A State is Born

The creation of an infrastructure for the state of Israel.

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then, during the early 1950s they were placed in transit camps (ma'barot) which in many cases became a permanent form of housing. The veteran population was burdened with the strain of unemployment, food

rationing and other shortages, wage freezes, and compulsory loans. Moreover, the mass aliyah from Islamic countries, and the decline in the numbers of immigrants from Europe and the Americas altered the composition of the population. Although the "ingathering of the exiles" had always been part of Zionist ideology and the raison d'etre of the Jewish state, the changing proportions among the communities (edot) resulted in major social and cultural tensions.

Obviously, immigrant absorption would have been impossible without outside support in the form of American aid, donations from the dia­spora, and German reparations ($820,000,000 over 12 years). Thanks to this import of capital, the encouragement of state policy, and the availability of highly skilled labor, the early years of the state witnessed spectacular economic growth, with the gross national product increasing by an average of 10 percent per annum. New "development" townships were swiftly established. The new port of Ashdod, the El Al national airline, and a large merchant fleet facilitated Israel's integration into the world economy. An ambitious water project (the National Carrier) conveyed water to arid areas in the center and the south of the country. Agriculture made great strides between 1948 and 1953, when 354 cooperative villages (moshavim) and collectives (kibbutzim) were established. After the Sinai Campaign, with immigration once more on the rise, the pace of industry development accelerated, doubling its production over ten years.

Only one insurmountable problem remained, namely, Israel's acceptance and recognition by her neighbors. Between 1951 and 1956, roughly­ 3,000 armed clashes and 6,000 acts of sabotage took place inside Israel's borders, resulting in the deaths of more than 400 Israelis, and the injury of 900. The Sinai Campaign, Israel's response to the concentration of Egyptian troops along its borders and to the closing of the Tiran Straits by Nasser's gunboats, was also an attempt to put a stop to the incessant harassment by regular and irregular Arab troops.

This "second round" in the Arab-Israeli war did not resolve the conflict. Israel was forced to withdraw from the Sinai in return for a precarious security agreement. Moreover by aligning herself with imperialist powers in decline, Israel came to be regarded by her neighbors as a "tool of western imperialism." Nevertheless, the Sinai Campaign enabled Israel to enjoy ten years of relative tranquility.

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Eli Barnavi is the Director of the Morris Curiel Center for International Studies and a Professor of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University