May 30, 2020

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A great anecdote about Safed and the Davidka – and it might even be true!

Mohamed Hadid, the real estate mogul from California whose two daughters Bella and Gigi are supermodels, went to Spain and posted that a mosque there broatcast a call to prayer for the first time in 500 years.

He writes, “For all of us to heal we might be from different religions but we are all the servants of God.”

But he is actually an antisemite. He has repeated a number of times a ridiculous story that his mother sheltered a family of Polish Jewish refugees in Safed for two years (because no Jew in Palestine would ever help a Jewish refugee family…) and then that they “kicked us out of our own home.” It is all a lie.

What actually happened in Safed in 1948 is that the Arabs planned to murder all the Jews in the city. Benny Morris writes in his book 1948:

One of the stories about how the Arabs fled from Safed was their fear of the Davidka mortar, an ineffective weapon that made a very loud sound. There are a number of differing accounts that all say that the Arabs were afraid that the Jews had the atom bomb because of the great noise it made, and this prompted them to flee. Some say that they knew that some of the atom bomb developers were Jewish and that is what made them make the connection.

But I just read this story, which is plausible and too good not to share:

The battles raged for months, until the spring of 1948, several days before Israel was declared a State. In late April, an artillery piece, nicknamed “The Davidka” was delivered to the Jews. They shot it off several times, but the mortars did little damage…..the main effect was the tremendous noise. However, the weather changed, and, unusually for that time of year, it began to rain. The rumor quickly spread through the Arab community that the Jews had acquired the atom bomb [thinking the rain was nuclear fallout – EoZ], and the entire Arab community left that night. With their exit, morale deteriorated among the Arab troops, and the Haganah was able to secure the city.

Several years later, a local tour guide, curious as to how the rumor of the atom bomb had spread, asked some of Tzfat’s old-timers to recount the story. Several of them told him the same story.

Seems that before the Arab riots of 1929, when the Jews and Arabs used to shop together in the common marketplace, the women became friendly, and although they hadn’t had contact since the riots, they remembered each other. When the hostilities broke out in the winter of 1948, they got into the habit of coming to the “no-man’s land” in the evenings, when there would be a lull in the shooting, and yelling at each other. The Jewish women would yell at the Arab women in Arabic, and the Arab women would yell at the Jewish women in Yiddish.

The evening after the Davidka was shot, one of the Arab women asked “vos is dus?” to which one of the Jewish women, sarcastically, replied “we have the atom bomb”. With that, the rumor spread, and what had once seemed to be impossible became a reality – the battle for Tzfat was won.

Safed/Tzfat might have been saved by the Jewish women of the town!

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