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October 22, 2016 / 20 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘1948’

First Chief Kotel Rabbi’s Letter Reveals Desperation on Eve of Jordanian Capture

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

Adar 1948: Three letters recently uncovered from the besieged Old City of Jerusalem, written a month before the British left and two months before it fell into the hands of Jordan, betray the desperation of the residents and their leaders.

The letters include one of the last letters signed by the Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall, known in Hebrew as the Kotel, who insisted on returning to the besieged city and was killed two months after signing the letter.

The three letters were written in the month of Adar 1948, 68 years ago, by the besieged people of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, were recently discovered by an unidentified individual in Jerusalem.*

The letters reveal another piece of the harsh reality in the besieged city, the internal arguments between its civilians and the efforts to save the Jewish way of life during the inferno. One of the letters is signed by Rabbi Yitzchak Avigdor Orenstein, the Kotel’s first and legendary Chief Rabbi, two months before he perished during the shelling of the Old City.

In the letter – signed also by Rabbis Yisrael Zeev Mintzberg, community rabbi of the Ashkenazi Jewish Quarter, Shalom Azoulay, Dayan of the Westerners community, and Benzion Chazan, founder of the renowned “Porat Yosef” Yeshiva – the four send a distress call to Israel’s Chief Rabbi at the time, Yitzhak Herzog.

“Have mercy on the men, women, and children, and take drastic measures where needed elsewhere, so we won’t perish, God forbid.”

The four describe the difficult situation in the Old City after the shelling by the British soldiers.

“The lives of the Old city residents are in a grave danger. During the last few nights British troops shelled the Jewish Quarter, harming the sanctity of the synagogue,” they write, adding, “The night of Thursday and the night of Motzei Shabbat, were nothing short of a nightmare for us, we thought that we would all perish, God forbid, but thanks to the mercy of Hashem, no casualties occurred… the awful bombing was imposed on us by the British soldiers, without any reason or cause.

“This morning we woke up agreeing unanimously to leave the property behind and save our lives, escape the Old City and the life of nightmare. Nevertheless, after we partially recovered, we called the residents of the city for help in taking counsel and decided to appeal to his Excellency with the broadcast above “.

Rabbi Orenstein, who was appointed Chief Rabbi of the Kotel in 1930, insisted on returning to the Old City when the siege began, even though he was then visiting the new city.

Through special efforts done by Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and Rabbi Herzog, Rabbi Orenstein was able to enter the Old City. When asked why he was endangering himself, Rabbi Orenstein replied that “If someone is destined to sacrifice himself for the sake of the sanctity of ancient Jerusalem and its holy places, I am hereby committed to it more than anyone else.”

Rabbi Orenstein was killed along with his wife, Rebbetzin Mushka Liebe, during the shelling of Iyar 14th, about two months after signing the letter above. He was buried in a mass grave that he himself approved to set up within the Old City limits.

Letter written by The First Kotel Rabbi, Chief Rabbi Orenshtein two months before his death.

Letter written by The First Kotel Rabbi, Chief Rabbi Orenshtein two months before his death.

Alongside this letter, the collection holds another letter written the next day, by the rabbi of the Ashkenazi community, Rabbi Mintzberg, who also addressed Chief Rabbi Herzog. In his letter, Rabbi Mintzberg describes once more the difficult situation in the quarter. “I am to inform him that after the past Sunday of Parashat Shemini (about a week before writing this letter), a bitter day for the residents of the holy city, the soldiers were raging once more, shooting the residents. In yards and homes before midnight Friday night and yesterday Motza’ei Shabbat for several hours continuously, they fired shells and mortars and destroyed several homes.”

This time, the Rabbi of the Ashkenazi community is asking the chief rabbi to intervene, in order to bring peace between the president of the Old City’s Jewish community, Mordechai Weingarten, and the ‘Haganah’ military organization. The story behind this request involves the tension between Weingarten and the ‘Haganah’, following the latter’s takeover of the Jewish Agency’s food distribution to the Jews of the Old City, which had rested with Weingarten until that point.

The letter also mentions the need to reconcile further arguments about the discussion on the possible courses of action in the besieged city. Tensions reached a peak a month before writing the letter at hand, when commander of the Haganah’s Jerusalem unit, Avraham Halperin, was arrested in the Old City.

“Another thing I believe might affect… the heads of our government will give an order to members of the ‘Haganah’ to cooperate with Weingarten, since he is known to have relations with the government in favor of the Old City, and the cooperation will bring great benefit for the Protection of the Old City and alleviate the population’s suffering,” writes Rabbi Mintzberg to Chief Rabbi Herzog.

Another letter in the collection was sent four days later to the Religious Council in Jerusalem, by a representative group of 25 young members of the ‘Beitar’ organization, who had established a company of their own alongside the ‘Haganah’s.

According to the author of the letter, the company consists of “Young and international” olim (immigrants) from various countries including: Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, and Harbin (at that time under the control of the Soviet Union and today a part of China). In the letter, the group seeks assistance for the upcoming Passover. “We are forced to turn to you with a request of utmost importance. Passover is approaching and we are unable to satisfy all the national-religious Halachas of this holiday, such as matzo and the use of special kitchen utensils. ”

A month after the three letters were written, on May 13th, the British troops left the Old City. Three days later, the Arab counter-offensive commenced and the conquest of ‘Haganah’ positions in the city. Four days later came the Jordanian forces.

Two weeks after the departure of the British, on May 28th, the Old City was captured by the Jordanian forces.

(*Ed. Note: Kedem Auction House is handling the sale of the letters. A spokesperson told JewishPress.com the seller requested anonymity and added this is also part of its confidentiality policy, as it is with other auction houses, for varying reasons.)

Hana Levi Julian

Netanyahu Vows on Jerusalem Day, ‘We Will Never Divide Our Heart. Never!’

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu vowed Tuesday evening in a passionate address marking the start of Jerusalem Day “never” to divide Jerusalem.

The day marks the 47th anniversary of the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordanian occupation during the 1967 Six Day War, and the capital’s unification since. Jordanian forces expelled the Jews from their 3,000-year-old ancient capital in 1948 during Israel’s War of Independence.

The venue for Netanyahu’s speech – at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav Kook — was anything but accidental: In 2008, an Arab terrorist murdered eight boys and men and wounded 18 others in a shooting spree that left the learning hall and holy books covered in blood.

Netanyahu was blunt in his vows not to allow talks with the Palestinian Authority to get in the way of keeping Jerusalem united, despite diplomatic commitments to the “two-state solution” being forced on Israel by the U.S. and international community.

“Forty-seven years ago Jerusalem was reunited – that was the way it used to be and that is the way it will always be,” the prime minister stated.

Jerusalem is Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Memorial Center), [Theodore] Herzl’s grave (the founder of Zionism – in the military cemetery at Mt. Herzl), and the Mount of Olives, where both my grandmother and grandfather are buried, as well as [former Prime Minister] Menachem Begin and our forefathers,” Netanyahu said.

“Jerusalem is also Har Tzion (Mt. Zion) and Har (Mount) Moria (the Temple Mount) and Jerusalem is the Western Wall – Israel eternal!”

Netanyahu vowed to keep Jerusalem united, saying, “Jerusalem is our heart, and we preserve our heart – the heart of the nation – and we will never divide our heart. Never!”

Hana Levi Julian

Hamas and Fatah Unite in Judea, Samaria for ‘Nakba’

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

As a sign of continued progress towards “unity” Palestinian Authority officials announced that Hamas terrorists will march together with Fatah to mark the ‘Nakba.”

It is the first time in nearly ten years the two factions will coordinate and appear together at events that lament the “catastrophe” of the rebirth of the State of Israel.

Marches are expected in all Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria, and the flags of the Hamas terrorist organization will fly freely together with those of the PA.

This is the first time Hamas will be legally allowed to rally supporters to “the cause” in Judea and Samaria since it seized control of Gaza, ousting the Fatah faction led by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. That came in June 2007 at the end of a months-long bloody militia war between the two groups that followed PA elections in January 2006, when Hamas was swept to a landslide victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Leftist Israeli and foreign activists around Israel have been rallying all week and last week to support the PA and mark the approach of ‘Nakba Day’ — including at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and at Tel Aviv University as well.

The ‘nakba’ an Arabic word for disaster or catastrophe, is used in this context to refer to the rebirth of the State of Israel 66 years ago. It is marked on May 15 each year by anti-Zionist groups in Israel and around the world, as well as in the PA-controlled territories.

One of the themes of the day is the tragedy of the endless, eternal stream of refugees that resulted from the Arab war declared against the newborn Jewish State.

War in Israel is a fight for survival, and our founders and defenders were sometimes forced to choose whose lives to protect — as the IDF does with the civilians that Hamas terrorists use as human shields in their wars with Israel today. Sometimes Arabs were driven from their homes in what quickly became a war zone.

During the conflict, official statistics report that most of the 700,000 Arab residents who ultimately became refugees from the war fled their homes to avoid the battle, believing they could return with their victorious Arab brethren in a few days. Others were driven out by soldiers who perceived a security threat.

Those numbers, however, have now grown to more than five million with the passage of generations. Nearly all are still cooped up in “refugee camps” in neighboring Arab nations by their “brethren” who refuse to accept them as citizens, to this very day. In this way they have become a weapon against Israel for the quiet, decades-long ongoing war of attrition still conducted today by some of its Arab neighbors, albeit through proxy terror groups, and via PA rage.

The key often seen on posters brandished at demonstrations by the angry and despairing Arab protesters symbolizes the homes their ancestors lost in the 1948 War of Independence. It is important to emphasize, however, that not every Arab resident abandoned their home in Israel. Those who did not – and there were many – enjoy a quality of life and civil rights that are clearly the best to be had in the Middle East.

Hana Levi Julian

‘National Day of Commemoration for the Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands’ Passes First Reading

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

On Monday, the Knesset passed the first reading of a new law which would designate November 30th as a national day for the commemoration of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands.

MK Dr. Shimon Ohayon, the initiator of the law said on its passing,

“For too long the issue has not been properly dealt with, either nationally or internationally.

Thanks to great efforts like this law and the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Minister Avigdor Liberman, the silence is ending.

The fact that the issue of redress for the Jewish refugees from Arab lands will be raised in the Kerry framework agreement demonstrates that this issue of rights and justice is finally receiving the attention that it deserves. These Jews, numbering around 850,000, left behind assets around double that of those Palestinians who left their homes in Israel before and during the War of Independence, and above all, were not involved in any conflict or any theater of war. These important factors should be front and center of any discussion relating to a future peace agreement.“

The law places the responsibility for the day of commemoration with the Minister of Pensioners Affairs, the responsibility for the introduction of related activities in the educational curriculum with the Minister of Education and the responsibility for international and diplomatic activities with the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

“Around half of all Jews in the State of Israel are descended from refugees from Arab lands and their exodus and expulsion, from lands they inhabited long before the Islamic conquest and Arab occupation of the Middle East and North Africa must become known to all citizens,” MK Ohayon continued. “Especially when the Arab world is talking about peace and reconciliation, an important first step would be the acceptance of responsibility for what was done to these ancient Jewish communities.”

“This law will ensure that Israelis will remember what took place in this tragic chapter in Jewish history long after many of those who suffered are no longer with us.”

Jewish Press News Briefs

British MP Still Angry about 1948

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

News item:

A British MP who was caught on camera branding an Israeli soldier a “bloody Jew” has apologized for his remark, the British-based Jewish News reports. …

Describing an encounter with a soldier while trying to enter an “intelligence establishment” during a recent visit to the Jewish state, he was reported during last Thursday’s program as saying, “An 18-year-old girl wearing a uniform, but with her sort of hair in plaits, and crazy jeweler [sic] and open-toed sandals, with a rifle up my nose. Who the f*** are you, you know? ‘Well I’m a soldier.’ Are you? You don’t look like a soldier to me. You look like a bloody Jew. And I’ve no doubt that if I’d come up with the wrong answer, I’d have had my head blown off.”

[MP Patrick] Mercer, who served as shadow homeland security minister under Michael Howard and Iain Duncan Smith, has told the Jewish News, “I’d like to apologies [sic] unreservedly for any offence I’ve caused to all my friends in the Jewish community.”

A pity he didn’t get his arrogant Jew-hating head blown off, in my opinion. And he doesn’t need to apologize to “all [his] friends in the Jewish community,” assuming that he still has any. He has to apologize to that young woman who, while doing her duty, taught this worthless prick an important lesson: that there is one place in the world where Jews don’t have to take crap from such as him.

MP Mercer expressed the thought held more quietly by so many, especially in Europe and the UK: they believe that it’s just not proper for there to be Jewish soldiers, a Jewish army, a Jewish air force, Jewish nuclear weapons, or a Jewish state. In their minds, Jews exist to be insulted, to be victimized in various ways, maybe to be pitied but never to be respected.

But those days ended in May, 1948, when MP Mercer’s own regiment, the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters, along with the rest of the British forces in Palestine, slunk back to England with its tail between its legs, after getting its ass kicked by Jewish soldiers like the young woman he insulted!

There. Now I feel better.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

Vic Rosenthal

Lag B’Omer Trivia

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

The Palmach division of the Haganah was established on Lag B’Omer 1941.

The Gadna program (youth brigade) was also established on Lag B’Omer 1941, and their symbol is the bow and arrow.

Ben-Gurion gave the order to officially create the IDF on Lag B’Omer 1948 (assuming he issued it after sunset on May 26, 1948).

Lag B’Omer is the official day for saluting IDF reserve soldiers.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson ZT”L writes in his Likkutei Sichos that the reason why the day should be called Lag BaOmer and not Lag LaOmer is because the Hebrew words Lag BaOmer (ל״ג בעמר), spelled without the “vav”, have the same gematria as Moshe (משה), and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was mystically a spark of the soul of Moses.

Hundreds of thousands of Jews visit the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, in Meron on Lag B’Omer.

Lag B’Omer has joined Rosh Hashana to become the only other 2 day holiday in Israel. In order to avoid possible desecration of Shabbat this year (2013), the Rabbanut asked that schools be closed on Sunday and Monday, and that bonfires be delayed until Sunday afternoon. Most people ignore the request to delay the bonfires.

Jerusalem pollution levels rise 6 times normal on Lag B’Omer due to the bonfires.

3600 tons of wood are burned.

Construction sites lose on average, NIS 15,000 worth of material, as children raid the sites for wood.

500 firetrucks and 300 firefighters are on duty in Israel.

Feel free to add your Lag B’Omer trivia in the comments.

Shalom Bear

Looking for Family of Soldier Killed in Fall of Gush Etzion, 1948

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Private Yitzchak Mizrachi is the only soldier who fell in the battle for Gush Etzion in the War of Independence whose relative have not been located.

During one of the bitterest battles fought by the Haganah prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, 241 Israeli soldiers and civilians were killed in the final battle for Gush Etzion, which finally succumbed to the attacks of Jordanian Legionnaires and local Arabs on the fourth of, May 13, 1948.

The Legionnaires took 320 men and women into captivity, where they were to languish for many months. The next day, on the fifth of Iyar, David Ben Gurion proclaimed Israel’s independence. Gush Etzion was resettled after the Six-Day War in 1967, and many of those who returned to the Gush were children who were evacuated before the falling of Gush Etzion.

There is detailed archival documentation on all those who heroically gave their lives during these acrimonious clashes, except for one, Private Yitzchak Mizrachi.

All that is known is that he served in squad 9 of platoon 6, under the command of the renowned composer Tzvi Ben Yosef.

Until this day, no relative has been tracked down in Israel. This has led those who are involved in the search for information about Private Mizrachi to believe that his family resides abroad.

A note found at the Haganah Museum archives states the exact date of his death and where he died. but someone erased the initial place of death because he thought the information was incorrect. His name was also crossed out and corrected to “Manosy”.

One of the museum managers, Yaron Rosenthal, calls on anyone who knows about him or his family to contact him “so that we will be able to bestow upon him and his relatives the proper honors he deserves as someone who gave his life for us all.”

Aryeh Savir, Tazpit News Agency

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/looking-for-family-of-soldier-killed-in-fall-of-gush-etzion-1948/2013/04/10/

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