Apr 15

Israeli History – Historical Places in Israel – Atlit

The Town of Atlit in Northern Israel is situated on the Mediterranean coast South of Haifa. It was originally a Crusader outpost. In 1903 the new village was founded with the help of Baron Edmond de Rothschild.

Atlit is best known for the place where the British built a military camp in 1938 and was used by them as a temporary holding Camp from 1939 until 1948. At first thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing Europe were detained in the camp and later it was used for holocaust survivors deemed to be illegal immigrants to Palestine. This was a direct result of the infamous “White Paper” that limited the number of Jews that would be allowed into the country.

Boats, which were arranged by the Mossad and operated by the Haganah and volunteers from the Diaspora carrying refugees from the Holocaust and from Arab Countries, would arrive covertly late at night to unfrequented beaches in Israel. Many of the boats were intercepted by the British and the people were taken ashore and transported to Atlit, some managed to avoid British Patrol Boats and the immigrants actually made it to shore but were ambushed by the British on the beaches and rounded up and sent to Atlit. The Atlit Camp had barbed wire around it and armed guards.

One of the most heroic stories of those times is that of the bold and brilliant Palmach military operation led by Nahum Sarig Palmach and Yitzchak Rabin on the 10th October 1945 who successfully broke into the Atlit illegal immigrant detention camp and freed all 280 detainees who escaped and made their way on foot to Kibbutz Yagur, a distance of approximately 5 km from the camp.

After 1948 the camp was used as an absorption centre for the thousands of Holocaust survivors and refugees from surrounding Arab Countries.

Today the Atlit Detention centre is a national monument.  In 1987 the Council for Israel Heritage Sites was allocated part of the 25 acres of the original camp to reconstruct and serve as a museum for visitors to learn about this very special time in Israel’s history. It enables visitors to have a firsthand experience of how traumatic it was for the immigrants detained there in conditions very much like those they had been subjected to in the extermination camps.

There is a ship at the site that is comparable in size and appearance to the ships that were used to transport the immigrants, a model of the barracks that housed the prisoners as well as a model of the reception area which was extremely traumatic as the detainees had to remove their clothes to be disinfected and had to shower, all bringing back memories of the concentration camps that they had recently been rescued from. Atlit also has a memorial to those who died while making their way by land and sea to the Land of Israel.

Feb 20

Israel – Northern Coastal Cities – Nahariya

Nahariya is a coastal resort town in Northern Israel. It was founded in the mid 1930’s by German immigrants. It was originally settled with the intention of it being an agricultural village but it soon became apparent to the residents that the attractive location, lovely scenery and its long and beautiful beach would make it ideal for tourism.

Nahariya IsraelThe original inhabitants were industrious and hard working and made the decision to develop manufacturing industries and Nahariya became the home to a number Israel’s foremost entrepreneurs who founded several highly successful enterprises.

During the time of the British Mandate, Nahariya was a popular stopping off point for British Officers seeking some rest and relaxation as they came from Khartoum and during the mid 1940’s it was used for the landing of illegal immigrant ships that were bringing in refugees and survivors from the holocaust who had not been legally allowed to enter Palestine during the Mandate.

HaGa’ton Boulevard is Nahariya’s main thoroughfare which runs from the east right down to the shore and the  Ga’aton River flows along the center of the boulevard. During the rainy season the gushing river is a lovely sight to see as it rushes along to the sea. Lining this picturesque street are a variety of shops, restaurants and coffee houses and during the high tourist seasons, handsome horse drawn carriages can be seen lined up, their drivers waiting to take visitors on tours of the coast and the city.

Nahariya Israel

Nahariya is a perfect base for visitors to see the many attractions and interesting sites in the surrounding areas. Only 5 minutes from Nahariya is the Achziv National Park and the Crusader Castle also the magnificent Baha’i Gardens outside Akko (Acre), as well as the magnificent Grottos at Rosh Hanikra on the border of Lebanon. The Ghetto Fighters Kibbutz (Lochamei Hagetaot) with its interesting museum is also well worth a visit. There is a wide choice of hotels and accommodation available.

Sep 04

Israel – Famous People – Orde Charles Wingate

Orde Charles Wingate was born in 1903 in Naini Tal India, both his parents were deeply religious Christians and members of the Plymouth Brethren a non denominational evangelical movement. He received a military education and in 1936 Orde Charles Wingate was posted to the British Mandate of Palestine with the rank of Captain in Military Intelligence.

He was an outstanding friend of the Jewish People and had an unwavering belief in the Zionist Cause. This brave and yet controversial man soon received the Hebrew nickname “Hayedid” (Friend).

At the time of his arrival in Palestine a campaign of riots and attacks against Jewish Communities and British Mandate officials, instigated by the Grand Mufti Hajj Amin Al Husseini, were taking place regularly.

Wingate learned Hebrew and a friendship began between him and Zionist leaders Chaim Weitzman and Moshe Sharett. His offers to help the Jewish leadership were met with suspicion, mainly because just about every British Official in Palestine at that time disliked Jews.

Wingate devised the concept of small units made up of elite volunteers to go into action to put an end to terrorism in Northern Palestine. In this way the offensive would be carried to the enemy by taking the initiative and keeping him off balance. Actions like this had already begun by the Haganah under the leadership of Yitzchak Sadeh who later stated that they had less skill but the same ideas as Wingate, but that on his arrival they found a leader.

Initially Wingate’s plans were completely disregarded but eventually approved by the Commander of British Forces in Palestine Archibald Wavell, then finally accepted by the rather doubtful Jewish Agency and Haganah who found it hard to believe that any British official would be interested in helping them.

Orde Wingate held strong beliefs that it was his destiny to help in the creation of a Jewish Army in Palestine.  His training and skills had a deep and intense influence on the tactics and character of the Haganah which was the precursor of Israel’s Defense Forces of today.

Orde Wingate’s deep involvement with the Zionist Cause and his public statements favoring the formation of a Jewish State in Palestine resulted in his transfer back to Britain in 1939.

When World War II broke out Wingate was in Britain and a commander of an anti-aircraft unit and made a proposal to the Government to create a Jewish Army to take over the rule in Palestine on behalf of the British. Shortly afterwards he was invited to build up guerilla forces in Sudan to operated against Italian forces in Ethiopia. This was called the Gideon Force and was made up of British, Sudanese and Ethiopian Soldiers and later he invited veteran members of the Haganah to join as well.

In 1944 Orde Charles Wingate was killed, together with nine others when the plane he was in crashed in Manipur India.

There is a memorial to Orde Wingate and the Chindits (British-Indian Special force) in London near the Ministry of Defense, on the north side of the Victorian Embankment. On this memorial there is a mention of his contribution to the State of Israel.

In Israel there are a number of places that commemorate Orde Charles Wingate “Hayedid.”, some of which include the Wingate Institute (Israel’s National Centre for Physical Education and Sport), Wingate Square in Jerusalem, and the Yemin Orde Youth Village near Haifa.

Aug 31

History of Israel – Wars – War of Independence

On the 29th November 1947 the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition Palestine. Immediately after the vote the first Arab attack was launched in Jerusalem and it did not take long before the fighting spread throughout the country. When Britain made it clear that their mandate would end on the 14th May 1948 and that their forces would be withdrawn by then the surrounding Arab countries stated that if the Jews declared independence they would immediately invade the country to prevent partition.

Independence Hall Tel Aviv

While the armies of seven countries amassed on Palestine’s borders, 37 Jewish leaders signed the declaration of the State of Israel and on the 14th May 1948 David Ben-Gurion read out the declaration as follows –

Declaration of Independence May 14th 1948
“The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish People. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books…And thus we the members of the Peoples Council, representatives of the Jewish community of the Land of Israel and the Zionist Movement, are here assembled…to declare the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.”


Only a few hours passed before the Arab armed columns advanced upon the fledgling State, from the south, the east and the north. After 1878 years when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by Roman armies, Jews were again fighting for their independence.

Despite the fact that the Arab forces were better equipped and significantly larger than Israel’s, they were uncoordinated and disorganized, with the exception of the British trained Arab Legion from Transjordan, as opposed to the Jewish fighters who despite their relatively small numbers were organized, disciplined and well trained and included a large number of World War II veterans from around the world.

War of Independence IsraelAt the start it was the Arab armies that took the offensive causing severe casualties to the Israeli forces, however the Haganah then took the initiative and within six weeks had captured the Arab sections of Tiberias and Haifa and later Safed and Acre (Akko) and gained control of much of the territory allocated to the State of Israel under the Partition Plan. On the 31st of May 1948 the Haganah was renamed the “Israel Defense force”

By January 1949, Israel had taken control of an area significantly larger than that designated by the United Nations and this remained Israel’s territory until 1967. The areas remaining in Arab hands were Gaza held by Egypt and the area of the west bank and the old city of Jerusalem including the Western Wall and Solomon’s Temple, upon which the Muslim Dome of the Rock had been built, were in the hands of Jordan. Armistice agreements were signed by all the surrounding Arab States except for Iraq who withdrew their forces and handed over its positions to Jordan.

Aug 30

Israel History – Wars in Israel – leading up to the War of Independence

Since biblical times and as recorded in the Torah, the Land of Israel was promised to the Jewish people by God and has been sacred to them ever since. After the establishment of the First Kingdom of Israel in about the 11th century BCE the area was ruled by the Israelites sporadically for the next 1000 years.

Historical map of IsraelOver centuries the Jewish presence dwindled due to persecution and massacres at the hands of invaders, the scattering of the Jews throughout the world began. However a Jewish presence constantly remained, particularly in the Galilee which became the religious centre. Eventually after the land had been conquered and ruled over by most of the major civilizations that had power at various times, The Land of Israel was captured in 1516 by the Ottoman Empire who ruled the area up until the 20th century.

Throughout the centuries the Jews who had been dispersed around the world had always had a yearning to return to their land and in 1492 many Jews, on being expelled from Spain, returned to their land and communities began to grow in the four Holy Cities of Judaism : Jerusalem, Tiberias, Hebron and Safed.

Pogroms in Eastern Europe started the first Aliyah in 1881 which was the beginning of what is known as modern immigration. At around that time the Zionist movement founded by Theodor Herzl started to take root. This movement had as its basis the wish to establish a Jewish State in the Land of Israel.

The second Aliyah began in 1904 and those who came were mainly orthodox Jews but amongst them were socialists who began to establish the kibbutz movement. This Aliyah lasted until 1914 and the outbreak of World War I.  During the war Arthur Balfour, who was the British Foreign Secretary, issued The Balfour Declaration which favored the establishment of a National Home for the Jewish People in Palestine.

The Jewish Legion, composed mainly of Zionist Volunteers, assisted the British in their conquest of the Ottoman Empire in Palestine. In 1920, rioting Arabs vehemently opposed the Balfour plan and this led to the forming of the Haganah (Hebrew word for Defense).

The years between 1919 and 1929 brought 100,000 Jews returning to their land during the third and fourth  Aliyah and after the rise of Nazism the 5th Aliyah began with the arrival of about a quarter of a million Jews fleeing the situation in Europe. This influx caused Arab Riots and resulted in the notorious British White Paper that stopped the arrival of Jews to Palestine.  All those Jewish refugees trying to flee the Holocaust were being turned away by countries around the world. This led to the formation of the underground Aliyah Bet organization who sought to bring these Jews to Palestine.

The "Exodus" Ship arriving in Haifa on July 20 1947A furious conflict between the Jewish Community and Britain began after 1945 when the Haganah joined the underground movements Irgun and Lehi in armed resistance as thousands of Jewish Refugees and survivors of the Holocaust who were seeking refuge in Palestine were being turned away by the British or placed in Detention Camps.

In 1947 Britain found themselves unable to reach any acceptable solution to the situation and decided to withdraw from the Mandate of Palestine and in November of that year the Partition Plan for Palestine was approved by the United Nations with two states, Arab and Jewish with Jerusalem an International City under U.N. rule. This was accepted by the Jewish leadership but immediately rejected by the Arabs who began a series of attacks against Jewish communities.

On the 14th May 1948 Independence of the new State of Israel was declared and the next day the armies of 5 Arab States: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt with contingents from the Sudan, crossed their borders, in an attempt to overthrow the new state and so began Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.