Sunday, December 11, 2011

Zion Gives Birth In One Day (part 6 of 6)

Isaiah 66:8 “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, She gave birth to her children.”
The following quotes and paraphrases were taken from pages 277-354 of the book A Safe Haven.
"Almost from the first day, the U.S. State and Defense Establishment waged a relentless campaign to undermine partition and President Truman’s support for it. Indeed, on December 5, 1947, a story appeared in the New York Times that the State Department had announced an embargo on the sale of arms to the Middle East. 
Truman and the White House staff were taken by surprise, learning about the embargo at the same time as the public. The problem was that the British government had no intention of canceling its existing arms contracts with various Arab states, and the Arab armies were already well equipped, having bought more than $37 million of surplus wartime arms from the former Allies. The Jews were at a disadvantage. They were raising money and buying arms overseas, but British arms searches and naval blockades made it difficult to get them into Palestine. 
Meanwhile, the Arabs began attacking the Jews using Sten and machine guns, focusing on buses, which were now forced to travel in convoys with armed escorts. They especially targeted the convoys going from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 
To deal with the problems of arms, the Jewish Agency sent Golda Meyerson (Meir) to the United States on an emergency mission to raise money for the Haganah. Meyerson had emigrated to Milwaukee from Russia as a young girl and had worked as a teacher before emigrating to Palestine in 1920. She told her audiences in the U.S.: “Within a very short period, a couple of weeks, we must have in cash between twenty-five and thirty million dollars.” It was a staggering amount in 1947. Meyerson traveled throughout the United States, giving the same pitch to one Jewish group after another. After two and a half months of constant fund-raising, she returned to Palestine with $50 million.”
Note: I highly recommend the movie: A Woman Called Golda played by Ingrid Bergman which goes over a lot of this story.

In the middle of all this was Harry Truman. He confided to his friend Oscar R. Ewing, “I am in a tough spot. The Jews are bringing all kinds of pressure on me to support the partition of Palestine and the establishment of a Jewish state... And the State Department is adamantly opposed to this. I have two Jewish assistants on my staff... Whenever I try to talk to them about Palestine they soon burst into tears because they are so emotionally involved... He wanted some impartial advice. 
So Ewing offered to help, much to the relief of Truman. Ewing was an attorney who claimed not to know much about the situation in Palestine outside what he was reading in the newspapers. As a lawyer, he decided the best approach would be for him to investigate the legal claims that the Arabs and Jews, respectively, had to the land in question. Ewing’s conclusion was that in international law, when land is taken by conquest, the conqueror can dispose of it as he desires. This meant that the sovereignty given by the Allies to the Jews of the land taken from Turkey after World War I had as much validity as grants of sovereignty that had been made to the Arab countries. Most important, he concluded, “the claim that Palestine had been their land for thousands of years was untrue.” For hundreds of years it had been Turkish, and after the First World War, the Allies had given part of their conquered land to the Jews, and their title to it became indisputable.”
Still, everyone knew that unless immediate action was taken to preserve peace in Palestine, chaos and violence would follow Great Britain’s withdrawal on May 15th.
In the midst of this turmoil, Truman wrote to his lifetime friend Eddie Jacobson, “The situation has been a headache to me for two and a half years. The Jews are so emotional, and the Arabs so difficult to talk with that it is almost impossible to get anything done. The British have been exceedingly noncooperative in arriving at a conclusion. The Zionists, of course, have expected a big stick approach on our part, and naturally have been disappointed when we can’t do that." Then Jacobson came to talk with Harry, because he refused to talk with any Jewish leaders, including Chaim Weizmann. Eddie said, in part: “Please talk with Chaim Weizmann, he is a gentleman, a great statesman, and a very sick man. He travelled thousands of miles just to speak with you and to plead the cause of my people."
After much cajoling, Harry finally gave in and agreed to see Chaim Weizmann. They ended up meeting surreptitiously at the White House. Weizmann requested three things from Truman: 1) lift the arms embargo, 2) support partition, and 3) increase the free migration of Jewish immigrants to Palestine. Weizmann left with an understanding that Truman was in sympathy with these goals. But then, the State Department announced in a press conference that they were recommending a change in policy from partition to trusteeship. Truman was stunned at the turn of events and felt terrible about how this would be received by Weizmann and the whole Jewish community.
Weizmann understood the politics that were going on behind Truman’s back and wrote the following to Harry: “The Jews of Europe are still in those camps, two years after liberation, and were subject to “dwindling resources of hope and morale. I cannot for a moment believe, that you would be a party to the further disappointment of pathetic hopes, which yourself have raised so high. The only choice for the Jewish people, Weizmann ended, is between Statehood and extermination. History and providence have placed this issue in your hands, and I am confident that you will yet decide it in the spirit of the moral law.”
In April 1948, the Haganah began to turn the military situation around. Ben Gurion insisted that they go on the offensive in preparation for when Britain withdrew. They determined to capture all Arab towns that were dominating vital arteries and communications. The Haganah also began to receive the weapons it desperately needed. On April 1, the first transport plane containing arms from Czechoslovakia landed. Two days later a ship arrived with even more weapons. The Haganah now had the weapons they needed and began to take four of the five major cities of Palestine. Things were going better than in a long time when a major tragedy occurred. The extreme wing of the Jewish fighters, Irgun and the Stern Gang, viciously attacked an Arab village called Deir Yasin and killed 110 people, many of them women and children. The Deir Yasin massacre, as it was called, would have strong repercussions for decades. The Arabs took their revenge by ambushing a bus full of doctors and nurses who were on their way to the Hadassah hospital on Mount Scopus. Seventy-six people were injured and thirty-four killed. 
Then May 14th came and the world waited with bated breath. On May 14th, at 6:11 PM EST (slightly after midnight in Israel) Truman announced the U.S. recognition of Israel. He turned to one of his aides and said, “The old doctor [Chaim Weizmann] will believe me now.” Truman’s announcement, making the United States the first nation to recognize Israel, stunned everyone. Most surprised were Warren Austin and the U.S. delegation to the U.N.
Celebrations of Israel’s birth were numerous and dampened only by the apprehension of what was to come. As the next day dawned, Egyptian aircraft bombed Tel Aviv and the armies of five Arab countries began to mount an assault.
The British quietly boarded the cruiser Euralysus at Haifa harbor and slipped out of Palestine. The Haganah, soon to be named the Israel Defense Forces, did not have weapons and equipment comparable to the Arab’s firepower, but they were highly motivated and mobilized.
On May 24, Truman received the new president of Israel (Chaim Weizmann) at the White House. Weizmann presented Truman with a Torah Scroll. Accepting it, Truman quipped, “Thanks, I always wanted one.” Later Truman would say the Torah was one of the greatest things he owned and it was very special because Weizmann had to request a special authorization for a Baptist to handle it.”
Fighting by themselves and with the new arms sold to them by Czechoslovakia, the Israelis would win the war and sign a truce on January 7, 1949.
After Israel was created, the historical and religious meaning of what he had done became more important to Truman, especially his role in the return of the Jews to Palestine. Truman shared his thoughts with Clifford about Biblical prophecies concerning the Jews’ return to Zion in the Old Testament. One of Truman’s favorites was from Deuteronomy: ‘Behold I have given up the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land to which the Lord has sworn unto your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.' These prophecies, for Truman, lent a stamp of approval from a higher authority to the decision to recognize Israel.
In the spring of 1949, Eliahu Elath accompanied Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Isaac Halevi Herzog, to a meeting with Truman. Truman asked him if he knew what he had done for the refugees and to establish Israel. Herzog reflected for a moment and replied that when the President was still in his mother’s womb.... the Lord had bestowed upon him the mission of helping his Chosen people at a time of despair and aiding in the fulfillment of His promise of Return to the Holy Land.” Then the Rabbi compared Truman’s actions to those of King Cyrus who sponsored the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the captivity in 506 BC. Truman took the Rabbi’s words to heart. When Eddie Jacobson told an audience at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York that he was introducing the man who had helped create Israel, Truman quickly responded, “Helped create Israel? I am Cyrus I am Cyrus.”
Eliahu Elath, speaking years later as the president of Hebrew University, told his audience that the Bible was Truman’s main source of knowledge of the history of Palestine in ancient times.” Quoting Truman’s farewell address as president, given on January 15, 1953, “The Tigris and the Euphrates Valley can be made to bloom as it did in the time of  Babylon and Ninevah, Israel can be made into the country of milk and honey as it was in the time of Joshua.”
When David Ben-Gurion, now the first prime minister of Israel, met Truman in New York City in 1961, he was surprised by Truman’s intense emotions. “I told him, that as a foreigner I could not judge what would be his place in American history; but his helpfulness to us, his constant sympathy with our aims in Israel, his courageous decision to recognize our new State so quickly and his steadfast support since then had given him an immortal place in Jewish history.” After he spoke these words, Truman’s eyes were suddenly filled with tears. “I had rarely seen anyone so moved,” Ben-Gurion wrote.
In a letter to Chaim Weizmann, Truman said, “I want to tell you how happy and impressed I have been at the remarkable progress made by the new State of Israel. What you have received at the hands of the world has been far less than was your due. But you have more than made the most of what you have received, and I admire you for that.”
Truman and his best friend Eddie Jacobson, were planning a trip to Europe and Israel when, all of a sudden, Eddie died of a heart attack. After Jacobson’s death, Truman said, “I don’t think I have ever known a man that I thought more of outside my own family than I did of Eddie. He was an honorable man... Eddie was one of those men that you read about in the Torah.... If you read the articles in Genesis concerning two just men: Enoch and Noah, you’ll find those descriptions fit Eddie Jacobson to the dot.”
"Without Truman, the new State of Israel might not have survived its first difficult years, and succeeded thereafter. For this, Truman will continue to be viewed as a hero in Israel and continue to have a place of honor in the history of the Jewish people."

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