Attempts to explain the achievements of the Jewish side in the 1948 War of Independence have focused thus far on the military and political dimension and on the domestic social, economic, and ideological dimension, as reflected in the collective mobilization of the Yishuv society. This article reveals the role of additional players in the war, including institutions, organizations, and associations that provided social services; the individuals who headed them; the members who took part in operating them; and the recipients of their services. The article's underlying premise is that Jewish society largely owed its resilience during the war, and in its aftermath, to the functioning of these organizations.
This article discusses associative initiatives by two underprivileged sectors in Israel in the 1950s and 1960s: inhabitants of low-income neighborhoods on the fringes of Tel Aviv and Arab citizens living in towns and villages under supervision of the Military Administration. Based on varied archival sources comprised largely of letters and memoranda written by members of the associations, the study examines encounters that took place (usually in writing but sometimes face-to-face as well) between marginalized citizens and policymakers from the political (local or national) center. I contend that the effect of the associative initiatives should be viewed through the prism of the community’s sense of self-value and the civic skills that it imparts, regardless of the concrete attainment of goals. I argue that such an inquiry into voluntary associations, both formal (registered) and informal (non-registered), yields a more complex picture of the limited Israeli democracy of the country’s first two decades.