Friday, December 11, 2015

Wailing Wall's 1929 Rioting Pogrom in Jerusalem in a Gun-Free Zone Leading to an All Palestine Massacre

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                  

Our concept of a riot in the USA is simply a demonstration, a march, posters, and perhaps people speaking with a mike in their hands.
Fighting had been going on between the Muslim Arabs and the Jews in Jerusalem over the Wailing Wall-aka Western Wall built by King Herod according to the Jews, and according to the Arab leaders, was part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, 3rd holiest site in Islam where Muhammad tied his horse, Buraq, before his night journey to heaven.
Painting of Jew Praying at Wailing Wall in 1860
By September 1928,  the Jews angered the Arabs by putting chairs and a mechitza, made of a few wooden frames covered with cloth that was used to separate praying men and women,  at the wall.  To the Arabs, that was a claim of ownership.  Jews had been forbidden to make any construction at the Wall, and seeing this caused them to fear their claim on the site.
Unknown date of photo-like a synagogue at Wall.  
Then, by October 1928, the Grand Mufti, Sherif of Jerusalem by the name of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the big fish in a little pond, had organized a new construction next to and above the Wall.
He had mules go through the praying area who were dropping excrement as they walked, and waste water was thrown on the Jews praying there.  He had appointed the muezzin to call out to pray right next to the Wall, creating noise exactly when the Jews were praying, and Jews pray 3 times a day, so they knew when to do this.  Of course the Jews protested and tensions increased.
The Wailing Wall 1920
By August 14, 1929, things had been so bad that the Haganah and Joseph Trumpeldor held a meeting in Tel Aviv where 6,000 attended who had objected to the 1928 British Commission's conclusion that the Wall was Muslim property. They were appeasing the Arabs because they were more volatile in their demonstrations, I gather.
Painting of Praying Jews at the Wailing Wall (Kotel in Hebrew)
The next day on the 15th  was the fast of Tisha B'Av for Jews.  Captain Jeremiah Halpern led a march to the Wall shouting, "The Wall is ours!"  They raised the Jewish national flag and sang Hatikvah, the Jewish anthem.  They were acting peaceful and had notified the authorities in advance so they did have a police escort to prevent accidents.                                          
 Captain Jeremiah Halpern (also known as Yirmiyahu Halpern and Yirmiyahu Halperin) (b. Smolensk, Russia, 1901; d. Tel Aviv, Israel, 1962) was a Revisionist Zionist leader in Palestine who first came to prominence when he served as aide de camp to Ze'ev Jabotinsky in the 1920s when the latter was head of the Haganah in Jerusalem.
Halpern, a certified ship's captain, was known as Rav Hahovel (captain of the ship) for his role in the development of Jewish seamanship.
 The Arabs then spread rumors, and that's all it took with people in a hot climate.  The rumors were that the Jewish teens had attacked local Arabs and had cursed the name of the Prophet, Muhammad.  We now have hungry Jews marching and feeling desperate to regain the right to pray at the Wall and we have desperate Arabs feeling their Wall is being taken over by 2nd class Jews, for in Arab countries, that's what Jews were, dhimmis, 2nd class citizens with less rights.  How can they now take over the rights and property of the exhalted Arabs?  This was a conundrum for them.
Friday night symbols of Shabbat:
Challah(special bread), candles and wine
along with sumptuous Shabbat dinner 
Friday came-the sabbath for Muslims and the eve of the Sabbath for Jews.  The Arabs heard an inflammatory sermon from the Grand Mufti  really stirring up hatred for Jews, and a demonstration was quickly organized by the Supreme Muslim Council who also marched to the Wall.  Our antagonizer, the Grand Mufti, was told by the  government that this was out of character, that this has never happened before, and that such a demonstration would be a shock to the Jews who regard the Wall as a place of sanctity to them.
The warning went unheeded, and the Arabs burnt prayer books, liturgical fixtures and notes from Jews stuck in between the cracks in the wall which is the custom.  The beadle was injured.  Then the rioting spread to the commercial area of Jerusalem, which was a Jewish section.  The Arab radio and flyers were inflammatory.   Flyers were signed by the "Committee of the Holy Warriors in Palestine" and said that Jews had violated the honor of Islam and declared, "Hearts are in tumult because of these barbaric deeds."  Was it BARBARIC to call out actual historic facts that they had the right to pray there?  The Arabs in the crowd shouted out, "WAR!  JIHAD!  REBELLION!"  The Mufti most likely is the speaker who called out, "Oh Arab nation, the eyes of your brothers in Palestine are upon you, and they awaken your religious feelings and national zealotry to rise up against the enemy who violated the honor of Islam and .....raped the women and murdered widows and babies."  The accusations against Jews were unbelieveable!

Jews did their best to combat terror with terror in their newspaper, Doar HaYom who published a leaflet describing the Muslim march from the 1st hand accounts from Wolfgqang Von Weisl, and they were criticized by the Shaw report, a British report later who accused the paper for their poison of propaganda and put the blame of the riot on them first.                                                                        

Then the worst of the worst started the very next day.  Abraham Mizrachi was stabbed to death by an Arab at the Maccabi grounds near Mea Shearim, in the Bukharan Quarter which happened after a quarrel that began when he tried to retrieve his football from an Arab field.  A Jewish crowd reacted to this by attacking the policeman, so the report said, and then they also attacked nearby Arab homes and wounded those inside.  Mizrachi had died on the 20th of August and his funeral became an anti-Arab demonstration, something we see today that happens at Muslim funerals.
Ariel view of Temple Mount.  The Jewish 2nd Temple of Solomon's site
is under the Muslim mosque today.  All Jews were obliged to come 3 times
a year here to atone, worship-the central shrine of the state of Judah.
Destroyed in 586 BCE, rebuilt by 515 BCE, with a great deal done by
Judah the Maccabee of Chanukah history.  Destroyed again by
Romans in 70 CE.  
The next 4 days, the Jerusalem police reported 12 attacks by Jews on Arabs and 7 attacks by Arabs on Jews.  By August 21st, the population was very excited and there were a lot of false alarms causing local panics in many quarters in Jerusalem but no further incidents occurred.  Arabs were excited and afraid of the Jews.  The authorities tried to keep people calm and stopped demonstrations with their militant attitude.
The outbreak in Jerusalem on Friday, August 23rd was from the beginning  started with the attack by the Arabs on the Jews.  What started it was thousands of Arab villagers who came into Jerusalem from the surrounding countryside to pray at the Temple Mount.  They came with sticks and knives, though.  By 9:30am, Jews were closing up their shops and by 11:00, gunshots were fired on the Temple Mount by Arabs working up the crowd.  The Grand Mufti was called on to calm the mob that had gathered under his window near the Damascus Gate, but his presence caused more instigation and rioting.  By noon, word was out, possibly just a rumor, that Mea She'arim's Jews had killed 2 or 3 Arabs in defense of their lives.  The American consulate documented the event.  Both Americans and Brits noticed that by 12:50, the Arab crowds were up to no good, and possibly murder.  Now Jews living in Mea She'arim were very very religious, and are the opposite types of people who could protect themselves.  It's like a quarter of all rabbis.                                              

By 13:15, Arabs began the massacre of Jews.  The rumor had been that 2 Arabs had been murdered by Jews, and the Arabs started the attack in the Old City of Jerusalem.  Violence spread to all parts of Palestine.  The Brits had fewer than 100 soldiers, 6 armoured cars, and 5 or 6 airplanes in all of Palestine.  They did have 1,500 police, though, but most were Arabs with only a few being Jews, and they also had 175 British officers.  They even had to use their English theology students visiting from the University of Oxford who were deputized.  Meanwhile, many Jews were being killed at the Jaffa Gate and the Brits did nothing about it.  They never fired their guns because, they said later, if they had shot into the Arab crowd, the mob would have turned on them.

Jews did return fire in the Jewish neighborhood of Yemin Moshe, but most of Jerusalem's Jews could not defend themselves or refused to do so.  To make it worse, the Brits refused to hand out weapons to the Jews, so they had had no way to defend themselves.  For Jews, this had been a gun-free zone!
                                                HEBRON MASSACRE
By August 24, 17 Jews were killed in Jerusalem alone.  The worst slaughter happened in the ancient city of Hebron and in Safed.  Jews were also killed in Motza, Kfar Uria, Jerusalem and even in Tel Aviv.  Many isolated attacks happened in smaller Jewish villages where 6 whole villages were completely destroyed.  Along with the killings, the Arabs looted and burned down homes.  In Haifa and Jaffa, the situation grew worse and one police officer warded off an attack on the quarter between Jaffa and Tel Aviv by firing on an Arab crowd.  He was one brave policeman!                                            

The hospitals were attacked.  The Arabs were attacking several.                                                                                                                                                                                                    
Hadassah Medical Center, Jerusalem
    The massacre happened in Hebron on the 24th.  On the 20th, Haganah "Jewish" leaders tried to provide defense for their 600 Jews of Hebron, but the leaders there declined their offers saying that they put their trust in the Arab notables to protect them.  Arab mobs then attacked on the 24th and killed and raped men, women and children besides looting the Jewish property.  They killed 65-68 Jews and wounded 58.  Some of the victims had been tortured or mutilated.  Sir John Chancellor wrote later to his son saying, "The horror of it is beyond words.  In one house I visited, not less than 25 Jewish men and women were murdered in cold blood.  Unspeakable atrocities had occurred in Hebron.  It had been a savage attack, of which no condemnation could be too severe (from Shaw Report), was accompanied by wanton destruction and looting.  Synagogues were desecrated and sacred books were torn and furniture was broken by the Arab rioters.  The Jewish hospital which provided treatment for Arabs, was attacked and ransacked.  The Hadassah Medical Organization operated an infirmary there.  This Beit Hadassah Clinic had 3 floors and the pharmacy and  synagogue were on the top floor.  The rioters destroyed the pharmacy and torched the synagogue and destroyed the Torah scrolls inside.  Was this not a war against the Jewish religion or not?  They had one British officer in town, Mr.Raymond Cafferata, who prevented the outbreak from turning into a general massacre of all the Jews of Hebron.  He killed as many of the murderers as he could, even using his fists when he was bodily attacked.  Reinforcements he called for didn't come till 5 more hours.

There were Arabs of Hebron who were good neighbors to the Jews, however, and they offered their Jewish neighbors sanctuary from the mob by hiding them in their own houses.  Other Jews survived by hiding out in the British police station at Beit Ramon on the outskirts of the city.  When the massacre ended, the surviving Jews were evacuated by the British.
Today's Arab rock throwers at Temple Mount in Jerusalem
A student at the Hebron Yeshiva lost his hand during the attack.  His school had been targeted and attacked.  On the 23rd, Arabs were throwing stones through the windows where only 2 people were inside, another student and the sexton.  The Arab crowd had grabbed this student and stabbed him to death.  The sexton had managed to hide in the nearby well.  The next day, the crowd appeared armed with wooden sticks and axes and attacked and killed 2 more Jewish boys.  One was stoned to death and the other was stabbed.  More than 70 Jews including some Yeshiva students hid in the house of Eliezer Dan Slonim, the son of the Rabbi of Hebron, but they were all massacred by the Arab crowd.  Moses Harbater, 18 year old, was stabbed and 2 of his fingers were cut off.  He saw his friend being mutilated and killed.  Altogether, 42 teachers and students were murdered at the yeshiva.
Today's Uzi sub-machine gun
Only soldiers have guns in Israel, who carry them at all times,
even sleeping with them.  
Jews had no guns, and were not allowed such, but retaliated somehow and did manage to destroy some Arab property where they had been first attacked.  The Imam of a mosque and 6 others were killed by the Jews during this rioting.On the 26th the Nebi Akasha Mosque in Jerusalem was attacked by a group of Jews in retaliation to these events. The mosque was badly damaged and the tombs of the prophets which it contained were desecrated.  (I do not know what prophets these would be, but must have been from the Muslim faith.)  

Later on August 23rd, the Brits armed 41 Jewish special constables, 18 Jewish ex-soldiers and 60 more Jews were issued staves (wooden sticks) for as  a type of defensive arms in Jerusalem.  The Grand Mufti announced now that a great Arab crowd was in the Haram area who were also demanding arms, and felt that by arming some Jews was a breach of faith by the government.  The government denied these rumors but by the 27th of August felt they had to disband and disarm the special Jewish constables.
                                             SAFED (TZFAT) MASSACRE

On the 29th of August at 5:15pm, Arab mobs attacked the Jews of Safed where 45 were killed or wounded, several homes and shops were set on fire, and there was complete destruction of property.
Arabs of Safed and the local surrounding villages were armed with weapons and kerosene tins.  Victims were mutilated and then burned the bodies according to an eyewitness who described the pogrom.  One woman's body was tied to a window and then burned.  Several people were brutally killed.  A schoolteacher, his wife and mother and a lawyer were cut to pieces with knives.  Attackers then entered an orphanage and smashed the children's heads and cut off their hands.  Another victim was stabbed repeatedly and trampled to death.

During the week of riots from August 23rd to August 29th, 7 days, 133 Jews and 116 Arabs were killed and 198 Jews and 232 Arabs were injured.  More than 60 Jews had been killed in Hebron.  The British police had to finally open fire to prevent outrages in Nablus and Jaffa.  A police office had to fire on the Arab crowd to stop them.  Many casualties were concluded in the Shaw report to have been caused by the police or military forces.  Arabs accused the government forces of firing only at Arabs. The Jews were not the accosting mob, so there was no reason to shoot at them.  The Grand Mufti was not tried in following trials, but many attributed him to the greater share of the blame than the official report.  He must have had some type of protection going on.

At this time, Jews were being restricted in buying land when they were supposed to be helped by the British in creating the Jewish Homeland.  Every step of the way they were given obstacles instead, like allowing Arabs to enter Palestine and restricting the Jews.  (see Joan Peters-From time Immemorial, the origins of the Arab-Jewish conflict over Palestine)
Bars on my ground- floor apartment in Safed 1980
Living through a massacre throughout one's land was a traumatic event.  This gave a black mark to the Arabs as far as the Jews were concerned.  They had had enough of Russian pogroms, and to come to their homeland and experience even worse ones gave them the feelings of what could transpire further.  Jews have lived with terrorism.  The mentality of Palestinian Arabs has not changed much at all.  Here they have been reacting to the very same fears about the Temple Mount in the very same way; shooting, and mainly stabbing with rioting caused by rumors.  Do you wonder why Israel reacts as they do?

 Wikipedia: 1929 Arab riots in Palestine, Part of Intercommunal violence in mandatory Palestine


  1. 1929 Arab Riots in Hebron and Massacre of the Jews

    The Horrifying massacre of the Jews of Hebron, known as the “1929 Riots,” resembles the most brutal of pogroms against Jewish communities in Europe. It dealt the Hebron community a devastating blow, from which it is still trying to recover and led to the destruction of the Jewish presence on the central mountain area of Judea, which was rendered “Judenrein”.

    The traditional Jewish community in Hebron was far removed from any political confrontation or national conflict. Jews and Arabs had inhabited the town for many generations, at times in peaceful coexistence and as good neighbors. The Jews had done much for the town’s economy and its development, of which the main beneficiaries had been their Arab neighbors. The wave of terror was set in motion by Amin al-Husseini, who, after being appointed by the British to the post of Mufti of Jerusalem in 1921, launched a campaign of systematic incitement against the country’s Jewish population in order to inflate his personal status. (The Nazi tendencies of the Mufti - “founder of the Palestinian National Movement” - were revealed later on, during the Holocaust. In 1941, Husseini visited Berlin, met with Hitler and established a Muslim division in the Nazi SS for the ultimate purpose of annihilating the Jews of Eretz Israel. He is considered one of the most notorious war criminals of the time.) The Mufti exploited Jewish demands for worship rights at the Western Wall as a pretext to incite the country’s Arab population, calling for a jihad against the Jews for ostensibly conspiring to demolish Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Jews of Hebron, having nothing to do with any such matter, could not believe that the malevolence would find its way to the city of the Patriarch Abraham. Indeed, on the eve of the riots, a squad of Hagana fighters visited Hebron to offer its assistance but was asked to leave in order not to fan the flames.

    The bloodshed in Hebron began after riots erupted in Jerusalem on Friday, August 23, 1929. Inflammatory sermons were delivered in mosques and rioters began to attack Jewish homes and the Slobodka Yeshiva. The devoted yeshiva student Shmuel Rosenholz was stabbed and stoned to death as he labored over his Talmud. The British police did nothing to protect the Jews. Their commander, Major Raymond Cafferata, reprimanded Jewish community leaders who had come to plead for protection and instructed them to hole up in their homes, which were then turned into death traps.

  2. Thanks, YJ Draiman, and this horrible massacre happened after all the immigration of eastern European Jews to the USA, too, at the time of the Depression in the USA. As you brought out, this happened when the Jews and Arabs had been peaceful, but were prodded by Husseini, who had returned from being with Hitler.