Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Pushed Out by the Pasha: The Jewish Refugees of 1917

Here's a fascinating piece by Larry Domnitch on the forcible expulsion of Jews from Tev Aviv and Jaffa on 28 March 1917 on the orders of the Governor of what was then Ottoman-held Palestine, Jamal Pasha.  Entitled "Forgotten: 1917 Jewish Refugees," this article appeared first at:

The outbreak of World War I, on August 1, 1914, had dire consequences for the over 90,000 Jews of Eretz Yisrael.

During the traumatic days of the First World War, the Jews of Eretz Yisrael faced a brutal wave of persecution. This wave intensified over Passover, 1917, when Jewish communities were forced from their homes to wander as refugees within their own land who would return to their homes a year and a half later.

On October 28, 1914, the Ottoman Turks made a monumental decision and joined the War on the side of the Central Powers with the Germans, and Austrio-Hungarian Empire. Jews in Eretz Yisrael with Russian citizenship, now being deemed within the enemy camp, faced the brunt of Ottoman Turkish oppression. By the end of the year almost 12,000 Jews had fled, or had been expelled, mostly to Alexandria Egypt. Some Jews faced conscription into the Turkish army.

Over the next few years Jewish suffering would increase in the Land due to the shortages of supplies, the hoarding of supplies by the Turks, and the stoppage of a large percentage of relief funds from Russian Jewry, resulting in starvation and disease. By the end of the war, the numbers of Jews of Eretz Yisrael were reduced to less than half of what they were in 1914. A large segment of the population was lost to starvation and disease.

As British forces eventually pushed through Gaza into Eretz Yisrael, in early 1917 to oust the Turks; persecutions of the Jews intensified. On March, 28, 1917, the Ottoman Governor, Jamal Pasha ordered the forced evacuation of the total populations of Tel Aviv and Jaffa. The Pasha sought to further punish the Jews, and declared that their joy at the arrival of the British would be short lived. The Pasha also stated that the Jews would share the fate of the Armenians, who were being slaughtered by Turkish troops.

As Turkish allies, German Jews spoke out against the persecution. Socialist deputy of the Reichstag Emmanuel Cohn issued a formal complaint to the German Chancellor protesting the atrocities. One German Jewish Newspaper emphasizing Jewish unity stated, “Jews, at this time, all Jewry must prove that it will not desert the pioneers of our generation in the land of our fathers. We approach all Jewry with an urgent appeal. Help! Help! Quickly! Help with love! Jewry must do its duty.”

Some pressure also bore upon the Pasha from American Jewry. A few examples: Forcing the Pasha to allow a few doctors to accompany the exiles and allowing some Jewish guards to protect homes in Tel Aviv.

On April 1, the order was put into effect, which stated that all had to be out of their homes by the 9thof April: The day after Passover. The Pasha stated that those who did not leave during the Passover holiday would be forced out without their belongings. The exodus of several thousand began immediately. There were no means of transportation; they could only transport those who could not walk and their belongings in carts. Even before their departure, Bedouin gangs were pillaging their homes, under the complicit eyes of the authorities.

It was a scene of tragedy. The roads from the Jewish colonies were swarmed with men, women, and children, roaming helplessly, starving, homeless, facing attacks by bandits. Some of the young men from local settlements tried to protect them, but with limited success as refugees were found along the roads murdered.

Many of the refugees scattered to Tiberius, Kvar Saba, Petach Tikvah, Zichron Yaakov, the Galilee, and some wound up in Jerusalem where three hundred Jews were forced out just weeks earlier.

At that time, assistance was requested from the Jewish communities of the Galilee, who responded with the words, “We are your brothers” helping evacuees leave and to find lodging in communities in the North. Other communities as well opened their doors to refugees saving thousands of lives.

Many perished from starvation, and disease. Two hundred and twenty four evacuees were buried in Kefar Saba, 321, in Tiberius, 104, in Sefad, 15 in Haifa, 75 in Damascus. In total, an estimated 1,500 died out of an estimated 10,000 evacuees.

The new city of Tel Aviv, built up in only eight years, was pillaged and abandoned, as were the Jewish neighborhoods of Jaffa.

Amid the tragedy, relief was on the way with the eventual arrival of the British. Alongside were troops of the 38th and 39thbattalion of the Jewish Legion which joined the fighting on June 5, 1918.

Only after the war ended in October 1918, would the Jews be able to return to their homes, and continue their lives with the bitter memories of April 1917. By the Simchat Torah holiday, a Jewish presence was reestablished in Tel Aviv.

The descendants of those who survived the travails at Passover time in 1917 are the realization of the words of the Psalms, 125:6, “those who plant with tears, reap with joy.”


  1. Thank you. That's the connection I was looking for.

    A great deal has been written on how the Armenian Genocide lead the the possibility of the Holocaust. In particular I was drawn to Professor Robert Melson's book "Revolution and Genocide" which profiled the socio-economic similarities between Jews of 1930s Germany and Armenian and Greek Christians of Ottoman Turkey.

    Both societies contained a rising entrepreneurial middle class that was selectively demonized and treated as an external threat - the Armenians because half the population lived across the border of Turkey in Russia, and the Jews who also had a significant Russian population and were labeled as Bolshevik conspirators. Yet this perception ran counter to reality as German Jews considered themselves as German loyalists and non-German Jews saw liberal German values as symbolic of the Enlightenment; Armenian Turks were more favourable towards Turkey than Russia as were Armenians on the Russian side of the border.

    The other major factor was that the NSDAP (National Socialist) and CUP (Turkish Committee of Union and Progress) were both revolutionary parties. Melson contends that the revolutionary aspect of both regimes enabled their societies to throw off the previous moral constraints of their pas - the Nazis it was Christianity's use of the Jews as a "Witness People", for the Turks it was the Pact that gave dhimmi minorities protected status. He characterizes previous attempts to realize political parties during Bismark's rule as fragmented and ultimately failing in the public imagination because these parties were in opposition to the State whereas Hitler purported to defend it. He juxtaposes this with attacks on Armenians during the reign of the Sultan Hamid II during the years 1894-96, which, though terrible, did not lead to to mass murder.

    However what really struck me was those same socio-economic conditions were there with respect to the Yishuv. And though the Mufti was stationed in Turkey during the Armenian Genocide I haven't come across anything that directly shows how he was influenced by these events.

    Jamal Pasha, military govenor of Syria, appears to provide the link. Ragheb Nashibishi, the Arab Mayor of Jerusalem provides another. He was asked French journalist Albert Londres about the 1929 riots.

    "In a way you behave like in a war. You don't kill what you want. You kill what you find. Next time they will all be killed, young and old." Later on, Londres spoke again to the mayor and tested him ironically by saying: "You cannot kill all the Jews. There are 150,000 of them." Nashashibi answered "in a soft voice, ‘Oh no, it'll take two days.'"

    Though it comes as no surprise, the intent to commit genocide was present in the Arab leadership and mindset.

    In 1948 Azzam Pasha said: "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades."

    At first thought this might be dismissed as hyperbole, however one has to consider that the Mongolian disaster nearly destroyed Islam - it is their equivalent to the Holocaust. Baghdad and the centre of Islamic civilization was nearly destroyed and there were millions of dead at the hands of the Mongols. The imagery used was intended to inspire action and was most certainly not accidental. Nor was it an accident that these words were directed at a population that to some not insignificant extent had just emerged a mere 3 years ago from the death camps of Europe.

    The events surrounding the expulsion from Tel Aviv in 1914 interests me. Any other source material?

    L. King

  2. That's really interesting because my grandparents, originally from Kamenetz Podolsky, in the Ukraine, took 9 children, from England to Israel early in 1920.

    My father was only a few months old, he was the youngest, of what originally were 10 children.

  3. L. King, many thanks for your long and erudite comment.

    Shirlee, I assume they returned to Blighty later.
    I know a few people in Oz whose families left Eretz Israel in 1928-9 owing to poor economic conditions.

  4. Spot on Daph!!

    As far as I can tell, my cousins in Israel aren't too helpful, they returned to England around 1932, as they had no money.

    By then one son had been killed in 1922, in an Arab uprising and two had been married.

    They must have been quite financially sound when they went to Palestine .
    My zaida (grandfather ) was a Tinker and he invented the Whistling Kettle !! As my booba (grandmother) put it “He didn’t keep the numbers for long!” We presume she was referring to the patent. That’s today’s piece of useless information for you !!

    They lived in Mile End, which was quite up market back in the very early 1900s. They had a horse and buggy and a “servant”

    There was a photo around in the family somewhere, but it appears to have gone ‘walkabout’, of my zaida standing in the River Jordan. No one else in such a large family is in the least bit interested in the family history. I do have a copy of a photo that one of my cousins has, of my booba and zaida, with their five youngest children, in Tel Aviv in 1922.

  5. That sounds like a most interesting family, Shirlee - and with you the apple obviously didn't fall from the tree.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.