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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

PALESTINE POSTS, Book Review

PALESTINE POSTS: AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE BIRTH OF ISRAEL By Daniel S. Chertoff is an amazing book. Chertoff found a collection of his father's correspondence written between 1947-1949 when Mordecai S. Chertoff (his father) was here witnessing the end of the British Mandate and the beginning of the State of Israel.

Mordecai Chertoff came to "Palestine" officially to study in Hebrew University but was quickly drafted to the staff of the English newspaper, The Palestine Post, now called The Jerusalem Post. In addition, he joined the Haganah, and later after the establishment of the State of Israel, he became a citizen and was subsequently drafted into the IDF.

The letters Daniel found were from his father to the family in America and letters sent to him from them. Besides the correspondence, Daniel had an incomplete memoir of the time, his father had once started writing. Besides all that, there are many of the articles Mordecai had written for the Post and other publications. Daniel's job was to weave these all together along with a historical narrative informative enough for those less knowledgeable to follow and not too simplistic for those who already know the history. He did a very good job. I can recommend the book to all.

I had a personal need to read the book very carefully. My Uncle Izzy, Israel Shanks "Red" Shankman, was also here in Palestine-Israel at the time. He was in the Palyam, the naval branch of the Palmach as high level crew, medic plus, on some of the ships that defied the British in an attempt to bring Jewish immigrants to safety. It's very possible that they had been acquainted, though my uncle isn't mentioned. My uncle also left Israel for New York, around the same time.

Mordecai's letters are invaluable in describing what life was like in Jerusalem during the long, difficult siege. There was rationing, since water and food were almost impossible to find. The only road Jews could take to Jerusalem, for deliveries of all sorts, went through enemy Arab territory. Attacks were frequent. It's amazing that people survived on such small quantities, but they did.

Due to Mordecai's status in the Haganah and Palestine Post, he got to Tel Aviv on occasion. He writes of the plentiful food and being able to leisurely bathe, both luxuries in Jerusalem. From his letters I discovered that there was a real lack of unity between Jerusalem and "Israel" in the early days of the state. One reason was that the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan Jerusalem was to be a separate entity, not part of Israel. And even after the 1949 ceasefire, travel from the coast to Jerusalem was difficult until Israel's victory in the 1967 Six Days War.

There was only one thing that mars the book. Daniel criticizes his father's words about Arabs fleeing the Jewish State, page 338. Nobody's reading PALESTINE POSTS to discover Daniel's 21st century PC opinions. If another edition is printed, I suggest deleting those comments.

PALESTINE POSTS is a very readable, well-written book. Daniel Chertoff succeeded with a very difficult task. This is a History book, Biography, family memoir and more. The fonts and print-size are easy on my elderly eyes. I highly recommend PALESTINE POSTS: AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE BIRTH OF ISRAEL By Daniel S. Chertoff.

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