Category: Blog

June in Jewish History

Night of the Bridges

Night of the Bridges was a Haganah venture on the night of the 16th to the 17th of June 1946 in the British Mandate of Palestine, as part of the Jewish insurgency in Palestine. Its aim was to destroy eight bridges linking Mandatory Palestine to the neighboring countries Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, in order to suspend the transportation routes used by the British Army. Attacks on a further three bridges had been considered, but were not executed.

To disguise and protect the real operations and to confuse the British forces, around 50 diversion operations and ambushes were carried out throughout the country on the same night. The confusion also allowed the Palmach members to escape more easily after completion of the operations.

The objectives were fully accomplished – The British Mandate lost a lot of its prestige and suffered a damage of 250,000 pound sterling. Twelve days after the attack the British authorities retaliated by imposing a curfew on Jewish communities and launching a security operation known as Operation Agatha. Despite the involvement of 20,000 British troops and the arrest of 3,000 Jews no major damage was done to the Haganah.

Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

Operation Agatha

Operation Agatha, which began on Saturday, June 29, 1946 was a police and military operation conducted by the British authorities in Mandatory Palestine. Soldiers and police searched for arms and made arrests in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa, and in several dozen settlements; the Jewish Agency was raided. The total number of British security forces involved is variously reported as 25,000. About 2,700 individuals were arrested, among them future Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharett. The officially given purpose of the operation was to end “the state of anarchy” then existing in Palestine. Other objectives included obtaining documentary proof of Jewish Agency approval of sabotage operations by the Palmach.

 

 

The Altalena Affair

The Altalena Affair was a violent confrontation that took place in June 1948 between the newly created Israel Defense Forces and the Irgun (also known as ETZEL), one of the Jewish paramilitary groups that were in the process of merging to form the IDF. The confrontation involved a cargo ship, Altalena, which had been loaded with weapons. Fighters by the independent Irgun arrived during the murky period of the Irgun’s absorption into the IDF – sixteen Irgun fighters were killed in the confrontation with the army – six were killed in the Kfar Vitkin area and ten on Tel Aviv beach, and Three IDF soldiers were killed.

Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

Kastner’s Trail

Rudolf Israel Kastner, also known as Rezső Kasztner was a Jewish-Hungarian journalist and lawyer who became known for having helped Jews escape occupied Europe during the Holocaust. He was assassinated in 1957 after an Israeli court accused him of having collaborated with the Nazis.

Kastner moved to Israel after the war, and became active in the Mapai party. He was an unsuccessful candidate in the first and second elections, and became the spokesman for the Ministry of Trade and Industry in 1952.

His “role” in collaborating with the SS made headlines in 1953, when he was accused in a self-published pamphlet of collaborating with the Nazis. He was accused of having failed to warn the Hungarian Jewish community that they were to be loaded onto trains and taken to the gas chambers in Auschwitz, in occupied Poland. Also, that he had known about the gas chambers since at least the end of April 1944, but had neglected to inform the wider community that they were not being deported from Hungary to be “resettled,” as the Nazis had said. The decision of the trial was published on 22 June, 1955 – Kastner was guilty of the indirect murder of Hungarian Jews.

Kastner became a hate figure in Israel, and compared the verdict against him to the Dreyfus affair. He resigned his government position and started working for the Israeli Hungarian-language newspaper Új Kelet.

He was assassinated in 1957 by Ze’ev Eckstein, 24, who stated that he killed Kastner to avenge his activities in conjunction with Nazi figures.

 

Yitzhak Rabin Elected Prime Minister of Israel

Yitzhak Rabin was the fifth Prime Minister of Israel, serving two terms in office, 1974–77 and 1992 until his assassination in 1995. Rabin succeeded Golda Meir as Prime Minister of Israel on 3 June 1974. This was a coalition government, including Ratz, the Independent Liberals, Progress and Development and the Arab List for Bedouins and Villagers.

This arrangement, with a bare parliamentary majority, held for a few months and was one of the few periods in Israel’s history where the religious parties were not part of the coalition. The National Religious Party joined the coalition on 30 October 1974 and Ratz left on 6 November. Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli on November 4th, 1995.

Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

 

1st Lebanon War

The 1982 Lebanon War called Operation Peace for Galilee, began on 6 June 1982, when the Israel Defense Forces invaded southern Lebanon. The military operation was launched after gunmen from Abu Nidal’s organization attempted to assassinate Shlomo Argov, Israel’s ambassador to the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Menachem Begin blamed the PLO, for the incident, and used the incident as a pretext for the invasion. Begin referred to the operation as self-defense to “avoid another Treblinka”.

The initial success of the Israeli operation led officials to broaden the objective to expel the PLO from Lebanon and induce the country’s leaders to sign a peace treaty. In 1983, Lebanon’s President, Amin Gemayel, signed a peace treaty with Israel. A year later, Syria forced Gemayel to renege on the agreement. The war then became drawn out as the IDF captured Beirut and surrounded Yasser Arafat and his guerrillas.

Israel pulled all its troops out of southern Lebanon on May 24, 2000, ending a 22-year military presence there. All Israel Defense Force and South Lebanon Army outposts were evacuated. The Israeli withdrawal was conducted in coordination with the UN, and constituted an Israeli fulfillment of its obligations under Security Council Resolution 425 (1978).

 

Six Day War

The Six day war was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967 by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

Relations between Israel and its neighbors had never fully normalized following the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, and in the period leading up to June 1967 tensions became dangerously heightened. As a result, following the mobilization of Egyptian forces along the Israeli border in the Sinai Peninsula, Israel launched a series of preemptive airstrikes against Egyptian airfields on June 5, on that day Nasser had induced Syria and Jordan to begin attacks on Israel. After heavy fighting with the Jordanian forces, the Israelis completed the conquest of Jerusalem, on June 7, then King Hussein ordered the Jordanian forces to retreat across the River Jordan, and the Israeli forces occupied the rest of the West Bank unopposed. On June 9, Dayan ordered a ground invasion of the Golan Heights – the Israelis broke through the Syrian first line and had taken the Golan plateau.

On June 11, a ceasefire was signed. Arab casualties were far heavier than that of Israel: Israel’s military success was attributable to the element of surprise. Israel seized control of the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Israel made peace with Egypt following the Camp David Accords of 1978 and completed a staged withdrawal from the Sinai in 1982.

 

Operation Opera

Operation Opera, also known as Operation Babylon, was a surprise Israeli air strike carried out on 7 June 1981, which destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor under construction 17 kilometers south-east of Baghdad. The operation came after Iran’s unsuccessful operation which had caused minor damage to the same nuclear facility the previous year. Operation Opera, and related Israeli government statements following it, established the Begin Doctrine, which explicitly stated the strike was not an anomaly, but a “precedent for every future government in Israel.” Israel’s counter proliferation preventive strike added another dimension to their existing policy of deliberate ambiguity, as it related to the nuclear capability of other states in the region.

Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

 

By Inbar Bar-Ner.

May in Jewish History

Israel Declares Independence

The Israeli Declaration of Independence, formally the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, was proclaimed on 14 May 1948 by David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization and the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine.

It declared the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel, which would come into effect on termination of the British Mandate at midnight that day.

Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

 

The Cairo Agreement

The 1994 Cairo Agreement of 4 May 1994 was a follow-up treaty to the Oslo I Accord in which details of Palestinian autonomy were concluded.

The treaty provided for limited Palestinian self-rule in West Bank and Gaza Strip within five years. Pursuant to the Agreement, Israel promised to withdraw partly from Jericho in the West Bank and partly from the Gaza Strip, within three weeks from the date of the signing. The Palestinian Authority was created, of which Yasser Arafat became the first president on 5 July 1994.

Other parts of the agreement were the Protocol on Economic Relations (Paris Protocol) and the establishment of the Palestinian Civil Police Force. The Paris Protocol regulates the economic relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but in effect integrates the Palestinian economy into the Israeli one.

 

Operation Solomon
Operation Solomon was a covert Israeli military operation to airlift Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 1991. Non-stop flights of 35 Israeli aircrafts transported 14,325 Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 36 hours.

In order to accommodate as many people as possible, airplanes were stripped of their seats and up to 1,122 passengers were boarded on a single plane – what set a world record for single-flight passenger load. Many of the immigrants came with nothing except their clothes and cooking instruments, and were met by ambulances, with 140 frail passengers receiving medical care on the tarmac. Several pregnant women gave birth on the plane, and they and their babies were rushed to the hospital.

Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

 

The Ma’alot Massacre
The Ma’alot massacre occurred On 15 May 1974 and involved a two-day hostage-taking of 115 people which ended in the deaths of over 25 hostages. It began when three armed members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) entered Israel from Lebanon. Soon afterwards they attacked a van, killing two Israeli Arab women while injuring a third and entered an apartment building in the town of Ma’alot, where they killed a couple and their four-year-old son. From there, they headed for the Netiv Meir Elementary School, where they took more than 115 people (including 105 children) hostage. The hostage-takers soon issued demands for the release of 23 Palestinian militants from Israeli prisons, or else they would kill the children.

On the second day a unit of the Golani Brigade stormed the building, and during the takeover the hostage-takers killed children with grenades and automatic weapons. Ultimately, 25 hostages, including 22 children, were killed and 68 more were injured.

 
The Death of Eli Cohen – an Israeli Spy in Syria 

Eliahu Ben Shaoul (16 December 1924 – 18 May 1965) best known for his espionage work in 1961 – 1965 in Syria, where he developed close relationships with the political and military hierarchy there and became the Chief Adviser to the Minister of Defense. Syrian counter-intelligence authorities eventually uncovered a spy conspiracy, convicted Cohen under pre-war ‘martial law’ to death penalty in 1965. On the day of his execution, Cohen’s ‘last wish’ to see a Rabbi was respected by the prison authorities, and so, on 18 May 1965, he was accompanied by the old Chief Rabbi of Syria to the Marjeh Square, where he was publicly hanged.

The intelligence he gathered is claimed to have been an important factor in Israel’s success in the Six Day War.

Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

 

Foundation of IDF

The IDF was founded following the establishment of the State of Israel, after Defense Minister and Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion issued an order on 26 May 1948. The order called for the establishment of the Israel Defense Forces, and the abolishment of all other Jewish armed forces. Although Ben-Gurion had no legal authority to issue such an order, the order was made legal by the cabinet on 31 May.

The two other Jewish underground organizations, Irgun and Lehi, agreed to join the IDF if they would be able to form independent units and agreed not to make independent arms purchases. The new army organized itself during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War when neighboring Arab states attacked Israel. Twelve infantry and armored brigades formed and after the war, some of the brigades were converted to reserve units, and others were disbanded. Directorates and corps were created from corps and services in the Haganah, and this basic structure in the IDF still exists today.

Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

 

The White Paper of 1939

The White Paper of 1939 was a policy paper issued by the British government on May 17, 1939 under Neville Chamberlain in which, among several key provisions, the idea of partitioning Palestine was abandoned.

The paper also provided for creating an independent Palestine to be governed by Palestinian Arabs and Jews in proportion to their numbers in the population by 1939 Further: a limit of 75,000 Jewish immigrants was set for the five-year period 1940-1944; after 1944 the further immigration of Jews to Palestine would depend on permission of the Arab majority and restrictions were placed on the rights of Jews to buy land from Arabs.

The Paper, which showed a change of the British policy since the Balfur Declaration, provoked angry reactions and protests in the community and the Zionist movement – The Yeshuv declared a general strike and demonstrations and protest marches took place throughout the country.

 

The Palmach’s Establishment

The Palmach was established on 15 May 1941 and was the elite fighting force of the Haganah, the underground army of the Yishuv during the period of the British Mandate for Palestine. By the outbreak of the Israeli War for Independence in 1948 it consisted of over 2,000 men and women in three fighting brigades and auxiliary aerial, naval and intelligence units. With the creation of Israel’s army, the three Palmach brigades were disbanded, when many of the senior Palmach officers resigned in 1950.

The Palmach contributed significantly to Israeli culture and ethos, well beyond its military contribution. Its members formed the backbone of the Israel Defense Forces high command for many years, and were prominent in Israeli politics, literature and culture.

Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

 

Kfar Etzion Massacre

The Kfar Etzion massacre was a massacre of Jews that took place after a two-day battle in which Jewish Kibbutz residents and Haganah militia defended Kfar Etzion from a combined force of the Arab Legion and local Arab men on May 13, 1948, the day before the Israeli Declaration of Independence. Of the 129 Haganah fighters and Jewish kibbutzniks who died during the defense of the settlement, Martin Gilbert states that fifteen were murdered on surrendering. The surrendering Jewish residents and fighters are said to have been assembled in a courtyard, only to be suddenly fired upon; it is said that many died on the spot, while most of those who managed to flee were hunted down and killed.
Four prisoners survived the massacre and were transferred to Transjordan. Immediately following the surrender on May 13, the kibbutz was looted and razed to the ground. The members of the three other kibbutzim of the Gush Etzion surrendered the next day and were taken as POWs to Jordan.

The bodies of the victims were left unburied until, one and a half years later, the Jordanian government allowed the collection of the remains, which were then interred at Mount Herzl.

 

By: Inbar Bar-Ner.

April in Jewish History

Adolf Eichmann’s Trial

Otto Adolf Eichmann was a German Nazi SS lieutenant colonel and one of the major organizers of the Holocaust, and In 1960, he was captured in Argentina by the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service. Following a widely publicized trial in Israel, he was found guilty of war crimes and hanged in 1962.

Eichmann’s trial before the Jerusalem District Court began on 11 April 1961. The legal basis of the charges against Eichmann was the 1950 Nazi and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law, under which he was indicted on 15 criminal charges, including crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes against the Jewish people, and membership in a criminal organization.

Eichmann sat inside a bulletproof glass booth to protect him from assassination attempts. The prosecution case was presented over the course of 56 days, involving hundreds of documents and 112 witnesses – many of them Holocaust survivors.

The trial adjourned on 14 August, and the verdict was read on 12 December – the judges declared him not guilty of personally killing anyone and not guilty of overseeing and controlling the activities of the Einsatzgruppen. He was deemed responsible for the dreadful conditions on board the deportation trains and for obtaining Jews to fill those trains.

He was found guilty of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes against Jews, Poles, Slovenes and Gypsies. The judges concluded that Eichmann had not merely been following orders, but believed in the Nazi cause wholeheartedly and had been a key perpetrator of the genocide, and so on 15 December 1961, Eichmann was sentenced to death.

Eichmann on trial in 1961. Credit: Wikipedia.

Eichmann on trial in 1961. Credit: Wikipedia.

Evacuation of Yamit

Yamit was an Israeli settlement in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula with a population of about 2,500 people. It was established during Israel’s occupation of the peninsula from the end of the 1967 Six-Day War, and was evacuated when Sinai was handed over to Egypt in April 1982 as part of the terms of the 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty. Prior to the return of the land to Egypt, all the homes were evacuated and bulldozed.

The evacuation of Yamit was part of the final stage of Israeli evacuation from Sinai and was carried out in the face of powerful domestic opposition in Israel. Yamit was evacuated on April 23, 1982 amid resistance by some Yamit settlers and other supporters.

 

Yitzhak Navon Elected President

Yitzhak Navon is an Israeli politician, diplomat, and author. He served as the fifth President of Israel between 1978 and 1983 as a member of the center-left Alignment party. He was the first Israeli president to be born in Jerusalem, then within the British Mandate for Palestine, while all previous presidents were born abroad and made aliyah from the Russian Empire.

On 19 April 1978, Navon was elected by the Knesset to serve as the fifth President of Israel – there were no other candidates and Navon received 86 votes in the 120-member Knesset, with 23 members casting blank votes. He assumed office on 29 May 1978 and was the first president with small children to move into the presidential residence in Jerusalem.
Operation Nachshon

Operation Nachshon was a Jewish military operation during the 1948 war, Lasting from 5–20 April 1948, its goal was to break the Siege of Jerusalem by opening the Tel-Aviv – Jerusalem road blockaded by Palestinian Arabs and to supply food and weapons to the isolated Jewish community of Jerusalem.

It was named after the Biblical figure Nachshon Ben Aminadav, who was the first to wade into the Red Sea when the Hebrews escaped from slavery in Egypt. The operation was a military success – all the Arab villages that blocked the route were either taken or destroyed, and the Jewish forces were victorious in all their engagements.

Palestinian irregulars, under the command of Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, moving to counterattack Haganah positions in Al-Qastal, 7–8 April 1948. Credit: Wikipedia.

Palestinian irregulars, under the command of Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, moving to counterattack Haganah positions in Al-Qastal, 7–8 April 1948. Credit: Wikipedia.

 

The Establishment of the Etzel

The Etzel (an acronym of the Hebrew initials of “National Military Organization”) was a Zionist paramilitary group that was established on 10 April 1931, and operated in Mandate Palestine until 1948, and was an offshoot of the older and larger Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah.

The Etzel policy was based on what was then called Revisionist Zionism founded by Ze’ev Jabotinsky: “every Jew had the right to enter Palestine; only active retaliation would deter the Arabs; only Jewish armed force would ensure the Jewish state”. Its tactics appealed to a certain segment of the Jewish community that believed that any action taken in the cause of the creation of a Jewish state was justified, including terrorism. It has been viewed as a terrorist organization, in particular, by Britain, the 1946 Zionist Congress, and the Jewish Agency.

Similar to the Haganah members, the Etzel members were absorbed into the Israel Defense Forces at the start of the 1948 Arab–Israeli war.

 

The Establishment of Nili

Nili – an acronym of a phrase: Netzakh Yisrael Lo Yishaker (translation: “The Eternity of Israel will not lie”,) was a Jewish espionage network which started action from April 1915, and assisted the United Kingdom in its fight against the Ottoman Empire in Palestine during World War I.

Sarah Aaronsohn, her brother Aaron, and their sister Rivka, together with their friend Avshalom Feinberg formed and led Nili. For months, the group was not taken seriously by British intelligence, and attempts by Aaron Aaronsohn and Avshalom Feinberg to establish communication channels in Cairo and Port Said failed. Only after Aaron Aaronsohn arrived in London was he able to obtain cooperation from the diplomat Sir Mark Sykes.

When swimming to Israel’s shore by one of the members in order to collect Nili information and to pass money sent by American Jews to the starving Yishuv became too dangerous (caused by the presence of German submarines) they switched to homing pigeons. In the fall of 1917, one of these pigeons was caught by the Turks, who were able to decrypt the Nili code within one week and to unravel the spy network.

One Nili member, Na’aman Belkind, was captured by the Turks and reportedly revealed secret information about the group. On October 1917, the Turks surrounded Zichron Yaakov and arrested numerous people, including Sarah, who managed to commit suicide after four days of torture. Other prisoners were incarcerated in Damascus. Lishansky and Belkind were hanged.

 

Sarah Aaronsohn. Credit: Wikipedia.

Sarah Aaronsohn. Credit: Wikipedia.

 

By: Inbar Barner.

My Real-Life Anti- Semitic Nightmare – Mikhail’s Story

I sat down with 47 year-old Mikhail Kaluzhsky – a Russian journalist and playwright, former head of the Sakharov Center theater program, who worked in a significant number of Russian media – who told me about his real life anti-Semitic nightmare.

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My Real Life Anti- Semitic Nightmare – the story of Shirley Tsubarah

Written by: Guly Oren

I sat down with Shirley Tsubarah, originally from Malmo Sweden, who told me about her real life anti-Semitic nightmare:

 

Tell me a little about yourself

My name is Shirley Tsubarah, and I am 25 years old. I was born and raised in Malmo, Sweden. I studied marketing, tourism and administration in Sweden. I moved to Israel by myself four years ago and served in Givati Sayeret Rimon. I am one of seven siblings; I have two older sisters, two younger brothers and two younger sisters. My father was the first to bring falafel to Sweden and was actually famous for it.  For ten years, my father was the first in the falafel business but in ten years a lot has changed. I was around eleven years old when my father sold his restaurant. When I was around 8-9 we had a Nissan minivan and every morning my father or mother took us to school with it. I remember one morning when we were walking out of the car, we saw that someone had painted our car with a text in Swedish “fucking Jews get out of Sweden”. This was the first time I experienced Antisemitism.

 

Can you tell me about your experience with anti-Semitic behavior in Sweden?

Malmo is big city, but at the same time very small. I went to school with more than 80% Muslims. During all my school years, I’ve had people screaming from the outdoor steps of school that I am a “fucking Jew” and that “Hitler did not do a good job if he forgot about me.” I would find hate letters in my locker once a week, where students would write my address and tell me that they are going to bomb my home and kill my family. I have had 15 guys waiting for me outside of school to beat me up just because I am a Jew. I made my school of 1500 students get camera surveillance for the entire building.

I was afraid for my family too. We are a big family and we don’t look Swedish at all. People have always asked us where we are from. It’s the hardest thing to answer that you are Jewish in Malmo. One of my brothers got beat up in the big Malmo festival because he was Jewish. And no one did anything.  By the way, he came to Israel and served in the army as well as my other brother. Just two months ago a girl I don’t know, posted a picture of me and my two siblings where we are wearing the IDF uniform with a title that says that we are from Malmo, Sweden and we kill women and children. We reported this to the police, but nothing happened.

Translation to English: "Here you have a family from Malmo that kills Palestinian children and women... Show yourself in Sweden and you will see what will happen to you! This is how killers look like my friends."

Translation to English: “Here you have a family from Malmo that kills Palestinian children and women…
Show yourself in Sweden and you will see what will happen to you!
This is how killers look like my friends.”

The most horrible experience I had was when I was 19 and I went with my best friend to grab a coffee with her two friends. We were having a wonderful time until the question “where are you from?” came up. I answered that I am Swedish, but they didn’t believe me (even though I am 50% Swedish) and commented on my skin color. I had to tell them that I am Jewish. They looked at each other and stood up from their chairs. In front of all the people in the cafe they said to my friend “how can you let us sit next to a dirty Jew” and then they spat at me.

 

What was your way of dealing with anti-Semitic behavior?

Sometimes I tried to defend myself, but the crowd was always bigger.

 

Does your experience still have a great influence on you?

Yes, and it always will. I have lost hope because of the failing system in Sweden, so I can’t see that there will be a place there for Jews. In Malmo I was always afraid, showing no signs to give away the fact that I am Jewish. In Israel I can finally be who I am, a Jew.