World War IIIt was the year 1939. World War II had begun and with it Hitler’s brutal determination to destroy the Jews. Ben Gurion knew that everyone in the Haganah and many others besides would have to work untiringly and efficiently to save their fellow Jews from the Nazis. He himself, though never actually assisting in the rescues, was in charge of everything. It was a heavy responsibility, and his approval was needed for each mission. The name they chose to use for their work of rescue was Aliyah Bet, which meant “second immigration.” Not only was the work strenuous and extremely dangerous anywhere behind Germany and her allies’ lines, but the British armed forces, under the direction of their leaders, also were doing all they could to keep more Jews out of Palestine. Their action was loudly denounced by Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, who was sympathetic to Zionism. The results produced by Aliyah Bet seemed to many as unexplainable miracles. And indeed they were. Miracles by the hand of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. By the end of the war, hundreds of Jews were saved from their enemies by Aliyah Bet under the hand of God.
StruggleBen Gurion sat leaning back in a comfortable chair enjoying an evening at home with his beloved wife. At 59 years old, his hair was white. Most people his age were thinking of slowing down, but not Ben Gurion.
“Paula,” he declared suddenly, sitting upright and leaning forward eagerly. “The war has been over now for some time. Hitler is dead, but the British still won’t change their minds about immigration. We have got to do something!”
Paula glanced up, the book she had been reading dropping into her lap. “Is there anything that can be done but what we have already been doing?”
“Yes, there is.” Ben Gurion spoke slowly and thoughtfully. “Instead of just smuggling Jews in and talking about a national homeland, I realize now that I must support the armed underground rebellion. Also,” he continued, “tomorrow I am going to authorize the Haganah to begin collecting arms. We may have to fight for our freedom.”
Paula sat quietly for a moment, then she spoke softly, “Just be careful. The British, if they found out. . .”
“We will take every necessary precaution. It will take quite some time, I’m afraid, but the Haganah can do it.”
The Haganah did do it. The year 1946 passed and 1947. All during this time the British, fearing the Arabs would revolt if many Jews came to Palestine, sought to keep other Jews from immigrating there. It was becoming harder for Jews from other countries to enter the “Promised Land.” Many ships bringing Jews over were captured by the British, and those on board were either transported to detention camps on the island of Cyprus or taken back to where they had come from. Despite all this, Ben Gurion continued to pursue the dream of an independent nation. To this end, he labored. When in 1947 he heard that the United Nations had approved a plan to divide the land of Palestine between the Arabs and the Jews, he was willing to cooperate. But the Arabs would have nothing to do with dividing the land with Jews! This was Arab land, they claimed, even though there had always been Jews living in the land ever since the days of old when Joshua had conquered the land of Cannan.
A Nation At Last“It must be. There is no other way,” Ben Gurion spoke firmly. “The British are pulling out of Palestine at midnight on May 14th. We will then declare our independence.” A murmur arose from those seated around the room. May 14th, that was not very far away.
“You do know what will happen if we do this, don’t you?” asked a voice somewhat hesitantly.
“I know what will happen if we do not do it. The Arabs will claim this land, and no Jews will be allowed to remain in it.”
“But why May 14th?”
The debate hotly continued for some time before finally coming to a vote. The resolution to declare, on May 14, 1948, that Israel was an independent nation, passed 6 to 4.
Now the eagerly awaited day had finally arrived and he, David Ben Gurion, was signing his name to an historic declaration of independence. At midnight the news was flashed around the world. Israel is a nation! The dream of years, of hardships, struggles and tears had finally become a reality. Only eleven minutes after midnight a message was brought to Ben Gurion from the President of the United States of America, Harry S. Truman, in which he recognized Israel as an independent nation. Though this was a time of great thankfulness and joy, the Jews had no time to celebrate, for every Arab nation surrounding the tiny strip of land that was Israel had banded together to “drive the Jews into the sea!”
...to be continued