On November 29, 1947, the United
Nations approved a plan to partition the country. A day later, while Jews in Jerusalem as in all parts of the country were still celebrating the resolution
that effectively established a Jewish state, Arab mobs attacked the
Jewish commercial center near Jaffa
Gate. The Haganah tried
to defend the site, but the Arabs, under British protection, destroyed
the center. The War of Independence had begun.
Jerusalem was totally isolated from other Jewish settlement centers in the country,
surrounded by numerous Arab villages and still subject to British rule
which, though ostensibly neutral, in fact, tended to side with the Arabs. Haganah forces fought valiantly
in every Jewish neighborhood and area. The Arab Legion from Trans-Jordan,
under British command, was poised on the outskirts of the city, ready
to join the battle for Jerusalem.
Jewish Jerusalem fought for its life for more than half a year. War raged not only all
around, but deep inside. Two bombs, one at the National Institutions
and the other on Ben Yehuda Street, took their toll of casualties. Jerusalem was cut off from the rest of the country, and Haganah forces had to break through in large convoys engaged in bloody battles.
The siege tightened. It was time for Jerusalem's "protective belt"
- the agricultural villages established on its outskirts on JNF land - to prove themselves.
Through the winter of 1948 Atarot
and Neveh Yaacov in the north withstood recurrent attack. Transportation
was conducted under battle and there were casualties. Upon the establishment
of the State of Israel and the invasion of the Arab Legion, they could
no longer hold out, and the settlements were abandoned under cover of
night. Atarot and Neveh Yaacov were conquered by the Jordanians and
remained under Jordanian rule until the reunification
of the city in June 1967.
In the southwest, Jewish Jerusalem was defended by
the small border neighborhood of Makor
Haim, which faced large Arab villages, including Malha and Beit
Tzafafa. Makor Haim was far from the city's other Jewish neighborhoods,
and the road to it passed though Arab areas. Haganah forces took up position there, withstood attack and shelling, used it
as a base for counter attack and prevented infiltration from this direction.
The staunch war fought by Makor Haim stands out in the annals of Jerusalem under siege.
Kibbutz Ramat Rahel stood at the southern and southwestern
entrance to the city. Flanked by the neighborhoods of Talpiot and Arnona,
it defended the city on the southern front against numerous Arab forces
from Hebron and Bethlehem.
Upon the British departure from the city at the conclusion
of the Mandate, Haganah
forces captured various neighborhoods and centers in the new city. On
that day, May 14, 1948, the Arab Legion, accompanied by armored corps,
began to advance on Jerusalem from the north and the east, while Egyptian
forces made their way up from the south, based themselves at Bethlehem
and attempted to break through to Jerusalem to join up with the Jordanian
forces in the heart of the city. The Jordanians, advancing from the
north, cut off access to Mt.
Scopus and moved into the city. The points at which they were stopped
by Haganah forces were to delineate the border between Israeli and Jordanian
Jerusalem for 19 years: Mandelbaum
Gate in the north and the Notre Dame Church opposite the Old
At the same time, an Egyptian armored column set out
from Bethlehem to try to break
through northwards. At the boundary of Jerusalem it was stopped by the
defenders at Ramat Rahel. The Egyptians shelled the kibbutz for several
days, succeeding in breaking through and forcing the defenders to retreat.
Palmah reinforcements were called in, soldiers of the Fifth Brigade,
who, together with the Ramat Rahel defenders, recaptured the kibbutz
on May 22. The Egyptians in the west and south, and the Jordanians in
the east, from the direction of the Judean Desert, for days shelled
the city in waves, but were unsuccessful and retreated south, along
the Hebron Road, in order to reinforce the areas they held in the foothills.
Ramat Rahel had stopped the assault on Jerusalem from the south.