Letter from Jerusalem, December 7, 1947
December 7, 1947
From your end of the ocean or ours, it is still a holiday of sorts. The date rings a bell...Pearl Harbor, the trigger for American entry into World War II. I try not to think about that—about anything that has to do with war.
I am sitting in my room looking mournfully at a lovely ceramic menorah and watching two little candles dwindle into their sockets. It is the second day of Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights, but you wouldn't know it because the streets are dark, all public ceremonies have been cancelled and all the local students have been mobilized.
It's vacation time at the University and, though I would love to see more of the country, it isn't wise to travel around right now, so I am staying put. I'm also unable to pick up mail for a week or so. The trip to Mount Scopus is not the safest in the world and there are days one cannot go up for lack of a convoy. I suggest you start addressing my mail c/o Pension Pax, New Montefiore, Jerusalem.
I have no idea what the American papers are feeding you about the situation here. Arab attacks are gathering momentum and forcing the Jewish community to organize resistance to protect itself. Censorship prevents me from going into details.
Things seem to be surprisingly well under control, the only time they get out of hand is when the Goddamn British stick their noses in. Everybody here thinks we could handle the situation effectively if only the British would stay out of it or stay neutral.
The morale of the Jewish community in Palestine is fantastic. Unity and purposefulness pervade everything—every single person is caught up in the needs of the hour. I can tell you I wouldn't have missed this experience for a lifetime of illusions about Zionism and Palestine lived in the “quiet” of New York. You are part of a struggle that is bigger than your own individual striving for self-attainment and self-preservation. There is an overpowering sense of belonging, of being needed and of being wanted. A commitment you cannot reject.
Living here at this time you learn the art of taking care of yourself, of being cautious where caution can be a matter of life and death, of being constantly alert. Thank goodness, I have grasped the essentials quickly. There are times when it pays to be an apt pupil in other than academic matters.
Can you imagine this: the door just opened and a shy sweet neighbor stuck in his hand, not his head, clutching two little posies of wild flowers that he had collected on the way home from work to cheer up us “foreigners” far away from home at holiday time. These guys are really taking good care of us.
I'll try hard not to neglect you but make allowances because I am getting very busy.
What I was "getting very busy" with—it can now be told—was joining the Haganah, the underground Jewish defense organization. The next letter, describing the induction ceremony, was written much later and, to evade the censor, taken to the States by one of the returning students.
Zipporah (Zippy) Porath's letter to her family describing studying at the University of Jerusalem in the days before the war and her eventual joining of the Haganah.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Letter from Jerusalem, December 7, 1947." (Viewed on July 23, 2014) <http://jwa.org/media/letter-from-jerusalem-december-7-1947>.