As much as a person can withstand.

Egyptian Tank

Egyptian Tank

Within hours of the inception of the State of Israel the Egyptian Army had mustered 10,000 men and together with forces from many of the surrounding Arab nations, invaded the fledgling state.

IMG_1752

Under the cover of darkness, in the early hours before dawn, on the 19th of May 1948 a convoy of make-shift armoured vehicles inched its way, across land, away from Kibbutz Yad Mordechai and the imminent Egyptian onslaught. On board was the only treasure of the Kibbutz; its 92 children, from newborn babies to the eldest who where just seven years old. Accompanying the children was a handful of women, many of whom where nursing mothers. Left behind to defend its strategic location on the main route between Cairo and Damascus were 110 scantily armed men and women and 20 members of the Palmach (Israel’s volunteer defence force).

IMG_1760

the Battlefield Recreated.

Inside information of the impending assault on the Kibbutz had fortuitously given the young families the opportunity to arrange the evacuation of their children to safety. Those left behind could concentrate their efforts on defending their newly founded homeland.

Memorial to Gershon who alerted the kibbutz to the impending attack.

Memorial to Gershon who alerted the kibbutz to the impending attack.

With 1 rifle between every two people, one machine gun and one anti tank weapon, their odds were low in the face of the onslaught of 1 armored battalion and 1 artillery battalion which included approximately 2,500 Egyptian soldiers; far outnumbering the commune’s 130 defenders.

IMG_1761

The Egyptians attacked the communal village several times throughout May 19 and May 20, but failed to capture it. The Egyptian air force prevented a relief column from reaching the site. The settlement’s buildings were leveled and the defenders had become known as “inhabitants of caves and tunnels”.
Although out-numbered by almost 20 to 1 those brave kibbutz residents, aided by the twenty Palmach fighters, had managed to imposed a five-day delay on the Egyptian Army. This gave the Israeli forces time to prepare for the Egyptians’ northward advance, which they succeeded in halting less than a week later.

IMG_1749

While the defenders’ casualties numbered over 50% with 26 killed and 46 wounded, the Egyptian’s suffered much higher casualties of between 300-400 killed or injured.

The final Egyptian attack on May 23 saw the Egyptians occupy a part of the settlement. After nightfall, the surviving Israeli defenders, exhausted from the fighting and low on ammunition, withdrew from the settlement. Their withdrawal was unknown to the Egyptians who, the following day, opened up with a four-hour artillery barrage on the now empty kibbutz. Yad Mordechai finally fell to the Egyptians on May 24 after hours of bombardment of the vacated kibbutz.

IMG_1759

Before withdrawing, the survivors concealed the graves of their fallen comrades under mounds of dung from the nearby cowsheds which thwarted the Egyptians from desecrating the graves. Six month later, upon their return to the ruins of the Kibbutz the surviving settlers found the undisturbed graves intact and reburied their fallen with full military honours.

IMG_1795

Among those gallant young fighters who lost their lives was a young man, Michal (Marek), who at the age of 36, died in defense of Kibbutz Yad Mordechai leaving behind a young wife, a six year old son, Gidon and a two year old daughter, who later in life went on to become our sister-in-law, Amira. Gidon and Amira had been among the 92 young children in that midnight convoy to safety.

Amira at the memorial to her father.

Amira at the memorial to her father.

Last week, together with Amira, we visited Gidon and his wife Hannah, who over 65 years later, still live on Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, where they raised their family and now enjoy their golden years watching their numerous grandchildren growing up on Kibbutz Yad Mordechai.

Am Israel Chai!

IMG_2854

Advertisements

Double Standards.

IMG_5332

The sound of fighter jets breaking the sound barrier shatters the morning silence; this must be Israel.

Last week we were due to head up to the Golan Heights to peak across the border into Syria, but our plans were put on hold until Mr Obama made up his mind whether or not to bomb the bejeezuz out of them. We sat glued to our TV while in the cities and towns of Israel citizens queued to receive gas masks because in the logic of Syria if America bombs them, Israel is to blame and thus a legitimate target. But as luck will have it, Obama decided to take it to a vote so during the temporary lull, we headed for the hills….the Golan that is.

IMG_5186

We’ve spent two nights in Druze village, dined in several Arab restaurants, been awed by the beauty of many Christian churches adorned with gold and wandered through ancient towns that have been occupied at one time or another by Jews, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Turks, Crusaders and Imperial Britain. IMG_9749

Today in the state of Israel Muslims, Christians, Druze, Bedouins, Baha’i and Jews live cheek to jowl in what radical activists would like the world to believe is an Apartheid state. Anti-Israel  groups frequently make statements that are nothing more than slander designed to harm Israel. Many of the young anti-Israel activists who claim that Israel is an apartheid state don’t understand what the definition of apartheid truly is.

IMG_5030

Approximately 75% of the population is Jewish yet all the citizens have equal rights. They vote, they intermarry, they attend the same universities and in the Parliament of Israel, the Knesset, there are Muslim, Christian, Druze members alongside their Jewish counterparts; in fact 15 of the 120 members are not Jewish. There are no swimming pools segregated by race, (only sex as the orthodox do no not allow mixed swimming) and there are no bus stops  painted with signs “Jews Only”. Equal education is freely available to all children and health care is provided to all citizens regardless of religion. Further more there have been over 120 Syrian refugees have been treated in Israeli hospitals since their civil war erupted.

IMG_5076

Prior to WWI, most of the Middle East had been under Ottoman occupation for over 500 years. When the Allies won, the Turks, who had sided with the Germans, lost control to the Allies who divied it up between the French and English. During their reign, the British proceeded to carve up their domain into new countries with ridiculous borders. After WWII the tiny area that constituted the British Mandate of Palestine was divided into 4 pieces; the vast majority, 77%, became Jordan and the sliver that remained was divided into a Jewish Israel with undefendable borders, Arab West Bank under Jordanian jurisdiction and the Gaza Strip under Egyptian jurisdiction.

mandate_for_palestine_paul_new_clip_image003

When Israel was declared a state a little over 65 years ago, every Arab country declared war on her. Wanting to drive the Jews into the sea armies from all the neighbouring country invaded. They resented the Jews being given what amounted to less than 15% of the original British Mandate of Palestine approximately 13,000 sq kilometers. Then the population of Israel was about 800,000. Within 10 years that number had risen to over 2 million. Most of this influx were penniless refugees, many had been expelled from Arab countries.  Israel has absorbed them all and the millions that arrived since and continue to arrive to this very day. Unlike its Arab neighbours, Israel does not keep its brethren rotting in refugee camps for generations for political gain.

IMG_5013

When they left Israel in 1948 there were 750,000 Palestinian refugees. Although only about 11,000 of those who fled Israel remain, there are now over 5 million registered Palestinian refugees in countries like Lebanon, Syria and Jordan who offer them neither citizenship nor welfare. Yet nobody calls these countries Apartheid….talk about double standards.