Thursday, November 25, 2010

Coexisting With The Arabs - Part 3




(Conclusion of 3 parts)

The Pogroms of 1929

On Yom Kippur in the year 5689 (1928), the Arabs of Eretz Yisrael discovered the Wailing (Western) Wall. More precisely, they discovered that the one remnant of the Holy Temple of the Jews was really a Muslim holy place.  For hundreds of years, Jews had come freely to the symbol of their exile and suffering, to shed bitter tears and to plead with the Almighty to redeem them from the four corners of the earth.  But on Yom Kippur, 5689, a British policeman barged into the midst of worshipers to forcibly remove the partition that separated the men and women, and thus he put into motion the forces of pogrom.

For years the British had claimed that they would keep the “status quo” for religious sites in Jerusalem.  The Wall had no standing as a Muslim religious site at all, but the Muslims did not wish to see it granted Jewish religious status.  The British viewed the partition between the sexes at the Yom Kippur services as an attempt to convert the Wall into a “synagogue.”

The incident gave birth to Jewish indignation and to an Arab myth.  The Mufti of Jerusalem at the time, the supreme Muslim leader, carved a historic niche for himself as a treacherous and murderous individual (he later spent the years of World War II in Berlin calling upon Muslims to join in a holy war on behalf of Adolf Hitler).  His name was Haj Amin Al-Husseini (a member of a Jerusalem family of “notables”), and in 1929, in his position as Muslim theologian, he decreed that the Wall was in reality a Muslim holy place.  The reason?  When Muhammad allegedly went up to heaven from Jerusalem on his wondrous horse, Al-Burak, he chose a spot near the Wall to tether it.  This wondrous tale of a wondrous horse had of course, not prevented Muslims, for centuries, from wondrously riding through the area on horses and donkeys who left their unmistakably wondrous presence behind, on the ground.  But no matter.  A political-religious legend was born, and for almost a year the Arabs incited, lied, and heated the atmosphere that led to the deadly pogroms of 1929.

In many towns, “committees for the defense of the Burak,” were formed.  On November 1, 1928, the Mufti convened a “religious” conference, which demanded that Jews be prevented from bringing religious items to the Wall.  The Mufti added his pious wish that the British enforce this “in order that the Muslims themselves not be forced to enact measures to defend at all costs this Muslim holy place.”

For months the Muslims resorted to various measures to harass the Jews at the Wall.  New houses began to be built that interfered with and disturbed the prayers.  A new “religious ritual” known as Ziker was introduced.  It involved loud chanting, singing, and dancing with a background of drums and cymbals to be performed exactly at Jewish prayer time.  On 25 Tamuz (August 2, 1929) Jews were attacked and badly beaten at the Wall.

Jewish horror was hardly helped through the stupid comment by the socialist writer Moshe Beilinson, who called for Jewish “moderation” and calm, saying: “The value of the Wall is great but let us not forget: Of central importance to the revival of the nation are other values of immigration, work, land.”  Thus spoke a socialist Jewish spokesman and a not-too-clever one at that.  The Mufti could only smile.

On Friday, 10 Av (August 16), thousands of Muslims, leaving prayers at the Al-Aksa mosque, marched past the Wall, shouting : “Allah Akhbar” (“G-d is great”) “Din Muhamad Kari Basif!”
(The Law of Muhammad with the sword”); and “Down with Zionism!”  A bitter diatribe against the Jews was delivered, and Jewish prayer books were burned.  The following day, the Sabbath, Arabs stabbed to death a young Jew, Avraham Mizrachi.  Tension grew steadily.

The Mufti and other Arab leaders hastened to take advantage of the situation.  Letters, reputedly signed by the Mufti (after the pogroms he claimed they had been forged), called on all Muslims to come to Jerusalem the following Friday to prevent the Jews from ‘seizing Al-Aksa.”  Thousands of Arabs began streaming into Jerusalem with long sticks that had sharp nails protruding from them.  Above all, the cry rang out throughout every Arab village and town: “It Dula M’ana!” – “The government is with us!”

And, indeed, it was.  The British imperial, colonial government was represented by a new high commissioner named Chancellor, who – because of his recent arrival – allowed most of the decisions to be made by his chief aide, Harry Luke, a bitter anti-Zionist.  Luke was the son of an assimilated Jewish family from Hungary named Lukach.  The father had emigrated to England and in one fell swoop acquired a new country, religion, and name.  The Hungarian Jew Lukach was now the British Protestant Luke.  And having converted, Luke now acquired a gentile characteristic: he became anti-Semitic.  No better friend in court did the Arabs have than Luke, whose policy of noninterference with the Mufti and Arab mobs led to the murder of scores of Jews.

The pogrom in Jerusalem began on the Muslim holy day, Friday 17 Av (August 23).  Thousands of Arabs streamed into the city carrying iron bars, sticks, and knives.  In the courtyard inciters from Jerusalem and the two nearby villages of Lifta and Kalandia heated the atmosphere, and at 12:30 p.m. the mob burst forth, heading in two directions: toward the Jaffa and Damascus gates. At Jaffa gate, Jews who inadvertently passed by were attacked.  Despite the presence of police, the two Ruttenberg brothers were beaten and stabbed to death.  On Jaffa Road, Jewish stores were smashed by some sixty Arabs from Lifta and a Jewish newsman murdered.  In the small Georgian quarter, home of poor Jewish families, four Jews including a woman and child were slaughtered and the humble homes looted.  An attempt to smash into the Mea Sh’arim quarter was thwarted.

The worst attacks were on the outlying Jewish neighborhoods in the new, Jewish, part of the city.  The neighborhood of Romema, through the Diskin Orphan Home, Givat Shaul, Montefiore, Bet Hakerem, Yefe Nof, and Bayit V’Gan, were targets of a large attack led by Arabs from the villages of Dir Yassin, Ein Kerem, and Lifta.  Dir Yassin Arabs were the leaders and organizers of the attack, and the village became world famous in 1948 when it received its just reward for the many Jews slaughtered by its citizens.
It was only an incredibly valiant defense by the Jews that prevented a massacre of major proportions.  With few men and weapons, the defenders succeeded in throwing back thousands of Arabs.  The situation in the outlying neighborhood of Bayit V’Gan was especially critical.  All the women and children were evacuated and the defenders concentrated in homes near the woods.  All the other homes were looted by Arabs from Ein Kerem, Malha, and Walaja.  Three Jews – a student, David Vilnai; a guard, Mordechai Ben-Menashe; and a policeman, Gudel Yudelevitz – were killed.

The fighting continued for days.  Saturday night, August 24, the first seventeen Jewish victims were taken from Hadassah Hospital to be buried.  The British had provided only three policemen who were weary, and nervous.  The burial ceremony was hurried as it came under attack from Arabs in Talpiot.

The next day, Arabs from Bet Tzefafa, Tzur Bahir and other villages overran, looted, and burned to the ground the settlement of Ramat Rachel on the southern border of Jerusalem.  Never had there been such a lengthy and widespread pogrom in Jerusalem.  Coexistence was not working, despite the absence of a “legitimate grievance” known as “ the occupied territories.”

Just outside Jerusalem, astride the road to Tel Aviv, sat the small Jewish settlement of Motza.  For decades its residents thought that they had enjoyed the best relationships with the neighboring Arab village of Kolonia. On Saturday night, August 24, as the Jews of Jerusalem were being buried, thirty villagers from Kolonia, longtime acquaintances, “visited” the settlement.  They slaughtered everyone, including eighty-five-year-old Rabbi Zalman Shack, a guest for the Sabbath.  The women were first raped and then murdered, and the house was burned down.

The small settlement of Hartuv was wiped off the face of the earth.  Friday night, August 23, as the men huddled together in one house (the women and children had been evacuated), a mob of Arabs from the nearby villages of Dir Aban, Eshtaol, and Tzar’a attacked.  They looted everything in the spacious farm of Y.L. Goldberg.  Cows, horses, wheat, furniture – everything was plundered by the crazed mob, who literally razed it to the ground. 

Destruction was also the fate of Midal Eder, between Bethlehem and Hebron, as well as Kfar Uria near Hartuv.  The settlement of Be’er Tuvya was composed of some 120 people.  Most of them, terrified and near panic were together in the large stable of Devora Korovkov. Arabs from the surrounding areas began their attacks.  From the nearby settlement of Gedera came a reply to the Jews’ desperate request for help: “We cannot help you.  We have not enough men or ammunition for ourselves.”

Perhaps more than anything else, the following statement by one of the Be’er Tuvya settlers tells the chilling reality of the “Palestinians” and what any ultimate victory of theirs would mean for
the Jews.  In the words of Dr. Yizraeli: “Several of the women asked the doctor to give them poison so that they not fall into the hands of the Arabs.  He refused.  But he said that all would defend the women and children until their last drop of blood.  And if there was no other way, they would use their guns to save the honor of their women.”

In the attack that followed, with the Arabs burning houses on all sides, it was, ironically, the doctor, Haim Yizraeli, who was the first to be killed, shot down in his white coat as he stood near the gate.  Just hours earlier he had gone out to bind up the leg of an Arab who had attacked the settlement and been wounded.  Herzl Rosen was slaughtered next, and Moshe Cohen, who had refused to leave his farm, pointing to the decades of good relations with his Arab neighbors, was stabbed numerous times and with his last remaining strength managed to reach shelter.

The arrival of British troops saved the rest of the settlers.  But they were evacuated to “safety.” And when they returned, the entire settlement had been burned to the ground.  Literally, nothing was left. 


High in the beautiful Galilean hills stood the city of Kabbalists, Safad.  Its 3,000 Jews had lived for generations with the Arabs.  All spoke Arabic, and the Sephardic Jews were hardly distinguishable in their dress.  As the days of pogroms receded, it appeared that Safad would be spared the horror.

But on 23 Av (August 29), at 5:30 p. m., a mob of Arabs burst into the Jewish quarter, led by Fuad Hajazi, a young clerk of the local government health office.  The first place attacked was the Klinger gasoline storage house.  As flames and smoke leaped into the air, the mob entered homes of the Jews they had known for years, stabbing, beating, raping, looting.  The wind carried the flames onward; ironically, this saved many Jewish lives as the mob rushed to save their own homes.  But eighteen Jews were dead and more than eighty others injured.  Almost all the victims were elderly or women, many of whom had pleaded with their slaughterers to remember the favors they had one them over the years.

The same evening, the small Jewish settlement in Ein Zeitim was decimated.  Three Jews were murdered, the rest fled to Safad, and their homes went up in flames.  In the northeast part of the Galilee, the settlement of Yesud Ha’Ma’ale was destroyed by its “good neighbors” from the Arab village of Tlail.

In the essence there was not a Jewish community of any consequence that was not attacked.  Scores of Jews were slaughtered, and damage was estimated in the millions of English pounds.  It was a shattering blow to the young Jewish community, which had caught a glimpse of the reality of the “Palestinians.”  But nowhere was the full extent of “Palestinian” horror manifested more clearly than in the ancient city of Hebron.

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