1948. The new nation Israel was fighting for her life. Resources low, Arab armies at all sides, Prime Minister David Ben Gurion was forced to take strategic action.
The Avner Institute presents the riveting narrative by Rabbi Menachem Porush, obm, late chairman of Agudath Yisrael, who discusses with the Rebbe the impossible military situation facing the Prime Minister, the spiritual considerations guiding him, and the miracle that followed.
Rabbi Porush Relates:
Often, I had opportunities to discuss various topics with the founder of the modern State of Israel, Prime Minister Ben Gurion. Having fought the many battles and survived the countless political deadlocks that had been necessary for the nascent nation to emerge, Ben Gurion was a fascinating person to speak to, his perspective of historical events unlike any other. During one of those conversations, I asked him:
"Which would you say was the most difficult moment for you as a leader and politician, throughout your entire career?"
“When we announced the establishment of the state of Israel, in the midst of chaotic battles waged on several fronts, we did not have the most vital of military equipment, guns,"
Ben Gurion answered, after considering the various possibilities. "After endless agony, we were finally able to obtain a miniscule cache of guns, procured from a reluctant Russia. Incapable of supplying all the troops with proper artillery, we would have to make a tortuous choice which of our valiant comrades, all contributing their entire energies to a venerable cause, should receive the goods.
“Each commander, many of them close friends of mine, vying for his men, had his own reasoning why it was imperative that the guns be directed to them. My friends from the Galilee, locked in battle over strategic enemy positions, while outnumbered and understaffed, came to me and cried, 'While you sit here in safety, our best young men are falling, lacking the most basic weapons. Give us guns, so we can protect this land, or all will be lost.'
"From Central Command in Tel Aviv, endeavoring to withhold hostile forces from completely overrunning the heart of the country, came the besieged Hagana leaders, who demanded, 'We must have more equipment; the majority of our civilian population are under incessant fire, and without stocking our depleted stockpiles, we will be compelled to surrender.'
"Harassed and fatigued, the generals from the Negev arrived next, pleading for every morsel of warfare they could receive, 'If you don't supply us with adequate arms, we will be powerless against the armies invading the South, putting at risk all of the inhabitants of the land.'
"Finally, following these groups, a contingency appeared, representing the gallant but beleaguered soldiers defending the ancient capital, Jerusalem. Heads drooping on their tattered uniforms and shoulders slouching under the heavy weight of battle, they lifted their weary eyes and simply said, 'You must replenish our empty storehouses if we are to continue guarding our holy city. Although there may not be many Jews in the city, it is crucial to the future of the nation that it remain in our hands; for Jerusalem is the essential spirit and central organism of our people, and Israel having lost Jerusalem would be like a body without a head.'
"I was faced with a moral quandary, and this was the toughest decision in my life; how can one make such a choice? Who is to decide which region is more vital and which people best deserve to live? His anguish inconceivable, a leader is forced to make such a judgment of one man over another. In the end, unable to reach a logical compromise, I allowed my emotional instincts to override strategic concerns; the argument about Jerusalem's centrality in Jewish religion and history prevailed, and I handed over the weapons to those guarding the city."
Concluding this tale before the Rebbe, who had listened attentively to every detail, I observed how deeply moved, and even pleasantly shocked he seemed; apparently, finding it hard to believe Ben Gurion had behaved that way. Still coming to terms with the story and visibly impressed, he asked me with great feeling to repeat the entire incident.
At the end of the second time the Rebbe said:
"This is a tremendous achievement, an incredible merit. I marvel how Ben Gurion acquired the great merit to make such a monumental decision."