zaterdag 3 mei 2008

Zipporah Porath over Israëls Onafhankelijkheidsoorlog in 1948

De brieven van Zipporah Porat, die in Jeruzalem leefde tijdens Israëls onafhankelijkheidsoorlog en de gewonden verpleegde, zijn een broodnodig tegenwicht tegen alle eenzijdige verhalen van Palestijnse vluchtelingen die 'zomaar' uit hun huizen werden gejaagd door die gemene Zionisten.

You can read many of Zipporah's letters here:

And you can buy the book, send email to:
Zipporah Porath, zip(at) (Israel)
or call Tel/Fax: 972-3-635-1835.

Lipstick at the front line, letters to the home crowd

By Daphna Berman

It was February 1948 when Zipporah Porath arrived at Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda Street, moments after three car bombs had exploded in an attack that killed more than 50 people and fueled already seething tensions in the city. She had just completed a medic's course and was eager to help, but when guards heard her speak English - "the language of the enemy" - they wouldn't let her pass into the scene of the attack. It took some arguing and stubbornness until she was finally allowed in and soon after, Porath took out her lipstick, drew a red Star of David on a doorway and established a makeshift first aid station putting her, as she recalled this week, "in business." That night, Porath wrote to her parents about her transformation into an Israeli. "From then on, I was one of them," she recalled this week. "Instead of saying 'them,' it became 'we.'"

Porath, who lives in Ganei Tikvah, is currently in her 80s, though she won't divulge her age now or when she first arrived at the Haifa port as a young and idealistic Zionist from Brooklyn. A student at the Hebrew University, she was inducted into the Haganah in December 1947, despite pleas from her family to return home before the war. Five other Americans were inducted at the same time, with a Bible in one hand and a rifle in another. She recalls giggling the whole way home out of excitement and nervousness. "It was clear no one would hand us the state on a silver platter, but I didn't know what that would mean," she said. "With the tension mounting, I could either pack up and go home or join in defending Jerusalem. I couldn't just sit on the sidelines."

And so as a medic, she served during the siege of Jerusalem, volunteering with various missions and traveling to the center of the city amid rubble and sniper fire to pick up rationed food. She was also on the first United Nations - accompanied convoy of wounded from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in June 1948, soothing amputees on the convoy along rocky and rugged terrain, with no morphine and little more than a smile.

During that period, she said her alarm clock - a staple many of the American students brought with them - made her particularly popular among Haganah soldiers who needed to wake up at all hours of the night for their training or patrols. Throughout the siege, she continued to write letters she had no way of sending.

'This is now my home'

The letters were later discovered at her parents' home in 1987 and have since been published in English and Hebrew, under the title Letters from Jerusalem: 1947-1948. In the last letter of the collection, she wrote to her parents: "I can't believe this year. So much has happened, but the most important thing by far is the birth of the State. I've been a part of it and it will forever be a part of me. I guess that means I am telling you that I intend to see this war through and then remain on, whatever happens. This is now my home."

Porath has since told her story hundreds of times. She knows her narrative nearly by heart and doesn't take well to questions that disturb it. And now is an especially busy period for her, when she gives interviews and talks to groups-though she tells her story throughout the year to synagogue missions or Hadassah groups as well. "This was the most important period of my life and the most meaningful as a Zionist," she said. "In the last years, it has become the focus of my life. I see it as a very important mission, especially for young people who were born into a state and know very little about how it came into being."

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