On this day: The Hadassah medical convoy massacre

April 13 1948: Murder on the road in Jerusalem

By Libby Galvin, April 13, 2011

Almost exactly a month before the establishment of the state of Israel, 80 people – 79 Jewish doctors and nurses and one British soldier – were killed when a medical convoy taking aid to Hadassah Hospital was attacked by Arab forces.

The road from Jerusalem to the Hadassah Hospital and Hebrew University on Mount Scopus had become perilous despite its short distance because of an Arab blockade, part of the ongoing fighting between the Jews and Arabs, which forced medics to access the hospital via a narrow road.

The two mile long path passed through the Arab neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, and Sir Leon Simon told the JC at the time that those who travelled it were under threat from “constant sniping” and road mines.

The massacre began at 9.45 in the morning when the vehicle leading the convoy was hit by a mine blast and snipers opened fire on the rest, machine-gunning the six vehicles – two Haganah escort cars, two buses of medical staff and two ambulances.

The British Army came to their aid at 11am and fighting continued until 5 in the evening, when they began retrieving survivors.

After the attack on the Hadassah medical convoy in 1948, the Mount Scopus university campus was cut off from the Jewish part of Jerusalem and the hospital was evacuated. The Mount Scopus hospital did not re-open until nearly twenty years later, after the resolution of the 1967 Six-Day War.

On the sixtieth anniversary of the massacre three years ago, the city of Jerusalem named a street in honour of Dr Chaim Yassky, the respected director of the hospital who had led the tragic convoy.

What the JC said: Grievous indeed were the casualties suffered in last week’s violent Arab attack…others will certainly come forward to take the places of those who have fallen. Yet one cannot but reflect upon the insensate folly and wickedness which could strike down men and women engaged in such work…For the members of Hadassah have selflessly devoted themselves to labours which must benefit Jew and Arab alike, and spread improved methods of healing throughout Palestine and the Middle East.

See more from the JC archives here.

Last updated: 4:48pm, May 4 2011