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Convoy Arrives!, Jerusalem 1948


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This letter by Zipporah Porath, from her book, Letters from Jerusalem, 1947-1948, was written from Jerusalem under siege in the Israel War of Independence. The Palestinian Arab irregular forces had blockaded the road to Jerusalem, ambushing convoys as they reached the defile at  Bab El Wad, Operation Nachshon had briefly opened the road to the city.  The road would soon be closed again by April 20th. The letter was written following the arrival of the convoy of April 17, the last convoy to reach the city until the siege was broken in June. It tells of the arrival of the convoy and of an invitation to a Passover Seder.

The day before, a convoy bringing in needed supplies had broken through. Crowds came down to the Romema road block to greet the convoy. Over 250 vehicles carrying a thousand tons of food and arms and ammunition rolled into the entrance to the city.

Emblazoned  in chalk on the first vehicle was the Old Testament quotation : "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning."

Soon the whole city knew. On this Sabbath morning, cheering crowds lined the convoy's route to the Schneller compound headquarters.

The city looked like a war zone, which it was. Concrete fortifications were built, trenches dug, streets were torn up to form anti-tank defenses. Old and young and even schoolchildren were mobilized for this work. Ultraorthodox Jews volunteered to fight. Shooting continued each night and travel through the city was perilous.

The mayor of Jerusalem, Dov Yosef, had instituted a draconic rationing program that was to save the city. The arrival of the convoy eased the minds of the worried citizens for a brief time.

In a subsequent letter, Zipporah related the celebration of Passover in besieged Jerusalem.

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



April 18, 1948

Dearest Mother, Dad and Naomi,

Hallelujah. A convoy !!! I don't know which is more exciting -- the fact that a convoy finally got through at dawn yesterday with supplies for Passover or that with it came a slew of friends -- all alive and well --including Yehudah and Ami. Last night was certainly cause for celebration-- but, in the midst of the revelry, the shooting started again and we had to head for shelter.

The convoy was enormous -- over two hundred lorries -- and not a shot fired at it. For two weeks the Palmach (the Haganah's commando force) has been carrying out an intensive operation battling every inch of the way with the Arabs for control of the hilly territory, dominated by the Kastel fortification. My friends were in the thick of this all-out effort to open the road for our convoys. [It was code named "Operation Nachshon" after the fellow who was the first to plunge in when Moses divided the Red Sea.] Dare we hope that this is the beginning of clear traffic?

For the first time in months life is looking a little brighter. It started when people ran into the streets to greet the convoy, and the first thing they saw were the heartwarming words, "If I forget thee, oh Jerusalem," chalked on the lead lorries.

Incidentally, these sabras are strong on chutzpah. This morning, I was supposed to have been at my first-aid post at six a.m. but, without asking me, Yehudah went to my supervisor -- he knew him because he had previously been his commander -- and got me off the day's roster so that I would have no choice but to spend my free time with him. He's only going to be in town for a week; the problem is that ALL my friends are only going to be in town for a week.

When I mentioned to him that I had a noontime appointment about work with someone in the Education Department, he just tagged along: it turned out that the "someone" was his uncle. Naturally, I got preferential treatment. It's called Protectzia.

I can't really object to the other thing that Yehudah has arranged without asking me. He's invited me to his family Seder [Passover celebration]. I was all set to decline gracefully but it seems "Mama" has already been informed about the "guest from America" and I can't get out of it now



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


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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