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Hadassah in Jerusalem, 1948

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Conclusion - Later Phases of the war and Armistice

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.

This page describes the conclusion of the war and Hadassah's part in it. The Arab irregulars with the aid of the British officered Transjordanian Arab Legion, had conducted a continuous blockade  of supplies to Jerusalem. The armistice enabled Israel to consolidate a "Burma road" that circumvented the Jordanian/British positions at and around the Monastery of Latrun, which had not yielded to three separate Israeli attacks. Since Mid-may of 1948, murderously accurate fire from machine gun emplacements and British 25 pounder cannon directed at the road below from a police fort and from the grounds of the Monastery had made passage impossible. Before that time, the road had been blocked by Arab villagers at Bab-El Wad and the Kastel, where they systematically ambushed every convoy to Jerusalem until they were destroyed by the Haganah 

The blockade, the massacre and the eviction of the Jews from the old city of Jerusalem were all part of the Arab plan for ethnic cleansing of  Jerusalem and Palestine in 1948, announced by the Arab league, and planned and instigated in large part by the Nazi Grand Mufti Hajj Amin Al Husseini, and his able relative, Abdel Khader Al-Husseini. The strategy included ambushes such as these, constant shelling and sniper fire, and a blockade of the Jerusalem road that resulted in near starvation. Over a thousand Jewish civilians were killed in Jerusalem alone during this campaign.

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.

Ami Isseroff

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


Jerusalem is rescued from starvation

Jewish Jerusalem was rescued at the eleventh hour by a month-long truce that began on June 11. In another twenty four hours not another scrap of food would have been available. Battered and bloody, the city stood--most of it in Israeli hands. Looking back, Davis hardly knew how he had made it. Tetanus antitoxin was near the vanishing point and could no longer be given routinely; two wounded died for lack of the drug. X-ray film was short, morphine low, hypodermic needles, alcohol, adhesive plaster and catgut silk practically gone. “We were forced to keep one eye on stocks and one eye on the patient,” Davis reported. He pleaded for help from the Red Cross but aid first came dramatically from New York due to the frantic efforts of the National Board.

Medical Supplies for Jerusalem

Hadassah’s Margaret Doniger set up blood plasma collection centers on America’s east and west coasts. But more immediate first aid came from an airlift of 15,675 pounds of medicines and supplies, organized under the direction of Purchasing Committee Chairman Miriam Handler. These supplies were only a drop compared to the more than two million pounds of supplies sent by Hadassah that year, but they arrived at a critical time.

On the plane was Lola Kramarsky who was to become the first European-born leader elected Hadassah president (1960). Lola and her husband Siegfried Kramarsky, both committed Zionists and close friends of the Weizmanns, arrived in the United States in 1940 as refugees from Hitler’s Europe. Lola had been active in the Youth Aliyah movement and was present when Henrietta Szold greeted the first group of Youth Aliyah children to reach Palestine. With Lola on the plane was Jeanette Leibel Lourie, Hadassah’s meticulous executive director.

It was now the beginning of July 1948, and the one-month truce was about to end.

The chartered craft landed in Amsterdam where the supplies had to be reloaded on a C-54 cargo plane. At that time, Israel had no airfield that could take a larger craft. After long and harrowing hours in flight, during which the pilot of the plane had to radio several times for landing instructions, Lola, Jeanette and the supplies bumped down at Ein Shemer, south of Haifa. Appropriately the date was July 4. Forty Israeli soldiers rushed to the craft and began unloading. The scene was one of great relief and hilarity. Arthur Lourie, a South African-born diplomat, ran out in underwear to greet his wife; he had been bathing when he heard the plane land. Next day, the convoy of trucks arrived in Jerusalem, only four days before the resumption of war.

The Second Phase of the War - The "ten days"

The next phase of the fighting lasted only ten days but it was sufficient for the Army of Israel, resupplied during the 30-day truce, to take the initiative. Jerusalem was no longer in danger although it was again being continuously shelled. Twenty-four hours before the war was renewed on July 9, Davis had completed a fully equipped underground operating theater in St. Joseph’s Convent--the first of its kind in the country. Forty-six direct hits were suffered by St. Joseph’s. On the third day, Dr. Shlomo Gorfunkel, a Hadassah X-ray specialist who had organized the Vilna Ghetto uprising and served with the partisans in the Vilna forests during the Holocaust, was killed by Arab fire in the streets of Jerusalem.

The fighting finally ended in Jerusalem on July 19, although sniping and occasional shelling would continue for several years. From the beginning of the shooting in December, Hadassah had treated most of the Jewish casualties in the city--a total of 3,550.

Assassination of Bernadotte

At the time, United Nations peace mediator Count Folke Bernadotte was in Jerusalem offering compromise solutions--among them a considerable withdrawal by Israeli forces. On September 17 he and his French aide were fatally shot by members of LEHI. Oh arrival at Hadassah there was no hope for their lives. The provisional government of Israel under David Ben-Gurion condemned the act. Three days after the assassination, the Mufti proclaimed a Palestine Arab state--one he could have had less than a year earlier without bloodshed--but now it was too late. King Abdullah outfoxed him and in October mobilized 5,000 notables to accept his sovereignty over all Arab Palestine. In another year he would annex the West Bank and East Jerusalem to his newly-named Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Renewal of Hostilities

But the war was still not over. In mid-October, Israeli forces, now an organized army, moved south to take the Bedouin village of Beersheba.

Hadassah would soon follow the troops to open a hospital there-- Hadassah’s first in the Negev--as a memorial to Haim Yassky. At October’s end, the Israelis consolidated their gains in Galilee.

The final campaign of Israel’s War of Independence occurred as the year ended.

Confrontation with the British

Forces moved deep into the Negev and Sinai and on January 19, 1949, the shooting war came to an ironic end. Hours before the cease-fire went into effect, five British-piloted Spitfires flew from Egypt to determine whether the Israelis had, as agreed, withdrawn from the Sinai. Mistaking the planes for Egyptians, the Israelis brought four of them down in air-to-air combat and one by ground fire. The word flashed around the world and for a few days it seemed as though the triumphant Israelis might have to fight the British.

President Truman and others, including friendly British leaders, scolded the Royal Air Force for having stuck its nose where it did not belong and the crisis subsided. In the Rehovot home of Chaim Weizmann, the soon-to-be President informed a British friend and Member of Parliament, Richard Crossman, of the incident. Crossman is said to have replied, “Don’t worry. This means you are now a state. Britain will recognize you within the month.” On January 30, 1949, a chastised and humiliated British Foreign Secretary Bevin accorded de facto recognition to the State of Israel.

The Armistice

Succeeding Count Bernadotte, American mediator Ralph Bunche negotiated armistice agreements with Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria in the months of February, March, April and July. Iraq refused to negotiate and removed its troops from the West Bank. While the armistice lines would be the frontiers of Israel for the next nineteen years, the agreements were flimsy and did not, as hoped, lead to peace pacts. But they were a measure of the state’s permanence and no one who had gone through the War of Independence in Israel new doubted that the infant state would survive.

Tribute to Hadassah

Hadassah had been a midwife to the state all through its difficult birth. In recognition of that service, David Ben-Gurion, after becoming Prime Minister in Israel’s first elections held on January 25, 1949, said: The achievements of Hadassah in Zionism generally; its invaluable contribution to our war of liberation and independence; the work of its people here under fire on Mount Scopus and on the fronts, will live in the history of our nation forever.

Previous: The Ethnic Cleansing of Jerusalem  Main Page: The Hadassah Convoy Massacre



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