A Nation Born in a Day!

"Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children" (Isa. 66:8).

The events concerning the establishment of the State of Israel truly demonstrate that the Lord God has not forsaken His people. Though Jews may have wondered at the great terror inflicted during the Holocaust at the hands of Nazi Germany, their people were not without hope. On the contrary, the Lord God would soon bring forth their nation, born in a day- A nation whose regathering of natural Israel would fulfill the word of God by the prophets of old and precede the restoration of the Kingdom of God in full in the latter days.

Aftermath of World War II

With the conclusion of World War II, the leaders of Zionism and Jews throughout the world again turned their attention to the land of Palestine. The alarming accounts of Nazi atrocities against Jews in Europe only enhanced the call for a national homeland for the Jewish people.

The war itself had little effect on the status of Palestine. The British mandate over the land was still in force as were Britain's conflicting policies towards the Jews and Arabs. The British "White Paper" of 1939 limiting immigration to 75,000 Jews over five years was still in force. This paper was considered by Jews to be a betrayal of the Balfour Declaration and an attempt by Britain to shore up Arab support as the events of World War II began to unfold.

Despite the deterioration of the relationship between Britain and the Palestinian Jews over the White Paper of 1939, the Jews rallied behind the British during the course of the war, with a total of 27,000 Jews enlisting with the British forces.

Immigration

After 1939, the Zionists had focused much of their political efforts on receiving endorsements from leaders within the United States. As a result, in August 1945, U.S. President Harry S. Truman requested that the British prime minister take the steps necessary to immediately admit 100,000 Jews into the land. In November 1945, the rate of Jewish immigration was increased by 1,500 people a month while a British/U.S. commission studied the matter. In December, the U.S. Congress asked for unrestricted immigration into the land.

The Jews, however, began to take matters into their own hands. The Jewish community instituted a wide network of illegal immigration activities to rescue Holocaust survivors. Between 1945 and 1948, approximately 85,000 Jews were smuggled into the land, despite a British naval blockade and border patrols. Those who were caught were sent to detention camps on Cyprus or sent back to Europe.

Also at this time, several Jewish underground militia groups were active in Palestine. The more radical groups performed guerilla attacks against both the British and the Arabs, while the moderate groups only responded to Arab aggressions. The Palestinian Arabs, realizing that an increase in Jewish immigration would dilute their control over the land, as well began confronting both the British and the Jews through armed resistance. Each side continued seeking for international political support while clashing with each other throughout the land.

With a loss of control over the militias in Palestine and under extreme political pressures from all sides, Britain decided to turn the matter over to a new organization for resolution. "In February 1947, Britain, unwilling to take strong punitive measures against the Jewish community, harassed by the zeal of President Truman, and wishing not to embroil itself any further with the Arab countries, referred the Palestine question to the United Nations."1

United Nations

This issue of Palestine proved to be a landmark case for the fledgling UN in its attempt to settle the affairs of nations peacefully in the aftermath of the second World War. The UN established a commission to study the situation which submitted its recommendations on August 31, 1947. The report concluded that the land should be partitioned into Arab and Jewish states, with Jerusalem and its surrounding area established as an international zone.

This suggestion was identical to the conclusions of the 1937 Peel Commission which proposed the partition of Palestine with the majority of land falling into Arab hands. While the Zionist leadership had reluctantly accepted the plan of the Peel Commission, the British decided not to carry it out.

Resolution 181

On November 29, 1947, UN General Assembly Resolution 181 was brought to the floor for a vote. Resolution 181 called for the end of the British Mandate over Palestine, the partitioning of the land between Jews and Arabs, and the taking of steps necessary for the establishment of the Jewish and Arab states within the land. The Resolution included the following:

  1. "The Mandate for Palestine shall terminate as soon as possible but in any case not later than 1 August 1948."
  2. "The mandatory Power shall use its best endeavors to ensure that an area situated in the territory of the Jewish State, including a seaport and hinterland adequate to provide facilities for a substantial immigration, shall be evacuated at the earliest possible date and in any event not later than 1 February 1948."
  3. "Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem, set forth in Part III of this Plan, shall come into existence in Palestine two months after the evacuation of the armed forces of the mandatory Power has been completed but in any case not later than 1 October 1948."

The Resolution detailed a plan of partition with economic union between the two new states. Jerusalem was to remain separate from the states and all holy sites throughout Palestine were to be given free access to all worshippers.

The Resolution passed with the necessary two-thirds majority, with 33 votes in favor, 13 against, 10 abstentions, and one absent. Those voting for the resolution included the U.S., U.S.S.R., all of the countries of Europe (except for Britain which abstained), Soviet block countries, British Commonwealth countries (including Canada), as well as a handful of South American countries. Those votes against were predominately from Islamic countries: Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen.

The resolution was accepted by the Jews in Palestine, but rejected by the Arabs in Palestine and the Arab states. The Zionists were finally beginning to see their dreams of a Jewish state become reality.

Civil War

With the passing of the resolution on November 29, 1947, fighting broke out in the land. Civil war spread throughout Palestine in those areas where the British had withdrawn their forces. In December 1947, the Arab League pledged its support to the Palestinian Arabs by every means short of direct intervention and organized a force of 3,000 volunteers.2

UN Resolution 181 had established a commission to oversee the partition plan and movement of Arabs out of Jewish areas. By early 1948, the UN Palestine Commission reported that it was unable to implement the partition because of resistance by the Arabs and poor cooperation from the British.

Despite the failure of the UN commission to govern the transition, the Zionists proceeded with their efforts to secure their land through open warfare. The success of these efforts lead to the fall of Haifa on April 22, 1948, and Jaffa on May 13, 1948.

"The Arabs of Palestine, badly led, and ill equipped in civil defense, collapsed, and tens of thousands of refugees streamed into the neighboring Arab countries where public opinion then demanded the intervention of the regular Arab armies."3

A Nation is Born

On May 14, 1948, General Sir Alan Cunningham, the last British high commissioner, left Palestine ending nearly thirty years of British rule.

On that same day, May 14, 1948, the Jewish People's Council gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum and approved a proclamation for the establishment of the State of Israel. David Ben Gurion, standing under a portrait of Theodor Herzl, declared, "We hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish state in Eretz Israel [the land of Israel]. It is the State of Israel." With these words the modern nation of Israel was born in a day. A nation whose population in the land was approximately 650,000 people.

The State would "open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the community of nations."4 Absorption of hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees was needed to increase its own forces against the enemies that encircled it.

The declaration states, "We... by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel." "This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable."5

Within hours, President Truman officially recognized the State of Israel on behalf of the United States. Three days later, recognition was received by the U.S.S.R.

War of Independence

The Jews in the land were a community described in their proclamation as "loving peace but knowing how to defend itself." This would prove to be essential in the early hours of the new nation, for just after midnight on the morning of May 15, 1948, the regular armies of Syria, Trans-Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt began crossing into Palestine. No longer would the nation be confronted by local Arab militants, aided mainly by irregular volunteers from Arab countries. Instead, the trained armies of her neighbors were intent on quickly destroying the infant state of Israel.

The Jewish forces lacked much of the modern weaponry possessed by the Arab invaders, but they were not without armaments. For years the Zionists had in place a vast network for the theft of British arms from installations in the Middle East. Zionist sympathizers in Europe were able to illegally procure weapon stockpiles which were left over from World War II. For example, over 48,000 tons of weapons, ammunitions, and explosives were sent to Palestine from Italy in preparation for the War of Independence.6

The Jews even had their own munitions industry which had supplied anti-tank mines to the British army. Despite an arms embargo imposed over all of Palestine, many nations, like Czechoslovakia, were more than willing to supply weapons to both sides for cash.

David Ben Gurion

David Ben Gurion played a key role in the success of Israel's war effort. Ben Gurion, as the new acting Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, was able to form one cohesive army out of the various underground militia groups which operated under the mandate.

"Ben-Gurion masterminded and carried out the transition from clandestine force to regular army, dismantling pre-state politicized militias to form a united, apolitical military-the Israel Defense Forces. His military leadership was a rare mixture of pragmatism and vision. His combination of bold, daring and dogged determination, dynamic organization and decisive moves played a crucial role in the conduct of the War of Independence."7

Arab Attackers

Tens of thousands of Egyptian soldiers crossed the border at one minute past midnight on May 15, 1948, driving hard through the desert to reach Gaza. From the north, the Syrians began shelling the length of their border with artillery, and Lebanese units invaded Upper Galilee. From the east, the Iraqi Expeditionary Corps, the army of Jordan, and the Arab Redemption Army crossed the Jordan river. The Arab states had over 100,000 troops and modern weaponry in their control.

The Arab forces quickly occupied those areas which the Jews had not yet controlled, and the Arab Legion of Trans-Jordan was able to take the Jewish quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem. The Jews, however, were able to keep control of the main road to Jerusalem and defend against Arab attacks on their settlements.

Fighting continued into the early months of 1949, interrupted twice by United Nation attempts to call a cease-fire to the hostilities. As the war progressed, the Jews gained lightning successes on all sides. They captured Nazareth and Western Galilee on the north, and pushed back Egypt in the south to its original border with Palestine. All of the land, except the Gaza strip, was firmly in Jewish control.

From February to July 1949, separate armistice agreements were mediated between Israel and the Arab invaders. Israel had not only defended her land, but gained far more than was proposed in the original partition plan. From the early days of fighting, many Palestinan Arabs had fled their homes for the safety of surrounding Arab countries. "In all, 335,000 Arabs left their homes, 200,000 from the territory which the United Nations had assigned to the Jewish state."8

Conclusion

Israel emerged from the war victorious, but paid a terrible price: 6,373 killed, almost 1% of the population. Taking her rightful place among the other nations of the world, Israel was admitted to the UN on May 11, 1949.

"From the start the Jewish people's struggle for their own state has been based on three closely related paths that unite into one. They are as relevant today as ever: uninterrupted Jewish immigration; settling of the land in every possible location; and the setting up of a people's army."9 With the land secured, the nation was finally open to unlimited immigration for all Jews throughout the world.

For this nation which was born in a day, only one prize remained yet out of their reach, the Holy City of Jerusalem. The Lord God had created a homeland for his chosen people Israel in the land promised to Abraham and his seed for an everlasting possession. The fig tree has been planted foreshadowing that Kingdom to come, that the world might see and believe, and "know that it is near, even at the doors."

Rodney Dodl
Powhatan, Virginia
(References available from publisher upon request.)


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