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The Battle for Jerusalem: An unintended conquest (Revised Edition)

The Battle for Jerusalem: An unintended conquest (Revised Edition) [Kindle Edition]

Abraham Rabinovich

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Product Description

Product Description

"Prose that is as graphic as it is lucid. The Battle for Jerusalem is deservedly acclaimed as a classic of its genre." Prof. Howard M. Sachar, author of A History of Israel.

"Extraordinarily dramatic". Prof. Edward N. Luttwak, author of Stategy: The Logic of War and Peace

Abraham Rabinovich arrived in Jerusalem five days before the Six Day War as a reporter for an American newspaper. He covered the battle for the city and was on the Temple Mount a few hours after its capture. To understand the momentous events he had witnessed, he subsequently interviewed 300 soldiers, officials and civilians.

The conquest of the Old City, a major event in modern Middle East history, was something that Israel’s leaders had not planned and that some of them did not want.

The book was written soon after the war, when memories were fresh. The current revised edition expands the context, political and military, and offers new perspective from both sides of the battlefield.

With the outbreak of war with Egypt, Israel sought to avoid a second front. Hours after Jordan opened artillery fire, Israel refrained from substantive retaliation as it sought a cease-fire. Only after Jordanian troops penetrated the Jewish city did Israel respond on the ground, and even then in measured stages.

The Israeli cabinet was divided over capture of the Old City. It was, surprisingly, the religious ministers who argued against it most vigorously. They feared that Israel could not stand up to international pressure if it annexed an entity that was not just the cradle of Jewish history but also sacred to Christianity and Islam. However, events created a vacuum on the West Bank into which Israel was inexorably pulled, step by step.

We witness the heated debate in Jordanian military headquarters where King Hussein had handed over command of his army to an Egyptian general. The latter’s strategy was designed to meet Egypt’s needs, not Jordan’s. It would cost Jordan the West Bank.

The book begins with a description of Jerusalem as a divided city, split between Israel and Jordan since Israel’s War of Independence. With the onset of the crisis in 1967, anxiety grips Israeli Jerusalem which had been besieged for months in the earlier war and elaborate emergency measures are set into motion. On the Arab side of the city, by contrast, there is euphoria and anticipation of an easy victory. Virtually nothing is done to prepare the civilian sector.

The Israeli general staff pushes for a pre-emptive air strike against Egypt but the government resists. Tensions reach a point where at least one general, Ariel Sharon, considers the possibility of a putsch. The appointment of Moshe Dayan as defense minister opens the way to war.

Defense of Israeli Jerusalem is entrusted to the Jerusalem Brigade, made up of local reservists. The greatest concern is Mount Scopus, an Israeli enclave behind Jordanian lines. An Israeli armored brigade is dispatched from the coastal plain with orders to reach Scopus by flanking the Jordanian line. It would have to breach thick minefields and scale difficult terrain as it races a brigade of Jordanian tanks coming up from Jericho. With time pressing, a paratroop brigade is ordered to relieve Scopus by driving through the center of the Jordanian defenses.

The reader follows the grueling battles in the trenches of Ammunition Hill and the streets of east Jerusalem through the eyes of the men who fought there. We see the growing isolation of the Jordanian garrison in the Old City, their last bastion. In a room lit only by distant flares, the Jordanian commander informs the local governor that he is pulling his troops out. A number of soldiers choose to remain and engage the Israeli troops from the alleys and ramparts of the walled city. A classic tale.

Updated: September 2012

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3707 KB
  • Print Length: 417 pages
  • Publisher: Abraham Rabinovich (28 Sep 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S. r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007I4AFQK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #395,501 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping account of 1967 war in Jerusalem 6 May 2013
By Alan A. Elsner - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
This updated account of the way the 1967 war unfolded in the divided city of Jerusalem takes you into the slit trenches in a way that no other account of the war does. Author Abraham Rabinovich (full disclosure, we worked together at the Jerusalem Post some 35 years ago) arrived in the city as a young reporter days before the hostilities broke out -- and his account has the freshness of something observed and experienced rather than the dry dust of history.

Israel did not want a war with Jordan, as the book makes clear. It wanted to focus all its strength on the much bigger threat posed by Egypt. But King Hussein foolishly allied himself with President Nasser and believed his Egyptian "big brother" when he said the war was going well and that the Israelis were on the run -- this after the Israeli air force had delivered a devastating pre-emptive strike and destroyed the Egyptian air force. Nasser continued to lie to Hussein for several days and the Jordanian monarch apparently had no independent sources of information. And so the sides drifted into a war neither side really desired.

The Israelis were thinly deployed in Jerusalem mostly with reservists (and it's amusing the way the author draws on the memories of his fellow staffers at the Post, some of whom I also knew). But a battalion of paratroopers transferred from the Egyptian front raised their standards. Many of these soldiers were to die or were wounded on Ammunition Hill, the most bitter and bloody engagement of the two-day war which has gone down in Israeli military lore as one of the most heroic battles they ever fought. They had to take a rabbit's warren of interlinking narrow trenches in the dark against a foe that knew the ground and was well dug in. The overall Israeli casualty rate on the hill was about 50 percent but higher among officers. Of the 14 Israeli officers who fought on the hill, four were killed and six wounded. I had no idea of the intensity of the fighting in Jerusalem. It was a relatively short war -- maybe three days -- but incredibly bloody with acts of amazing daring and heroism.

Rabinovich managed to track down and speak to scores of soldiers who took part in the fighting. He brings a multi-faceted view of the battles as they unfolded street by street block by block. The Jordanians fought bravely and well on the individual level but were let down by their officers. There was no strategy, no coordination. They seemed incapable of executing any plans of action.

Rabinovich gives only a sketchy account of the Israeli government deliberations about whether to take the Old City. He points out that the religious ministers in the cabinet were the most doubtful because they feared that the world would never accept Jewish control over Christian holy places. But in the end an assault on the Old City became inevitable after the Jordanians were thrown out of all the surrounding areas. The Jordanians mounted almost no defense of the walled city when they could have made the Israeli conquest incredibly difficult and costly and perhaps thrown the issue to the United Nations.

The author says he updated the book to incorporate more of the way the war was viewed from the Arab side -- but in fact there is very little evidence of this. The book remains 95 percent focused on the battle from an Israeli viewpoint. My other criticism regards the Kindle edition which made reading the maps very difficult and rendered the photographs as small grey smudges. This is the kind of book that needs to be read the old fashioned way on paper between covers.

The afterword about what happened to the city after the war is massively abbreviated.

That said, this book stands as an achievement in describing the experience of combat. Rabinovich has made a major contribution to history in collecting these stories and memories and has painted an indelible picture of a people at war.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Battle for Jerusalem answered the questions I had. 12 Sep 2012
By RookieHistorian - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I had previously read Six Days of War by Michael Oren (very good book by the way), but that book did not contain the detail I wanted about the battle for Jerusalem that this book does. I remember thinking to myself while reading Oren's book: "Wait a minute, what happened there? How did they get in there?" I was left with questions about the battle, which brings me to this book.

This book follows each significant portion of the battle for the city of Jerusalem itself. It explains where the forces came from, where they moved to, and the resistance or troubles they met along the way. Sometimes, when needed, it broke down individual units into the number of men, equipment they had (like 4 tanks left), and how they affected the outcome. That was nice. The book also gives some side stories, obviously obtained from personal interviews, of what some civilians did during this battle. These add a little spice to the story and help flesh it out to give it life. Some probably found the stories a bit off-topic because they come in the middle of other action, but I didn't mind them. The political information and background (should the city be taken? what will other countries of the world think? etc.) is covered in the book; however, I believe Oren did a better job of explaining it, so Rabinovich's explanation was more confirmation than revelation.

There is so much going on in the description of the battles that at times I had to jot down notes about each company, their individual commanders, 2nd in command, men in the battle, etc., because the stories ran together with so many people involved. The narrative would switch from one group of soldiers to another, identifying them by their commander or a person in the group only. The notes made it handy to go back and look: Oh yeah, they were the first through the line, set to clear the other side for the rest to come through. It would have been really nice to have a "playbook" to know who had what role, what unit they were in, etc.

The maps were fairly detailed, but I wanted more of them showing battle movements - that would have been nice. I checked out every reference made in the book and tried to find it on the maps -- they aren't all there. It took me a little while just to find King Hussein's summer house he was building in the West Bank (Wikipedia helped) and whether the units watching the road from Ramallah for Jordanian reinforcements were on the West or East side of the road. That was a little frustrating, but not too bad.

Overall I give the book 4 out of 5 stars for making me do some work to figure things out and map the units individually. Other than that, the story was great, the detail was what I expected, and I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting a better understanding of the details of this battle.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading 11 July 2012
By norden - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
Thousands of books have been published on the never-ending Middle East Conflict but only a few dozen are worth reading. This is one of the latter. It originally came out decades ago but has now been expanded, revised and provided with maps and an afterword by Rabinovich. A journalist and non-academic historian of the old school---dogged, scrupulous, self-effacing---he possesses almost a novelist's gift for plotting and for setting his real-life narrative and action in physical settings, in this case Jerusalem. Although he shows how the battle for the city was thrust on the reluctant Israelis by King Hussein of Jordan opening fire, he makes a remarkably successful attempt not to take sides. His descriptions of men and women in the Arab half of the city, both soldiers and civilians, are fair and empathetic. Weaving among the characters on each side, both the obscure and those in leadership positions, he captures the explosive tension of those few days in June, 1967 when the conflict was reshaped but not resolved. The battle for Jerusalem goes on.
Highly recommended.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brought the conflict alive 13 Dec 2013
By ProjectValhala - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Moving. Even after so many years the writer has captured the feeling of awe while entering Jerusalem so well. So many lives, so many friends lost and for what?
As long as any society teaches its own to live on hatred, to deny reality, that society is doomed to shed its own blood. And in vain.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Battle for Jerusalem 27 Sep 2013
By Francine - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Helpful for me because I live in Jerusalem. Now I understand why there was so much undeveloped land between parts of Jerusalem, and space to put in a light rail. No-man's-land was just the main road between neighborhoods.
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