At the turn of the twentieth century, a few books on Bible prophecy said it would happen. The majority spiritualized the predictions or applied them to the church.
Up to the last moment, the United States urged caution. Accept a truce and don't declare nationhood, advised General Marshall. He pointed out that war was inevitable if the Jews went ahead with their plans. The United States, he said, could not help Israel. Although the Zionists had gained control of Palestine's internal lines, the forces arrayed against them were enormous and some were British-trained. The Arabs far outnumbered the Jews and the quality of the Arabs' weapons was better. They dominated half of Jerusalem. The Jewish leadership discussed the problem all the night of May 12 and finally voted to proceed with the declaration of nationhood.
At 8 am on this day, May 14, 1948, the British, who controlled Palestine, lowered their Union Jack over Jerusalem. For the Arabs this was the signal for war. By mid-afternoon conflict was raging across the Holy Land. At 4 p.m. Ben-Gurion read the Declaration of Israeli Independence. Jewish sufferings and their historic roots in Palestine gave them a moral right to possess it, he said. After 1,878 years Israel had a nation again--if they could keep it. The Israelis offered peace.
The day was sultry. Arab troops rode to battle with cheers ringing in their ears and flowers on their vehicles. The Arabs had air forces, Israel none. Of the 85,000 Jews in Palestine, 30,000 had become troops. What weapons they possessed were often antiquated. Moshe Dayan had only two old field pieces to use against Syrian tanks, but he used them with such effect that the Syrians disengaged. Israel's advantages were military skill, intimate knowledge of the terrain, a superb grasp of military tactics, unity of command, and control of internal lines. The Jews, however, thought their chances were just even--if help poured into the country. Still, their opponents were often demoralized. Iraqi conscripts had to be chained to their guns.
The fiercest fighting was in the South against Jordanians and Egyptians. Jerusalem's Jews were outgunned and Arabs held the high ground. Fighting was intense in the historic city, and many died on both sides. British General Glubb who sided whole-heartedly with the Arabs, directed local troops against the Jews. But the Jews were skilled street fighters. With homemade mortars they inflicted fifty percent casualties on some of Glubb's companies.
When overt hostilities ceased, the Arabs had possession of the old quarter of Jerusalem. But Israel's tiny force held more ground than anyone would have credited. Many students of scripture saw these events as fulfillment of Biblical prophecies that Israel would be restored as a nation.
- Postal, Bernard and Henry W. Levy. And the Hills Shouted for Joy; the day Israel was born. New York: David McKay, 1973.
- Thomas, Baylis. How Israel Was Won; a concise history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 1999.
Last updated April, 2007.