Under Construction



By Daniel S. Chertoff

Based on the Letters of
Mordecai S. Chertoff

“Mordecai Chertoff’s extraordinary letters are history at its most compelling – vivid, detailed, immediate. His account of the reaction of Jerusalem’s Jews to the UN partition vote is the best I’ve read anywhere. The narrative moves effortlessly between the historical and the personal, revealing a young man full of contradictions, self-absorbed and sometimes childish yet keenly observing the momentous events happening around him. At the same time, this book tells the touching story of a son’s search for his elusive father, reminding us that, in the end, history is always personal. Together, father and son have written a unique narrative that gives us the vicarious experience of participating in Israel’s founding. This book is a gift to the Jewish people.“

Yossi Klein Halevi
Senior Fellow, Shalom Hartman
Institute, Jerusalem


Mordecai Chertoff came to Palestine in 1947 as a twenty-five-year-old, determined to make his contribution to the emerging Jewish State. Between 1947 and 1950 he was variously, local news editor, foreign news editor and war correspondent for The Palestine Post, soldier in the Haganah and resident of Jerusalem.

In vivid and often moving letters to his family back in the United States (annotated and contextualized by his son), Mordecai describes the news of the UN vote for partition, the ongoing battles along the dangerous Jerusalem–Tel-Aviv highway and the attempts to break the siege of Jerusalem, the bombing of the Palestine Post, the declaration of the State of Israel, and, inevitably, the loss of friends. The correspondence, filled with details of everyday life in Jerusalem and encounters with famous and soon-to be famous people, includes historical information never before disclosed and ranges from passionate discussions about Zionism to the more personal drama of his search for a mate.

The book includes select letters, articles and photographs placed in their historical context in order to form a coherent narrative of the period. Extensive annotations identify and bring to life important personalities, events and concepts.

The book reflects the personal journey undertaken by the author to better understand a crucial period in Jewish history as well as his father as a young man and describes powerful encounters with people who appear in the book or with their descendants.

About the author

Daniel Chertoff worked in the investment industry as an analyst, as financial communications counsel, as a venture capitalist and as a senior executive in a large Israeli high tech company. He was an advisor to the World Jewish Congress and, before discovering his father’s letters, was happily writing his doctoral dissertation in English literature at the Hebrew University. Daniel is an Associate Editor of Partial Answers, an academic journal devoted to English literature and the history of ideas. He and his wife, Arlene, have lived in Israel for over 30 years and currently reside in Jerusalem.


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