The Fall of the Jewish Quarter


The siege on the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem is one of the dramatic peaks of the War of Independence.  It began in 1947 with the declaration of the partition plan of the United Nations. At that time, the residents of the Jewish Quarter numbered a mere 2,200 people, a tenth of the overall population of the Old City.
As soon as the partition plan was declared, the Hagana began preparing for the day that access to the Quarter would be cut off. In a clandestine operation spanning a number of weeks, 120 Jewish fighters were brought in to the city, using the public bus that entered the quarter, disguised as innocent Yeshiva boys, carrying weapons under their cloaks instead of books.
On January 1st, access to the city was blocked by the Arab forces. Entrance was denied, save medical personnel and bi-weekly supply convoys for the besieged residents.  The nightly fire exchanges, dwindling food supply, and the noose of the siege tightening around them, led about 500 residents to leave the Quarter and join the rest of the Jewish yishuv in new Jerusalem. When the British packed up and headed home on May 13, 1700 people remained within the city's walls, with only a few tens of Jewish fighters to protect them.  
Between May 16 and May 28, a joint attack by the Jordanian Arab legion and irregular Arab forces surrounded the Jewish Quarter. During those days the fire power of the Jewish fighters within the city decreased rapidly. This, along with the grave humanitarian conditions of the residents, led the Hagana leadership to allow the rabbis of the Quarter, Rabbi Ben Zion Mordechai Hazan and Rabbi Zeev Mintzberg, to surrender to the commander of the Arab Legion,  Abdalla al- Tel.
The photographs before you depict the days before the joint attack on the Quarter, before the Arab forces took over. They show the efforts to fortify the houses against shelling, the bi- weekly supply convoys to the city, and the recruitment of the residents of the quarter to the military effort: men that had never held a weapon before, receiving a brief course in gun-firing, perhaps a few hours before putting the lesson to use, young children taking part  in the distribution of water and food to the population, and the handing out of oil cans – perhaps the same cans in which bullets were smuggled into the city.