Program will bring viewers into the 1948 siege of Jerusalem

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What would Israel be without Jerusalem? Until June 10, 1948, it seemed that Israel would not have possession of the Holy City. That is the date when the months-long siege of Jerusalem was lifted.

On the same date, 72 years later, Daniel Chertoff, the son of a journalist who was an eyewitness to the event, will present an illustrated program, “Palestine Posts: Episodes from the Birth of Israel,” using his father’s letters, photos and newspaper articles as the source material about the struggle to create a Jewish state.

Chertoff’s multimedia program will be on Zoom on Wednesday, June 10, at 4 p.m. Viewers will  be able to write in questions at any point during the program, which is hosted by Or Cohen, the Rhode Island Jewish community’s shlichah (Israeli emissary).

The presentation invites the viewer to experience historical events from Israel’s war of independence, 1947-1949. It includes images, documents, videos and excerpts from letters written by Mordecai Chertoff, who at the time was an editor of the Palestine Post (forerunner of today’s Jerusalem Post) and a soldier in the Haganah, Israel’s leading paramilitary organization at the time, which formed the nucleus of its army.

Chertoff’s presentation will be based on his book, “Palestine Posts: An Eyewitness Account of the Birth of Israel,” which Israeli author and journalist Yossi Klein Halevi has called “History at its most compelling – vivid, detailed, immediate. This book is a gift to the Jewish people.” 

The book details how a young American lived day to day in a Jerusalem under siege, as well as what one would expect from a journalist – interviews with leaders and those impacted by their decisions, historical analysis as events unfold, and observations about the beginnings of a split between American and Israeli Jewry.

In vivid and often moving letters to his family back in the United States (annotated and contextualized by his son), Mordecai Chertoff describes the United Nations’ vote for partition, the ongoing battles along the dangerous Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, attempts to break the siege of Jerusalem, the bombing of the Palestine Post, the declaration of the State of Israel, and, inevitably, the loss of friends. The correspondence, filled with details of everyday life in Jerusalem and encounters with famous and soon-to-be famous people, includes historical information never before disclosed and ranges from passionate discussions about Zionism to the more personal drama of Mordecai’s search for a mate.

Daniel Chertoff has worked in the investment industry in both the United States and Israel as an analyst, financial communications counsel and venture capitalist, and as a senior executive in a large Israeli high-tech company. Before discovering the cache of letters, he was writing his doctoral dissertation in English literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is now an associate editor of Partial Answers, an academic journal of literature and the history of ideas. Chertoff and his wife, Arlene, live in Jerusalem.

The June 10 presentation is this year’s culmination of both the Israel Culture Series and Behind the Book: A Visiting Author Series. To reserve and receive a link to Zoom, please visit jewishallianceri.org/chertoff. The program will also be live on the Jewish Alliance Facebook page.

The program will be recorded for those who are unable to attend. For a link to the recording, or for questions, please contact Or Cohen at ocohen@jewishallianceri.org or 401-864-3786.

This event is made possible by a partnership with the Jewish Book Council and support from TW Financial Group.

LARRY KATZ (lkatz@jewishallianceri.org) is the director of Jewish Life and Learning at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.