The Fight for Survival
Today’s Text: Ezekiel 11:14-17
Israel’s rebirth was a miraculous event consistent with promises God detailed throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. With the exception of the book of Jonah, every prophetic book of the Bible reiterates God’s promise to bring His Chosen People back to the land He promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants.
“Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”’ Ezekiel 11:17
After a worldwide Diaspora of more than two millennia and against all odds, the State of Israel was reborn on May 14, 1948. David Ben-Gurion, President of Yishuv (Jewish governing body) read the scroll declaring statehood.
Even as he read the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, the Jewish people of “Palestine” were fighting not only for their independence, but for their very survival. (1)
In response to the British announcement to terminate the Mandate government in Palestine, the United Nations approved a Partition Plan to establish a Jewish and an Arab state within the borders of Palestine on November 29, 1947.
The Jewish people readily accepted the plan. The Arab League rejected the plan and openly declared their intention to annihilate the Jewish population of Palestine before the modern Jewish state could be created.
The interval between approval of the UN Partition Plan and the end of the British Mandate on May 15, 1948 was characterized by fierce and continual conflict. Major highways used to transport goods and supplies were blockaded by the Arabs causing shortages in the city of Jerusalem. Arab riots and massacres were commonplace as Jewish inhabitants were forced to defend their homes and families from militias seeking their destruction.
The British Mandate government enforced weapons embargoes placed upon the Jewish community creating a decided advantage for Arab invaders who, on the other hand, were permitted to restock military supplies. In addition, the British army’s determination not to intervene on behalf of or defend the Jewish people rendered the Jewish community particularly vulnerable to the vicious Arab onslaught.
By February of 1948, the British claimed that so many Arabs had infiltrated Palestine that they lacked the forces to turn them back. Paradoxically, Great Britain not only withdrew, but also handed-over several military bases and caches of weapons to Arab mercenaries fighting for the Arab Legion. (2)
This first phase of the War of Independence lasted from November 29, 1947 until April 1, 1948.
The second phase of Israel’s War of Independence began on April 1, 1948. During the weeks leading up to Israel’s declaration of independence, three para-military organizations worked tirelessly to defend the Jewish community from unrelenting attacks.
The most prominent, the Haganah (The Defense), was a defensive para-military organization operating during the British Mandate. In the weeks before the official declaration of independence, the Haganah began offensive maneuvers to regain control of areas allocated to the Jewish state under the UN Partition Plan resolution.
Haganah forces recovered Tiberius, Haifa, Safed and Acre, broke through the blockade on the road to Jerusalem and gained control of strategic areas needed to defend the Jewish state. Two additional groups aided the effort—Tsva’i-Leumi, better known as “Irgun” and a smaller operation known as “LEHI” (Lochamei Herut Yisrael: Fighters for the Freedom of Israel).
While paramilitary groups worked feverishly to repel the insurgence of militias determined to destroy God’s ancient people before the modern Jewish state could be established, there was a flurry of political activity as the ten-member Minhelet Ha’am (People’s Council) deliberated in preparation for statehood. The text for the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel was finalized and accepted by unanimous vote only an hour before it was officially read.
The ceremony announcing independence was not widely publicized for fear that British authorities might attempt to thwart the event or Arabs might attack the gathering. An invitation delivered by messengers on the morning of May 14 encouraged recipients to arrive at the Tel Aviv Museum at 3:30 p.m. and to keep the event secret.
Despite the secrecy that afternoon, the streets of Tel Aviv were thronged with people waving blue and white flags that would become the official flag of Israel some five months later. (3) The ceremony, scheduled at 4:00 p.m. to assure there would be no infringement on the observance of Shabbat, was broadcast live as the inaugural transmission of the new radio station KOL Yisrael.
When David Ben-Gurion opened the ceremony by rapping his gavel on the table, guests spontaneously sang Hatikvah, Israel’s future national anthem. (4) After telling the audience, “I shall now read to you the scroll of the Establishment of the State, which has passed its first reading by the National Council,” Ben-Gurion took sixteen minutes to read the declaration, ending with: “Let us accept the Foundation Scroll of the Jewish State by rising.” He then called on Rabbi Yehuda Leib HaCohen Fishman Maimon to recite the Sheheckayanu blessing. (5)
Ben-Gurion was the first signatory. All 37 members of the Moetzet HaAm (National Council) ultimately signed the document; twelve members could not attend; eleven were trapped in the besieged city of Jerusalem; and, the other was engaged abroad on official government business. The 25 signatories present were summoned alphabetically leaving space for the absentees to sign later.
President Truman announced U.S. recognition of the State of Israel eleven minutes after statehood was declared. The move was made so quickly that the name “State of Israel” had to be penciled in on the official announcement. The Soviet Union followed suit three days later.
The following day, the third phase of Israel’s War of Independence began and persisted until July 20, 1949 with two ceasefires. May 15, 1948 dawned with the simultaneous, coordinated attack of the regular armies of five hostile neighboring states. While Egypt moved from the south to bomb the city of Tel Aviv, Syria and Iraq attacked the Galilee, while Jordon and Saudi Arabia attacked from the east.
The next few days and weeks were critical to the survival of the fledgling nation facing armies with a pronounced military superiority in heavy equipment, arms, artillery and air power. To complicate matters, the state of Israel had no official army. Two weeks after the onslaught on May 31, 1948, the Haganah, Irgun, and Lehi united as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
On June 11, 1948, a ceasefire went into effect. When it ended 28 days later on July 8, the final phase of Israel’s War of Independence began. Although a short lull in the fighting, the ceasefire afforded Israel the opportunity to rearm, strategize and reorganize for faster and more efficient military operation. After the ceasefire, Israel emerged ready carry on an offensive war until the conflict ended on July 20, 1949.
The Arab adversaries signed armistice agreements with Israel in 1949 starting with Egypt on February 24, 1949—followed by Lebanon on March 23—Jordan on April 3—and Syria on July 20. Iraq refused to sign an armistice agreement, choosing instead to withdraw troops.
The Arab war to destroy the reborn nation failed, but the cost to Israel was staggering. Much of its most productive agricultural land lay devastated and heavily littered with land mines. Citrus groves vital to Israel’s economy were damaged and rendered useless. Military expenditures hovered near $500 million; and, the cost in human life was shocking.
When the war was over, the Israeli death toll stood at 6,372 including 2,000 civilians. In addition to losing almost 1% of the Jewish population, those wounded in the conflict topped 15,000. (6) Despite heavy casualties and the population on the verge of exhaustion, efforts immediately turned to laying the foundation and building the state Israel had so valiantly fought to defend.
On May 11, 1949, Israel was admitted to the United Nations and recognized as a “peace-loving” state. (7)
Despite the narrative routinely championed by the liberal media, Israel’s War of Independence was a defensive war—a war of survival. Simultaneously attacked by five Arab states and perilously outnumbered by armies with superior weaponry, Israel emerged the victor with God’s help. Even though the majority of Israel’s hostile neighbors signed armistice agreements with the reborn state, Israel’s battle for survival was far from over.
(To be continued.)
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. Rev. McCracken is known for authenticity in communicating biblical truth that makes his presentations relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Emphasis added.)
1) Palestine was the reprehensible name given to the land in A.D. 132 by the Romans in to obscure Jewish identification with the land.
2)“Israel’s War of Independence, Jewish Virtual Library http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/1948_War.html
3) The blue stripes resemble those on the prayer shawl or tallit and the Star of David incorporates a symbol universally identified with the Jewish people to reflect the unity of the people. Adopted as the official flag of the State of Israel five months after its Declaration of Independence, it was unveiled at the First Zionist Congress in 1897.
4) Inspired by the early Zionist movement, Naftali Hertz Imber wrote the Hebrew poem entitled “Tikvatenu” in 1878. By 1888, it had been set to music by Samuel Cohen and renamed “Hatikva” (The Hope) by early Zionist pioneers in Rishon-le-Zion. The song gained rapid popularity among early Zionists and was sung at the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897. In 1933, the song was officially adopted as the movement’s anthem at the 18th Zionist Congress, as was the blue and white flag adopted by the modern State of Israel. http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hatikvah/
5) Dan Kurzman, “Independence Day 1948: The Most Crowded Hours in . . . History”, Historama.com
6) Israel’s War of Independence (1948-1949), Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/AboutIsrael/History/Pages/Israels%20War%20of%20Independence%20-%201947%20-%201949.aspx
7) Admission of Israel to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 273, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/mfadocuments/yearbook1/pages/admission%20of%20israel%20to%20the%20united%20nations-%20general.aspx
1) Crowd waiting outside the Tel Aviv Museum, where the declaration of Israel’s independence was read by David Ben-Gurion. By [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios.
2) David Ben-Gurion (First Prime Minister of Israel) publicly pronouncing the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14 1948, Tel Aviv, Israel, beneath a large portrait of Theodor Herzl, founder of modern political Zionism, in the old Tel Aviv Museum of Art building on Rothshild Street. The exhibit hall and the scroll, which was not yet finished, were prepared by Otte Wallish. By Rudi Weissenstein. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios.
3) Israel Declaration of Independence Scroll. Formally, the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel was proclaimed on 14 May 1948 (5 Iyar 5708) by David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization and the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine. It declared the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel, which would come into effect on termination of the British Mandate at midnight that day. The event is celebrated annually in Israel with a national holiday Yom Ha’atzmaut (Hebrew: יום העצמאות, lit. Independence Day) on 5 Iyar of every year according to the Hebrew calendar. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios.
4) General David Shaltiel, one-time commander of Haganah forces in Jerusalem (in glasses), and Colonel Abdullah El-Tel (in Bedouin headgear) negotiate in Jerusalem the Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement, which was signed in Rhodes on April 3, 1949. By Israel Defense Forces Archives [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios.