on Scopus but would be dispersed in the center of town. A meeting (held at the home of Myriam Granott, later Chairman of the Hadassah Council in Israel) considered the possibility, never implemented, of returning to the old Rothschild building where Hadassah’s vocational school was then located. Magnes noted that the Red Cross had offered to put Scopus under its flag on condition that Hadassah and the University agreed to demilitarize the area. To Hadassah, the Red Cross banner was the white flag of surrender and its leaders persistently refused the proposal.

Yassky asked Bertha Schoolman to take a confidential note to Jewish Agency Treasurer Eliezer Kaplan in Tel Aviv. Unless the Agency did something at once to secure the road to Scopus, the memo said, the hospital would have to cease operations. But Hadassah was determined to remain as long as possible.

In Jewish Jerusalem the supply situation was so bad that Jews were reduced to scrounging in the fields for a weed called khubeizeh to supplement their diets, which now consisted of a few slices of bread, an occasional egg, a handful of noodles, some jam and an orange. On Scopus and in the Hasolel clinic, reported Davis, “Our surgeons have been on the job night and day since the end of November, and not one of them has had a weekend off since then.” Magnes informed British Chief Secretary Sir Henry Gurney, “I am afraid our devoted doctors, nurses and patients are being subjected to a strain too great to bear.” Yassky prepared an evacuation plan for Scopus. At a joint Hadassah-Hebrew University meeting, he told Golda Meir that unless a minimum of three convoys could safely pass daily, the hospital would close. The only alternative was to accept the Red Cross offer. Meir agreed to raise the subject of Scopus at a Zionist Executive meeting in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, the Zionist General Council, popularly called the Executive Committee, was in session to debate the proclamation of the Jewish State and to authorize the formation of a cabinet and legislature for the new state’s functioning. For that historic session, Hadassah had flown in a delegation from New York: President Rose Halprin, Judith Epstein, Tamar de Sola Pool and Rebecca Schulman. Rose asked Yassky to join them in Tel Aviv, but he was too anxious about Scopus’s fate to leave. On April 10, he replied:

The situation in Jerusalem is very serious and that of Scopus much more so. I do not exaggerate when I say that 100,000 Jews of Jerusalem depend on Hadassah’s functioning somehow, somewhere. I am very pessimistic about Scopus…It is our duty to prepare emergency arrangements in the city. We will do our best to hang on.

To Bertha Schoolman, who was to leave for the United States on April 12, he reported, “One convoy is an absurd situation. I am afraid we will not be able to continue to operate the Hospital very much longer…I hope that we will meet again in not a too distant future.” The hope was not to be. Three days later, Dr. Haim Yassky was dead, shot through the liver in an Arab ambush on the road that he and Hadassah’s leaders had tried valiantly to make safe.

Next: Hadassah Convoy Massacre-Preparations

Main Page: The Hadassah Convoy Massacre




This work is copyright ©2005 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism and Israel Information Center. Please do not copy it in any form without direct permission from the author.  All rights reserved

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