1942 - 1951
Conference at Wannsee, Berlin, coordinates the Final Solution (Endlosung) for the destruction of European Jewry.
Loss of the Struma ship with 767 Jewish refugees refused admission to Palestine.
Biltmore Conference of American Zionists demands "that the gates of Palestine be opened", calls for a "Jewish Commonwealth".
British forces stop Rommel's 3rd Army at El Alamein
Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
Palmach members parachuted behind enemy lines in Europe.
British deport illegal immigrants to Cyprus.
Jewish Brigade formed as a part of the British forces in World War II.
The Haganah, the Etzel and Lehi temporarily reunite.
Illegal Jewish immigrants deported to Cyprus "displaced persons" camps.
The Irgun [Etzel] blows up wing of King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
The Etzel hang two British sergeants in revenge for British death sentences on Etzel members.
Transjordan achieves independence as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Beriha [flight]: Aliya Bet [illegal immigration] continues to bring Jewish refugees to Eretz Yisrael: Steamer Exodus repelled by force from the shores of Palestine to Europe, with 4,500 survivors of the Holocaust on board.
British send the immigrant boat "Exodus" back to Europe, and Hamburg, Germany, where the passengers are sent to an internment camp".
United Nations General Assembly votes for the partition of Palestine and a Jewish State.
November 29, 1947
The United Nations Decision to Establish a Jewish State
Jews and Arabs alike opposed British rule and the situation continued to deteriorate. In 1946 the Anglo-American Inquiry Commission recommended the immediate immigration of 100,000 refugees. It also recommended revoking the Lands Law, as set down in the White Paper. The British rejected these suggestions and refused to implement them. The Jewish community intensified their opposition. The 11 member United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) resolved that both Arabs and Jews should be granted full independence and that Jerusalem should be internationalized. On the night of November 29, 1947 the U.N. General Assembly took a vote on approving the Palestine Partition Plan.
Every household in the entire country was glued to the radio as the President of the General Assembly called on each of the member nations to state its position on partition: in favor, against or abstaining. The result of the roll call was 33 in favor, 13 opposed and 11 abstaining. By a large majority the decision was taken to partition the country into two states. And so, 50 years after the First Zionist Congress, the establishment of a state for the Jewish People in the Land of Israel gained international approval. This was the debt paid by the family of nations to the Jewish People for the terrible slaughter of six million Jews.
The approved version of the Plan was a far cry from Lord Balfour’s Declaration. Not only had the eastern section of the Land of Israel (east of the Jordan River) been torn away, but now the western side was also divided and in addition Jerusalem, the Eternal Capital of the Jewish People, was declared international territory. Nevertheless, the Jews celebrated by singing and dancing in the streets until daybreak.
The Arabs did not accept the plan. For them it was a day of mourning. Not long after the U.N. decision was approved, Arab rioters massed near Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem and proceeded to the Jewish commercial center, where they looted the stores and set them on fire. The British army did not intervene apart from preventing the Jews from salvaging whatever could be saved. Riots also broke out in other cities, especially those with mixed populations. Many residents of border neighborhoods abandoned their homes. Jews in more isolated neighborhoods fled to other Jewish neighborhoods, and many Arabs left for nearby Arab countries. Outbreaks of violence also occurred against Jews in Arab lands.
When the Arab attacks began the Hagana decreed that no settlement was to be abandoned, no matter how small. It was necessary to maintain a presence at all costs, since the borders of the state would be determined not by the Partition Plan but by the cease fire lines.
November 30, 1947 - March 10, 1949
The War of Independence
Historians differ as to which event led directly to the War of Independence. But all agree that the war began approximately at the time of the U.N. General Assembly’s decision (November 29, 1947), which preceded the Declaration of Independence. The War of Independence lasted for a year and four months.
From the outset Israel’s position was worse than that of the Arabs (See map), both in the number of fighters and the poor quality of its equipment. Many did not believe that the Jews could gain the upper hand in this battle. At the time, the Jewish community in the country numbered 600,000. During the war 4,500 soldiers and 1,500 civilians lost their lives - one percent of the total Jewish population in Israel. The Arab population exceeded 1,300,000. They were flanked by the well equipped regular armies of the Arab countries - a total of 100,000 soldiers. Approximately half of the Jewish force was made up of people who had been active in “underground” organizations such as the Hagana, Etzel (acronym for the National Military Organization founded by precursors of today’s Likud party), and Lehi (acronym for Israel Freedom Fighters, a rival right-wing group). At the beginning of the war, their ammunition totaled one million bullets, or 50 bullets per rifle. There was a negligible number of larger weapons such as mortars and there was no organized air force. The entire air service numbered nine single-engine planes. There was no armored corps and the naval fleet consisted of a few motor boats.
British Government announces its intention to terminate its Mandate on May 15, 1948.
November 30, 1947 - May 14, 1948
The war until the Declaration of Independence
At this stage, the two sides waged guerrilla warfare. The Jewish community defended itself against gangs and rioters who attacked settlements, vehicles and civilians. At first the Arabs scored many successes, but on April 3, 1948 the Jews took the initiative with a wide ranging military maneuver, combining various forces which had never been mobilized on such a large scale. This was Operation Nahshon, launched to reopen the road to Jerusalem, which was under siege.
More than 1,200 people, half of them civilians, lost their lives in the first months of the war.
Expiration of the British Mandate. Proclamation of the State of Israel - invasion of Arab armies 5th Iyar / 14th May.
May 14, 1948
Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel
On Friday, the fifth of Iyar, 5708 according to the Hebrew calendar, or May 14, 1948, David ben Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel. This was the day when the British finally left the Land of Israel. It was marked by the departure of the High Commissioner, who hastened back to England. Thus ended the Mandate on Palestine. On the same day the people’s representatives gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum to set up a provisional Government. David Ben Gurion read the Declaration of Independence, which formalized the establishment of the independent State of Israel. He called on the neighboring Arabs to remain in the country and to live together in peace. The Declaration states that the State of Israel is based on the principles of justice and democracy, and constitutes the national home for the Jewish People.
After 2,000 years of exile a sovereign Jewish state had been reestablished. The newly emerging state had yet to be recognized by the nations of the world. Everything was done swiftly and secretly, meticulously planned by David Ben Gurion.
After the Declaration the crowds took to the streets and danced all night, just as they did on the night of the U.N. Partition vote.
This date has been fixed as the Day of Independence of the State of Israel.
David Ben Gurion was fully aware that all the Arab states would join in the war against the newly declared State. This would be a difficult and bloody war against well trained, organized and fully equipped armies, a war of the few against the many. In the face of such odds he could not be complacent, but he fully believed in the strength of the People of Israel and the justice of his cause.
US President Truman extends de facto recognition of State of Israel, Soviet de jure recognition follows three days later.
Tzahal - the Israel Defense Forces - created.
March 10, 1949
Invasion and continuation of the war of Independence May 15, 1948
The day after the Declaration, fears of war became a reality. On Saturday the sixth day of Iyar (May 15, 1948), regular Arab armies invaded the newly declared State of Israel. The Egyptians invaded on the coastal plain, aiming for Tel Aviv. Bitter battles were waged along the length of the Egyptian front, surprising the Egyptians with the force and intensity of Israeli resistance. The planned march on Tel Aviv proceeded more slowly than expected, which gave the Israeli forces time to regroup on the central front. Near Ashdod, the Egyptian column was stopped and surrounded.
The Syrian army attacked Degania in the north but was pushed back in a battle of supreme heroism. It succeeded, however, in conquering the area of Mishmar Hayarden. The Lebanese overran the Malchiah area and reached Nazareth. The Jordanian army succeeded in cutting off Jerusalem from surrounding settlements. The Etzion Bloc was defeated in the south, Beit Ha’arava in the east and Neve Ya’akov and Atarot in the north. But the most tragic defeat was the fall of Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter on May 28, 1948.
On June 11, 1948 a cease fire came into effect. It lasted four weeks, during which time both sides regrouped and re-equipped their forces.
On July 9, 1948 the fighting resumed. Within ten days the Israeli forces managed to block the Egyptian army, reopen the road to Jerusalem and stage several operations which succeeded in connecting Jewish held areas in the city. In the Lower and Western Galilee they retook large areas. Despite these efforts, however, the Negev remained cut off and in ten days of fighting all attempts to link up failed.
On July 19, a second cease fire was arranged, but the Egyptians contravened the cease fire agreement. In the fighting that ensued, the Negev was liberated. In another operation, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) penetrated Sinai, but due to heavy political pressure, they were forced to retreat.
The conquest of the southern Negev and Um Rashrash (Eilat) in March 1949 ended the War of Independence. One Arab country after another signed cease fire agreements with Israel, starting with Egypt on February 24 and concluding with Syria on July 20. These agreements specified the interim borders between Israel and the Arab states, as decided by the outcome of the battles. Procedures for communications between countries were drawn up. It was agreed that this would be a temporary agreement, pending peace negotiations between Israel and her neighbors. But it would take another 30 years for peace to be realized.
Israel signs armistice agreements with Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
United Nations General Assembly votes in favor of the internationalization of Jerusalem.
Ben Gurion's government declares Jerusalem the Eternal Capital of Israel. December 15, 1949
Jerusalem, Capital of Israel
The Provisional Government was inaugurated with the Declaration of Independence. Its seat was in Tel Aviv, since Jerusalem was under siege and it was therefore extemely dangerous to make the journey from one city to another.
On December 15, 1949, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) ratified the historic status of Jerusalem, pronouncing it the Eternal Capital of the Jewish People and the State of Israel. In the wake of this decision, the Knesset moved to Jerusalem. It was not easy to find a suitable residence in the capital, in fact, for several years the Knesset was temporarily housed on King George Street. It was only in the mid-60’s that it moved to its permanent residence, surrounded by the Government Compound.
Massive immigration [648,000] to Israel by the Jewish populations of Arab countries and Europe.
During the first four years of statehood, the country had to struggle for its existence, while simultaneously absorbing over 700,000 immigrants.
These olim did not come from prosperous countries. Israel opened its gates to every Jew simply because he was Jewish. The very first to be accepted were those who were snatched from the inferno of the Holocaust. All the ma’apilim - the audacious blockade runners - who had been caught and held by the British in detention camps in Cyprus, were finally permitted to enter the country. The same applied to those who remained in Europe and did not arrive with the wave of “illegal” immigration.
Another group of early immigrants in the period following the establishment of the State were Jews from Arab countries. They exploited the temporary willingness of these countries to permit them to emigrate, albeit without their property. As a result, Jews from Poland, Rumania and Hungary came to Israel alongside Jews from North Africa, Iraq, Kurdistan and Yemen.
The immigrants were housed wherever possible - in the cities, in houses abandoned by Arabs or in the transit camps - ma’abarot - which were little better than slums, where they were housed in huts and tents.
The ma’abarot were the focus of economic and social ferment. Towards the end of the 50’s and into the 60’s new cities and settlements were created to house the immigrants from the ma’abarot. These development towns were established throughout the country, from Mitzpe Ramon in the south to Kiryat Shmona in the north. The policy was to spread the population in sparsely settled areas, particularly along the borders. Settlements were established along the border with Jordan, where infiltration occurred frequently. It was hoped that the chain of settlements would form a human barrier. A further consideration was that this limited the concentration of population on the crowded coastal plain.
Mass immigration affected not only the settlement map but also the social fabric of the country. Most of the veteran Israelis hailed from Europe, but now a new social stratum from Asia and Africa was formed. These Jews were traditionally more observant than their European counterparts. They came from an urban background and earned their livelihood by commerce, and so a multi-cultural society evolved in Israel.
Even by international standards the immigrant absorption project was extraordinary. Immigration continued throughout the 50’s and is still continuing to this day.
Operation Magic Carpet bringing aliya from Irak.
Operation On Eagles Wings bringing aliya from Yemen.
Settlement during the Fifties
During this period immigration absorption, settlement and development gained impetus in Adullam, Lachish and Ta’anach in the Jezreel Valley, areas which until that time had not been settled. Roads were paved to Sodom and Eilat.
The slowdown in rural settlement during the first years of the State made it possible to plan settlement projects with a greater degree of precision. The new concept was district settlement - villages populated by one ethnic group. In 1954-55 the first regional settlement was built - the Lachish Region - with 16 settlements. Two years later an additional settlement bloc was set up in the Jezreel Valley with nine settlements. At the same time, a further 12 settlements were added throughout the country, in the area around the Gaza Strip and in the western Negev. After one decade of Statehood a total of 368 agricultural settlements had been established, mostly moshavim populated by new immigrants from this great wave of aliyah.
The economic burden of those first years forced the Government to impose emergency rationing. The idea originated with Dov Yosef, Minister of Rationing and Trade. The strong trade in foreign currency, the fact that the industrial and agricultural infrastructure was destroyed during the war years and the brief period of mass immigration - all these required proper economic evaluation. There was a demand for quick housing solutions, for jobs and for an efficient infrastructure. To achieve this it became necessary to limit imports and Government spending and to control prices and the free market. Food, clothing and other necessities were rationed for a few years, but the restrictions were gradually eased and eventually abolished in 1959.
The Law of Return is passed.
The Hulah Valley Project
The most ambitious and complex engineering project undertaken during those years was the draining of the Hulah Valley.
Land in the Hulah Valley had been purchased in 1934 by the Settlement Preparation Company (Hevrat Hachsharat Hayishuv). The Jewish National Fund bought additional tracts of land north of the valley. Negotiations were conducted by Yehoshua Hankin. The Hulah Valley extends over 175,000 dunams (43,242 acres). In the center was Lake Hulah. An abundance of water flowed into the lake from the west, the east and the Jordan River tributaries in the north. Over a period of thousands of years a large swamp was formed. In the winter it spread over a wide area, with very little evaporation in the summer. The region was infested with anopheles mosquitoes, which are malaria carriers. The lake was home to a variety of rare plants such as the papyrus reed and animals including buffalo and marten (a two and half foot long bushy carnivore) and also served as a way station for migratory birds on their way from Europe to Africa. Nevertheless, it was decided to drain the valley and dry up the swampland. The plan called for the preservation of a small nature reserve (4,000 dunams - 988 acres) the remainder of this fertile land would be used for agriculture.
Drainage began in 1951. International companies participated in the project, which was carried out under the supervision of the Jewish National Fund. The operation was concluded in 1958, when the entire lake finally disappeared. During this entire period, work was continually interrupted by incursions from the Syrian border.
Over the years it became apparent that the decision to drain the Hulah did not take into consideration the ecological balance of land and water. It was therefore decided to flood sections of the valley, and this was done in 1995.