Help Them Build the Jewish Future
Depicted in this poster are two soldiers of the Jewish Legion, the volunteer military force which was organized in Palestine by Zionists during the British Mandate (1918-1948) and which later became the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
This poster is an appeal for funds to help advance the goals of the United Palestine Appeal (which was absorbed into the United Jewish Appeal after World War II) as well as a recruitment poster for the nascent Israeli military. The strong, determined soldiers are wearing state-of-the-art uniforms, weapons and insignia of the time, and exude a robust esprit de corps.
Notably, one of the soldiers is female. According to the website of the IDF, “The role of women in Israel’s defense has a long tradition reaching back to the biblical days of Yael and Deborah. Women played a vital role in the underground struggle for Israel’s independence, including participation in signals and combat roles in the pre-state military cadres: Haganah, Etzel, and Lechi.” Since 1959 Israel has had universal conscription, although the compulsory service requirements for women are somewhat different from those for men.
On a lanyard behind the two soldiers fly the flags of all the Allied countries with which Jewish Legion soldiers had served or from which members of the Jewish Legion had come. The Jewish Legion gave good service to the Allies during WWII and it emerged from that experience a much more mature and formidable force. This poster thus was a call to Jewish men and women everywhere to come to Palestine and be part of the Legion’s proud new identity.
Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs caption for this poster reads:
The United Jewish Appeal was the central fund-raising agency among the Jews of the United States. Its main aims were to help develop the State of Israel and to aid the Joint Distribution Committee, which was providing assistance to Diaspora Jewish communities. As statehood neared, the UJA financed aliyah and aided in developing the economy that would absorb the new immigrants. The UJA also devoted funds to education, cultural projects and vocational training for the immigrants.
Source: “Images of a State in the Making,” Israeli Ministry
of Foreign Affairs website
This poster is also important because it illustrates that the early Zionist visionaries understood that in terms of nation building, a stable military force was the sine qua non for establishing effective domestic and economic spheres.
How effective were the early planners and builders of today’s IDF? The body of soldiers that evolved from the Jewish Legion now constitutes the Middle East’s largest air force (800 combat aircraft), its second largest armor force (3,930 tanks), a modern navy (fielding three submarines, forty-seven patrol and coastal vessels, including three Corvettes and ten craft armed with Gabriel or Harpoon missiles). Moreover, Israel is the region’s only nuclear power.
This poster reinforces for the outside observer the idea that there is more than one Israel. There was the struggling, vulnerable Israel that is referred to in this “Build the Jewish Future” poster from the mid-1940s, and there is the Israel of today that is that future: strong beyond the wildest imaginings of the early Zionist pioneers, yet ironically, no more secure.© 2003 Liberation Graphics. All Rights Reserved.
Questions for A New
1) The Jewish Legion served the Allied cause in World War II, and fought in many difficult battles. How important was this exposure to the latest weapons, tactics, strategy, intelligence-gathering, etc., to the Israeli forces that would face off against combined Arab armies in 1948 and beyond?
2) The IDF is unarguably the most powerful military force in the Middle East today. It has fought and defeated several opposing armies simultaneously. Given that history of accomplishment, why is it that Israel is as threatened and benighted as it is today? How useful are the tactics, weapons, and experience gained in conducting distant, offensive, pre-emptive wars when fighting an insurgency within Israel’s own borders and in the Occupied Territories?
3) How does the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 compare with Israel’s invasions of Syria, Egypt, and Jordan in 1967 and Lebanon in 1982? How does the inability of American military forces to quell the Iraqi insurgency in post-victory Iraq compare with Israel’s inability to contain Palestinian resistance to Israeli rule?
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