17. State of Israel and War of Independence

Fundraising and Volunteers

In July 1948, a mass demonstration was organised by the Manchester Zionist Central Council (ZCC) to welcome the UN decision in favour of the establishment of the State of Israel. No one was in any doubt regarding what lay before the tiny nation-state, however, and the Joint Palestinian Appeal (JPA) Committee was formed to help finance Jewish self-defence against Arab armies. Manchester pledged to collect £250,000, or one-tenth of the total British target. In addition to individual donations, city synagogues such as the Central and the Holy Law gave generously, as did other local organisations and societies.

The grand old of stalwart of Zionism, the Manchester Zionist Association, organised a new membership drive that attracted over 100 people. Women’s groups collecting for WIZO ran social gatherings and soirées. A special committee was formed, and a concert held, to assist the Magen David Adom (the Jewish version of the Red Cross).

At the same time, some 30-40 Manchester Jews volunteered their services to the Israeli armed forces for the coming war. Many had fought in the Second World War and their military skills and expertise were essential factors in Israel’s eventual success - the Manchester contingent included among others, fighter pilots, flight engineers, and logistic and communication specialists. Since it was technically illegal for the majority of these mitnadvim (Hebrew "volunteers") to go to the aid of Israel (because they remained in the British reserves), much secrecy shrouded their movements. Their friends and family were often the last to find out, despite the fact that it was a war from which few of the experienced veterans ever expected to return. Interestingly, those who went out included many for whom Zionism had never really featured in their lives before.

Manchester mitnadvim included: Bernard Blank (infantry, 7th brigade), Phil Block (Israel Airforce), Alan Burke (Commander of Israeli navy; brought Israel its first warship), Bunny Hudaly (infantry, 7th brigade), Joe Leigh (Israel Airforce, wireless mechanic), Abe Salisbury (Israel Airforce, ground-staff), Joe Sunderland (Israel Airforce, pilot), Walter Toubkin (Israel Airforce; aircraft recognition and wireless operator), Baron Wiseberg (Israel Airforce, pilot and commander of Ramat David airfield) and Maurice Wiseberg (Israel Airforce, transport).

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IMAGE AND DOCUMENT CREDITS: Reunion of Manchester Mitnadvim (Maurice Wiseberg) Full reference: Sources.