By Lennie Lurie
Within ten years after the end of the Second World War in 1945, all the British and French colonies and mandated territories in the Middle East were granted their independence. Likewise, the British, French, Belgium and Portuguese colonies in Africa, were granted their independence by 1960.
In most cases, bloody and protracted uprisings by the local “freedom fighters” against the colonial powers preceded the granting of independence. In September 1947, the British government announced that the Mandate on Palestine would end at midnight on 14th May. Precisely on this date, David Ben-Gurion, the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, formally declared the State of Israel.
Despite the unrelenting struggle that was waged by the local forces against the colonial powers, once Great Britain agreed to the granting of independence to almost all its former colonies and mandated territories, it proved most magnanimous in assisting the new state to achieve a capable, proficient and skillful leadership to rule the emergent new country.
Capable and potential young local leaders were sent to study public administration at leading British universities, at the expense of the British government. The former British public officials in charge of all the main administrative and executive duties remained behind to train, instruct and supervise the gradual take-over of these functions by suitably appointed candidates. Nothing was left to chance.
Former and bitter enemies became willing partners to establish a competent and qualified military force that could establish a new local army. Again, suitable candidates were sent to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst to become elite professional soldiers in all the military corps. Naturally, the British Government supplied the nascent local army with all the necessary weapons, ammunition and armaments to defend the newly independent country from any external threat, which fortunately, in almost all cases, did not present itself.
With the granting of independence, most of the countries the world over promptly and officially recognized the new independencies and welcomed them as new members into the United Nations Organization. Any required aid and assistance was offered generously and unconditionally.
The aforementioned “release and take-over” procedures were implemented by the British colonial power to all its former colonies. In all probability this was the procedure also adapted by the other foreign colonial powers to their newly independent former colonies.
It must be stated that within a relatively short period of time, many of the leaders of the newly emergent independent states, particularly in Africa and in the Middle East, became tyrants, dictators and autocratic martinets, ruling their people oppressively and embarking on imperial conquests to enrich themselves.
In light of all that has been detailed above about the very favourable manner in which the former colonies were groomed, trained and aided by Great Britain to take over the reins of governance, there was one solitary exception – the State of Israel!
One can succinctly and fittingly define the British “release and take-over” procedure as “here today; gone tomorrow!” This was exactly what happened. The entire British officialdom, which ruled, administrated and controlled the mandated territory of Palestine from 1918 to 1948, was shipped off to the Motherland virtually overnight, immediately upon Israel declaring its independence.
Every office, bureau and agency, involving many hundreds of experienced personnel, which had handled so professionally and efficiently all aspects of British administrative bureaucracy in Palestine: postal service, income tax, customs & excise, police & defense, budgeting & finance, health & welfare, amongst others, were left completely deserted. No replacements were sought nor trained to continue managing these essential public services. This was a deliberate act of “punishing” the Jews for their “haughty arrogance and conceit” in wanting their independence!
No sooner did Ben Gurion declare Israel’s independency, when seven Arab armies, fully trained and armed, invaded the new State of Israel, with the declared objective of driving the Jews into the sea! Not only did Great Britain refuse to supply any military aid to the new Jewish independency but the formidable Arab Legion of Transjordan was trained and equipped by Britain. A British officer, General Sir John Bagot Glubb, also known as Glubb Pasha, became in 1939 the legion’s commander and transformed it into one of the most effective military forces in the Arab world.
The United States and all the other western countries followed Britain’s example and officially imposed a military boycott on Israel, not allowing any military armaments to be sold to the besieged Jewish State. Such a dispassionate and cruel policy decision could only be interpreted as an unmistakable invitation to the Arab armies to complete Hitler’s solution of the Jewish Question!
Thanks to Jewish courage, foresight and improvisation, none of Great Britain’s dastardly intentions of crippling the embryonic State of Israel materialized. Jewish enterprise, initiative and boldness on the battlefield successfully thwarted the Arab invasion of Israel, despite the Arab’s imposing military superiority.
So dear friends, on the eve of Israel’s 75th Day of Independence, we can recall the many miracles that took during those challenging, arduous and testing early years of the State of Israel. How, against all odds, those valiant, daring and intrepid Jews defied the wicked intentions of our adversaries and made Ha’aretz – the Land, a secure, prosperous and beautiful homeland for the Jews, from wherever they have come – and may yet be coming from.
חג יום העצמאות שמח
Lennie was born in Cape Town and raised in a traditional Jewish and Zionist home where he developed a deep love for his faith and Israel. In fact the name of their Sea Point house was called “Tordah” (Hebrew for ‘Thank you”). He was active in scouts and Habonim – a Jewish youth movement. Upon his matriculation it was only natural for him to volunteer and serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Upon his discharge as a paratrooper, he hitch-hiked across western Europe for six months before returning home and commencing his studies in geology at the University of Cape Town.
In early June, 1967, with war clouds gathering in the Middle East, Lennie interrupted his employment and flew with the first group of South African volunteers to Israel, having been granted permission to leave the group and to rejoin his army unit. The 6-Day War broke out the day after Lennie’s arrival in Israel. On the sixth day of the war, a cease fire was imposed with the IDF forces within striking range of Cairo and Damascus. That was when Lennie had finally reached the Golan Heights – too late to be of any use!
Lennie graduated from UCT with a B.Sc. degree. He later studied for Diplomas in Marketing & Export Management & Administrative Management.
In 1970 he immigrated to Israel and was employed as the Export Marketing Manager with the leading Israeli food and chemical companies.
Due to a road accident in 1995, resulting in the loss of his left leg, Lennie, upon his full recuperation, made a career change and became an independent English teacher, working mainly with hi-tech companies and also teaching at universities and colleges in the north of Israel.
Lennie is married to Ruti and they live in Kiryat Tivon, 25 km east of Haifa. They have a 27 year old son but Lennie has two other sons and two other daughters from former marriages.