LIFE in Israel in 1948 – Part 1
by Ben Atlas on July 2, 2009
I continue to research the vast collection of photos from the LIFE Magazine. I sort the photos by a photographer or event, etc. In this post I want to curate the 1948 photos from Israel.
Jewish girl, Rachel Levy, 7, fleeing from street w. burning bldgs. as the Arabs sack Jerusalem after its surrender. May 28, 1948. John Phillips
There is a wide patch on the right cheek of the Sephardi Rabbi, he must have been hit in the face. Please identify these Rabbis?
Sephardic Rabbi discussing terms of surrender of the Jewish quarter in Jerusalem with Arab Legion Soldiers. June 1948. John Phillips
Jewish soldiers being guarded by Arab Legion soldiers after their surrender in Jerusalem. June 1948. John Phillips
Captured Jewish soldier sitting between two members of the Arab Legion. Jerusalem, Israel. June 1948. John Phillips
Frank Adam comments: Another useful detail in the seated three men photo:Jewish prisoner in pukka Brit shorts and two Arab Legion guards. The corporal on the viewer’s right is a negro. So? The nearest negroes to the Holy Land are in Sudan (deeply south from Egypt) or escaped slaves from Saudi Arabia. Either way he is an immigrant to the region which is one in the eye for the Arab complaint about Zionist Jews being immigrants.
This also illustrates the crafty recruitment of the Arab Legion any number were recruited from outside Jordan in southern Syria, Lebanon, (Saudi, Iraq) and Palestine as commonly taken to be the entire country West of the River J. This profile of personnel being foreign mercenaries were utterly dependent on their engagement & utterly loyal, but Glubb Pasha also realised that he would have less trouble to police by securing the consent of the desert tribes to his operations and recruited from them in balance pro rata to the size of each tribe which in the situation of nomadic pastoralists not averse to smuggling and theft in a subsistence society of who owes and owns whom amounted to representation and committment to the regime of the incipient Jordanian state. It was not so obvious nor institutionalised as the Indian Army system of ethnic regiments and companies with a company or two of different ethnicit(ies) in each regiment, but it was nevetheless political balancing of the grass roots.
Frank Adam comments: the status & responsibility of client state troops is politcally nice. The Arab Legion was British equipped, trained and had a lot of British field officers (majors & colonels) and its commander all, “on contract,” or, “secondment.” In 1920 – 46 it was the originally gendarmerie desert patrol force of the Emirate of Transjordan which the British had created within the Eastern part of the Palestine Mandate. In English English, “gendarmerie” is a nationally organised, armed but police force at the direction of civil power, local and central (state troopers in US?). Britain audited TJ’s books ie approved the budget, and supplied quite a few senior civil officers all supervised by a Resident who reported to the High Commissioner in Jerusalem his immediate local senior, and directly to the Colonial Office, London. So in the 1941 Iraqi campaign and for internal security ie guard duties in Palestine 1945-47 inclusive, the Arab Legion was available (from ‘46, turning itself into an “army”) to the British commander in Palestine or Iraq as another British unit – having formally asked for their service through usual channels from the Transjordanian government which was internally fairly independent – or had to be treated as such to keep up appearances and so political effectiveness. In 1946 the British signed a treaty with Transjordan to become the Kingdom of Jordan and so strictly an ally, rather than a dependent territory – but it depended on a pa sub of £4 ($11) million from London till the 50’s when Hussein fired Glubb and the US after ‘56 gradually substituted for UK as it frequently has across the World since 1945, but in its own variations of retired officers on contract in Kossovo Iraq and other locations.
Nevertheless there are press photos of Legionaries on duty in Jerusalem’s “Bevingrad” in ‘46-’47 as it was Bevin’s initial policy that the Arab parts of Palestine would go in with Jordan – by one of his remarks. Eventually the Jordanian Government withdrew the Legion by early ‘48 from West of the Jordan entirely, till Abdullah invaded Palestine in May ‘48. By the memoirs and statements of the time any British seconded officers had returned to their own British units or were kept East of the Jordan, but there were still some contract officers in the force across the River.
Just in case this all sounds ad hoc if not outright louche, it is the stuff of British avoidance of systematic big thinking and as a defence measure in the 1941 “flap” when it looked as if Rommel might break through Egypt, the British incorporated the Palestine Police – a civilian formation albeit armed – into the British Army. As such it sent a detachment to march in the victory parade in London.
Illegal Jewish immigrants aboard captured refugee ship surrounded by British troops who halted the craft shortly before the official creation of the state of Israel. Haifa 1948. Dmitri Kessel
Fran Adam Commenst: The half platoon of helmeted British troops on the quay waiting for the illegal immigrants to (be?) disembarked are Parachute Regiment. The giveaway is – unlike the usual British “battle bowler” souplate design from the 14-18 trench war – the brimless helmet developed for airborne units (2 divisions in ‘44 – ‘45) not to catch the door in the jump, or slipstream. Later a lot of them went to the navy for similar reasons of warship constricted passages and hatches. There is a third design in which the brim angle is not pressed so it has a parabolic outline which served from 43-44 (till GRP – glass reinforced plastic ie kevlar brimless took over in the 70’s because APC’s -armoured personnel carriers are also cramped). The purpose of the broad but parabolic third design which can be seen in the second lot of photos was it protected the neck when on lying the ground as it was impossible to wear jauntily with the chinstrap behind the head.
Elderly Jews going to Zion’s Gate evacuating the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem. June 1948. John Phillips
The next two photographs are remarkable. I found them in the different parts of the archive. It occurred to me to compare the architectural elements, the stair, the window openings, etc. This is before and after of the same place!
Jewish families waiting outside their homes to be evacuated by Arab troops. Jerusalem, Israel. June 1948. John Phillips
Jewish people attempting to leave portion of city surrendered to Arab forces. Jerusalem, Israel. June 1948. John Phillips
International Red Cross employees helping Jewish refugees. Jerusalem, Israel. June 1948. John Phillips
Elderly Jewish man sitting in street after surrender of city. Jerusalem, Israel. June 1948. John Phillips
Frank Adam comments: The British – Scots by his Tam O’Shanter hat style – soldier with Bren light machine gun on a roof is in front of the dome of the Tiferet Israel Synagogue, also known as the Nissan Bek after its original warden/sponsor. The dome of the Hurva reaches the walls/edges of its main structure and is not on a “drum.” Both synagogue outlines are easy to distinguish on learning this structural difference which is obvious when you look at the Old City from the walls or external viewing points. The Nissan Bek was on the Eastern edge of the Western hill of the old City now crowned with modern yeshiva buildings, while the Hurva is further West.