A Jewish girl, Rachel Levy aged 7, fleeing for her life as Arab forces cleared the old city of its Jewish residents. Photo Credit: John Phillips, Time and Life Picture/Getty Images
For five weeks in April and May of 1948 Palestinian Arabs and their Jordanian allies laid siege to the Jewish neighborhoods of the old city of Jerusalem, denying residents even the smallest rations of food or water. Finally on May 28th of 1948 Arab forces overran the Jewish quarter, expelling the survivors from their homes. Palestinian Arabs quickly looted and occupied the abandoned residences. The following day the victorious Arab forces concentrated their efforts on demolishing the ancient synagogues of the old city, including the ornate domed, centuries old Hurva.
John Phillips, a war photographer for Life Magazine captured these dramatic photos of the ethnic cleansing of the Old City of Jerusalem. As Phillips related later in his autobiography, he had to smuggle out the photos recording the destruction of the Jewish Quarter. He also reported that the Arab High Committee, angered by his reportage, had sentenced him to death.
Expelled from their homes, Jewish refugees flee the old city through Zion’s Gate. Photo Credit: John Phillips, Time and Life Pictures/Getty Images
“All last night and early today the noncombatants were trekking through the Zion Gate over Mount Zion and through the Valley of Hinnom to the Yemin Moshe quarter from where they were driven to billets in the Katamon quarter. They are mostly orthodox and poor.” New York Times; May 30, 1948.
Armed Arab evicts Jewish residents of the old city from their ancient homes. May 28, 1948. Photo Credit: John Phillips; Time and Life Pictures/Getty Images
“Thus the Jews have been eliminated from the City of David for the first time since the sixteenth century. Except for sixty years in the sixteenth century they are believed to have been there continuously since the return from the Babylonian captivity.” New York Times; May 30, 1948.
A street in the Jewish quarter of the old city shortly before the expulsion. Photo Credit: John Phillips; Time and Life Photos/Getty Images
The same street after the expulsion of Jewish residents and looting. Photo Credit: John Phillips; Time and Life Photos/Getty Images
“The ethnic cleansing of Palestine involved the expulsion of Jews and the destruction of their communities–whenever and wherever military power relations were in favor of Arab forces. In effect, in the wake of the 1948 war not a single living Jew remained in the areas under Arab control in the territory of the former British Mandate Palestine–successful ethnic cleansing indeed.” Maoz Azaryahu and Arnon Golan. Israel Studies, Jun 22, 2012.