An accurate record of casualties in Jerusalem, both military and civilian, was kept from the day the British left the city. Dov Joseph, Military Governor of Jerusalem in charge of all services provided in the city, wrote:1
The Central Bureau of Medical Statistics informed me of more than 1,700 casualties in Jerusalem in action against the enemy over the four weeks of the bombardment, that is from May 15 to June 11, 1948 (when the first ceasefire commenced). The following are the figures presented to me


Civilians Military not in Battle Military in Battle Total

Wounded Killed Wounded Killed Wounded Killed Wounded Killed

Of the 65 fighters killed in action, about one quarter (16) was Irgun members.

All the civilian casualties were victims of shelling. Whilst the Jerusalem stone buildings offered protection against shelling, Jerusalemites were forced to spend a considerable amount of time outside their homes collecting their rations of water and food, and were hit at these times. After the British departure, the water supply to homes was cut off. Jerusalem had always received its water from the Rosh Ha'ayin wells (near Petah Tikva) and the water was brought into the city by pipe through three pumping stations (one near Latrun and the others on the road to Jerusalem). During the Mandate, the army guarded the pumping stations, but the day the British left, the Arabs disconnected the pumps.

Jerusalem had suffered from a water shortage since ancient times, and under the Turks each house had been equipped with a water cistern in the courtyard, where rainwater collected. Only after the British occupation of Palestine, when the pipeline from the Rosh Ha'ayin wells was completed, did houses get running water. In the first few months of 1948, all the cisterns were secretly cleaned and filled with fresh water, which was brought in to the city. On May 14, when the Arabs disconnected the pipeline, the city had a reserve of 115,000 cubic meters of water in the cisterns and in the large water reservoir in Romema: a quantity sufficient for four months, with rations of 10 liters per day per capita. All the cisterns were sealed, and only an authorized person was allowed to open them for water distribution. Since not every building had a cistern, water was distributed in special containers loaded onto trucks and horse-drawn carts. Every day these containers were taken through the city streets and the inhabitants lined up to receive their daily ration.

Food was also rationed, and every inhabitant was given a book of coupons for rationed goods. The electricity supply to homes was cut off to save fuel, and kerosene was portioned out for cooking and baking purposes. Sometimes Jerusalemites went out into the fields to chop wood for cooking. In the absence of electricity, radios could not be used and instead, 26 loudspeakers were installed throughout the city to relay broadcasts. All bus services were suspended, and the use of private cars was banned. A small number of taxis were permitted, and ambulances were used in emergencies. To keep order during the distribution of rations, men and women who were not liable for military service were recruited by the Mishmar Ha'am (Peoples Guard). By June they numbered 3,200 and made an important contribution to maintaining the daily routine of civilian life in Jerusalem.

As the siege stretched on and reserves dwindled, the local committee grew more nervous. In his cables to Ben-Gurion, Dov Joseph gave a gloomy description of the situation. On May 16, he wrote:2
I have been told that the road is open; but nonetheless no order has been given to send the convoy. This is not feasible: the fuel situation is very grave. It is essential to send food. For three weeks we have received nothing. Please give the appropriate orders as long as the road is open.
Several days later he added:
After careful examination we have discovered that the flour reserve in the city will suffice for curtailed rations for seventeen days... In two weeks time the population will have nothing to eat. You must act accordingly... I do not wish to add to your difficulties, and I am trying to reassure the people of the city, but we have food left for only a few days, and any further delay would be dangerous...
On June 7, tension at its height, Dov Joseph wrote to Ben-Gurion:3
Must we make do with hopes and promises? For weeks I have been cautioning and warning of the need to send us supplies. Nothing has reached us...You have succeeded in sending other things, such as ammunition, so why not food?...I repeat my warning that if we do not receive flour by Monday, there will be famine in Jerusalem with its self-evident consequences.
The news from Jerusalem spurred Ben-Gurion to concentrate forces to make an effort to break into the city. He was not afraid that the Arab Legion would capture Jerusalem, but was greatly concerned at the growing shortage of food and fuel and the impact of the siege on the population. In those early June days, there were growing rumors in the city that Jewish forces had succeeded in bypassing Latrun and in renewing contact between the city and the coastal plain. I recall that on one of my night-time visits to my company guarding the Pagi buildings, the fighters all asked me the same question: 'Has the siege really been breached? Is it true that the convoy has arrived?' I found it hard to disappoint these weary fighters and so I confirmed the rumors, although I had no authorized information to that effect.

We returned from Pagi after midnight, and made our way to the Etz Hayim base in a truck. We had to cross an open field, which linked Sanhedria with Romema. Since the field was exposed to enemy fire, we drove without lights. Suddenly there was a bump, which threw the five of us in the driver's cabin in all directions. I was thrown up to the ceiling and hit my head hard. Our first thought was that we had hit a mine, but after careful examination, we found that a rock had shaken the vehicle. After we had recovered, the driver (unhurt, since he had been gripping the steering wheel) climbed down and worked on removing the rock from beneath the truck.

We drove on, stopping at the hospital to receive first-aid. A doctor's examination revealed that none of us had been seriously hurt, and we were allowed to continue our journey. We reached base at 3:00 am and tried to rest from our nocturnal adventure. Two hours later, however, I was awoken by a great commotion. Entering the courtyard, I saw an amazing sight - five jeeps loaded with weapons and men had somehow managed to arrive from the coastal plain. The group was headed by Gidi (Amichai Paglin) whom I knew of old from the fighting units in Ramat Gan. After our initial excitement, they told us about the Burma Road which went around Latrun and which at this stage was traversable only by jeep. Gidi introduced me to Chunky (David Brisk), an expert in mortars from his British army days.

It was June 9, two days before the commencement of the ceasefire decided on by the Security Council. The energetic Chunky related that he had brought with him in his jeep a 3" mortar and shells. He wanted it installed in a suitable place to enable us to shell the enemy positions before the ceasefire came into effect. We were so excited that we forgot our exhaustion, and excitedly began to unload the precious supplies. After we had calmed down, Gidi asked for a meeting with Raanan before renewing our activities in Jerusalem. First I sent Chunky with the mortar to our base in the Feingold buildings, in Nahlat Shiva in central Jerusalem, and the Old City received its first shelling from there by Irgun mortar.

At the meeting held at HQ between Gidi, Raanan and myself, it was agreed that the same evening our five jeeps and we would join the Haganah convoy setting out for Bet Susin (several kilometers south of present-day Sha'ar Hagai) and there would meet the trucks coming from the coastal plain. "Porters" would transfer the load from the trucks to the jeeps, and the loaded jeeps would return to Jerusalem. Gidi was to return with the convoy to Tel Aviv and I was appointed commander of the Irgun jeeps.

At the appointed time, I met Yitzhak Levi (Levitze), who was in charge of the entire convoy on behalf of the Haganah, and received instructions on the journey. We drove to Givat Shaul and from there along the Roman road leading to Motza (thereby bypassing the section of road which was exposed to Legion gunfire from Nebi Samuel). We reached Bab el Wad safely. There we turned left (south) on the road leading to Hartuv (Bet Shemesh), and after one and a half kilometers turned right (west) onto a potholed dirt track. The road started out straight, and we encountered no problems. But we soon reached a sand-hill impassable even for jeeps. The boys were obliged to push the vehicles up the hill. There we met the trucks with their load, which we transferred to the jeeps for transportation to Jerusalem. Despite the seeming disorganization, the task was completed efficiently and in orderly fashion. However, we soon discovered that we would be unable to convey both the load and all the people back to Jerusalem. Many were Jerusalemites who had been released from prison or detention and were eager to return to their families. We had a difficult choice to make and Gidi put the responsiblity for making that choice on me. I responded by packing the jeeps beyond capacity; only after one of them overturned did we decide to unload some of the packages and return them to Tel Aviv. The boys were adamant about not returning to the coastal plain - at one point I counted 10 passengers hanging onto the jeep. The fighters who had driven from Jerusalem with us continued on to Tel Aviv and I looked on them enviously. I very much wanted to visit my family and friends in Ramat Gan, whom I had not seen for about five months and would willingly have handed over command to someone else, and joined them. We drove very slowly along the path leading to the Hartuv - Bab el Wad road. As we drove, we met dozens of soldiers, each of them carrying military equipment. They were new immigrants, who knew no Hebrew and had no idea how close we were to the unmarked border. Mules were also proceeding along the path with heavy loads on their backs. From time to time shots were fired, and an isolated shell would explode. The night-sky was clear and the trek of armed motley of soldiers across the open fields reminded me of something out of a Western movie.

We reached the road safely, and I ordered the drivers to increase their speed, since I wanted to reach Jerusalem before dawn.

The dirt road, which bypasses the main Jerusalem - Tel Aviv road in the Latrun area, had been discovered during the fierce battles there. On May 17, the Arab Legion entered Latrun, thus tightening the siege of Jerusalem. In response to the deteriorating situation in Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion deployed the Seventh Brigade to attack Latrun a week after the Arab Legion had established itself there. The fierce battle ended in defeat for the Jewish forces and claimed numerous victims. Other attacks followed, as a result of which a narrow corridor was established under our control, which bypassed Latrun. A unit of scouts from the Harel Brigade (Palmach) marched from Bab el Wad by night and reached Hulda safely, via the route later known as the Burma Road. (The name was taken from the trail blazed during the Second World War by British forces in the mountainous and impassable area of Burma).

The Israel Defence Forces invested great efforts in improving the Burma Road and preparing it for the passage of trucks. Iron grid was placed on the steep slope and a heavy tractor stood permanently at the top of the hill to tow those vehicles whose engines could not make it. At first arms and ammunition were transported along this road, later the transportation of food to the besieged city began. While flour and other foodstuffs could be carried by truck, water was a grave problem. At the beginning of the siege, the Jews had succeeded in storing enough for four months, but there was no certainty that this water would last till the rainy season (which would refill the cisterns). Supply of water in containers was not practical, since the Burma Road was not yet ready for such large-scale transportation. The planning of a pipeline from Hulda to the old pumps near Bab el Wad had begun, but this complex project required a great deal of time. Thus, when the State of Israel agreed to a truce, it made it conditional on the supply of water, food and fuel via the old Jerusalem road, near Latrun, which was under the control of the Arab Legion.

1. Dov Yosef, Kirya Neemana, p.143
2. Dov Yosef, Kirya Neemana, p. 160
2. Dov Yosef, Kirya Neemana, p. 161