After the British brutally turned away Holocaust survivors from Israel, the UN voted to partition the land.
The British broke promise after promise to the Jews while they created new Arab countries out of the land of the former Ottoman Empire. In addition, because of Arab revolts and pressure, the British even barred entry to the land of Israel to Jews fleeing the Holocaust.
One of the most egregious of the British actions involved the refugee ship, Exodus, which the Royal Navy intercepted in 1947 in the Mediterranean Sea with 4,500 Jews aboard. The ship was brought into Haifa port under British escort; there the Holocaust survivors were forcibly transferred to another ship and returned back to Germany via France.
The British also wanted out of the problem.
And so it came to pass that the British turned the matter over to the UN which decided to end the British Mandate over what was left of “Palestine” (after the creation of the country of Jordan) and to divide the remaining land among the Arabs and Jews. The proposal called for the Jews to get:
— a narrow strip of land along the Mediterranean coast, including Tel Aviv and Haifa
— a piece of land surrounding the Kineret (Sea of Galilee), including the Golan Heights
— a large piece in the south, which was the uninhabitable Negev Desert
The Arabs were to get:
— the Gaza Strip
— a chunk of the north, including the city of Tzfat (Safed) and western Galilee
— the entire West Bank of the River Jordan and the hills of Judea and Samaria
Jerusalem was to be under international control.
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted for this partition plan. Of those voting, 33 nations voted yes, including USA and USSR; 13 mostly-Arab nations voted no; 11 nations abstained.
The British did not vote yes; they abstained.
As disappointed as the Jews were with the portion allotted for the Jewish state, they felt that something was better than nothing after all the waiting and the pain.
However, the Arabs, always maximalist in their demands, rejected the UN resolution. The next day Arab rioting began, and two weeks later soldiers from surrounding Arab countries began arriving into Palestine.
The British, happy to be out of the situation, were packing up to go and turned their backs on what was going on.
In the midst of confusion, the rioting continued with almost 1,000 Jews murdered by Arabs in the ensuing four months.
One of the worst incidents occurred on April 13, 1948. A convoy of 70 doctors and nurses making their way to Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus was ambushed by Arabs. This happened 200 yards of a British police station. After a seven-hour shoot-out, during which the British did nothing, all the doctors and nurses were killed.
Afterwards, the Arabs mutilated their bodies.
In all of this, the British encouraged the King of Jordan, Abdullah, to invade and annex the Arab sections to his kingdom. To Abdullah this was not enough. He wanted Jerusalem too.
As a result Jerusalem came under siege.
The focus of the struggle during April and May 1948 was the road to Jerusalem which passes through the mountains. The vehicles on that road are completely exposed to gunmen up above. It was on this road that all supplies to the Jews of the city had to come. But they could not get through.
The official date given by the United Nations in their partition vote for the creation of the two new entities was May 15th, 1948.
Thus, May 14th was to be the last day of the British Mandate. At 4 p.m., the British lowered their flag and immediately the Jews raised their own.
It was a flag designed in 1897 by the First Zionist Congress. It was white (the color of newness and purity), and it had two blue stripes (the color of heaven) like the stripes of a tallit, the prayer shawl, which symbolized the transmission of Jewish tradition. In its center was the Star of David.
Thus on May 14, 1948 at 4:00 p.m., Hay Iyar, the 5th of Iyar, Israel declared itself a state.
After 2,000 years, the land of Israel was once more in the hands of the Jews.
David Ben Gurion read the Declaration of Independence over the radio.
Everyone was dancing in the streets. But not for long.
Almost immediately five Arab countries declared war and Egypt bombed Tel Aviv.