Hagana Ship - Jewish State at Haifa Port 1947

The Jewish Connection to Israel: Chapter Seven – Z is for Zionism (Part 3)

Zionism inspired hundreds of thousands of Jews to immigrate to the Land of Israel and start building a national home there.
But once they got to the Land of Israel, how did the Jews handle the terror attcks, carried out against them by the Arabs living in the Land of Israel?
What part did Zionism and the Zionist Jews have in WW2?
And when was Israel established at last?
Get ready, as you will find it all out in the final chapter of our story!

We left off in 1939.
Like Friends fans and Seinfeld fans, two nationals live in the Land of Israel – the Jews and the Arabs. And they do not get along.
The Jews are hyper-active, trying to build a state where they can live free at last. The Arabs are not on board, attacking the Jews. And the British have more important things on their plate, such as Hitler and WW2.

The fact that the Arabs have been attacking the Jews since 1920’s, and the fact that the British did not defend the Jews led to the instantiation of the Jewish underground movements.

Haganah female officer in 1948
Haganah female officer in 1948

Underground movements? Like mole people?
Not quite… More like Jews, with guns!
The largest is called the Hagana (translates to “The Defense”). This is the main underground movement that laid the base to the Israeli Defense Forces (the official military of the State of Israel). Main objective – defend Jewish settlements from Arab attacks. Founded: 1920.
The more militant movement – Etzel (acronym for National Military Organization in Hebrew). It took a more violent line against both the Arabs and the British, in an attempt to drive the Brits out of Israel. Their motto? Only active retaliation would deter the Arabs; only Jewish armed force would ensure the Jewish state. Founded: 1931.
The most militant movement – Lehi (acronym for Freedom Fighters of Israel in Hebrew). They thought the Etzel was not aggressive enough, so they took an even more violent line against both the Arabs and the British (“The best defense is offence”). Its aim was to evict the British authorities from Palestine by resort to force, allowing unrestricted immigration of Jews and the formation of a Jewish state. And yes, it used terrorist means in its actions. Founded: 1940.
Spoiler alert: all the underground movements were disbanded with the establishment of the Israel Defense Forces, to prevent armed clashes within the factions of the new state.

So now you know how the Jewish protect their brothers in the Land of Israel.
But what about their brothers in Nazi occupied Europe?
Well, despite the fact that the British place harsh restrictions on the Jews in the Land of Israel, over 26,000 men and women of the Jewish community volunteer to join the British forces in the fight against Nazi Germany and its Axis allies! The Jews serve in all factions of the forces – they serve in the army, air force, and navy.
They contribute so much that in September 1944 the Jewish Brigade is formed as an independent military unit of the British Army. It even has its own flag and emblem. The brigade, consisting of 5,000 men, sees action in Egypt, northern Italy and northwest Europe. Respect!

A Jewish Brigade soldier
Joseph Wald, a Jewish Brigade soldier, carries an artillery shell. The Hebrew inscription on the shell translates as “A gift to Hitler.”

By now you probably think “These Jews rock! I bet the Brits really appreciated their contribution and helped smuggle Jews from the Nazis and get them to a safe location”. That would be awesome, wouldn’t it? It’s the moral, humane thing to do, so it happened, right?
Well yes. But actually no.
See, not only did the British prevent Jews from arriving in Israel during the war (remember the White Paper from the last part?), but after the war Arab opposition led the British to intensify their restrictions on the number of Jews permitted to enter and settle in the Land. That’s just plain cold.

The Jewish community of the Land finds this unacceptable. Six million of their brothers were brutally murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. They have to protect the survivors!

What do they do?

They set up a network of “illegal immigration” activities.
Why “illegal immigration”? Because this is how the British defined it.
But the Jew defied it.

So the Jews start to smuggle the survivors. By secret, in dangerous paths. In small groups, through land and sea. In the day and in the night. They sneak around border patrols and British naval blockades.
And they succeed.
Between 1945 and 1948, some 85,000 Jews were brought to the Land in mesmerising secret ops, carried out with little to no means.
And the Brits? They try to intercept these rescue missions. Those who are caught are interned in detention camps on the island of Cyprus, or returned to Europe.
Not cool at all.

The ship Parita unloading immigrants at the beach in Tel Aviv
The ship Parita unloading immigrants at the beach in Tel Aviv, 1939

After the war, the Jewish and Arab communities continue to fight, both each other and the Brits.
So in 1947, the Brits kind of give up. The British government requests that the ‘Question of Palestine’ be placed on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly. As a result, a special committee is constituted to draft proposals concerning the country’s future.
On 29 November 1947, the Assembly votes to adopt the committee’s recommendation to partition the land into two states, one Jewish and one Arab.
By now I believe you can guess the reactions in the Land of Israel, right? You see the pattern, don’t you?
Yes, you are correct – The Jewish community accepts the plan; the Arabs reject it.

And I bet you know what happens next.

Yes, you are correct – violence. Following the UN vote, local Arab militants, aided by random volunteers from Arab countries, launch violent attacks against the Jewish community.
The Arabs try to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state alongside an Arab state, as was voted upon in the UN.
In massive efforts, and after a number of setbacks, the Jewish defense organizations (or the underground movements, as you may remember them) manage to push back most of the attacking forces, taking hold of the entire area which had been allocated for the Jewish state.

The British Mandate, which lasted between the two world wars, comes to an end on 14 May 1948.
And on this date, 14 May 1948, a new state is born – the state of Israel. An independent Jewish state in the promised land exists once again. And it took 2600 long, painful years…
The Jewish population on that day numbered about 650,000. They live in an organized community with well-developed political, social and economic institutions.
Zionism, the ideology that turned into a movement, finally realised its dream, its purpose. And a new story now begins.


Wow, what a journey! To cover the Jewish History of Israel, we literally went from A to Z – from Abram to Zionism.
Together, we covered almost 4000 years of history! From the promise God gave to Abram, to slavery and the plagues in Egypt, to the kingom of David and the Temple of Solomon, through the exile of Babylon, the wars against the Romans, diaspora, rebuilding the Land, fighting the Nazis and establishing an independent state once again.

I hope you found the journey as interesting and thrilling as I have.
If you want to know more about stuff that happened after the establishment of the state of Israel, feel free to check out the other sections around here – the wars, the inventions, tourism and much more!