Friday, March 29, 2013

The Jewish Legion, Part 3, The Liberators

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?

Jewish soldiers liberating the Kotel 50 years
 later (Rubinger, Government Press Office)
The history of the Jewish Legion that fought in Palestine in World War I is relatively unknown

Many of the soldiers were recruited from the ranks of the disbanded Zion Mule Corps, Palestinian Jews exiled by the Turks in April 1917 who were recruited in Egypt, or from Diaspora Jewry recruited in Canada and the United States.

As many as 500 Jewish Legion soldiers came from North America, with some sources claiming the majority of them were from Canada. Many of them were originally from Poland or Russia.
The original caption reads "Jewish League Fort Edward Nova Scotia 1918." We
believe the photo was taken on Yom Kippur a year earlier in September 1917,
one month after the "draft" of soldiers for the Jewish Legion began in Canada.
By September 1918 the Jewish Legion was already in Palestine.

Leon Cheifetz, Legionnaire

One Legionnaire was Leon Cheifetz from Montreal who enlisted before the age of 18.  Cheifetz assembled an album with dozens of pictures and biographies of many of the Canadians who fought with him. 
A group of Jewish Legionnaires in Ben Shemen from
the Cheifetz album

Unfortunately, the huge Library of Congress collection of Palestine pictures has few photographs of the Legionnaires. 

The pictures in this series of essays come from various other collections, and we hope to receive more from the descendants of soldiers who served in the Legion.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

More on the Jewish Legion in Palestine, 1917 - 1919,
The Virtually Unknown Commander, Lazar Margolin

Colonel Margolin riding into the Jewish village of Ben Shemen
(Wikipedia, public domain)
In our last posting on the Jewish Legion we published this photo of the "Jewish Legion entering a Jewish village in the Land of Israel."  We have subsequently discovered more information about the photograph.

The picture shows Colonel Eliezer "Lazar" Margolin riding into Ben Shemen. Margolin, a Russian-Palestinian-Australian, was a decorated officer who succeeded John H. Patterson as the commander of the Jewish Legion.
Colonel E. Margolin
Zionist Archives)
Margolin was born in Russia in 1874 and moved to a small farm in Rechovot Palestine with his parents when he was 17.  He was proficient in Hebrew, Arabic, marksmanship and riding. Years later he was known as a figure who "rides his horse like a Bedouin, and shoots like an Englishman."

Margolin's parents died, leaving him destitute.  He left for Australia in 1902 to find his fortune but not before he swore on this parents graves that he would be
February 22, 1918, The 38th battalion of the Jewish Legion
 marches in the streets of London before leaving for the
Middle East. British Jews lined the route to cheer.
back to fight the Turkish occupiers. He joined the Australian army in 1911 and fought with valor in Gallipoli (1915) and France (1916-17) where he was wounded. In 1918, Lieutenant-Colonel Margolin took command of the Jewish Legion and participated in the Palestine campaign against the Turks.

Just a few months after the Balfour Declaration in November 1917, a Jewish battalion of the Jewish Legion marched in London. Zev Jabotinsky, who had encouraged Margolin to take the command post, described the scene: "Tens of thousands of Jews crowded the streets, the windows, the balconies, the roofs. Blue-white flags were over every shop door; there were women crying for joy and old Jews with fluttering beards murmuring the prayer of thanksgiving: 'Blessed are Thou, O Lord our God, Who hast permitted us to live to see this day."

[After publication of our first posting on the Jewish Legion in Palestine during World War I, we had several fascinating responses from readers who had old family pictures of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers who served in the Legion.  We invite them to scan the photos and send them for publication. Please make sure to provide details with the pictures.]
In May 1921, Margolin commanded the "First Jewish Battalion of Judea" police unit, and he faced a terrible challenge (as described in the biography of Margolin's predecessor, Col. David Patterson):

Colonel Margolin's SOS to British headquarters for arms to defend the Jaffa Jews had been turned down.  So, with his approval, fellow Legionnaires broke into the munitions depot, seized weapons, rushed to Jaffa where former Legionnaires joined them, and killed 16 Arabs and drove off hundreds. The Arabs had killed 27 Jews and wounded 106.

The British declared martial law, and Margolin submitted his resignation.  High Commissioner Herbert Samuel gave him two choices: to face a court-martial...or to leave Palestine immediately. Margolin chose to leave and returned to Australia.

For more information on Colonel Eliezer Margolin see:

Australian Dictionary of Biography - Eliezer Margolin

An Anzac - Zionist Hero, The Life of Lt. Col. Eliezer Margolin, by Rodney Gouttman

Monday, March 25, 2013

Wishing All Our Jewish Readers a Happy Passover
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Children baking matzah in kindergarten in Palestine. The teacher is in the center and it appears there's a
tiny oven in front of her   (Harvard/Central Zionist Archives, circa 1920)
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The Jewish Legion Celebrates Passover in Palestine
in World War I

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.
The Jewish Battalion, a Passover Seder in Jerusalem, 1919.  (Harvard, 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
"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."
Soldiers from the Jewish Battalion on Passover in Jerusalem. The
caption in the Harvard/Central Zionist Archives lists the date as
1918. The Hebrew inscription behind the soldiers reads "Pesach
Jerusalem 5678" which corresponds to 1917-1918.

The photograph of the soldiers sitting in Jerusalem is something of a mystery. 

It is dated 1918, but the Jewish Legion was still based in Cairo in the spring of 1918.  Examining the head gear of the soldiers suggests the group consisted of Jewish fighters from various units -- British, Australian cavalry, and Scottish -- who assembled to participate in the Passover seder in Jerusalem prior to the Jewish Legion arriving in Palestine. 

16-year-old volunteer Yitzak Jacov Liss
from "Diary of a Young Soldier" by
Jeanne Samuels

More information on the Jewish Legion is available in We Are Coming, Unafraid: The Jewish Legions and the Promised Land in the First World War by Dr. Michael Keren, professor of Political Science, and Dr. Shlomit Keren, professor of History and Israel Studies, at the University of Calgary. They present personal diaries, letters and memoirs of soldiers who fought in the Jewish Legions.  "In the First World War, many small nationalities joined the war in order to ensure self-determination when it was over. This was also the case with the Jewish battalions,” writes Shlomit Keren.

"Jewish Legion enters a Jewish village in the Land of Israel" from
"We Are Coming, Unafraid"

Indeed, the Jewish Legion ignited the spirit for the Jewish self-defense forces in Palestine that evolved eventually into the Israel Defense Forces.

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.

View a previous posting on Yemenite Passover Seder in Jerusalem

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Photographing Biblical Prohibitions in the Holy Land
-- continued

"Thou shall not plow with
an ox and an ass together."
לא תַחֲרֹשׁ בְּשׁוֹר וּבַחֲמֹר יַחְדָּו
Deuteronomy 20 (circa 1890)
-- from an earlier posting
We noted previously that the American Colony photographers took many pictures of plowing practices of the Arab community in Palestine.  The photographers were good Christians, and their pictures were probably meant to show Biblical prohibitions such as animal threshing wheat while muzzled or mismatched animals under a yoke pulling a plow. 

View the earlier feature here.

Recently, we discovered in the medical archives of the Dundee University in Scotland the picture below with the same subjects -- an ox and a donkey pulling a plow.  The picture was taken by the head of the Scots Mission Hospital in Tiberias, Herbert Torrance, who was both a doctor and a Christian missionary who undoubtedly also knew his Bible well.
"Plowing with an ox and an ass" (April, 1929, Torrance Collection, University of Dundee)
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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Solomon's Pools -- (Continued) -- Jerusalem's 'Swimming Hole'

"Solomon's pools becomes a picnic and swimming resort. Group of bathers"
(Library of Congress)
Some 20 years ago, Tel Aviv's Mayor Shlomo Lahat "gave" one of his beaches to Jerusalem's mayor Teddy Kollek.  Ostensibly, "Jerusalem Beach" is the closest beach to Jerusalem and those citizens who want to drive the 40 kilometers to swim and splash.

But Jerusalem has had huge swimming pools nearby for 2,000 years, and the photographers of the American Colony filmed the Jerusalem residents who flocked to Solomon's Pools in the 1940s.

Solomon's Pools -- Picnic and Swimming Resort
 and here (circa 1940, Library of Congress)

Cars arriving from Jerusalem and concession stand
(Library of Congress)

From 1948 until 1967 the area was occupied by Jordan, and Israelis could not travel to Solomon's Pools.  The area, of course, was open to local Arab residents.

After the 1967 War, the area was reopened and Jerusalemites and residents of the local Jewish communities would visit the pools for picnics and to swim.  

 After the Oslo Agreements, Solomon's Pools were granted to the Palestinian Authority.  Since the mid-1990s, Jewish groups have been able to visit only with special permission and escort by Israel's army.  Foreign tourists can reach the site without restrictions from Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem.

Recommended reading (in Hebrew) סיפורן של אמות המים לירושלים  The Story of the Water Supply to Jerusalem from "All About Jerusalem," Israeli Tour Guide Course.  Photographs by Tamar Hayardeni and Ron Peled whose comments and photos have appeared in these postings in the past.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Are You a Fan of Novelist Daniel Silva?
Make Sure to Read The Fallen Angel with Our Pictures Nearby

Bestselling novelist Daniel Silva has written a dozen books based on the exploits of Gabriel Allon, a fictional Israeli spy.  

Under the al Aqsa Mosque, behind the sealed
Hulda Gate. Note the staircase that apparently
 led to the surface and the Temple plaza
(circa 1927)
His latest page-turner, The Fallen Angel (Harper Collins), takes place in Rome and Jerusalem. 

Newly-released photo from Israel Archaeological Authority
archives. Stairs and passage under the Temple Mount (circa 1927)

The cave under the "foundation stone" and the Dome
of the Rock on the Temple Mount. Woodcut in explorer
Col. Charles Wilson's book, 1881

Silva's books are always well-researched, and if you've read The Fallen Angel or plan to read it, keep these links containing rare pictures of subterranean Jerusalem close by.  On this page is a sampling of the pictures. 

View postings and photographs at Israel Daily Picture's 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Solomon's Pools South of Jerusalem. 150 Years of Photos

Solomon's Pools. The photo from the Library of Congress archives is dated
between 1860 and 1880. No photographer is credited for the photo. The photo
and handwritten caption are similar to photos by Felix Bonfils (1831-1885).
Solomon seemed to have had a lot of property around Jerusalem. 

Solomon's Temple, of course, was located on the Temple Mount and was actually built by King Solomon. After its destruction at the hands of the Babylonians, it was covered by rubble, then two versions of the Second Jewish Temple, a Roman pagan shrine, a church and a Muslim shrine. 

Around Jerusalem one can see other ancient sites with Solomon's name
Other than the First Temple, none of them had any real association with King Solomon.

By the time of the Second Temple in the Hasmonean/Roman period, the man-made reservoirs at "Solomon's Pools" south of Jerusalem were vital for providing water for the burgeoning population of Jerusalem and the many tens of thousands who made pilgrimages to Jerusalem on festivals.

Solomon's pools (circa 1900) in a rare
colored photochrom picture
The local springs and cisterns in Jerusalem could not possibly provide enough water for all their needs as well as for the sacrificial service and hygiene required in the Temple and the city. The springs to the south could provide a bountiful supply despite their location some 30-40 kilometers away, but a massive engineering project of aqueducts was required to convey the water from near what is today Efrat, south of Bethlehem. The water flowed from pools slightly higher than Jerusalem through the many kilometers of aqueduct built with a relatively tiny 0.08 degree angle of decline!

Click on pictures to enlarge.  Click on captions to view the original pictures.

Water from the Biyar Spring
flows into one of Solomon's
Pools (circa 1935)
Water flowing through the mountains via
ancient aqueduct to Solomon's Pools
(circa 1939)
The water aqueduct system begins some 10 km south of Solomon's Pools at the Arrub Spring, and included a collection pool at the Biyar Spring west of Efrat. From there the water in the aqueduct flowed north to the first of the pools 4.7 kilometers.

The pools are massive reservoirs built to hold water from the south and the Eitam spring to the east. The largest is 177 meters long, 60 meters wide, and 15 meters deep.  Parts of the ancient aqueduct system are still visible. 

Tomorrow: -- Solomon's Pools in the 20th Century

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Are the Locusts Returning?
The Plague of Locusts of 1915 Was of Biblical Proportions

A fig tree before the locust plague hit (Library of Congress)

The same fig tree after the locust plague hit
News accounts today report a plague of locusts in Egypt and sightings of locusts along Israel's border. 

The photographers of the American Colony in Jerusalem conducted an extensive photographic study of the locust plague of 1915 including the life cycle of the insects, the devastation, and attempts to eradicate. 

A year ago we presented here a photo essay on the photo collection.  Click here to view the whole article.

The aftermath of the plague

 Team waving flags tries to push a swarm of locusts into a
trap dug into the ground.  The Turkish governor demanded
that every man deliver 20 kilo (44 pounds) of locusts

The pictures presented here were hand colored by the American Colony Photographic Dept.

Click on pictures to enlarge.  Click on the caption to view the original picture.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Congressional Visits to Israel Are Not New.
Pictures of a Senate Delegation in 1936, a Critical Year

The senators and their wives visit the Temple Mount (1936)
Republishing this post in honor of the citizen lobbyists meeting with their elected officials during AIPAC's 2013 Policy Conference.

April 1936 was the start of a vicious anti-Semitic and violent "Arab Revolt" in Palestine that would last through 1939.  The murderous attacks against Jews, Jewish communities and Jewish property were widespread throughout Palestine.  British government offices, banks and railroads were also attacked.

Coming so soon after the 1929 massacres of Jews in Palestine and under the looming shadow of the Nazi threat, the attacks against Palestine's Jews alarmed friends of the Zionist movement.  The British Mandate's policies were viewed as biased against the Jews. Rumors of a British threat to suspend Jewish immigration to Palestine were particularly worrisome.
The senators visiting an empty Western Wall (1936)
In July 1936, Secretary of State Cordell Hull cabled the U.S. Ambassador to Britain, "It has been brought to the attention of the President by influential Jewish groups in this country that the British Government is contemplating the suspension of Jewish immigration into Palestine. American Jewish leaders fear that such suspension may close the only avenue of escape of German and Polish Jews..." 

Hull instructed the ambassador to assure the British prime minister that he was only reporting on the concern of "influential Jewish circles in the U.S." and "not speaking on behalf" of the U.S. Government.

With such attitudes prevalant in Washington and London, it was little wonder that friends of the Jewish community and the Zionist movement would react.  Newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst organized and financed a mission of  three senators -- Dr. Royal Copeland of New York, Warren Austin of Vermont, and Daniel Hasting from Delaware -- to visit Palestine in August 1936 to "investigate the Palestine situation."  [Note: the visit took place several years before the Holocaust and 12 years before Israel's founding.]

On August 11, 1936 Senator Copeland introduced a Senate resolution protesting British policies. The JTA reported:
Condemning British proposals to partition Palestine as "outrageous," Senator Royal S. Copeland (Dem., NY) introduced in the Senate today a resolution asking the Senate's "forthright indication of unwillingness to accept modification in the mandate without Senate consent." 
Senator Copeland declared that the territory allotted the Jews in the proposed partition was insufficient to maintain even a small number of Jews and that establishment of a small Jewish state might result in a war between the Jews and the Arabs.  The Jews are having a "terrible time" in Germany, Poland and Rumania.... At the same time he noted a "distinct animosity" on the part of American consuls abroad in granting visas to Jews, which, he said, showed discrimination.
On August 22, the American consul general in Jerusalem cabled his Secretary of State to report, " A local committee of five representative Americans (leading Zionists) has been formed to meet the [Senate] party on arrival and has planned propaganda visits to Jewish colonies before proceeding [to] Jerusalem... [The] junket is designed to appeal to pro-Jewish propaganda.... The [British] Chief Secretary of the Palestine Government takes position on grounds of safety alone that the party cannot be permitted to tour country.  With this I fully concur, particularly in view of present recrudescence of terrorism and especially as Zionists are sponsoring tour."

Senators visiting Hebrew University's Mt. Scopus amphitheater
Postscript: Senator Austin was appointed as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 1946.  On November 29, 1947 the UN approved the partition plan for Palestine, recommending the formation of a Jewish state and an Arab state.  On March 18, 1948 President Truman met with Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann and assured him of the United States' support for Jewish statehood. 

On March 19, Amb. Austin announced to the UN Security Council that the United States no longer viewed the partition plan as viable.  Truman wrote two days later, "The striped pants conspirators in the State Department had completely balled up the Palestine situation."  The White House reversed the position taken by State Department Arabists, and Truman supported the formation of the Jewish state. 
Hat tip: Y. Medad