By ZIPPORAH PORATH
I had arrived in British Mandatory Palestine in October 1947, as an American student, for what was intended to be a year of study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. But, caught up in the War of Independence, I abandoned my studies, joined the underground Hagana defense forces and served as a medic during the siege of Jerusalem.
This letter to my family from the Israel Air Force infirmary in Haifa Bay where I served as a nurse, was written one year after the United Nations voted to approve the Partition of Palestine, paving the way for the establishment of a Jewish state.
It sums up my feelings and impressions of the events that marked the incredible birth of the state and my decision to make my home in Israel.
November 29, 1948
Dad and Naomi,
From the roof of the hospital, I watched this morning's parade, a parade of soldiers of the Jewish State. Not partisans or underground fighters.
Soldiers, standing erect and proud, in rain puddles six inches deep, wearing shabby outfits - winter uniforms still haven't reached us - listening to lofty words of accomplishment and tribute.
I, too, listened but my thoughts wandered - drifted back to last November 29th, 1947, Jerusalem, the courtyard of the Sochnut (Jewish Agency) building, the spontaneous joy that filled the streets when the United Nations resolution calling for a Jewish state was approved.
And now we march, we form ranks, we listen to speeches, we salute officers: Natan, as they taught him in the Russian army; Lev, as he learned in the RAF; Aryeh, as they do in the Polish army; Uzi (the Sabra), reluctantly; Moshe, in Turkish style.
All of them, saluting the Jewish Officer in Command, representing Tzva Hagana LeYisrael (Israel Defense Forces).
The same people who were partisans last year are soldiers today, and civilian citizens of the State of Israel tomorrow. I wondered whether "tomorrow" would be another year or an eternity?
The command rang out, "Chofshi" (dismissed). The ranks broke to the count of three and everyone dashed to the canteen where they mimicked each other marching, saluting and even drinking tea.
Nobody mentioned the words we had heard, nobody referred to the historic importance of the day or the momentous events that had transpired, transforming us into a state with an army.
Nobody marveled at the wonder of it all. Were these miracles already being taken for granted?
For me, this pathetic parade was a fulfillment, a consummation. I kept thinking that it had been mustered from all the lands of the world, had taken not one year but two thousand years to materialize.
Next year, the parade will probably be more impressive. We'll have smart uniforms, everyone will salute in the same way, stand in straight lines and know all the marching commands. We will have learned so much and, possibly, forgotten so much.
The talk in the canteen was about leave time, the latest movie, tonight's party, who had an extra blanket or what's the biggest gripe of the day. I looked at the faces of those around me and thought of the patriots who had fought the American Revolution. Faced with a Fourth of July celebration 1948-style, would they have the same sober thoughts I was having?
Like everything else here, it has happened very fast, too fast - the twenty-ninth of November is just a red-letter day on the calendar. A fighting people hasn't time to be sentimental.
But I couldn't help thinking of Moshe, Oded, Zvi, Amnon, Yaakov, Aryeh, Matty, Nachum and a hundred others in Jerusalem, who a year ago danced and sang through the night with me, but didn't live long enough; they fell before the dream came true. The lump in my throat was too big in my mouth.
Was it only a year ago? No, it was worlds ago, each a separate world: the University, the Hagana, Deir Yassin, the Burma Road, Sheikh Jarrah, Katamon, Talpiot, Tel Aviv, Haifa - worlds of people, places and events.
I can't believe this year. So much has happened, but the most important thing by far is the birth of the State.
I've been part of it and it will forever be part of me. I guess that means I am telling you I intend to see this war through and then remain on, whatever happens. This is now my HOME.
From the book, Letters from Jerusalem 1947-1948 by Zipporah Porath.
Copies of the book can be ordered from the author: firstname.lastname@example.org,
Tel/Fax: 972-3-635-1835, or email@example.com
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