Davidka mortar,Givati Museum, Israel

The Davidka (Hebrew: דוידקה‎) was a homemade Israeli mortar used in Safed and Jerusalem during the initial stages of the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. Its shells were reported to be extremely loud, but otherwise of little value, besides that of using fear tactics against the Arab forces. Due to their extreme noise and horrific explosions, they proved particularly useful in scaring away Arab forces, despite the fact that they were very inaccurate. It is nominally classified as a 3 inch (76.2 mm) mortar, although the shell was considerably larger.[1][2]


Davidka Mortar Memorial in Jerusalem, Israel

Davidka Square, Jerusalem

The name Davidka means “Little David”, and was said to be a tribute to the tiny, fledgling state of Israel fighting against the giant Arab Legion, in reference to King David's battle against the giant Goliath. It is generally accepted, however, that the weapon was named after its designer, David Leibowitch. Leibowitch designed and developed the weapon at the Mikveh Israel agricultural school in Holon in the winter of 1947-48.

The first Davidka was fired in combat on March 13, 1948, in the attack on the Abu Kabir neighborhood of Yafo. Probably the greatest victory attributed to the Davidka was the liberation of the Citadel, a strongpoint in the center of Safed, on the night of May 9-10 1948.[3][4][5]

Six Davidkas were manufactured in all, and two were given to each of the Palmach's three brigades (Harel, Yiftach, and HaNegev). One was used by the Yiftach Brigade in the battle for Safed, and now stands in a square in Safed. Another stands in Jerusalem's Davidka Square, memorializing the Harel Brigade's participation in the battle for Jerusalem.[6]



Batey ha-Osef Museum exhibition of a Davidka mortar with a cutaway shell on the mannequin's left

As with any mortar, the secret of the Davidka's operation was in its 40 kg (roughly 90 lb) shell. In this case, as seen in the image on the right, the gigantic shell was much larger than the mortar from which it was fired.

Rather than with more conventional mortars, where the shell is inserted into the tube and the entire projectile travels through the tube to gain initial guidance at launch time, the Davidka's tail tube is the only part of the shell which fit inside the launch tube. This contributed to the weapon's notorious inaccuracy, as the shell lacked adequate guidance during the launch phase to acquire aerodynamic stability in the intended direction.[7] It also makes the weapon hard to classify, as it is not really a spigot mortar, and the 3 inch (76.2 mm) caliber of the barrel is much smaller than the caliber of the warhead of the shell. It was essentially a large can into which one would pour nails, rocks, and/or any other material which could be used for shrapnel. This meant that the blast effects of the weapon were completely random and of dubious efficacy as an anti-personnel weapon. It was of no practical value for siege combat or other light artillery purposes, but it made a loud bang.

Small pieces of metal and tubes were welded onto the outside of casing, reducing the weapon's accuracy even further than its already non-aerodynamic design, but contributing greatly to the whistles and shrieks which it made when in flight. The noise was its most important effect, so that anyone near a Davidka mortar would hear the shell seeming to fall very near to them before bursting very loudly, increasing the fear factor. It is said that the Arabs against which the Davidka was deployed, having been told that many of the designers of America's atomic bomb were Jewish (e.g., Einstein and Oppenheimer,) thought that they were being attacked with atomic weapons.[8] [9]

The Davidka was used in the battles for Haifa, Ein Zeitun, Safed and Biddu. According to Walid Khalidi,

"The unsuspecting reader might think that here was some harmless and rather quaint engine. But the fact is that the Davidka tossed a shell containing 60 lbs. of TNT usually into crowded built-up civilian quarters where the noise and blast maddened women and children into a frenzy of fear and panic."[10]


  1. Dov Joseph, 'The Faithful City - The Siege of Jerusalem, 1948.' Simon and Schuster, New York/1960. Congress no. 60-10976. page 73: 'It fired a bomb of nails and metal scrap which exploded with some force and - what was more important - with tremendous noise and fury.'
  2. Larry Collins/Dominique Lapierre, 'O! Jerusalem.' History Book Club by arrangement with Weidenfeld and Nicolson. 1972. Page 152: 'They fired a shell made out of water pipes and packed with explosives, nails and bits of scrap metal.'
  3. "Safed: A Battle of Living History" mentions the use of the Davidka in the attack of Safed
  4. Dov Joseph, page 73: 'Its effect on the Arabs was sometimes considerable, notably at Safad, where they mistook it for an atomic weapon when they abandoned the city.'
  5. Collins. Page 379: Reports that a telephone switchboard operator overheard 'The stunned Iraqis in the Allenby Barracks (Jerusalem) shouted over the telephone that the Jews had a weapon like the atomic bomb and begged for help.'
  6. Redesign of Davidka Square
  7. During the 19th May Palmach attempt to relieve the Jewish Quarter one round fell short and 'deprive the attacking force of two of its members.' Collins page 443.
  8. Zefat Palace a source for the atomic weapons story, with background.
  9. [1] includes a more spiritual description of the firing of the Davidka in Safed, and mentions the Arab fear of atomic weapons in a context that builds on the previous (Zefat Palace) reference.
  10. W. Khalidi, ‘Plan Dalet: master plan for the conquest of Palestine’, J. Palestine Studies 18 (1), 1988, p. 4-33

ru:Davidka (миномёт)

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