Palestine Pioneering, 1948
This letter by Zipporah Porath, was written to her sister from Jerusalem in February of 1948, during the Israel War of Independence.
Zipporah Porath's letters are valuable because they describe not only events, but the character and mindset of Jewish Palestinians and Israelis in the formative crucible of our society, the attitude which made it possible to tolerate the many shortcomings of the nascent state, and the concept of "Zionism" that it engendered. Zipporah wrote:
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
February 18, 1948
The guy who is being sent to America to serve as a shaliach [emissary sent to further Zionist work abroad] to Plugat Aliyah [ZOA group for immigration to the land of Israel] was here this morning to say good bye. You remember, I wrote you how I met him in his room at the Diplomats' School [school for training diplomats for the Jewish state-to-be] while on "look-out" duty.
I think he'll do very well. He is rather quiet, thoughtful, objective, clear-thinking, earnest, personable and, most important, honest with himself. He has heard many confusing and conflicting stories about America from our people here. He listened attentively, digested the information and is reserving judgment until he gets on the scene -- very diplomatic. He's not the fiery enthusiastic type you are familiar with, but I think he will accomplish a great deal and talk a great deal less about it than some people we know.
Events are developing here with such intensity and so rapidly that I am unable to answer your questions about the pros and cons of chaluztiut [pioneering activities]. That kind of dialogue is utterly removed from our day-to-day activities. It takes every ounce of pioneering stamina to live in Palestine at all in these times.
I can tell you that, in my opinion, the only kind of chalutziut is the act of arrival. Anything short of that is Zionist propaganda talking to itself. Adjustment to this country doesn't really depend on exposure to youth movement training farms or, for that matter, a Zionist background or knowledge of Hebrew. It doesn't hurt to have all that behind you, but mainly it depends on individual personality -- not everybody can take this rugged life -- durability and determination not to be put off by the difficulties.
You have to be able to look squarely at all the shortcomings of this country -- backwardness, ignorance, inefficiency, etc. -- and discern its one outstanding attribute: it is the Jewish National Homeland, the only one we have.
It's also a unique kind of society, where people count, not the things they own or represent, where money is unable to buy what makes life meaningful. What's the price for peace of mind, personal safety?
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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