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Hadassah in Jerusalem, 1948

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The Hadassah Convoy Massacre- Preparations

These pages tell the story of the relief efforts of the Hadassah Medical organization in Israel's War of Independence, and chiefly of the massacre of the Hadassah convoy which took place on April 13, 1948.

The massacre of the Hadassah convoy which took place on April 13, 1948, was part of the Arab plan for ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem and Palestine in 1948, planned by the Nazi Grand Mufti Hajj Amin Al Husseini, and his able relative, Abdel Khader Al-Husseini and announced by Arab League.  The strategy included ambushes such as the Hadassah convoy massacre, constant shelling and sniper fire, a blockade of the Jerusalem road that resulted in near starvation, and an invasion by several Arab armies. Over a thousand Jewish civilians were killed in Jerusalem during this campaign.

In the convoy massacre, about 80 people, mostly innocent civilians, including doctors and nurses, were murdered while trying to bring medical supplies and personnel to Hadassah hospital on Mt. Scopus. The massacre was a gross violation of international military conventions, human rights and common decency.

The account below, adapted from a document by the Zionist Hadassah organization, provides proof of two very important points:

  • The massacre had been planned well in advance, and was not really "retaliation" for the Irgun and Lehi massacre at Deir Yassin.
  • British personnel cooperated and participated in the massacre.

The world has often excused the Hadassah massacre as a "retaliation" for the Deir Yassin massacre. Even if it were true, one crime against humanity cannot excuse another, especially as the Hadassah massacre was in part the work of British collaborators. However, it is evident from the account below that the events at Deir Yassin only served as a convenient excuse for a crime that had been planned well in advance. Unlike the Deir Yassin massacre, which was the spontaneous reaction of untrained troops, the Hadassah massacre was planned in advance, in cold blood.

Even without the explicit statements of the Palestinian Arab leaders, made well in advance of the Deir Yassin raid, it is difficult to believe that the Palestinians could have organized the ambush and obtained the collaboration of British authorities in the three days that followed the raid on Deir Yassin.

Nobody was ever prosecuted for this crime against humanity. British collaborators were not investigated. The Arab planners of the massacre became heroes of the Arab Palestinians. 

These pages provide a complete history of Hadassa organization activities in Jerusalem in 1948, including the convoy attack. The history prepared by the Hadassah organization.

A summary of the massacre only, is provided here: The Hadassah Convoy Massacre

The detailed account is provided on these pages:

Hadassah Convoy Massacre-Prologue

Hadassah Convoy Massacre-Preparations

Hadassah Convoy Massacre-The Attack

The Ethnic Cleansing of Jerusalem

Conclusion - Later Phases of the war and Armistice

Massacres and Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine

The massacre of the Hadassah convoy and the expulsion of the Jews from the Old City of Jerusalem, continued a well established pattern in the land of Israel, that began even before there were Zionists, and reflected the relations between the Arab community and their Jewish subjects.

Other massacres and instances of genocidal violence, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing in Palestine include:

Palestine Massacre: The forgotten pogrom: Safed 1834:

The Kfar Etzion Massacre

Arab Riots and Massacres of 1929

Hebron Massacre

The Arab Revolt of 1936

A similar genocidal campaign was planned and announced in 1967. However, instead of resulting in the ethnic cleansing of the Jews, it brought on the Six day war which liberated Jerusalem from the longest occupation in history, and returned it to its rightful historic owners.

Adapted from http://www.hadassah.org/education/content/StudyGuides/Convoy_ITAD.pdf


Previous: Hadassah Convoy Massacre-Prologue

The Hadassah Convoy Massacre- Preparations

Four days earlier, on April 9, in the northern outskirts of Jerusalem, the Irgun and LEHI attacked the Arab village of  Deir Yassin. The convoy ambush was not retaliation for the Deir Yassin attack since the Arabs had planned the ambush beforehand, but the Irgun’s massacre was cited to justify the Arab attack. The Arab leadership had three goals in attacking the Mount Scopus convoy: to strike a decisive blow that would force the Jews to abandon Scopus and make Jewish Jerusalem more vulnerable, to destroy the will of the Jews to resist an Arab invasion of the city proper and to deprive the Jews of their largest medical facility.

Conditions for an ambush were ideal in the Sheikh Jarrah quarter. Over a stretch of a few hundred yards between Nashashibi Bend and Antonius House, there were stone walls on either side of the narrow road. The convoy would be traveling slowly uphill at that point; ahead at Antonius House there was a ninety-degree bend. Caught in that stretch of road, the vehicles would be tin ducks in a shooting gallery. Intervention could come only from the Haganah escort and from a small unit of Scots’ highland Light Infantry stationed in Antonius House. But the British would not shoot unless they received orders to do so, a possibility that was remote.

On April 11, the British military commander in Jerusalem assured questioners that the road was safe but, because of the Deir Yassin attack, the area was tense. Even as he spoke, the Arabs were consulting expert British officer friends on the logistics of the operation. Subsequent events indicate that the Arabs had an understanding whereby they would not be disturbed in their mission so long as they did not shoot at British soldiers.

The Arabs could not – and would not – lose this one.

On April 12, Deputy Medical Director Eli Davis returned to town from Scopus. Wryly he commented, “It was not comfortable on the way down.” Customarily Yassky and he took turns up on the hill, but on the evening of the twelfth, Yassky had a social engagement and did not go up that morning. Gynecologist Yehuda Bromberg was with him that evening. “I was struck by the great depression which had overcome Dr. Yassky,” Bromberg wrote three days later. “It was clear that his depression arose from his deep concern over the fate of our hospital. The dangers confronting the hospital because of the difficulties of transport were clear to him. As was the fear of the destruction of the hospital to which he dedicated his life.” On Tuesday, April 13, the largest Scopus convoy yet assembled was to take personnel, patients, visitors, workers and supplies up to the hospital and University. At 8:00 am people began converging on the clinic in Hasolel Street where a University bus and a Hadassah bus, both lightly armored, waited. Three blocks away, outside Hadassah “A,” two armored ambulances were parked. Haim and Fanny Yassky entered one of the ambulances, a converted Dodge truck, which only the day before had been painted a glaring white with a big red Star of David on the body.

Back at the clinic the buses quickly filled.

Hadassah Social Director Esther Passman Epstein, her arms brimming over with magazines and sweets for the patients, was so determined to get to her wards that she left behind her beloved son, David, who had been injured while carrying out a school experiment. At the clinic, Esther met noted cancer specialist Leonid Doljansky who urged Esther to sit beside him. Three weeks previously she had become his “mascot” when she moved next to him on a bus and a bullet pierced her hat. Had he, the much taller of the two, been sitting in her place he would have died. But this day Esther was not permitted to board the bus and the ill-fated doctor rode without his lucky mascot. Swearing under her breath, Esther ran three blocks to find a seat on one of the ambulances; but she would live to tell about it.

Dr. Moshe Ben-David, administrator of the planned medical school, got a late start from home, hailed a cab, finally caught one of the buses, sealing his own fate.

Shelev Truck Company manager Moshe Lazar had a safe seat in the six-ton Brockway truck of veteran driver Benjamin Adin, but in a move that cost him his life, Lazar changed at the last moment to one of the buses.

By 9:00 am the vehicles were on their way. Three trucks filled with supplies for the hospital and for fortifications joined the two Haganah escort cars, two ambulances and two buses. The exact number of people in the vehicles is not known because precise lists were not kept, but there were well over 100.

At the final checkpost outside Hadassah’s Tipat Halav station, which served as a Haganah outpost, the convoy halted to await the customary order from the Haganah to proceed. British inspector Robert J. Webb, chief of the Mea Shearim police station, said the road was safe. Webb was known as a friend to both Arabs and Jews as was said to be well-rewarded by both. One job Webb did for the Jews outside his official duties was to drive over the road to Scopus before a convoy left. Webb would stop at Nashashibi Bend, look around and sometimes wait there till the convoy passed. On this day, Hillman said, he called Webb as usual and Webb answered that the way was clear. But Webb did not station himself at Nashashibi Bend on April 13 and all efforts made by the Haganah to contact him throughout the rest of the day were fruitless.

The Commander of the convoy was Jerusalem-born Lieutenant Asher “Zizi” Rahav, a British army sergeant during World War II. Now in Company Noam of the Jerusalem Haganah , the city’s only Jewish unit that wore uniforms and black berets, Rahav’s assignment was to escort convoys in the Jerusalem area in an armored Ford truck.

It was 9:30 am, Rahav was in the lead in his escort vehicle with ten men and two young Haganah hitchhikers, “When we proceeded a short way through Arab territory on Nablus Road, near a mosque, I had an odd feeling that something was wrong, because there was no traffic. I thought of turning back but instead I told my men to load their weapons and keep their eyes open.” The car had peepholes through which the gunners could shoot and a winged roof of meshed steel covered by canvas.

Main Page: The Hadassah Convoy Massacre

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