You know they say, “If it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid.”  Perhaps that’s what the Israelis thought when they found themselves surrounded on all sides by Arab enemies after the State of Israel’s independence was proclaimed on May 14, 1948. They, at that time, did not have an ample number of people, technology, or the artillery and equipment to fight off the Arabs. What they had, though, were ideas. Although unconventional as it may sound, their methods were deemed effective and helped them fully gain their independence, even at one time, they had to use seltzer bottles. Here’s the story of how they did it.

Short Background on The Battle

The issue could be traced back to when many Jews flocked to Palestine during World War II as a result of the Holocaust in Europe. The Jews thought the British forces betrayed the Zionist cause after they attempted to limit Jewish immigration to appease the Arabs after encouraging that immigration with the promise of a homeland after the war. When World War II ended, Britain sought help from the United States to help find a practical solution to the ongoing conflict.

So when the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 on November 29, 1947, with 33 countries voting in favor, 13 countries against, and 10 countries abstaining. Expectedly, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia were among those who were against it, even pledging to defy its implementation by force.

Refusing Resolution 181

The Palestinian Arabs refused to recognize that arrangement when it was finally officially adopted. Resolution 181 was also known as the 1947 Partition Plan, and this would divide the former Palestinian mandate of Great Britain into Jewish and Arab states. According to it, the area of religious significance surrounding Jerusalem would remain under the international control of the United Nations. It says:

“Having met in special session at the request of the mandatory Power to constitute and instruct a Special Committee to prepare for the consideration of the question of the future Government of Palestine at the second regular session;

Having constituted a Special Committee and instructed it to investigate all questions and issues relevant to the problem of Palestine, and to prepare proposals for the solution of the problem, and

Having received and examined the report of the Special Committee (document A/364)(1) including a number of unanimous recommendations and a plan of partition with economic union approved by the majority of the Special Committee,

Considers that the present situation in Palestine is one which is likely to impair the general welfare and friendly relations among nations;

Takes note of the declaration by the mandatory Power that it plans to complete its evacuation of Palestine by l August 1948”

UN Partition Plan for Palestine, 1947. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Palestinian Arabs thought the arrangement was unfair as it favored the Jews over the Arabs who would remain in Jewish territory under the partition. The United States tried to resolve things by seeking a middle way by supporting the United Nations resolution while encouraging the Arabs and Jews to negotiate amongst themselves.

The Attack

The end of the British mandate for Palestine was the beginning of the Arab-Israeli war, just right after the Israeli Declaration of Independence had been issued. On May 15, forces from Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, and Iraq all came marching and entered the mandatory territory to invade it.

Israel History War of Independence, 1948-1949 (Benno Rothenberg /Meitar Collection / National Library of Israel / The Pritzker Family National Photography CollectionCC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Although fewer and less equipped, the Jewish forces managed to hold off their invaders. The Jews were losing resources and ideas on how to repel them. They were outmanned and outgunned—not enough aircraft, bombs—but they had ample creativity. One of them had combat experience during WWII and suggested that they go psychological in their approach instead by using seltzer bottles to make their enemies think that they had a well of explosives. The idea was that seltzer bottles, when dropped from high altitudes, made the same whistling sounds like a bomb being dropped. They were also cheap, easy to acquire, and apparently, they had plenty of them. And so they gathered as many seltzer bottles as they could, loaded them in their crop duster planes, and dropped them from a height. Perhaps not one of these Arabs knew about this tactic, nor the existence of these bottles of trickery, as they retreated upon hearing the familiar whistles, convinced that they were being bombed.

This, combined with their other clever techniques, resulted in the State of Israel controlling not only the Jewish state but also almost 60% of the area proposed for the Arab state—  Jaffa, Lydda, and Ramle area, Galilee, some parts of the Negev, a wide strip along the Tel Aviv–Jerusalem road, and some territories in the West Bank, as well as West Jerusalem.

And that’s how these fizzy bottles helped win Israel’s war for independence.