For the Independence Tiyul, our class was given the opportunity to visit the Israeli tank museum, Yad LaShiryon Latrun. At the museum, we learned about the great Independence war, visited the memorial wall, and had a chance to talk with a real Israeli Tank corps Alumni – our very own madricha – Neta! We also traveled to the Ayalon Institute, where we learned about a secret underground bullet factory run by Israeli youth in the war effort. Lastly, we ended the Tiyul with a fun scavenger hunt in Tel Aviv where we learned more about the skills and challenges involved in creating start-up companies today.
Originally built in 1940, the fortress of Latrun initially served as a British police station during the time of the British Mandate. The site was in a great location; as it was a strong fortress and was positioned so that it had easy access to goods coming in and out of Jerusalem. The fortress was originally taken by the Palmach in 1948, but that group failed to hold the fortress for more than three days due to Jordanian attacks. This led the site to fall into Jordanian hands from 1948-1967. In 1947, UNISCOP (The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine) was tasked with going to Palestine to monitor it. At the same time, the British called on the UN for help with Palestine, as the situation (riots and growing racism against two cultural majority groups), was becoming too large for Great Britain to handle. This set the first UN partition plan in motion.
On November 29, 1947 the UN proposed to divide Palestine between the Arabs and Jews, with 72% of the UN council supportive of the idea. Although the land that happened to fall into Jewish hands as part of the divisions may not have been the most favorable, David Ben Gurion (the founder of the state of Israel and the country’s first prime minister) urged the Jewish people to vote for the idea. He did this, as he knew the Arabs would vote against it anyway – and even though the UN’s idea wouldn’t leave a satisfying conclusion – he wanted the international public to see the Jewish people as positive and open to new ideas and efforts. The very next day, on the 30th of November, the Independence war broke out. Phase 1 of the war began with fighting units having been developed, but the war itself is between local Arabs and Jews living in Palestine. Phase 2 begins on the 2nd of April 1948 and continues until May 14th 1948. We see the Jewish people taking an offensive position, and in turn winning many more battles.
Despite opposition from the American President at the time, this ‘turn of the tide’ that influences more hopeful and victorious sentiments amongst the Jewish people leads to David Ben Gurion announcing a very important historical statement. On May 14th 1948, as the British troops leave the territory at midnight, David Ben Gurion declares an official Jewish state of Israel. The next and final phase of the war begins the very next day and lasts until July of 1949. Arab countries surrounding Israel see a decline in Jordanian forces, and the combining Arab powers of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon simultaneously attack. This leads to the Battle of Jerusalem and Battle of Yad Mordechai. Both were battles that ended in Jewish victory and they demonstrated the strength in Jewish motivation; this being to not only survive the war, but to win for Jews’ cultural and historical rights to a true home.
Our Jewish history teacher Evan shared with us the story of David “Mickey” Marcus, a Jewish American Army Colonel. Mickey felt a strong connection to the rights of Jewish people after serving in the American army in WWII. Before the Independence war began, David Ben Gurion heard about Mickey and asked for his help in regards to finding an American military official to aid Israel’s plight. Mickey decided he was the only man for the job, and came to Israel to eventually become the first general in the Israeli army. Although his death was a disappointing accident, Mickey Marcus managed to have so many positive influences on the war; including inspiring the Jewish effort and helping to build the ‘Burma Road’, which allowed people to secretly enter through the mountains and supply Jerusalem with goods. In the end, the Independence war was a huge success for the Jewish people. However, the war itself also remains an event of remembrance, as we mourn and respect the sacrifice of those 6,000 Jews who lost their lives fighting.
After discussing the Independence war, our class had a chance to visit Memorial wall, where we learned that our madricha, Lali’s uncle, יןסף עזריה, served and died in one of Israel’s wars. Neta also talked with us about her experience working in the Tanks corps, as someone who stayed just inside the border and trained many individuals to use the simulations. She also explained the different jobs inside the tank, and a little about the general tank structure and functions. We then ended our visit to Latrun with an opportunity to play and take pictures amongst the many tanks on display!
Jessie Horowitz is a junior from Toronto, Ontario and also a camper at Camp George.