Palestine: "Grim Restraint and Fierce Dedication"
This letter by Zipporah Porath, from her book, “Letters from Jerusalem, 1947-1948”, was written from Jerusalem, soon after the Ben Yehuda Street Bombing. A previous letter, written on February 22, had given initial news of the bombing and an explanation of why security was so difficult in Jerusalem: Palestine: Ben Yehuda Street Bombing.
Over 52 people were murdered in the bombing by British mercenary deserters and Arab "militants" of those days. Zipporah, newly trained in first aid, "set up shop" as a nurse to tend to the wounded. These are the words and deeds of a young student, not a "PR" person, op-ed columnist or Zionist functionary:
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, February 24, 1948
It seems I finished my first aid course just in time to be useful. I decided not to wait for official assignments, everything is done in such a partisan manner anyhow. So, yesterday, waving my Magen David Adom arm band, I somehow pushed through the cordons to the stricken area on Ben Yehudah Street. No question about it, every extra hand was needed.
Excavations were still going on to unearth survivors trapped under the rubble and debris. Dazed people, some of them with wounds, were wandering around looking for relatives. Nobody was attending to them -- in all the pandemonium it was hard to find the first‑aid stations. I simply set up one of my own.
In a prominent place, on a sheltered doorway, I drew a big Magen David Adom with my lipstick; before I knew it I was in business. The workers from Solel Boneh, digging in the ruins, came in to have cuts and abrasions treated. I collected a group of children, some of them in an awful state, who were wandering about waiting to hear word of their parents. There was plenty to do.
Are there words to describe senseless human tragedy? Will I, can I, ever forget this day? I am becoming like the Jews who live here: every shock and sorrow nurtures you to grim restraint and fierce dedication.
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
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.
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