« May 2008 | Main | July 2008 »

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Shepping (and sipping) Nachas

[For the non-Yiddish crowd, 'shepping nachas' can be roughly translated as a combination of deriving great pleasure from something and being extremely proud of someone... for example; when a friend or loved one does something exemplary.]

I was poking around Israel21c's blog; Israelity (to which I am nominally a contributor) the other day when I stumbled across a nice piece written by my friend Harry about Israel's contributions on the microbrewery front.

Granted, when most people think of Israel, beer is not the first thing that comes to mind.  In fact, IMHO the stodgy old Gold Star and Maccabi brands are only barely palatable when icy cold and on tap... and untouchable when served in a bottle or can.   But in the past couple of years the trend towards small, hand-crafted brews from family-run microbreweries has started to take hold here in Israel.

Zahava and I actually had a little advance glimpse into this eventuality because while we were going through the preparations to make aliyah (over 5 years ago) we met a couple about our age who were also preparing to move to Israel.  The husband, David Cohen, had been a small batch brewer in the states and was planning to open his own micro-brewery after they made aliyah.

[I'll admit... at the time I made a mental note; 'Stay in touch with these people!' ]

Zahava and I bumped into David and his lovely wife at several pre-aliyah lectures and events run by Nefesh B'Nefesh in New York, and were delighted to find that they were scheduled to be on the same flight as us for the permanent move to Israel. 

Most of the other people we knew on the flight had more 'typical' plans for their professional future; accountants, lawyers, doctors, marketing, etc.  But David, the micro-brewer with his hip goatee and signature bandanna, stood out as an individual... even a bit of a rebel... amongst the rest of our tame aspirations.

Once we were settled in Israel (hmmm, let's see if I can write 'settled' without getting trolled?), Zahava and I went about getting set up professionally.  I found a position in Israel's aerospace & defense industry and Zahava established her own Graphic Design company (called Zatar Creative). 

Somewhere along the line David Cohen and Zahava got back in touch because his micro-brewery plans were being fast-tracked and he needed to develop a logo for his new endeavor; Dancing Camel Brewing Company, Ltd.

Obviously I wasn't involved in the creative process that led to Zahava's final design of the cool logo which graces some of the best beer in this part (or any part, for that matter) of the world.  But I found it fitting that the scruffy camel she placed in the logo wore David's signature bandanna:


Now five years down the aliyah road, Zahava and I are (B"H) established professionally and feeling less and less like new immigrants every day.  And I have to admit that when we go into an upscale restaurant and see Dancing Camel beer on the menu, I shep some serious nachas

Obviously I derive a lot of pleasure from seeing a logo my wife designed gracing a quality brand.  But I also love seeing a fellow immigrant living the aliyah dream and making a name for himself here in such a short time.

If you haven't tried Dancing Camel Beer, I highly recommend any of their delicious hand-crafted brews.  And if you are stuck in the 'winery tour' rut when making plans for your next outing with friends or showing family around when they come in from abroad, I suggest you look into a tour at Tel Aviv's Dancing Camel Brewing company, Ltd. instead.

It is located at Hataasiya 12, in Tel Aviv and can be reached at 03-624-2783... or by email at [email protected].

When you run into David, tell him you're friends of ours.  It probably won't get you a free beer (hey, who knows... maybe it will!), but if you tell him that Dancing Camel is the official beer at chez Treppenwitz, it will certainly earn you a smile.

Posted by David Bogner on June 4, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Questionable moments in parenting

After posting about how laid back we've become about parenting since making aliyah, I got the sense from a few of you that we may have taken the whole Israeli 'Yehieh B'seder' (It'll be OK) thing a bit too far.

Let me assure you that Zahava is still very much a concerned, hands-on parent in the best American tradition.  I, on the other hand... well... suffice it to say that what follows will probably confirm your worst assumptions about my judgment as a parent (remember when I accidentally ordered Ariella a doll that had body piercings, tattoos, realistic body hair and a pocketbook stuffed with wacky tobaccy?) .

A few months ago I went over to a friend's house to drop something off, and our 12 year old son, Gilad, tagged along.  My friend had just been ordered to clean out a few of his closets by his wife, and during the excavations he'd come across a book that he thought Gilad might enjoy.  It was entitled "211 Things a Bright Boy Can Do" by Tom Cutler.


At first glance it seemed like a perfectly innocent collection of wholesome skills, parlor tricks and distractions for pre-teen boys... so I nodded to Gilad and he accepted the gift with thanks.

It wasn't until later that day that I realized that everything might not be as it seemed since Gilad hadn't put the book down.  In fact, Gilad - who is normally a reluctant reader (at best) - seemed oddly absorbed in the book.

I didn't want to make a big deal about it since I was genuinely pleased to see him reading.  So I went on-line and checked to see what Amazon had to say about it in their book reviews.  Here's what I found:


"211 Things a Bright Boy Can Do" is the essential life-skills handbook for bright boys of every age [emphasis mine], featuring all the subjects they don't teach you at school or Scouts. If you reached adulthood without learning the exact rules of conkers, or how to take off your underpants without removing your trousers, or how to put a ship into a bottle, this is the book for you. Divided into handy sections, this fascinating volume contains easy-to-follow tutorials and priceless tips on: how to Be A Real Man - including how to mow the perfect lawn and how to fight a bull - with elegance; Weird Science and Sideshow Physics - spoon-bending, teach yourself mindreading, and how to lie on a bed of nails; Bracing Outdoor Activities - cowboy ropecraft, how to punt without looking a fool, how to head a ball, and how to make a boomerang come back; Militant Cookery - how to make your own pickled eggs, how to spit-roast and dress a suckling pig, how to make a proper pork pie; Parlour diversions - shadow puppets, easy tunes for the glass harmonica, and how to make a pinhole camera.

It also feaures tips on: The Human Body - how to make your hair stand on end, how to dissect a man [I admit I didn't notice this one], sumo wrestling for the beginner; Those Useful Subjects Not Taught at School - how to interrogate an uncooperative suspect, how to win money in a casino [this one slipped by unnoticed too], and how to blag your way in philosophy, science, art, and psychology; Gags, cons and practical jokes - classic old and boggling new tricks, juggling, and unusual party pieces for the classroom, pub and restaurant table, plus much, much more. This volume won't improve your morals or make you smell nice, but it will entertain and inform. So if you've always wanted to know how to tear a phone book in half, how to identify airline insignia, or the essential moves of Morris Dancing, this is the book you've been waiting for.

Clearly I didn't read all the way to the end, because I'm kinda sure I would have noticed a section on dissecting a human body.  Suffice it to say that I left him alone with his new book and didn't give it another thought until much later when I found it sitting on the couch.

I picked it up and started skimming through the table of contents:

Here is a scan of the complete contents, along with some notes I've added (you may have to click to embiggen) :

Contents - Page One


Contents - Page Two


Contents - Page Three


Contents - Page Four


Contents - Page Five


Contents - Page Six


I have to admit that the overwhelming majority of the '211 things' that author Tom Cutler has laid out for 'boys' who might read this book are not only quite wholesome 'Boy Scout' type diversions... but are just the sort of thing I would want my kids to do in their spare time instead of watching TV.

But when you take into account the half dozen (or so) 'questionable' topics, the the only way one could reasonably consider this a collection of 'Boy Scout-type diversions' would be if the Jamboree was being held with a 'Lord of the Flies' theme and without the benefit of adult supervision.

Taking the book away from him at this point would be a classic case of closing the barn door after the horses have run away.  After all, he has memorized entire sections of the book and has guessed - correctly, I might add - the bra size of one of the women in the household ( and yes, he was cut down to size over that one).

Clearly some damage control is in order... and there isn't much question of who needs to do it.  After all, since I'm the one who OK'd the book, it makes sense that I'm the one who needs to sit him down for a chat.  But once Gilad understands that not all the topics in the book are appropriate for public discussion (or demonstration) I'm totally going to ask him if I can borrow it!

Note:  If you want your own copy... go here (or pick up a used copy on one of the discount sites like abebooks)

Posted by David Bogner on June 3, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Monday, June 02, 2008

It's that time again

I've written about it every year on this day.

I've spent the last couple of days recounting the sweet... as well as the bitter. Because today is truly about the 'dvash v'oketz' of our eternal capitol; Jerusalem.

Shut off your cell phone... lock the door... set out a box of tissues... close your eyes... and listen.

Translation (rough):

[To properly appreciate this you need to imagine being somewhere in Israel at the time, listening to this broadcast over your radio at home (perhaps in a bomb shelter)... or wherever your reserve unit was stationed at that moment.]

Colonel Motta Gur [on loudspeaker]: All company commanders, we’re sitting right now on the ridge and we’re seeing the Old City. Shortly we’re going to go in to the Old City of Jerusalem, that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City. Eitan’s tanks will advance on the left and will enter the Lion’s Gate. The final rendezvous will be on the open square above.
[The open square of the Temple Mount.]

[Sound of applause by the soldiers.]

Yossi Ronen: We are now walking on one of the main streets of Jerusalem towards the Old City. The head of the force is about to enter the Old City.


Yossi Ronen: There is still shooting from all directions; we’re advancing towards the entrance of the Old City.

[Sound of gunfire and soldiers’ footsteps.]

[Yelling of commands to soldiers.]

[More soldiers’ footsteps.]

The soldiers are keeping a distance of approximately 5 meters between them. It’s still dangerous to walk around here; there is still sniper shooting here and there.


We’re all told to stop; we’re advancing towards the mountainside; on our left is the Mount of Olives; we’re now in the Old City opposite the Russian church. I’m right now lowering my head; we’re running next to the mountainside. We can see the stone walls. They’re still shooting at us. The Israeli tanks are at the entrance to the Old City, and ahead we go, through the Lion’s Gate. I’m with the first unit to break through into the Old City. There is a Jordanian bus next to me, totally burnt; it is very hot here. We’re about to enter the Old City itself. We’re standing below the Lion’s Gate, the Gate is about to come crashing down, probably because of the previous shelling. Soldiers are taking cover next to the palm trees; I’m also staying close to one of the trees. We’re getting further and further into the City.


Colonel Motta Gur announces on the army wireless: The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands!

All forces, stop firing! This is the David Operations Room. All forces, stop firing! I repeat, all forces, stop firing! Over.

Commander eight-nine here, is this Motta (Gur) talking? Over.

[Inaudible response on the army wireless by Motta Gur.]

Uzi Narkiss: Motta, there isn’t anybody like you. You’re next to the Mosque of Omar.

Yossi Ronen: I’m driving fast through the Lion’s Gate all the way inside the Old City.

Command on the army wireless: Search the area, destroy all pockets of resistance [but don't touch anything in the houses], especially the holy places.

[Lt.- Col. Uzi Eilam blows the Shofar.  Soldiers are singing ‘Jerusalem of Gold’.]

Uzi Narkiss: Tell me, where is the Western Wall? How do we get there?

Yossi Ronen: I’m walking right now down the steps towards the Western Wall. I’m not a religious man, I never have been, but this is the Western Wall and I’m touching the stones of the Western Wall.

Soldiers: [reciting the ‘Shehechianu’ blessing]: Baruch ata Hashem, elokeinu melech haolam, she-hechianu ve-kiemanu ve-hegianu la-zman ha-zeh. [Translation: Blessed art Thou L-rd G-d King of the Universe who has sustained us and kept us and has brought us to this day]

Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Baruch ata Hashem, menachem tsion u-voneh Yerushalayim. [Translation: Blessed are thou, who comforts Zion and bulids Jerusalem]

Soldiers: Amen!

[Soldiers sing ‘Hatikva’ next to the Western Wall.]

Rabbi Goren: We’re now going to recite the prayer for the fallen soldiers of this war against all of the enemies of Israel:

[Soldiers weeping]

El male rahamim, shohen ba-meromim. Hamtse menuha nahona al kanfei hashina, be-maalot kedoshim, giborim ve-tehorim, kezohar harakiya meirim u-mazhirim. Ve-nishmot halalei tsava hagana le-yisrael, she-naflu be-maaraha zot, neged oievei yisrael, ve-shnaflu al kedushat Hashem ha-am ve-ha’arets, ve-shichrur Beit Hamikdash, Har Habayit, Hakotel ha-ma’aravi veyerushalayim ir ha-elokim. Be-gan eden tehe menuhatam. Lahen ba’al ha-rahamim, yastirem beseter knafav le-olamim. Ve-yitsror be-tsror ha-hayim et nishmatam adoshem hu nahlatam, ve-yanuhu be-shalom al mishkavam [soldiers weeping loud]ve-ya’amdu le-goralam le-kets ha-yamim ve-nomar amen!

[Translation: Merciful G-d in heaven, may the heroes and the pure, be under thy Divine wings, among the holy and the pure who shine bright as the sky, and the souls of soldiers of the Israeli army who fell in this war against the enemies of Israel, who fell for their loyalty to G-d and the land of Israel, who fell for the liberation of the Temple, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and Jerusalem the city of the Lord. May their place of rest be in paradise. Merciful One, O keep their souls forever alive under Thy protective wings. The Lord being their heritage, may they rest in peace, for they shalt rest and stand up for their allotted portion at the end of the days, and let us say, Amen.]

[Soldiers are weeping. Rabbi Goren sounds the shofar.  Sound of gunfire in the background.]

Rabbi Goren: Le-shana HA-ZOT be-Yerushalayim ha-b’nuya, be-yerushalayim ha-atika! [Translation: This year in a rebuilt Jerusalem! In the Jerusalem of old!] *

* The historic radio broadcast of the liberation of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall was researched,  transcribed and translated by Yitschak Horneman / Quality Translations, Jerusalem (with some minor corrections over the years from helpful treppenwitz readers).

Posted by David Bogner on June 2, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

A postscript or two

I have been gratified to see many of my fellow bloggers linking to the Moshe Rusnak interview I posted yesterday.  Obviously I wanted that version shared around since it was a lesser-known version of the events.  But I want to make clear that I do not think his version is necessarily the correct one (if there is such a thing).

Here's a comment I posted on Carl's excellent blog (with typos corrected):

Hi Carl,

Thanks for the link and for your excellent (as usual) commentary.

One thing worth pointing out though:  There is no one true version of the events of that battle (or any battle).  There are certainly false versions... but all versions are essentially flawed by virtue of the fact that they tell the story from only one side.

For instance, here is a link (courtesy of Lynn B) to the same events as told by the brother of the Arab Legion commander that accepted Moshe Rusnak's surrender.  Many points agree but many are new and strange to our ears. 

My point is that I shared the story because it was worth sharing... not because I felt it was the only correct version of the events.

David (treppenwitz)

In an email to my friend Imshin, I wrote the following (along the same lines):

I just noticed your post script to the post linking to my 'Moshe Rusnak' story.  Actually, it wasn't my story... just one I thought was worth sharing.

I should point out that his is only one perspective... one of many.  I felt it was worth sharing, not because it was the correct one... but because it was one that seemed to be overshadowed (and thus largely unknown) by more mainstream/accepted narratives of the events. 

I have also read some excellent articles in the past couple of days about the battle for the old city from the Arab perspective and ironically, they seem to connect quite seamlessly with Mr. Rusnak's accounting of the events.  Go figure.

In any event, I just wanted to make clear that I didn't mean to suggest that his story somehow trumped any other versions of that tumultuous time.  In fact, as I was reading it I kept reminding myself that soldiers in the field seldom know (or are meant to know) what is behind the decisions made in the command bunker.  They are meant to follow orders.  Moshe's resentment at not being 'in the know' and not fully understanding what was behind the thinking of the Haggannah commanders and political leaders is tangible in his narrative.  To his credit he kept his opinions mostly to himself until the day before he died... and then broke his silence only because someone took the time to ask him what he thought. 

I can't fault him for answering honestly about what he had spent his entire adult life pondering.

Warm Regards,


Long story short.  History is rarely about knowing anything, least of all the truth.  Rather, it is about arriving at a version of events that isn't too much at odds with the evidence at our disposal. 

Yesterday's post was mostly about putting more evidence at my reader's disposal than they might previously have had.

Posted by David Bogner on June 2, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Moshe Rusnak - A Hero of Israel

[In commemoration of "Yom Yerushalayim" (which begins this evening), it seems fitting that a story be shared… one of the lesser-known chapters in Jerusalem’s modern history. 

It is not a pretty story and lacks a happy ending… and it even reveals some of the ugly infighting that goes on to this day between the old-guard Israeli establishment and those who prefer to view Zionism through the lens of Jewish history.  A part of me hesitates to share so ugly a story when the history we present to the world is usually so full of positive feats and miracles.  But I feel like we owe it to the brave players of this story to share it and hopefully to take a lesson or two from it.

The following interview has been translated from the original Hebrew for treppenwitz by my carpool mate (and frequent commenter) ‘British Academic’ (BritAc, for short), and appears here with full permission of the periodical in which it was originally published.]

Elida Bar-Shaul, of the Hebrew language magazine "Mayaney Yehoshua"  decided to interview Moshe Rusnak, the Hagganah-appointed commander of the Jewish quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1948, for his weekly "The Jerusalem Corner" column.  The interview was published in the parshat Pinhas edition of the magazine dated Tammuz 21, 5767, (July 6th, 2007).

After playing his role in the defense of the Old City of Jerusalem during the war of Independence, Moshe settled back into well- earned obscurity in Jerusalem, raising a loving family, working as a clerk, and eventually drifting into retirement.

Having been warned by Moshe's family that he'd be lucky to get five minutes of conversation out of him, Elida arrived at Moshe's house on Tammuz 20, 5766, (July 16th, 2006) to conduct the interview.  The interview concluded four hours later with Moshe having related the events of that tumultuous time as if they’d occurred the previous week.

Elida arranged with Moshe that he would return the following day to collect some photographs that would accompany the article.  However, that night Moshe passed away in his sleep.

Here is the text of the interview:

Q. How did you become the Hagganah commander for the Old City?

Just after Rosh Hashana of 1947, I completed a Hagganah platoon commander's course, and returned to Jerusalem.   My commanding officer, Zalman Mart, said that as soon as they needed me I would be called.   Slowly, I saw all the other soldiers who had been with me in the course were being drafted, but I was not called, and continued working in my family's hat business.

On Sunday, Teveth 1, (December 14th, 1947) I met Zalman and told him I was ready to be drafted just like my friends. "Rusnak, don't worry, we haven't forgotten you, when we need you we'll call you".

"Ok" I thought, "you've done all you can", and I turned to leave.

Then, Zalman said, "Rusnak, if you're already here, why don't you go down to the old city for a week to see if you can help out there ?".

So that's how I was sent to the Old City, to act as an assistant to the  officers who commanded a force of 120 fighters, both men  and women.  The British still ruled the country, and as they were restricting the number of potential combatants allowed into the zone, I was taken in by ambulance disguised as a Doctor. Slowly I learnt my way around.

A week passed, then another, and another, and I wasn't relieved.  The next time I would leave the City would be after the surrender, as a POW.

After a short time I began to understand the social and welfare problems faced by the residents of the old city, and I told the Hagganah commander of the quarter, Yisrael Fund, that we have to bring in professional social workers.

A short time later I met Avraham Halperin, a highly regarded officer. When I asked Yisrael what his [Halperin's] job was, I was told that he was the welfare officer.

Q: At which point did you replace Yisrael Fund?

On Tuesday, 9 Shvat, (January 20th, 1948) three of our soldiers were shot by Arabs.  They were given initial first aid before being evacuated to the new city where one of them died.

Later that day, Yisrael told me that he was going to the new city to report to headquarters for a conference. I said to him that he must impress on the command how bad our situation is, and how  desperate we are for reinforcements and supplies.

One day passed, two, three, and there was no news. I sent telegrams which went unanswered.

After a week of silence I spoke to Avraham Halperin and ask him if he had a phone number for anyone at HQ.  When he asked me why, I told him that Yisrael had left and no one seems to be in charge.  He said he would check.

When I met him the next day he told me that he had been made commander, which made me happy as I thought that he was ideal for the job.  He was an experienced company commander who had organized the defense of the quarter during the disturbances of 1936 - 1939.  He'd made his own 1:500 maps and knew every corner of the city.

Officially, we were all told that Avraham was the new commander, but on the ground he was nowhere to be found.   He didn’t meet the soldiers, didn’t visit the defense positions, and he didn’t attend the command meetings.  When I mentioned this he told me that he trusted me to handle everything. Three times a day he ate in the dining room opposite the command center, but didn’t come in at all.

Saturday night, 14 Shvat (January 24th, 1948) the Arabs bombed the house of Rav Orenstein where we had a defense position, and in retaliation we mounted a raid on the Arab defenses. After the soldiers returned from the raid I asked Avraham to come and inspect the men, but he didn't show up.

Q: Didn't you pressure him to take a more active role in the command?

It didn't interest him. I don't know for sure, but as he was close to the HQ staff in the new city, perhaps he knew of the political decision not to defend the old city, and that the surrender and retreat were a done deal.

Maybe he was aware of the agreements between Ben-Gurion and King Abdullah as to the fate of the old city.   Perhaps he knew of the decision of the area commander David Shaltiel - a fact I found out much later - that the defenders of the old city would be left to fight to the last bullet.

All this didn't interest me at the time.   I had 1,800 civilians and 120 fighters to worry about.  Halperin wasn't concerned in the least about the military situation on the ground.

Q: How long did the situation last?

On Friday Adar A 24, (March 5th, 1948) during a  routine conversation with Halperin, I suggested we have a formal meeting where I could update him about the latest developments on our front. 

I’ve got a meeting at 9:00” he said. When I asked him with whom, he told me that he was meeting Rabbi Weingarten, the “mayor” of the Jewish quarter at his house.

This worried me, as Weingarten was known to be a collaborator with the British, and his daughter had been accused of informing on Jewish fighters to the mandate authorities and even preventing some Jewish residents from returning to their homes after visiting the new city.

I advised Halperin not to go to the Rabbi’s house… better to meet him on neutral territory.  But Halperin wouldn’t listen, and set off for Weingarten’s house. Within a half hour the British arrested him at Weingarten's, and took him out of the quarter.

Only Weingarten and Halperin knew about the meeting.  We were sure that Weingarten had arranged the arrest.  He must have felt threatened by the way Halperin was made commander, [which put him in] charge of the distribution of wages, money and food.

So the quarter was left leaderless.

Although I felt the position was above me, I couldn’t see anyone else who could take charge, so I cabled HQ that I was taking over until they sent a new commander.

Q: Can you explain what was happening?  Didn’t the Jewish leadership care what happened to the Jewish quarter of the old city? The commanders disappear, supplies and reinforcements don’t get through, there is almost no contact between you and HQ, what gives ?

Your description is correct. There was no real intention to capture the old city by our leadership.  Every effort was made not to succeed.   I’ll give some examples:

During the waiting period, I devised a three-stage plan to take over the old city. First stage was to take over all the fortified positions belonging to the British as soon as they withdrew.    Second stage was to incorporate these positions with those we had constructed, to form an integrated defense line. The third stage was for forces from the new city to force their way into the quarter by making a decoy attack on Jaffa gate, while the main force entered via Zion gate.

The divisional commander, Shaltiel, only authorized stage one, he wouldn’t allow stages two and three.

Even stage one wasn’t allowed to succeed. One of the operations was to take control of the “Cross” position, this was the tower of the Armenian church which controlled the road between Zion gate and the Jewish quarter. This was the most important position in our area. We captured the position in the morning as planned, but shortly afterwards I received a cable from Shaltiel, which ordered me to evacuate the position by 1:00 that afternoon. I knew that as soon as we left the Arabs would take over, but I had no choice but to obey the order.   Sure enough, within a half hour of our leaving, the Arabs took over, and used the position as a snipers lookout into the Jewish quarter.

Another example was the breakthrough into the old city by the Palmach on 2 Iyyar (May 11th, 1948). According to the plan of the divisional commander, the main force was to enter by Jaffa gate, while a decoy force attacked Zion gate. The main force at Jaffa gate was hit by superior fire and took heavy casualties. The small force, led by “Dado”  Elazar and Uzi Narkis, attacking Zion gate met with no opposition, and walked into the Jewish quarter. We were completely surprised, we saw the arrival of Moshiach [ed. The Messiah]. After months of being outnumbered and outgunned by the Arabs, we saw the end of the suffering of the 1,800 residents and defenders of the quarter.

The Palmach commanders then informed me that they now intended to capture the whole of the Old city. Our happiness was beyond description. I personally went to each position to tell our fighters of the developments.

While I was making my way through the city I saw a river of Arabs leaving the city carrying their households in bundles, they were escaping the victorious Jewish army.

On my way back to the Palmachniks, I met Benny Marshak who told me that Shaltiel had ordered the Palmach force to withdraw from the city. They were going for R+R at kibbutz Ma'ale Hahamisha. After the war I found out that Shaltiel had called Abdulla E-Tal, the commander of the Jordan legion and told him that Israel didn’t want to capture the old city, and he should persuade the fleeing Arab residents to return.

There were no words to describe our feelings, we had been betrayed.

The fighting inside the old city continued, the shelling and the sniping of the Arab legion took a heavy toll.

On the morning of Iyyar 19, (May 28th) I received a report that two of the communal leaders, the Sephardi Rabbi Hazan and the Askenazi Rabbi Mintzberg had raised a white flag and were walking towards the Arab HQ to negotiate with E-Tal.

I chased after them and persuaded them not to suggest surrender, but to request the evacuation of the women and children amongst the residents.

E-Tal wouldn’t except anything less than total surrender, and sent Rav Hazan back to our lines, keeping Rav Mintzberg as a hostage.

I still was not ready to surrender, as I feared it would result in a massacre of the Jewish residents. I sent our fighters back to their positions, but they quickly returned to our HQ and said that there were no more positions, in fact there was no more defensive line, and it was impossible to continue fighting.

Afterwards it became apparent that the residents - both Arabs and Jews - had taken advantage of the lull in the fighting to return to their houses to pack up their possessions, and the intermingling of the populations made fighting impossible.

Without a defined battlefront it was impossible to continue the fight, and there was nothing left for me to do but negotiate a surrender on the most favorable terms and thus prevent  a massacre.

In the surrender document signed between the forces on Iyyar 19, 1948, (May 28th, 1948) it was stated that only the fighters would be taken prisoner, all the civilians would be evacuated to the new city.   But when Abdullah E-Tal saw how few fighters we were he refused to believe that this small force was what had kept his men fighting for so long and had caused him so many losses.  He ordered that [some of the] civilians also be taken so that he could make an impressive parade of prisoners when he returned to the Jordanian capital.

300 men were made POWs’ and were held prisoner in Jordan before being repatriated to Israel 9 months later.

After the fighters were returned to Israel, Rusnak tried to have a meeting with Shaltiel who had been the regional commander, and in the meantime had been promoted, but he [Shaltiel] avoided Rusnak. Other members of the Jewish quarter defenders tried to get explanations from various members of the Haggannah hierarchy and government, but they were stonewalled at every turn.

The heroic achievements of the defenders were ignored by the government and army HQ.   According to Moshe Rusnak, the official history of the war of Independence was even rewritten to ignore the battles for the old city. The old city didn’t interest the Mapai leaders, so even when Jewish forces captured most of the area they were ordered to withdraw.

On Tammuz 22 5766 (July 18th, 2006) Moshe Rusnak was laid to eternal rest on the Mount of Olives amongst the other defenders of the old city who lost their lives in the battles. One of the old soldiers accompanying the procession called out –“Moshe, only we know how we owe our lives to you, all the 1,800 residents of the Jewish quarter".

Posted by David Bogner on June 1, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack