The Middle East: A History of Searching for Peace
- From the Depths of Despair to the Heights of Exaltation
- How Dark the Night
- Can These Bones Live?
- A Nation Reborn Through the Faithful Hand of G-d
- The Peace Before the Storm
Part 4: A Nation Reborn Through the Faithful Hand of G-d
Written by: Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion’s Fire Magazine in September/October, 1993
With the United Nations’ resolution of November, 1947, Israel became a “paper” nation. Legally, Palestine was partitioned. The nations of the world had given Israel back a piece of the land that G-d had promised to Abraham and his posterity when He said, “Walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee” (Gen. 13:17). To be sure, what the United Nations gave was small – less than a fourth of the size which the British proposed in the mandate of 1917 – smaller than the state of New Jersey. But it was something – a land, a home, a place – to which the wandering Jew could return, be welcomed, and lay his head. But, could what was given in theory be sustained in practice? In 1948, there were only 640,000 Jews in all of Israel. The surrounding Arab nations had a combined population of over 80 million, and they threatened to drive the Jews into the Mediterranean Sea. There were only six months to prepare for the inevitable attack. The nearly 100,000 British troops, who had kept a shaky, uneven, largely pro-Arab peace, would then leave.
Many world leaders were agreed. If Israel declared herself a nation, the numerically superior and far-better-equipped Arabs would attack, and Israel would be stillborn. General George Marshall, America’s Secretary of State, counseled his friend, David Ben-Gurion, to bide his time until a more favorable political climate could develop for declaring Israel’s nationhood. Ben-Gurion, later reflecting on the general’s advice, said:
...Marshall could not know what we knew – what we felt in our very bones: that this was our historic hour; if we did not live up to it, through fear or weakness of spirit, it might be generations or even centuries before our people were given another historic opportunity – if indeed we would be alive as a national group.
On the 14th of May, 1948, Ben-Gurion, who would become Israel’s first Prime Minister, stood up in a hastily prepared movie theatre in Tel Aviv (because they did not possess Jerusalem), and declared Israel a nation among the nations of the world. On the 15th of May, the last of the British forces withdrew. The same day, six Arab nations – Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq – invaded Israel. They approached like a fistful of fingers that would close together and squeeze the life out of the infant state.
The invading armies had a carefully devised plan and a precise timetable. The Egyptians were to sweep up the coast from the south and then fork out. One force would take Jaffa-Tel Aviv along the Mediterranean Sea. The second force would join the Jordanian Arab legion and converge on Jerusalem. From the east, Iraqi troops would race westward across Palestine toward the Mediterranean to slice Israel in half. In the north, the Syrians and Lebanese would join forces to secure the Galilee and Haifa.
For the first month, battles raged up and down the land. The Jewish forces – initially without a tank, a fighter plane, or a field gun – suffered heavy casualties. The situation looked very grim. Through the efforts of the United Nations, a truce went into effect on June 11. It would only last until July 9. But, it gave Israel a month’s reprieve. It would prove to be all she needed.
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