Monday, November 14, 2011

Metulla, Israel's Northern-most Town.
Was It Originally French or British?

Northern-most town
It's easy to be confused by the American Colony collection's pictures of Metulla, Israel's northern-most town.  One caption calls it a British post; another labels it a French post.  Nor are the listed dates of the pictures much help; they were taken sometime between 1920 and 1933.

Actually, both versions may be correct.

Metulla was established as a Jewish settlement in 1896 on land purchased by Baron de Rothschild.  But despite the Turkish control of the area and then the French sovereignty, the lawlessness of the region forced the residents of Metulla to occasionally flee their homes. 

"Metulla. British frontier post."  Note the British
flag on the building.
After World War I, the British and French divided the spoils of the Middle East in 1920, with Britain given the mandate over Palestine and Mesopotamia and France given the mandate for Syria and Lebanon. They drafted a "Convention on certain points connected with the mandates for Syria and the Lebanon, Palestine and Mesopotamia, signed at Paris, December 23, 1920." 

They even wrote "the frontier will be drawn westwards as far as Metullah, which will remain in [British controlled] Palestinian territory."

But the exact boundaries were still not defined and agreed upon until 1923. The residents of Metulla actually voted in French-led elections in Lebanon in the interim.  They looked to the French to protect them from marauding Bedouins and Druse.  Only in the next year were new boundaries finally demarcated, placing the border between British and French controlled regions some 30 meters north of Metulla. Britain established a military outpost in the town.

It is very possible that the American Colony photographers were filming the changing soveignty over Metulla.
"Hasbany Valley and Hermon looking
 down from French Metulla post"

Click on the photos to enlarge.
Click on the captions to see the originals.
Metulla today. Lebanon is beyond the town. (Wikipedia,
public domain)

Today, Metulla is a popular vacation town for Israelis and home to 2,000 residents. The town's Canada Centre is a massive winter sport facility, complete with an olympic-size skating rink where Israel's skating champions practice.

Situated on the Lebanese border and close to the Syrian border, Metulla over the years has been a target for the rockets and artillery bombardments from Hizbullah and Fatah. 

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