Waves Sharon Yishuv

  • Issue: April 1995
  • Designer: G. Sagi
  • Stamp size: 51.4 x 40 mm
  • Sheet of 1 stamp
  • Printers: Government Printers
  • Method of printing: Offset

When the Second World War broke out in 1939, there were less than half a million Jews living in Eretz Israel. The Yishuv (the Jewish population in Eretz Israel) was determined to volunteer to tight in the war against the Nazis despite the harsh provisions of the White Paper, published that year by the British mandatory power, following the 1936-1939 Arab Revolt. In many ways the White Paper spelt the death sentence of the Zionist dream.

The Yishuv sought to set up Jewish fighting units, while the British military authorities were interested in recruiting skilled personnel and soldiers for guard duties. However, the British Authorities did not have the right to recruit in Eretz Israel, so the only way Jews could join the army was by volunteering. There ensued a long struggle on the issue of the recruitment and posting of volunteers. Notwithstanding all these difficulties, a large scale volunteering movement began.

At this stage of the war no one could possibly know who would win and rule the world for "the next thousand years". It was not known where our soldiers would be sent in the war, which, meanwhile, had been joined by Japan.

At the same time the Yishuv also faced dangers at home from its neighbours and the country could not be jeopardized by depleting it of all its young men, so many stayed and played their part in its defence within the framework of the Yishuv's own independent defence organization.

Nevertheless, 30,000 men and women volunteered and joined the British Army, Navy and Air Force and served in the units whose emblems appear on the souvenir sheet. They were scattered over the whole of the Middle East and North Africa (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Eritrea, Somalia) as well as other places; they also reached the army bases of South Africa and Rhodesia. In the course of the war, they found themselves fighting in Greece and Crete and even reached Northern France; others were stationed in Malta, landed in Italy and fought right through to the end of the war.

Two out of every three volunteers spent most of their time in the battle zone. In the fighting on land and sea we lost more than 600 men. Some of our soldiers in Greece were taken prisoner by the Germans. Some 430 men received decorations. In the Jewish units, despite the stance of the British, there developed a strong Jewish identity, tradition and culture which expressed itself in different kinds of Jewish activities. The feeling of pre-State sovereignty among the volunteers was strengthened, together with their involvement in the struggle against the White Paper in Eretz Israel. In our units there also operated an internal. self-imposed command hierarchy.

Only towards the end of the war were the infantry battalions formed into the Jewish Brigade Group. The Jewish Brigade was equipped and trained and went into the front in Northern Italy, against an elite German Unit, and fought under its own flag. It was this flag of the volunteers that was eventually carried in the victory parade over the Nazi enemy. Ten thousand volunteers from Eretz Israel, 5,000 of whom served in the Jewish Brigade, found themselves, at the end of the war, on tormented European soil. Many had relatives who had remained in Europe, and the soldiers spread over the whole of Europe to search out the remaining Jews.

The volunteers came across the remnants of the Holocaust spread in and around the camps for displaced persons with nowhere to go and no one to turn to. This encounter created a new hope for a new beginning. The survivors put their hearts into the struggle for Aliyah and were able to accumulate the strength needed for the battle for mass immigration to Eretz Israel. A solution had to be found for their future, and the pressure created by the survivors themselves through the "Exoduses" (the ships carrying them illegally to Eretz Israel against the British naval blockade) contributed to the struggle and ultimately brought about the adoption of the UN resolution on the establishment of a Jewish State. It had not been possible to carry out any significant rescue operations in the course of the war itself, and the only real succour on a mass scale was realized through the volunteering of the Yishuv to the war.

Behind the story of Jewish volunteering from Eretz Israel to the British Army, which reached a summit when the volunteers met with the remnant of the Holocaust, lies an historic drama, in which the fate of the Jewish people, at a crossroads, was to be determined.

The following quotation from the Israel Declaration of Independence expresses one aspect of the historic role played by the Jewish volunteers.

"ln the Second World War, the Jewish Community of this country contributed its full share to the struggle of the freedom-and peace-loving nations against the forces of Nazi wickedness and, by the blood of its soldiers, and its war effort, gained the right to be reckoned among the peoples who founded the United Nations".

The picture on the Souvenir Sheet shows a soldier from the Jewish Brigade teaching Hebrew to children who had survived the Holocaust, in preparation to their immigration to Eretz Israel.

The names of the units whose emblems appear on the souvenir sheets (from right to left): Paratroop Corps, Commandos, R.A. (Royal Artillery), R.N. (Royal Navy), ROC. (Royal Ordnance Corps), Eretz Israel Regiment, ATS. (Auxiliary Territorial Service), RAF. (Royal Air Force), R.E.M.E. (Royal Electric and Mechanical Engineers), G.S.C. (General Service Corps), R.S.C. (Royal Signals Corps), Military Intelligence, R.A.M.C. (Royal Army Medical Corps), Pioneer Corps, The Army Chaplaincy, R.A.S.C. (Royal Army Service Corps), M.P. (Military Police), RE. (Royal -Engineers). At the bottom appears the emblem of the Jewish Brigade Group.

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Yishuv volunteers to the British Army in the second world war - meeting survivors