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This letter by Zipporah Porath, from her book, “Letters from Jerusalem 1947-1948”, was written a year after the United Nations voted to approve the Partition of Palestine, after the Declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel in May, and the beginning of the first of many Arab-Israeli wars. (see 1948 Israel War of Independence) " This letter was included in the collection, Letters of the Century," by Lisa Grunwald and Stephen J. Adler, along with other letters that defined the epoch, written by John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein,  and many others.

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 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

Haifa Bay

November 29, 1948

Dearest Mother, Dad and Naomi,

From the roof of the hospital, I watched this morning's parade, a parade of soldiers of the Jewish State. Not partisans or underground fighters. Soldiers, standing erect and proud, in rain puddles six inches deep, wearing shabby outfits -- winter uniforms still haven't reached us -- listening to lofty words of accomplishment and tribute.

I, too, listened but my thoughts wandered -- drifted back to last November 29th, 1947, Jerusalem, the courtyard of the Sochnut [Jewish Agency] building, the spontaneous joy that filled the streets when the United Nations resolution calling for a Jewish State was approved.

And now we march, we form ranks, we listen to speeches, we salute officers: Natan, as they taught him in the Russian army; Lev, as he learned in the RAF; Aryeh, as they do in the Polish army; Uzi (the Sabra), reluctantly; Moshe, in Turkish style. All of them, saluting the Jewish Officer in Command, representing Tzva Haganah LeYisrael (Israel Defense Forces). The same people who were partisans last year are soldiers today, and civilian citizens of the State of Israel tomorrow. I wondered whether "tomorrow" would be another year or an eternity?

The command rang out, "Chofshi" [dismissed]. The ranks broke to the count of three and everyone dashed to the canteen where they mimicked each other marching, saluting and even drinking tea. Nobody mentioned the words we had heard, nobody referred to the historic importance of the day or the momentous events that had transpired, transforming us into a State with an Army. Nobody marveled at the wonder of it all. Were these miracles already being taken for granted?

For me, this pathetic parade was a fulfillment, a consummation. I kept thinking that it had been mustered from all the lands of the world, had taken not one year but two thousand years to materialize. Next year, the parade will probably be more impressive. We'll have smart uniforms, everyone will salute in the same way, stand in straight lines and know all the marching commands. We will have learned so much and, possibly, forgotten so much.

The talk in the canteen was about leave time, the latest movie, tonight's party, who had an extra blanket or what's the biggest gripe of the day. I looked at the faces of those around me and thought of the patriots who had fought the American Revolution. Faced with a Fourth of July celebration 1948-style, would they have the same sober thoughts I was having?

Like everything else here, it has happened very fast, too fast --the twenty-ninth of November is just a red-letter day on the calendar. A fighting people hasn't time to be sentimental.

But I couldn't help thinking of Moshe, Oded, Zvi, Amnon, Yaakov, Aryeh, Matty, Nachum and a hundred others in Jerusalem, who a year ago danced and sang through the night with me, but didn't live long enough; they fell before the dream came true. The lump in my throat was too big in my mouth.

Was it only a year ago? No, it was worlds ago, each a separate world: the University, the Haganah, Deir Yassin, the Burma Road, Sheikh Jarrah, Katamon, Talpiot, Tel Aviv, Haifa -- worlds of people, places and events.

Palestine-Israel war Haifa 1948

Author in Haifa, 1948

I can't believe this year. So much has happened, but the most important thing by far is the birth of the State. I've been part of it and it will forever be part of me. I guess that means I am telling you I intend to see this war through and then remain on, whatever happens. This is now my HOME.



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: Palestine: Ben Yehuda St. Bombing 1948-Fierce Determination Palestine: Ben Yehuda Street Bombing  Israel: This is my home - 1948


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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