The Miracle of Israel – 1945-1948
Part 6 of Rabbi Berel Wein’s groundbreaking documentary film series “Faith and Fate” is now released, capturing the two most monumental events in recent Jewish history – the Holocaust and the birth of the State of Israel.
With original footage and Rabbi Berel Wein’s expert narration, the depth and detail in “Faith & Fate 6: The Miracle of Israel” is sure to inform and move you!
The Miracle of Israel Synopsis
When the American soldiers discovered the “Jewish graveyard” left by the Nazis in Europe – as well as the survivors of the concentration camps, they were unprepared for what they saw and shocked by what they found. The surviving Jews had no homes to return to, little or no family remaining and were suffering in dire poverty. The Sephardic as well as the Ashkenazic Jewish communities of Europe were gone. Looking back, they and their communities were devastated, and looking forward, the challenges seemed insurmountable.
The film explores the remarkable determination that the survivors had to rebuild their lives. It also explores their faith during and after the Holocaust. For the many of survivors, the Zionist dream of a Jewish homeland was their anchor of hope. For others, it was their determination to rebuild their lives with material security and safety. And yet for others, the faith that had sustained them through their darkest days, became the building block of re-creating a Torah life – wherever they could. For example, the communities of the Chassidic dynasties such as Sanz, Bobov, Satmar and the Torah institutions and communities of Ponevich, Mir, Telze, just to name a few.
The antisemitism by local Europeans continued even after World War II, especially among the Poles. There were pogroms and Jews were killed, often by people they knew. Emigration to other non-European countries was often not an option, as the quota system instituted against Jews before World War II was still in effect, even after the Holocaust. Only 1500 Jews per month were allowed by the British to enter Palestine, as England did not want to antagonize the Muslim world. The vast majority of survivors were classified as Displaced Persons and were placed in DP camps. Once again, they were living under armed guard, in poverty and unwanted. When U.S. representatives saw the situation in the DP camps, they pressed the British to let in 100,000 Jews to Palestine, to no avail. The American JDC and British JRC led the way in supplying these people with food, medicine and schools.
The sympathy for the Jews in general and for Zionism in particular grew markedly as a result of what the Jews suffered under the Nazis. The British ignoring their legal obligation under the terms of The Mandate illegally restricted Jewish immigration into Palestine. The political situation was reaching a breaking point. The British “occupiers” were unpopular to both the Arabs and Jews. The Jews were split as to how to deal with the British in Palestine. Some, led by David Ben Gurion and Chaim Weizman believed in negotiations and political pressure, while others led by Menachem Begin believed the only way to create the State was to fight for it – and drive the British out.
The route through and from Europe was treacherous for the Jewish refugees seeking to enter Palestine. Thousands braved the elements and made it to the shores of Palestine, only to see 62 of 63 immigrant ships be turned away by the British blockade. The most famous of these ships, the Exodus, created a standoff between its 4,500 Jewish survivors and the British. Eventually the British sent the refugees back to France, and when the Jews refused to disembark they shipped back to the “death land” – Germany. The inhumanity of the action and the iron will of the survivors swayed world public opinion.
In 1946, the British attempted to defeat any Jewish opposition by arresting 5000 Jews in Palestine, including the leaders of the Hagannah and the Jewish Agency. The Irgun reacted by bombing the headquarters of the British forces at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
From 1945-1948, there was a groundswell of public support for the State of Israel by Jews world-wide, and in the United States in particular. Meanwhile, in Palestine, bombings and retaliatory murders are daily occurrences, as the British were unsuccessful at keeping the peace between Jew and Arabs. Eventually British Prime Minister Bevin decided that England would give up its rule over Palestine and handed the problem over to the United Nations to solve.
At the same time, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the Free World escalated. Stalin closed the doors on Soviet emigration which prevented 3 million Jews from leaving. Furthermore, with the official policy of atheism, being enforced, Jews were forbidden from practicing their religion.
UNSCOP, The United Nations Committee on Palestine, held hearings on September 1, 1947, to decide what course of action to recommend to the UN regarding Palestine. Remarkably it was 50 years to the day (September 1, 1897) that Herzl wrote in his diary, “in 50 years, a Jewish State would be created.”
UNSCOP recommended to partition Palestine into two states – one Jewish and one Arab. This Partition Plan was rejected by all the Arab states. The resolution was passed in the United Nations with a vote of 33-13. Amazingly, both the United States and the Soviet Union supported the resolution, at the height of the Cold War. Russia believed that a Jewish state with many Socialist and Communist ideals would lead it eventually become part of the Soviet sphere of influence. This passing of the Partition Plan negatively affected over 1 million Sephardic Jews living in Arab lands, where the Muslims began turning against their Jewish citizens.
Since there was no U.N. provision to implement the Partition Plan, the Jews and Arabs were let to resolve the conflict themselves. Arab violence escalated and war quickly became the norm. By May of 1948, 1256 Jews, mostly civilians, had been killed by Arabs. As the war for Jewish survival increased, thousands of local Palestinians fled to neighboring Arab countries – believing that when the Jews were defeated they would return home.
On May 14, 1948, the British officially left Palestine and on the same day, the State of Israel was immediately declared by David Ben Gurion, acting as its provisional Prime Minister.
America was the first country to officially recognize the new State of Israel – eleven minutes after it was declared. U.S. President Harry Truman signed the letter of recognition – despite the objections by The United States Secretary of State George Marshall and the entire State Department.
Immediately after the declaration an all-out war broke out between the Jews and Arabs. Seven Arab armies attacked the new Jewish State – but were not united both militarily and politically. For example, the Arab League was established in order to counter The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem’s ambition to secure domination of Arab Palestine. At the same time, King Abdullah of Jordan wanted to merge Palestine with his kingdom. Eventually, the Arab forces began to lose the war.
As the war was raging the Jewish leadership begged the local Palestinian Arabs not to abandon their homes but the Arab leadership forbade the Arabs to return or live in areas under Jewish rule.
Unfortunately, in one form or anther, the war and battles that began in 1948 have continue to this day.
How different the situation in the Middle East would have been today if the Arabs had opened their hearts to live in peace with their Jewish neighbors – and had accepted the UN Partition Plan, which so favorable to them.
Reviews – Faith & Fate Miracle of Israel Judy Siegel – Jerusalem Post (8/1/2008) wrote:
Faith & Fate: The Miracle of Israel 1945-1948, a set of DVD (English, with Hebrew and Russian subtitles) and interactive DVD-ROM resource guide in English by Rabbi Berel Wein and the Destiny Foundation for Windows and Mac- Ages 13 through adult. Rating: ***** (Five out of Five Stars) If there is any one thing that could counter intermarriage and assimilation in the Diaspora and promote Zionist fervor everywhere, it is watching this DVD on events leading to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. All Jewish schools and organizations, pro-Israel Christian groups and aliya institutions should disseminate this program as widely as possible, and Israeli TV stations and Web sites should show it to increase Israelis’ understanding of why they deserve theirhomeland.
Integrating rare archival film of the historic era between 1945 and 1948, contemporary interviews of witnesses and discussions by Israeli and American historians with narration by educator and Jerusalem Post columnist Rabbi Berel Wein, the DVD brings tears to the eyes of viewers. The resource guide fortifies the emotional reaction with its factual source material, while the teacher’s guide provides solid historical background about events and personalities, including lesson topics and questions for pupils.
World War II and the Holocaust are over, but survivors Ashkenazim and Sephardim who become displaced persons remain a target of pogroms; some in DP camps lose their belief in God and the future, while others are impelled by faith to risk everything to reach their homeland in Palestine. “The Jewish State gives them something to look forward to; it gave them hope,” says Israeli historian Prof. Anita Shapira.
The British use every means to prevent Jews from succeeding sending them to Cyprus or even back to Europe. The absolute refusal of British officials to allow entry to even a small number bolsters the survivors’ determination to go and fight for a Jewish state. “The Arabs wanted all or nothing,” notes Wein, who continues that if their leaders had been willing to live and let live with the Jews, history and today¹s reality would have been much different.
Beyond the historical details, the faces and personal stories of the Jews are imprinted on the hearts of viewers. Faith & Fate, whose multimedia series is due to cover the entire 20th century within three years, is a must for every Jewish and open-minded non-Jewish home.