Jerusalem, Israel - Jan. 31, 2020 - Jerusalem, February 1, 1947, as it was approaching 11:00 pm, a 5-ton army truck was parked near Zion Square, outside the office building of the English-language newspaper Palestine Post. Soon there was an explosion that could be felt throughout Jerusalem as the truck exploded, gutting nearby buildings and shattering windows in the distance. One person died immediately, and twenty more were injured, nine seriously, while nearby residents had to be evacuated from their apartments and Jerusalem burned all through the night.
Young idealistic Zionist Mordechai Chertoff, a 26-year old New Yorker, had arrived in Jerusalem of Mandatory Palestine under British governance, and was employed by the paper and working inside at the time of the explosion.
The vivid eyewitness description of that night and other important historical events from 1947-1949, are included in "Palestine Posts: an Eyewitness Account of the Birth of Israel" written by Mordechai's son Daniel S.Chertoff.
Based on his father's letters to the family in America, Daniel Chertoff has composed a compelling inside-view of an important historical time. The cache of family correspondence, especially father to son, sometimes in Hebrew, (translated to English for the book) is written with an eloquence lacking today.
I found Mordechai's joyful description of Tikun Leil Shavuos in 1947, especially poignant. Little did he know that as he wrote to his parents, it would be the last chance for nineteen years for Jews to learn all night and walk to the Kossel in the morning to pray. The description of the November 29th UN declaration, the Hadassah medical convoy massacre, the fall of the Etzion Bloc and the fall of the Old City of Jerusalem, are four examples of important historical episodes described by an active participant in the events and expressed in powerful prose.
By having a US passport and a student visa, plus a press card, the single young man was able to move about besieged Jerusalem under curfew, and help get information for the Haganah. For one living in Jerusalem today, the names dropped in the correspondence are the names of streets in Rechavia and surrounding neighborhoods that we walk regularly. As an embedded journalist, Chertoff was able to be one of the first to learn of the 'Burma Road' plan being developed. The Jews in Jerusalem needed an alternate way to get supplies to residents as the main road from Tel Aviv was cut off by Arab snipers.
Daniel Chertoff has taken from his father's published article's in the Palestine Post and family letters to craft a compelling book, interweaving historical information to give context and footnote explanations for the reader to better understand this critical time in the founding of the state of Israel.
Finding a piece of history in his father's letters, a part of his father's life he did not know of previously, leaves Chertoff, and the reader wondering, what else was "classified" and "cut by military censor" and still undiscovered and unknown.
Publisher: Toby Press ISBN: 978-1-59264-512-1 Pages:499 Format: Paperback Price:$19.95 Publication date: October 5, 2019
The photo essay includes photographs taken of slide images of old photographs included in the book used by Daniel Chertoff at a Jerusalem book launch.