Isaiah 66:8 records the famous question ‘can a nation be born in a day?’ 2’700 years later the question was answered. Despite insurmountable odds, Israel - armed with help from above and the heroic courage of its men and women – was born in a day on May 14, 1948.
In this article we are going to look at three unique heroes of Israel’s miraculous modern-day re-birth.
Golda Meir – An Amazing Fundraiser
Golda Meir is famous for becoming Israel’s first female Prime Minister in 1969. However, many are unaware of the pivotal role she played in 1948.
Israel desperately needed modern weapons if it’s rag-tag band of Jewish fighters were to stand a chance against the impending onslaught by five modern Arab armies.
However, their main funding source – the US Jewish community – was already stretched to the limit with various local projects such as schools and other Jewish institutions. They were growing tired of the incessant appeals for help from the Jews of Palestine, and it was estimated that they would only be able to raise $5 million for Israel – just a fraction of the amount needed.
Zionist leader Golda Meir immediately volunteered to go to America. Two days later she was on her way having had no time to bring any more baggage than her handbag! Armed with $10 in her pocket, the determined Golda set out in search for the missing millions.
Coinciding with her arrival in Chicago was a meeting of the leaders of Jewish federations from across the US. However, many of these distinguished Jewish leaders were indifferent or even hostile to Golda’s Zionist ideas.
Warned not to address this particular group, Golda ignored the warning and delivered a rousing impromptu speech to the gathering about the dire challenges facing the fledgling state. Explaining that the survival of Palestine’s 700’000 Jews as well as the whole dream of a Jewish nation was at stake, she stressed the absolute immediate need for funds to fight. As she ended her speech, the hall fell eerily silent – and for a moment it seemed like Golda had failed miserably. Then the audience rose and delivered a resounding applause, and many began telephoning their bankers to take up immediate personal loans. By the time the evening was over, over $1 million dollars had been raised! Over the next few weeks, Golda succeeded in raising 50 million dollars – which was three times the amount Saudi Arabia earned during that entire year from its vast oil revenues!
As Golda triumphantly returned to Israel, Ben Gurion solemnly declared that ‘it was thanks to a Jewish woman that the Jewish state was born’.
Haim Slavine - An Engineering Genius
While many people are unaware of Golda’s contribution in 1948, even fewer have ever heard of Haim Slavine.
In the wake of the end of World War 2, the US decided to close down parts of its armament industry and convert the valuable machinery to scrap metal.
Learning of this plan and knowing Israel’s desperate need for weapons, Haim set off for New York. He found technical magazines with pictures of the machinery and used his photographic memory to memorise from these photos all the parts that were needed. He then assembled a team of scavengers to scour through junkyards all over the country looking for the required pieces.
The pieces were sent one-by-one to New York where Haim succeeded in putting them together into working order machinery capable of a daily production of 50’000 bullets as well as an assembly line production of machine guns (requiring 1500 operations!).
The next puzzle Haim had to solve was how to get the machinery past the British blockade of Palestine. He ended up taking every piece of machinery apart again even to the very last nut and bolt and labelled all the pieces with a unique code he invented. He then scrambled all the pieces together and sent them in crates labelled ‘farm equipment’ to kibbutzes all over Israel. Once safely in Israel, Haim re-assembled the 75’000 pieces of machinery into working order and could boast by the end of it that he had not lost one single bolt, screw or washer in the shipment!
It is stunning to read of Haim’s genius, and through this engineering feat we can easily see the hand of God at work – making a way for the Jewish nation to defend itself in the upcoming conflict.
Over 4’500 volunteers from abroad – both Jews and non-Jews - joined Israel’s struggle in 1948.
One such hero was the 23 year old Esther Callingold from Britain. A nurse by profession, she was sent to assist the beleaguered Jews in the Old City of Jerusalem. As the Arabs cut off all supply routes and subjected the area to heavy bombardment, Esther was tasked with running messages between the scattered and isolated Jewish troops. The battle was intense, but ultimately Esther ended up mortally wounded in a poorly equipped hospital. Before her death, she penned this letter to her parents in Britain:
“Dear Mummy and Daddy,
…. We had a difficult fight. I have tasted hell, but it has been worthwhile because I am convinced that we will see a Jewish state…. I hope one day soon you will all come and enjoy the fruits of that for which we are fighting.
…. remember me only in happiness.
It is hard not to be touched by Esther’s story of courage and sacrifice, and we should remember that she was only one of 6’300 Israeli soldiers and civilians who paid the ultimate price during Israel’s costly War of Independence.
Ultimately through the hard work, creative genius and sacrifice of so many heroes like these we have described, the nation of Israel was born ‘in one day’ as Isaiah predicted. It was not an easy birth, but let us give thanks to God for those who paid so much to see the Jewish nation restored to her rightful inheritance. In honouring their sacrifice, let us follow Esther’s admonition to go and visit and enjoy the God-given Land of Israel.