The War of Independence
Israel's War of Independence started the day after the historic U.N. resolution of the 29th of November 1947 to partition Palestine and create an Arab state and a Jewish state side by side. The Arabs immediately rejected the plan and started attacking Jewish targets. Murders, reprisals, and counter-reprisals escalated fast and by the beginning of 1948 the war became more militarized after a number of regiments of volunteers from Arab countries joined the Palestinian Arab forces.
The situation in Israel's central front became dire. The Arabs blockaded the 100,000 Jewish residents of the city of Jerusalem. To counter this, the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine) tried to supply the city with convoys of self-made armored vehicles, but the operation became impractical as the number of casualties in the relief convoys surged.
At that point, the Hagana (the underground arms forces of the Yishuv) moved from the defensive to the offensive, according to a strategic plan called Plan Dalet. The 1st initiative was the Nachshon operation to lift the blockade on Jerusalem. Between the 3rd and 20th of April, two battalions succeeded to free up the route to the city, and enough supplies to last for 2 months were trucked into Jerusalem. The operation marked a turning point in the war in favor of the Yishuv.
The Arab village near Jerusalem named Castel became a symbol of the fierce fight to lift the blockade. The Arabs of this village used its unique position for unceasing attacks on Jewish transportation, blocking the road and sniping at vehicles. The village was captured in the beginning of the operation, but after 5 days of fierce fighting it was taken aback by thousands of Arabs. On the 9th of April, the Castel was recaptured and has been under Israeli sovereignty ever since.
The stamp in the middle commemorates the war at Israel's central front. On the background of a contemporary photograph of the road up to Jerusalem (Shaar Hagai), it displays the photos of armored vehicles from the convoys of the war era, and the drawing "The Castel Conquered" by Arieh Navon, 1948.
The stamp on the left commemorates the war at Israel's northern front by featuring the battle to liberate the city of Safed. 1,500 Jews resided in this mixed city, surrounded by some 12,000 hostile Arabs, both urban and rural. The British Army vacated Safed on April 16th and offered to evacuate all the non-military Jewish population from the Jewish quarter. The Israeli high command rejected the British gesture and decided to capture the entire Safed area instead. Two Palmach (Hagana's elite forces) battalions surrounded Safed by capturing the Arab villages north and south of the city. After one failed attempt, one of the two battalions managed to get control of Safed on May 11th, 1948. The Arabs fled in their thousands.
Later, the Rabbi of Safed quipped that the city was rescued due to a combination of (a) an action and (b) a miracle. The action: round the clock prayer kept up by Safed Jews from the time British troops left town; and the miracle: the arrival of the Palmach. The stamp displays a photo of Palmach warriors and citizens of Safed.
In addition to Safed, many other Arab neighborhoods and villages were captured prior to the declaration of independence on May 14, 1948, including Haifa, Tiberius, and Jaffa. Acre (Akko) was captured soon after on May 17. The war could have ended soon after with a clear Israeli victory, but on May 15 the armies of 5 Arab states (Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) invaded the just-born state and threatened her very existence.
In the month following the invasion, the Israeli forces managed to stop the invading forces - a huge achievement that signaled the eventual end result of the war. A 1st truce of 4 weeks went into effect on June 11. It was followed by 10 days of fierce fighting in which the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) maintained the initiative and the upper hand. Operation Danny was the most important Israeli offensive during that period. It secured and enlarged the corridor between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv by capturing the cities of Lod and Ramle and the nearby Lod Airport (Ben Gurion International Airport today). A 2nd truce, with unlimited duration, went into effect on July 21.
The 2nd truce collapsed on Oct. 15 and the last phase of intense fighting in the war started, during which the IDF managed to take control of the entire Galilee and the Negev. This phase practically ended on Jan. 7, 1949, when the Horev operation to drive the Egyptian army from the Negev was successfully concluded. Nevertheless, for the war to come to an official end, it took half a year more until the last ceasefire agreement was signed (July 20, with Syria), and one last military operation, the Uvda operation.
In the Uvda operation, Eilat (at that time just a small outpost on the shores of the Red Sea, known as Um Rashrash) was taken from the Jordanian army on March 10th, 1949, practically without fight. Two brigades took part in the operation, Palmach Negev and Golani. Masada and Ein Gedi on the shores of the Dead Sea came under Israeli sovereignty as well.
The national flag was raised in Um Rashrash by the Palmach advance guard. The soldiers, who discovered they did not have a flag at hand, quickly improvised a flag by drawing in ink on a bed sheet. When the Golani advance guard arrived two hours later, the two brigade commanders sent the following telegram to Yigal Alon, the southern front commander: "Inform the government of Israel ... the Palmach Negev brigade and the Golani brigade hand over the Gulf of Eilat to the State of Israel. Eilat (the 9th of Adar, 10.3.1949, 16:00 hours)."
The stamp on the right commemorates the battles at Israel's southern front by featuring the famous photo of the raising of the ink flag.
The stamps were issued in February 1998. They were designed by M. Pereg.