The Civil War months in Mandatory Palestine

The Hadassah Medical Center (est. in 1934, fourteen years before the state of Israel) operates two university hospitals (Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus), as well as, schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing, and pharmacology, affiliated with the Hebrew University. Its declared mission is to extend a hand to all, without regard to race, religion or origin.

In the months of the Civil War in Mandatory Palestine (1947−1948), Jerusalem’s Jewish population faced violence

daily. One of those events was a vicious attack that took place in one of the Mount Scopus neighborhoods. A monument called “Remember” for the memory of the 79 perished Jewish fighters and medical personnel is located at the site of the hospital, as well.

Following the UN Partition Plan and anticipating Israel’s declaration of Independence, Arab troops blocked access to Hadassah Hospital and the Hebrew University. The only access was via a narrow road, a mile and a half long, passing through the Arab neighborhood of Sheik Jarrah. The Arabs had seeded the road with mines that could be detonated by electrical triggering at a distance. Sniper fire on vehicles moving along the access route was a regular occurrence.

On April 13, 1948─when food and supplies at the Hadassah Hospital had begun to dwindle─a large convoy of doctors, nurses, medical and military supplies set out for the besieged hospital. The convoy was marked with a “red shield” to guarantee its neutrality. Haganah fighters accompanied the convoy to protect it. Despite all the preparation, Arab forces ambushed the convoy. Tens of Jewish doctors, nurses, students, patients, faculty members, Haganah soldiers and one British soldier were killed in the attack. Many of the victims were burned beyond recognition and, therefore, buried in a mass grave.

The Jewish Agency claimed that the massacre was a gross violation of the international humanitarian law and demanded action to be taken against a breach of the Geneva Conventions (seeking to protect civilians and others who are not part of hostilities). As usual, Arabs denied any wrong-doing and claimed that they had attacked a military formation. They had not distinguished doctors and nurses from soldiers. After inquiries were conducted, an agreement was reached to separate the military from humanitarian convoys.

Many other attacks took place in the climate of “wind of violence” after the 1947 Partition Plan─resulting in dozens of Jewish and Arab victims killed in the process. The British forces did not intervene so the violence escalated to bus bombings and open fighting. In May 1948, the Kfar Etzion Jewish community fell and 129 fighters and civilians were killed. After five and half months of fighting, the Civil War ended with Israel’s decisive victory. (Online resources)