During this Gaza war liberal pundits blasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not following every request made by President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry. They publicly wondered how Israel could say no to this country which helped it secure its weaponry, a country that promised them over and over they would never let the Jewish State down. Putting aside all of the Obama doesn’t really support Israel talk for a moment, Netanyahu is justified in rejecting the White House demands, even to say (if true) next time you better trust me. Israel can never fully depend on any ally for help, because they learned long time ago that it cannot rely on anybody but themselves for protection.
This lesson of self-reliance was learned one Friday evening in August eighty-five years ago today (on the Jewish Calendar), when a group of Arab terrorists massacred the Jews of Hebron while the British who ruled over the Holy Land watched. They did not lift a finger to prevent the horrible event.
Hebron was the first piece of land ever purchased by the Jews in Israel. Approximately 38 centuries ago Avraham (Abraham) our forefather purchased a cave in Hebron to bury his beloved wife Sarah. Jews had owned land in the city from that sale until August of 1929 (they were the majority of the population for most of that time).
In 1929, all that changed. It began as the Jewish Sabbath was approaching on Friday August 23rd, the 17th Day of the Hebrew month of Av.
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At about half past two on Friday (August 23) we saw a young Arab arrive by motorcycle from Jerusalem. He alarmed the Arab inhabitants of Hebron, saying that the blood of thousands of Moslems in Jerusalem was being shed like water. He called to the Arabs to avenge this blood. The unrest among the Arabs of Hebron was very strong, particularly after the motor cars began to arrive from Jerusalem with news of disturbances. source
Davar newspaper of August 20, 1929:
Incitement of feeling against the Jews goes on, particularly round Jerusalem and Hebron. Rumors are being spread by unknown persons that on Saturday last the Jews cursed the Moslem religion and that it is the duty of Moslems to take revenge. source
Rabbi Ya’acov Slonim, head of the Sephardic Jewish community, and Rabbi Frank, head of the Ashkenazic community, turned to the Arab Governor of Hebron, Abdullah Kardos. The Governor calmed them and said: `
There is no fear of anything happening. The British Government knows what it has to do. In the place where two soldiers are needed, it sends six.” And he added: “I tell you in confidence that they have many soldiers in the streets, in civilian clothes; these soldiers circulate among the crowds, and in the hour of need they will fulfill their duty.” source
But that promise was never backed up with action.
On Friday night August 23rd, Rabbi Ya’acov Slonim’s son invited any fearful Jews to stay in his house. The Rabbi was highly regarded in the community, and he had a gun. Many Jews took him up on this offer, most of those Jews were murdered in the Rabbi’s home
On Saturday morning, before the slaughter began, the Rabbis again appealed to the Governor for help. Again they received the same astounding assurances. Bewildered, they turned to Mr. Cafferata, the British officer in charge of the Police. From him, too, they received assurances of safety. source
As early as 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, Arabs began to gather en masse. They came in mobs, armed with clubs, knives and axes. While the women and children threw stones, the men ransacked Jewish houses and destroyed Jewish property. With only a single police officer in Hebron, the Arabs entered Jewish courtyards with no opposition.
Rabbi Slonim, who had tried to shelter the Jewish population, was approached by the rioters and offered a deal. If all the Ashkenazi yeshiva students were given over to the Arabs, the rioters would spare the lives of the Sephardi community. Rabbi Slonim refused to turn over the students and was killed on the spot. In the end, 12 Sephardi Jews and 55 Ashkenazi Jews were murdered.
On hearing screams in a room I went up a sort of tunnel passage and saw an Arab in the act of cutting off a child’s head with a sword. He had already hit him and was having another cut, but on seeing me he tried to aim the stroke at me, but missed; he was practically on the muzzle of my rifle. I shot him low in the groin. Behind him was a Jewish woman smothered in blood with a man I recognized as a[n Arab] police constable named Issa Sherif from Jaffa in mufti. He was standing over the woman with a dagger in his hand. He saw me and bolted into a room close by and tried to shut me out-shouting in Arabic, “Your Honor, I am a policeman.” … I got into the room and shot him.” (Bernard Wasserstein, The British in Palestine: The Mandatory Government and the Arab-Jewish Conflict 1917-1929, Oxford England, Basil Blackwell, 1991)
Now let me tell you about the massacre. Right after eight o’clock in the morning we heard screams. Arabs had begun breaking into Jewish homes. The screams pierced the heart of the heavens. We didn’t know what to do. Our house had two floors. We were downstairs and a doctor lived on the second floor.We figured that we would be safe in the doctor’s apartment, but how could we get up there? The stairs were on the outside of the building, but it wasn’t safe to go out. So we chopped through the ceiling and that way we climbed up to the doctor’s house. Well, after being there only a little while, we realized that we were still in danger because by that time the Arabs had almost reached our house. They were going from door to door, slaughtering everyone who was inside. The screams and the moans were terrible. People were crying Help! Help! But what could we do? There were thirty‑three of us. Soon, soon, all of us would be lost. Letter of a Survivor
When the massacre finally ended, the surviving Jews resettled in Jerusalem. Some Jewish families tried to move back to Hebron, but were removed by the British authorities in 1936 at the start of the Arab revolt. In 1948, the War of Independence granted Israel statehood, but further cut the Jews off from Hebron, a city that was captured by King Abdullah’s Arab Legion and ultimately annexed to Jordan.
When Jews finally gained control of the city in 1967, a small number of massacre survivors again tried to reclaim their old houses. Then defense minister Moshe Dayan told the survivors that if they returned, they would be arrested, and that they should be patient while the government worked out a solution to get their houses back. Dayan never got around to it–perhaps he was too busy giving away Jewish rights to the Temple Mount.
The Memorial of the Jews of Hebron, as submitted to the High Commissioner of Palestine closes with these tragic words:
In the name of sixty-five slaughtered, fifty-eight wounded, and many orphans and widows; in the name of the remnants of the plundered and tortured we accuse:
- The [British Mandatory] Government, which did not fulfill its duty and provide protection for its peaceful and defenceless charges.
- The Governor, Abdullah Kardos, and the Commander, Cafferata, who deprived us of the means of appealing for help and defence, betrayed us with empty promises and gave the murderers and robbers their opportunity.
- The police, which did not fulfill its duty, and behaved with contemptible baseness.
- The emissaries of the Mufti and the Moslem Council, in particular the Sheikh Talib Narka and his colleagues, those mentioned above, as well as those who have not been mentioned, who proclaimed the massacre and permitted murder and rape.
- Also the inhabitants of Hebron (with the exception of some families) who did not rise up to help their brothers and neighbors in accordance with the commandments of the Koran…
In 1929, the Jews of Israel and worldwide learned a valuable lesson, as close of an ally a country may be, as strongly others would offer to shield them…that they cannot rely on anyone else for protection.
Some 85 years later that memorial still rings true. Arab terrorists are still attacking innocent Jews in Israel. Israel’s attempts at self defense are met with condemnation from both friends and foes alike.
Iran is building a nuclear bomb with the intent of first destroying Israel, terrorist are running the Palestinian Territories, but just like 1929 Hebron, just like1939 Germany, just like today the world sits back and watches it happen.
People ask me “why can’t Israel do what the US Asks?” The answer is they can’t because in the end, Israel can never fully trust any other nation even a strong friend such as America. Israel
will must protect herself as she deems appropriate because when push comes to shove history has taught the Jews…no one else will.