Rare photo collection from Israel's War of Independence up for auction

One photo shows Arab soldiers at the Port of Haifa surrendering to Israeli forces, who then raised the Israeli and Navy flags at the Haifa port for the first time in history.

By
May 9, 2019 10:03
Rare photo collection from Israel's War of Independence up for auction

Israeli fighters seen welcoming the first Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion. (photo credit: KEDEM AUCTION HOUSE)

 
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A lost collection of 26 photographs meant to be printed by newspapers after Israel's War of Independence were revealed this past week, and will be up for public auction next week at the Kedem Auction House in Jerusalem - many of which captured scenes that transpired on the Arab side of the war.

One photo, in particular shows Arab soldiers at the Port of Haifa surrendering to Israeli forces, who then raised the Israeli and Navy flags at the Haifa port for the first time in history. Other photos show Israeli soldiers welcoming Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.


"Among other fascinating scenes depicted in this rare photo collection, include an Egyptian war plane being downed on a beach in Tel Aviv; a photo of Jordanian King Abdullah I and the Iraqi Regent Abd al-Ilah in Oman dressed in military garb only several weeks before the Arab armies invaded the State of Israel; and an altered photo of propaganda appearing to show a Palmach soldier surrendering to Arab soldiers. In actuality, the 'Palmach soldier' was an Arab man dressed in an IDF uniform," said the auction house.

During that tumultuous time in 1948, Israel and its citizens were unsure of their fate. Israel's War for Independence was a bloody and long fought war, lasting over nine months with clashes and battles occurring all over the country that left thousands dead. Over 117,000 Israelis fought in the war and around 63,000 Arab fighters from Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and others joined in the fight to overthrow the budding Israeli independence.

At the time these photos were captured, Jerusalem was under siege by Jordanian forces, the Israeli army and its citizens were in desperate need of water, food, ammunition and medicine. Armored caravans were sent to Jerusalem to relieve the city, however as you can see in some of the pictures, the Arab forces made many attempts to stop these caravans from reaching their destinations - including a guerilla ambush of one of these caravans, as well as an Arab sniper puncturing a water pipe leading to a Jewish community - all in unsuccessful attempts to get the Israeli fighters to surrender their section of the Holy City to the Arab armies.

During the war, the Jewish fighters and residents of four Jewish communities in the Gush Etzion bloc were defeated by the Arab Legion, in what was considered one of the critical battles of the war particularly with regard to the defense of Jerusalem.

The Arab forces massacred many of the soldiers and Jewish residents rather than allowing them to surrender. Various accounts place the number of dead at 129 and in some cases as high as 240.

Simultaneously in Haifa, battles raged for more than half of the war - five full months. As a city of coexistence Haifa was a place Arabs and Jews lived in harmony under the British Mandate of Palestine. Initial plans by the Arab forces called for Lebanon and Syria to invade the North and push on to Haifa, while Jordan attacked Jerusalem and Egypt took on Tel Aviv.

The Palmach, a military unit in the run-up to the Israeli War of Independence, subsidized a unit called the Palyam, specializing in maritime activities, made up of approximately 400 marines, and formulated them into the Israeli Naval Corps before the start of the war in order to secure the port for Jewish workers.

"Palyam’s significant role in protecting the workers was demonstrated on at least several occasions. During one such incident on February 4, 1948, members of the Palyam were urgently summoned to rescue two Jewish tractor drivers who were being chased away from their workplaces on the eastern section of the port by way of verbal threats and even gunshots. The Palyam members arrived at the scene with weapons in hand causing hundreds of Arab laborers to flee and ensuring the safe return of the Jewish workers," the auction house explained.

Most Israeli Navy ship commanders, up until 1975, were Palyam veterans - and were revered as an elite unit during the time of the Israeli War of Independence.

The commander of the Palmach forces, Yohai Ben-Nun, keeping up with the with Haifa's long-standing history of coexistence, met with Arab dignitaries and explained the "escalation in hostilities" at the port were caused by militants attempting to sabotage the harmony between Arab and Israeli workers, and convinced the dignitaries to pledge to expel these individuals from the area.

"The fierce efforts and stance of the Palyam guaranteed the continuity of Jewish labor at the port that prevailed up to and proceeding the liberation of all areas of the city by the Haganah in April of 1948," the auction house said.

The War of Independence, while considered on the Arab side as The Nakba or The Catastrophe, left Israel with the suggested areas promised to them by the UN General Assembly as well as with almost 60% of the areas meant to be allocated to the Arab states.

While a bloody and long fought battle, this war laid the ground work for what the State of Israel has become today, and on this day the memories of the soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the independence of the Jewish people are commemorated on this day. These men and women, soldiers and civilians fought through nine-months of of what must have seemed like unusually long days and nights in order to secure the future of the Jewish State.

There have been many famous wars that have threatened Israel's survival throughout its 71 years of existence - including the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the Lebanon Wars and many others. Today, the country commemorates Israel’s fallen 23,741 soldiers and 3,150 civilians, who gave their lives on behalf of the state.

These wars have produced as well as taken from us many soldiers of valor, honor and courage with a deep commitment to protecting the Jewish State and its people. Those who are commemorated today are sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, fathers and mothers who risked their lives so that the citizens of Israel can live theirs - the power in their actions are not understated by the Israeli public and the courage they showed have earned the utmost respect.
 

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