The members of the UN reached the conclusion that the British had to leave the Land of Israel and that two states should be established: one Jewish and one Arab. On November 29, 1947, the vote for the Partition Plan was held. Jews living in the Land of Israel, as well as many Jews all over the world, listened anxiously throughout the vote, which was broadcast over the radio. 33 states voted for dividing the Land of Israel into two states, 13 opposed, 10 abstained and one was not present for the vote. Thus, the decision to create a Jewish state won the approval of a large majority of the UN states.
The Outbreak of the War of Independence
The day after the Partition Plan was approved by the UN General Assembly, the War of Independence broke out. The Arab leadership, headed by the Mufti Amin al-Husseini, called for armed resistance to the implementation of the plan. On the other hand, the Jewish Yishuv accepted the plan with great happiness, though they began to prepare for the long struggle against the Arab opposition. During that period, there were 600,000 Jews in the Land of Israel and more than one million Arabs. The Jewish fighting forces consisted of 50,000 members of the Haganah, 4000 members of the Etzel and 1000 Lehi fighters. Weapons and ammunition were a serious problem. There weren’t enough weapons. They had no artillery, tanks or planes. The Arab fighting forces consisted of Arab gangs – groups of local fighters that were called to join the fighting in a method called “hafaza” (sirens were sounded in Arab villages as a call for the local people to bring their weapons and go to battle) and regular forces from the Arab Legion. The Legion had been established by the British Mandate to defend the Arab villages in the eastern part of Jordan against Bedouin infiltrations. The Legion was an organized, well-trained military force. In addition, the Arabs were helped by the Arab Liberation Army. It was a volunteer force organized by the Arab League to help the Israeli Arabs after the decision to partition the land. The volunteers came from Iraq, Yemen, Sudan and Saudi Arabia.
The Siege of Jerusalem
On the eve of the War of Independence, approximately half the 165,000 residents of Jerusalem were Jewish, 35,000 were Moslems and 30,000 were Christians. The Christians and the Moslems lived in the Arab Quarter.
The war in Jerusalem was costly. Many died fighting for the city and many died on the roads leading to the city. On December 20, 1947, many Arabs who had been incited to violence, left the Old City and burnt down the new Jewish commercial center near Mamilla Street. That event marked the beginning of the military struggle for Jerusalem. The Arabs in the Land of Israel were determined to prevent the implementation of the decision to divide the land into two states and to make Jerusalem an international city. Arab villages surrounded most of the area around Jerusalem. The 14 Jewish agricultural settlements around Jerusalem could not serve as the home front for the city since they themselves were dependent on supplies from the city. Water, food and other basic goods had to be brought from afar. Supplies reached Jerusalem by train or car. However, the road connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and the railway passed through areas which were heavily populated by Arabs, who attacked the vehicles. Whole supply convoys were attacked and usually everyone in them was murdered. Jerusalem was gradually being strangled. Food, water, medicine and armaments did not reach the city. Jerusalem was under siege.
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