April 17, 1948
Two days after being established and placed under the command of twenty-four-year-old Yitzhak Rabin, the Harel Brigade organized a convoy of supplies to be brought to Jerusalem under fire from Arab irregulars.
According to Rabin, “On April 15, 1948, I was placed in command of the newly established Harel Brigade of the Palmach, which was assigned to complete Operation Nachshon by eliminating the Arab bases along the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road. In planning and executing these operations, I came under constant pressure from our political leaders, who wanted to exploit the breakthrough to rush further supplies to Jerusalem. Preparations were therefore made to dispatch four more convoys. The first numbered some three hundred trucks and stretched out over a length of fifteen miles as it made its way toward Jerusalem.” (Yitzhak Rabin, The Rabin Memoirs, CA: University of California Press, 1979, p. 26)
The convoy came four days after an Arab ambush of a medical convoy on its way to Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus in which eighty Jews, mostly nurses and doctors, were killed. The relief convoy, led by Rabin, was necessitated by the Arab blockade of Jerusalem which began in February 1948. The siege required Jews living in Jerusalem’s Old City to ration food, water and supplies. One week before the convoy, on April 9, 1948, the Palmach had defeated Arab fighters at the Kastel, a fortress overlooking the entrance to the city. That victory helped ensure Rabin’s convoy could make it to Jerusalem.
While Rabin’s convoy brought much needed relief, three days later on April 20th, the Arabs regained control of the roads leading into Jerusalem. After the declaration of the State in May 1948, the blockade was re-enforced by Transjordan’s Arab Legion. The blockade would not be truly broken until June when Israeli forces, under the direction of American Mickey Marcus, built the Burma Road, a road constructed in secret that by-passed the Arab blockade. Zionists and then the Israelis were determined that Jerusalem would remain connected and integral to the larger Jewish territory along the Mediterranean coast.
The photo below shows the convoy bringing supplies into Jerusalem. (Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)