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Induction to the Haganah, 1947

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Introduction

Zipporah Porath, an American student in Jerusalem, wrote this letter to her parents from Jerusalem in December of 1947, during the Israel War of Independence.

Arab attacks on Jews began immediately following the UN General Assembly Resolution 181, adopted on November 29, 1947. The Jews in Jerusalem were particularly vulnerable. The  underground Haganah defense force desperately began recruiting people to safeguard roads, buildings and houses. This recruiting effort around the country generated a great many "troops" on paper. Some historians refer to this paper advantage to prove that the Jews of Palestine had overwhelmingly superior forces. The "troops" however, had few weapons and little training. 

Zipporah joined the ranks of the Haganah in December 1947, unintentionally adding to the impressive statistics about the supposed Jewish Juggernaut. Her induction and the extent of her initial training and duties are described below. Later, she would be trained as a medic and assume other important duties. This letter describes the dramatic induction ceremony.

Of her initial experience as a "soldier," she wrote:

Presto! We were part of an illegal army, the most unsoldier-like soldiers ever seen. The nearest any of us had ever gotten to firearms was at a shooting gallery. Lipstick and toilet paper were our true heritage. In a way, the full seriousness of our act didn't really register for a while. That day, we saw only the funny side of it and giggled all the way home.

The letter did not have a precise date and had to be smuggled out and delivered personally, since all mail from Mandatory Palestine was read by the British censor.

The text of the oath she swore: Hagannah oath.

Palestine Airletter 1948

Zipporah ("Zippy") arrived in Mandatory Palestine in Oct. 1947, as an American student, for what was intended to be a year of study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  But, caught up in Israel's War of Independence, she served first as a medic in the underground Haganah defense forces, and then in the nascent IDF and the fledgling Israel Air Force. These volunteers from abroad were later recognized as part of the MACHAL volunteer corps.

The letters Zippy wrote to her parents and sister capture the historic events as they occurred. They are compiled in the book, Letters from Jerusalem, 1947-1948. You can order it from zip(at)netvision.net.il (Israel) or click here for review and order information

Jerusalem Palestine Air mail letter, 1947


Jerusalem,

[Undated - sometime in december 1947]

Dear Mother Dad and Naomi

I guess you've been in the dark long enough. But please don't share this letter with anyone. It's only for your information.

While I was sitting one day in a student hang out, Cafe Brazil, someone I didn't know passed me a note setting up a mysterious appointment with another unknown party, who asked if I would do my share to help defend Jerusalem. With typical impulsiveness I said "Yes," never realizing what I was letting myself in for.

The swearing-in ceremony was in the best cloak- and-dagger tradition and very impressive. A dark room in the basement of the Rehaviah High School, with only a dim light shining on a table draped with a Jewish flag. Sitting behind the table were three men, their faces hidden in the shadows, who questioned me carefully. Then, confronted with a Bible and a pistol, I was sworn to a simple, powerful, pertinent pledge. Only a select group had been chosen, those whose background, loyalties and attitudes had been quietly investigated, and I was proud to have passed muster.

For convenience sake, the American girls were put into a special unit and assigned a group leader who didn't understand or refused to speak a word of English. Presto! We were part of an illegal army, the most unsoldier-like soldiers ever seen. The nearest any of us had ever gotten to firearms was at a shooting gallery. Lipstick and toilet paper were our true heritage. In a way, the full seriousness of our act didn't really register for a while. That day, we saw only the funny side of it and giggled all the way home.

Our first assignment, as I look back on it, was real kindergarten play, but we were so convinced of its importance that we took it in dead earnest. Our instructions were to guard the house we lived in, two persons to a shift, twice a week, patrolling the grounds and the roof of the building...


From  Zipporah Porath, Letters from Jerusalem, 1947-1948. Order it from zip(at)netvision.net.il (Israel) or click here for review and order information

Other letters from the book: Israel: This is my home - 1948; Palestine Partition - November 29, 1947 Palestine: Ben Yehuda Street Bombing


Notice

Letter copyright 1987 by Zipporah Porath. Introduction copyright 2008 by Zipporah Porath and Zionism-Israel.com. All rights reserved. This document may not be reproduced without express permission of the author and the publisher.


See also:Palestine Partition - November 29, 1947 Memoirs of a Palmach volunteer, 1948 , Was there Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine in 1948?
Israel - Birth of a Nation - The struggle for Israel's independence 
1948 Israel War of Independence (First Arab-Israeli war) Timeline (Chronology) MACHAL In Israel's Wars MACHAL in Israel's War of Independence MACHAL - in illegal immigration to Palestine and Israel War of Independence

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