|The American Colony photographers took |
hundreds of pictures of the locust plague
and the insects' metamorphosis from larvae to adult
World War I brought widespread devastation to the Middle East as German and Turkish armies fought British, Australian and New Zealand troops in battlefields from the Suez Canal in the south to Damascus in the north.
The war also meant a cut-off of aid and relief to the Jews of Palestine from Jewish philanthropists in Europe and the United States.
A New York Times account from April 1915 described deaths from starvation. By November 1915, the Times detailed a cable from the American Counsel General in Jerusalem in which he described "fields covered by the locusts as far as the eye could reach." The diplomat reported on efforts made by the Turkish leader of Palestine to combat the locusts. A Jewish agronomist, "Dr. Aaron Aaronsohn, who is well known to the Department of Agriculture at Washington, was appointed High Commissioner" to the "Central Commission to Fight the Locusts."
|A tree before the locusts arrived|
|The same tree after the locusts finished|
The American Colony in Jerusalem established soup kitchens to feed starving residents in Jerusalem. The colony's photographers documented more than 200 pictures of the locusts' devastation, efforts to combat them and the locusts' life cycle. An album of color (hand tinted) photographs is stored in the Library of Congress collection.
|"Locusts stealing in like thieves through|
Click on photos to enlarge.
Click on captions to view the original pictures.
|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
"In Jerusalem and Hebron," the report continued, "the heaviest loss from the onslaught of the locusts has been in connection with the olive groves and vineyards. Olive oil is a staple of food among the peasants and poorer classes....The grape, too, is a similar staple among all classes."
|Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem, before the locusts|
|Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem, after the locusts|
"When the larvae appeared near Jerusalem," the Times related, residents were mobilized "for immediate organized resistance....Tin-lined boxes were sunk in the earth in the direction in which the locusts were advancing." Men, women and children were given flags and "the flaggers would drive the locusts together in a dense column toward the trap..."
Both the forces of war and nature combined to take a terrible toll on the residents of Palestine during World War I.
Join 3,800 subscribers and receive Israel Daily Picture via email