Showing posts with label British Army. Show all posts
Showing posts with label British Army. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Picture a Day - The Holy Land Revealed. Israel's History - a Picture a Day - Remembering the Indian Soldiers Who Helped Liberate Jerusalem 100 Years Ago

Indian Lancers guarding Turkish prisoners in Jerusalem in December 1917

Israel's History - a Picture a Day (Beta)

Remembering the Indian Soldiers Who Helped Liberate Jerusalem 100 Years Ago

Posted: 08 Aug 2017
A version of this article appeared in the Jerusalem Post on July 5, 2017

Israel's History - a Picture a Day (Beta)
Remembering the Indian Soldiers Who Helped Liberate Jerusalem 100 Years Ago

Welcome Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and thank you for the sacrifices made by your country’s soldiers who saved the Jews of the Land of Israel 100 years ago and eventually led to the Jewish state’s creation.

An idyllic fenced park is located in the middle of the Talpiot neighborhood in Jerusalem, just a four-minute Waze-directed detour from Hebron Road. This cemetery, which I visited for the first time last week, is the burial site for 79 Indian soldiers who died here fighting for the liberation of Jerusalem in 1917. Another cemetery for the Indian soldiers is in Haifa.

Cemetery in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem for fallen Indian soldiers

More than one million Indian troops fought with the British Army in WWI, at the Western front in Europe, in Africa, Mesopotamia, and the Middle East. On the Sinai-Palestine front, 95,000 Indian combatants served; approximately 10 percent were killed. In the 1914-1918 period, they fought the Turkish-German armies at Gallipoli, the Suez Canal, through the Sinai and Palestine and finally Damascus, with crucial battles in Gaza, Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa, Nablus and Megiddo.

The Indian soldiers joined other troops in the Sinai-Palestine campaign from Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies, as well as the Jewish Legion. These auxiliary forces relieved British troops badly needed on the Western front in Europe.

The Indian troops served in the cavalry, camel corps, infantry and logistics units. A large number were Muslims, and the Turks attempted to weaken their resolve with religious appeals. Except for a few cases, the Turkish propaganda failed. The importance of Muslim soldiers was understood by the British commander Edmund Allenby. After capturing Jerusalem, he cabled to London, “The Mosque of Omar and the area round it has been placed under Moslem control, and a Military cordon, composed of Indian Mahomedan officers and soldiers, has been established round the Mosque. Guards have been established at Bethlehem and on Rachel’s Tomb. The Tomb of Hebron has been placed under exclusive Moslem control.”

Allenby’s respect for the Indian soldiers can be seen in his receiving their salute as they marched past him outside of Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem on December 11, 1917, when Allenby entered the city.

General Allenby on his horse saluting the Indian troops outside of Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate on December 11, 1917 (Library of Congress)

The war ended in 1918, but British and Indian troops remained to police the British Mandate and put down Arab disturbances. Their photographs can be found in the Library of Congress’ American Colony collection, the British Imperial War Museum and other archives.

Muslim Indian soldiers (on the right) guarding the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. On the left is believed to be a contingent of Algerian soldiers from the French army. (Library of Congress, 1917)

After capturing Jerusalem and Gaza, the British Army, supported by Indian and ANZAC troops, advanced to the north, eventually taking Damascus on October 1, 1928. A key battle was at Megiddo in September 1918, in what may have been the last great cavalry charge in military history.

Indian lancers charging Turkish lines in the Megiddo Valley, September 20, 1918. Painting by Thomas Cantrell Dugwell. (UK Imperial War Museums)

Later this year, a large Australian delegation will visit Israel to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the gallant ANZAC capture of Beersheba, which opened the way for the liberation of Jerusalem weeks later.

The author is a former Israeli diplomat. He is author of American Interests in the Holy Land Viewed in Early Photographs and the forthcoming World War I in the Holy Land Viewed in Early Photographs.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Israel's History - a Picture a Day - For Tu B'Shvat (Jewish New Year for Trees), a Picture of Jewish Soldiers in the British Army, WWI

Original caption: "A group from the 39th Battalion with workers and children from
Ben-Shemen. 15th (of Shvat)." The sign quotes from Leviticus: "When you come to the Land,
you shall plant...”

Israel's History - a Picture a Day (Beta)

Posted: 08 Feb 2017 

Tu B'Shvat, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, is a date assigned thousands of years ago in the Mishna for the purposes of determining the age of a tree and its tithing requirements.  

Indeed, the date usually coincides with the first blossoms on the almond trees in Israel. 

Today, Tu B'Shvat is commemorated as a combination of Arbor Day, environment-protection day, a kibbutz agricultural holiday, and, of course, a day for school outings and plantings.

The above picture of Jewish soldiers of the British Army who fought in Palestine in World War I was taken on Tu B'Shvatin 1919.  One Legionnaire, Leon Cheifetz from Montreal who enlisted before the age of 18,  assembled an album with dozens of pictures and biographies of many of the Canadians who fought with him. 
Posted: 08 Feb 2017 09:11 AM PST
In 1901, the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet LeYisrael) was formed to develop the Land of Israel.  The Turks ruled Palestine, and the Jewish leadership sought a way to buy land for the Jewish people. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land were purchased, and to reclaim barren land, more than 250 million trees were planted. 

Metal worker making collection boxes for the Jewish
National Fund (Seidon collection, circa 1925)

For more than 100 years, Jewish families around the world kept a blue metal charity box in their homes to collect pennies to buy trees in the Holy Land.  School children would bring to school dimes to buy leaf stickers in order to pay for a tree.

A photographic collection sent to this author by Dr. Othniel Seiden of Denver -- theCigarbox Collection -- was featured here in 2013. Among the pictures was this one of the production of the Jewish National Fund's pushkes.
Posted: 08 Feb 2017 08:33 AM PST
Reforested hills along the road from Jaffa to Jerusalem, near Bab el-Wad, or Sha'ar HaGuy (circa 1930)
Reposting Tu B'Shvat features from February 1912.

The Jewish National Fund was established in 1901 to purchase and develop land in the Holy Land.

Planting trees on the barren hills on the way to Jerusalem (circa 1930)

A government tree nursery on Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem (circa 1930)
One major activity of the JNF, or in Hebrew the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael, was the planting of trees on Jewish-owned land in Palestine. Many a Jewish home had the iconic JNF blue charity box, or pushke, in order to buy trees.  In its history, the JNF is responsible for planting almost a quarter of a billion trees.

The photographers of the American Colony recorded the JNF's efforts.
"Afforestation sponsored by Keren Kayemeth" (circa 1935)

Reforested hillside along the road to Jerusalem. "Demonstrating
reforestation possibilities" (circa 1930)
The day chosen for school children and volunteers to go out to the fields and barren hilltops to plant trees was Tu B'Shvat, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, a date assigned thousands of years ago in the Mishna for the purposes of determining the age of a tree and its tithing requirements. 

Indeed, the date usually coincides with the first blossoms on the almond trees in Israel. 

Today, Tu B'Shvat is commemorated as a combination of Arbor Day, environment-protection day, a kibbutz agricultural holiday, and, of course, a day for school outings and plantings.


Ceremony of planting the King's tree (1935) at Nahalal
In 1935, the Jews of Britain and the JNF established a "Jubilee Forest" near Nazareth.  According to the Jewish Telegraph Agency's account at the time, an "oriental cypress tree presented by King George V of England to the Jubilee Forest in the hills of Nazareth will be formally planted by High Commissioner Sir Arthur Grenfell Wauchope on December 19."

"The Jubilee Forest is British Jewry's mark of loyalty and devotion to the throne, expressed on the occasion of the royal couple's twenty-fifth jubilee. It will cover a large area of desolate and barren land on the hills of Nazareth which in ancient times were famed for their forest beauty. The forest constitutes the most important effort in reforestation of the Holy Land."

Next, the trees of Eretz Yisrael
"The tree shipped by King George was removed from Windsor Great Park in London, where it was the only one of its kind. It is the first ever to have been shipped from England to Palestine."

Next feature: 100 year old pictures of the trees of the Land of Israel

Monday, August 31, 2015

Israel's History - a Picture a Day - Why Was a Nazi Flag Flying from a Jerusalem Hotel in the 1930s?

Israel's History - a Picture a Day (Beta)

Posted: 30 Aug 2015 

We recently published pictures from the British Library's Endangered Archives Programincluding this incredible picture of Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem's Old City which we have dated to the mid-1890s. Only in 1898 was the wall near Jaffa Gate breached so that carriages could drive into the city.

Jaffa Gate and A(braham) Fast's restaurant.  (Debbas Collection, British Library)

We wanted to know more about the store on the left with the sign "A Fast. Restauranteur."  Was this a tourist establishment of Abraham Fast, who in 1907 took over a large hotel several hundred meters to the west of the building pictured above and renamed it "Hotel Fast?"

German troops marching in Jerusalem on Good Friday, 
April 6, 1917. The building on the left is 
the Fast Hotel. (Imperial War Museum, UK)

It was a leading hotel with 100 rooms, built around a court yard with Ionic, Corinthian and Doric columns.

Hotel Fast and its kosher restaurant was a well-known establishment in Jerusalem for decades, and was probably considered by many to be a Jewish-owned establishment because of its Jewish clientele.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Fasts were German Templers.

The German consulate in the Fast Hotel, 1933. 
(Wikimedia, Tamar Hayardeni)

They lived in Jerusalem's German Colony and were exiled by the British after World War I and during World War II because of their support for Germany.

We recently uncovered pictures of German troops marching in Jerusalem streets on Good Friday 1917. Readers were able to identify the building on the left as the Fast Hotel.

Our biggest surprise was finding this picture of the German consulate in the Hotel Fast with the German Swastika flag flying from the building.

During World War II, the hotel was taken over by the British army command and turned into the Australian army club.

The Hotel Fast housed Australian soldiers in World War II.  Here they are greeting the Australian 
Prime Minister Robert Menzies and the commander of the Australian troops in Australia, 
Lt. Gen. Thomas Blamey in February 1941. The Matson Photo Service, shown on the ground 
floor, was run by Eric Matson, originally from the American Colony Photographic Department. 
 Matson left Palestine in 1946 for the United States.  His collection of photos were 
bequeathed to the Library of Congress where many of the pictures in this 
website were found.  (Library of Congress

The Hotel Fast building was abandoned in 1967 and torn down in 1976 to make way for the Dan Pearl Hotel.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

WWI: Were Jewish Soldiers in the British Army Permitted to Celebrate Passover in Jerusalem in 1918?

Israel's History - a Picture a Day (Beta)

WWI: Were Jewish Soldiers in the British Army Permitted to Celebrate Passover in Jerusalem in 1918?

Posted: 01 Apr 2015

Individual Jewish soldiers served in the ranks of the armies of Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand and were involved in the 1917 battles in locations such as Be'er Sheva and Rishon LeZion. Another large group of Jews served in the British army's Jewish Legion, commanded by Col. John Henry Patterson and involved in combat after arriving in Palestine in 1918. According to Patterson's memoirs, 2,000 soldiers were under his command.

Patterson bitterly complained that his soldiers were forbidden from celebrating Passover in Jerusalem in 1918 and 1919, yet the pictures below show Jewish soldiers in Jerusalem on the holiday. How can the contradiction be explained?

Jewish soldiers from various British units celebrating Passover in Jerusalem, 1918. The various headgear suggests the soldiers were from many army units, including ANZAC and Scottish, and not necessarily from the Jewish Legion.. (Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)

In Patterson's own words, the new sovereign of Palestine -- the British army -- continued the Ottomans' anti-Semitic practices against the Jews. Patterson's fury could barely be contained when his Jewish soldiers suffered from vicious anti-Semitism within the army and from British commanders.

Col. John Henry Patterson

Palestine has become the theatre of an undisguised anti-Semitic policy. Elementary equality of rights is denied the Jewish inhabitants; the Holy City, where the Jews are by far the largest community, has been handed over to a militantly anti-Semitic municipality; violence against Jews is tolerated, and whole districts are closed to them by threats of such violence under the very eyes of the authorities; high officials, guilty of acts which any Court would qualify as instigation to anti-Jewish pogroms, not only go unpunished, but retain their official positions. 

The Hebrew language is officially disregarded and humiliated; anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is the fashionable attitude among officials who take their cue from superior authority; and honest attempts to come to an agreement with Arabs are being frustrated by such means as penalising those Arab notables who betray pro-Jewish feeling. 

The Jewish soldier is treated as an outcast. The hard and honest work of our battalions is recompensed by scorn and slander, which, starting from centres of high authority, have now reached the rank and file, and envenomed the relations between Jewish and English soldiers. When there is a danger of anti-Jewish excesses, Jewish soldiers are removed from the threatened areas and employed on fatigues, and not even granted the right to defend their own flesh and blood.

Discrimination against Jews was, however, still shown in other quarters. Early in April 1918 the men were considerably upset on the receipt of orders from G.H.Q. that no Jewish soldier would be allowed to enter Jerusalem during the Passover; the order ran thus: "The walled city (of Jerusalem) is placed out of bounds to all Jewish soldiers from the 14th to the 22nd April, inclusive."

The caption reads: "Jewish Legion soldier (sic) during Passover in Jerusalem." Clearly, this is not Jerusalem. The library description of the photo also includes "Judean Hills region," a more likely setting. (Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)

I cannot conceive a greater act of provocation to Jewish soldiers than this, or a greater insult. The days during which they were prohibited from entering Jerusalem were the days of the Passover. Think of it! Jewish soldiers for the first time in their lives in Palestine and barred from the Temple Wall of Jerusalem during Passover! Only a Jew can really understand what it meant to these men, and the great strain it put on their discipline and loyalty.

How provocative and insulting this order was will be better understood when it is realized that the majority of the population of Jerusalem is Jewish, and, therefore, there could have been no possible reason for excluding Jewish troops belonging to a British unit, while other British troops were freely admitted, more especially as the conduct of the Jewish soldiers was, at all times, exemplary.

Jewish soldiers at Passover Seder, Jerusalem, 1919 The photo is signed by Ya'akov Ben-Dov who moved to Palestine in 1907 from Kiev. He was drafted into the Ottoman army during World War I and served as a photographer in Jerusalem. Ben-Dov filmed Allenby's entry into Jerusalem in 1917. (Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)

Not since the days of the Emperor Hadrian had such a humiliating decree been issued. However, to make up somewhat for the action of the authorities, I made arrangements for the Passover to be observed at Rafa with all the joy and ceremony usually attending that great Feast of the Jewish People. At considerable cost we provided unleavened bread, as well as meat and wine—all strictly "Kosher." 

As we were nearly 2,000 strong at this time, the catering for the feast had to be most carefully gone into, and Lieut. Jabotinsky, Lieut. Lazarus, and the Rev. L. A. Falk did yeoman service in providing for all needs. It was a wonderful sight when we all sat down together and sang the Hagadah on the edge of the Sinai desert. 

Passover was selected to insult their deepest religious feelings, by barring them access to the Wailing Wall during that week. No Jewish detachment is allowed to be stationed in Jerusalem or any of the other Holy Cities of Jewry.


Jewish soldiers -- their headgear and uniforms suggests they are from from various units -- celebrating Passover at the British Jewish Soldiers Home in Jerusalem, 1919 (Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)

The Feast of the Passover was celebrated during our stay at Helmieh. Thus history was repeating itself in the Land of Bondage in a Jewish Military Camp, after a lapse of over 3,000 years from the date of the original feast.

I had considerable trouble with the authorities in the matter of providing unleavened bread. However, we surmounted all difficulties, and had an exceedingly jovial first night, helped thereto by the excellent Palestinian wine which we received from Mr. Gluskin, the head of the celebrated wine press of Richon-le-Zion, near Jaffa. The unleavened bread for the battalion, during the eight days of the Feast, cost somewhat more than the ordinary ration would have done, so I requested that the excess should be paid for out of Army Funds. This was refused by the local command in Egypt, so I went to the H.Q. Office, where I saw a Jewish Staff Officer, and told him I had come to get this matter adjusted.

He said that, as a matter of fact, he had decided against us himself. I told him that I considered his judgment unfair, because the battalion was a Jewish Battalion, and the Army Council had already promised Kosher food whenever it was possible to obtain it, and it would have been a deadly insult to have forced ordinary bread upon the men during Passover. 

I therefore said that I would appeal against his decision to a higher authority. He replied, "This will do you no good, for you will get the same reply from G.H.Q." He was mistaken, for I found the Gentile, on this particular occasion, more sympathetic than the Jew, and the extra amount was paid by order of the Q.M.G., Sir Walter Campbell.

It is apparent that while Jewish soldiers from other units in the British army were permitted to attend seder in Jerusalem, the formal Jewish Legion was not, perhaps because of the army's desire to restrict a distinctly Jewish, nationalistic corps in its midst. 

Pictures from the German Army March in 1917 Are Matched by a Reader to Today's Jaffa Road

Posted: 01 Apr 2015

Bravo to Simon, a reader of Israel Daily Picture, who provided these contemporary pictures showing the exact locations where German soldiers marched in Jerusalem during World War I.

Simon even recreated the exact photo angles.

Stay tuned. More mystery pictures from World War I will be appearing here.

German soldiers marching in Jerusalem on Good Friday, Passover Eve, 1917 on Jaffa Road

The exact spot on Jaffa Road 98 years later, the same doorways, balconies.

German soldiers marching in Jerusalem on Good Friday, Passover Eve, 1917 in front of the Fast Hostel, where the Dan Pearl Hotel is located today.

The 1917 buildings have been replaced, but this is the spot where the German army marched.

Simon wrote, "It's fascinating how in one picture the scene is little changed, apart from the modern shop signs and the light rail tracks down the street, but in the other picture nothing from 1917 is still there in 2015 -- even most of the street itself has been replaced by an underpass."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gaza in 1917. What Led to Such Terrible Destruction?

Israel's History - a Picture a Day (Beta)

Posted: 21 Jul 2014

Gaza City in World War I, 1917 (Library of Congress). What caused such destruction?
Turks prepare to attack the Suez Canal, 1915

In the early 1900s, the British Empire relied on the Suez Canal to maintain communications and trade with India, Australia and New Zealand.  And that was precisely why Germany encouraged Turkey to challenge British rule over Egypt and British control of the Suez Canal.

In early 1915, the Turkish army in Palestine crossed the Sinai and attacked British troops along the Suez.

The British army beat back the attacks, took the war north into Sinai and pushed the Turkish army back to a defense line stretching from Gaza, located on the Mediterranean, to Be'er Sheva, some 40 miles inland.

Great Mosque of Gaza (circa 1880)
The Mosque after the fighting (1917)

In March and April 1917 the British army attempted to push through Gaza and up the Mediterranean coast in battles that involved as many as 60,000 soldiers, British and French ships firing on Gaza from the Mediterranean, the use of poison gas, and the deployment of newly developed British tanks. The British suffered a disastrous defeat.
Ruins of Gaza, believed to be after the 1917 battles

British trenches in Gaza. After the defeat, the
 British army switched to more mobile tactics.

British tanks destroyed in the Gaza fighting

The British campaign for Jerusalem would be stalled for six months.  It would be led by a new commander, a large number of reinforcements, and a new strategy that took the war in a new direction, east toward Be'er Sheva.

British Prisoners of War, captured in Gaza 1917

Footnote: History records Jews living in Gaza for thousands of years.  [View the mosaic depicting King David from a 6th century synagogue in Gaza.]

Mosaic of King David
(Israel Museum)
Ottoman tax records showed dozens of Jewish families in Gaza in the Middle Ages.  One of the most famous Gazan Jews was Rabbi Israel Ben Moses Najara (16th Century) who composed prayers and Sabbath zmirot (songs) popular to this day.  He was buried in Gaza.

Jewish families fled Gaza in the 1929 pogroms. Population records still showed Jews living in Gaza until 1945.

Kfar Darom, named for a community mentioned in the Talmud, was a Jewish kibbutz established in the Gaza Strip in 1930 that was abandoned in the 1948 war.  Kfar Darom was reestablished in 1970 but evacuated by Israel in the 2005 "dis

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Celebrating Passover in Jerusalem 95 Years Ago with the Jewish Legion -- Part 1 - Picture A Day

Posted: 04 Apr 2014
Updating earlier postings which appeared here and here.

The British army captured Jerusalem from the Turks in December 1917 and continued their Palestine campaign for another year until the capture of Damascus. Meanwhile, the Jewish Legion, consisting of Jewish volunteers, sat in Cairo chafing at the bit to join the fight in Palestine.  They finally joined Allenby's forces in June 1918 and fought against the Turks in the Jordan River Valley.

Jewish soldiers of the British army celebrating Passover in Jerusalem in 1919. (Harvard 

Library/Central Zionist Archives)  

The photo is signed by Ya'akov Ben-Dov who moved to Palestine in 1907 from Kiev. He was drafted into the Ottoman army during World War I and served as a photographer in Jerusalem.  Ben-Dov filmed Allenby's entry into Jerusalem in 1917.

The Jewish battalions of the Jewish Legion were manned by volunteers from Palestine, Europe, the United States and Canada, soldiers stirred by the call to action by Zionist leaders Zev Jabotinsky and Yosef Trumpeldor.  Colonel John Henry Patterson, the unit's first commanding officer, described the Legion:

Recruiting poster for Jewish soldiers
(Library of Congress)
"The Jewish Legion was the name for five battalions of Jewish volunteers established as the British Army's 38th through 42nd (Service) Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers. The initial unit, known as the Zion Mule Corps, was formed in 1914-1915 during World War I, when Britain was at war against the Ottoman Turks, as Zionists around the world saw an opportunity to promote the idea of a Jewish National Homeland."
Enlargement from the picture above. Who is the rabbi?

Read more about Colonel Patterson and the Jewish Legion at The Seven Lives of Colonel Patterson: How an Irish Lion Hunter Led the Jewish Legion to Victory.

Jewish soldiers -- their headgear and uniforms suggests they are from from various units -- celebrating 
Passover at the British Jewish Soldiers Home in Jerusalem, 1919 (Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)
Father and daughter?

Note the soldier in the front, possibly an officer, with a child on his lap and a young boy behind him. 

We invite readers to respond if they can identify any of the soldiers in the photos.  

The following picture is dated Passover 1918.  The uniforms and hats are even more varied and include Australian bush hats and Scottish tams.

Jewish soldiers from various British units celebrating Passover in
Jerusalem, 1918.  (Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)

Jewish soldiers in the British army in Jerusalem for Passover, 1919
(Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)
Hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of Jewish men from Canada and the United States volunteered to fight in the British Army's Jewish Legion to liberate the Holy Land.

The caption on this Wikipedia photo reads "Jewish Legion soldiers at the Western Wall after British conquest, 1917."  Was the photo taken in 1917 after the British captured the city in December, in  which case this was a group of Jewish soldiers from various  units, or after June 1918 when the Jewish Legion was first dispatched to Palestine?

View American volunteers from the British army's Jewish Brigade here and here and here