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The map of the battle of Michmash the British Army followed


General Sir Edmund Allenby

Colonel John Henry Patterson

Ze'ev Jabotinsky

On December 9th 1917, the British under General Allenby took Jerusalem. With Allenby was the Jewish Legion which consisted of three battalions. “After the Balfour Declaration of November 2nd, in which the Jews were promised a National Home” in Palestine, Jews were recruited for a Jewish Legion. Recruits came from England, America, and Palestine itself. Among the ranks was David Ben Gurion, who later (in 1948) became the first Prime Minister of Israel. The Legion acquitted itself well in the remaining battles to oust the Turks, ‘Spach p.28

The head of the legion was Colonel John Patterson, who was a Protestant believer born in Ireland. He was an ardent Zionist and also believed strongly that the British were descended from the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. The Jewish Legion, that Patterson headed, had been founded largely due to the efforts of Zeev Jabotinsky. Jabotinsky was an intellectual scholar, and the ideological founder of a nationalist Zionist movement. Jabotinsky was pro-British but later was to find himself at loggerheads with the British administration. One of the offshoots of Jabotinsky’s movement is the Likud Party, which has participated in many Israeli Governments. In liberating Palestine from the Turks, the British had the feeling that they were fulfilling a Biblically imposed task. In effect, they laid the foundations for the creation of the present Jewish State of Israel. Another British officer, Charles Orde Wingate, was later to train Jewish settlers to defend themselves against Arab marauders/terrorists. Wingate was a military genius and his methods and doctrine were instrumental in forming the Israeli Defence Forces. Wingate was a firm believer in the Bible and also held (like Colonel Patterson) that the British were descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel. Wingate often applied Biblical doctrine to explain his methods of fighting. He was not the only one. Others had preceded Wingate’s use of biblical example.

David Ben Gurion
(His young age.)

Orde Charles Wingate

Major John Gilbert

One of these was Major John Gilbert who defeated a Turkish army using information from the Bible as his guide. The information he used was the account of Jonathan, son of King Saul, and the battle of Michmash in 1 Samuel Chapters 13 & 14:

Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel. Saul chose himself three thousand men of Israel; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Micmash and in Mount Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. The rest of the people he sent every man to his tent. And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, “Let the Hebrews hear!” And all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines, and that Israel also was in abomination with the Philistines. And the people were called together after Saul to Gilgal. And the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horseman, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude. And they came up, and pitched in Michmash, eastwards from Bethaven. When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,) then the people hid themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits. And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.

(1 Samuel 13:1-7)


Let us consider the awesome odds our Hebrew ancestors faced here. King Saul had 3,000 men available to him, whereas the Philistines came at him with 30,000 chariots, which were the then equivalent of tanks in our modern warfare of today. Those are odds of ten tanks/chariots to every Hebrew fighter! Then the Philistines brought a further 6,000 fully armed cavalry against Saul’s ragtag army, plus an additional innumerable host of foot soldiers. When we consider that the Philistine overlords had banned our forefathers from having any smiths in the land to ensure that they could not make any weapons such as spears and swords. The Israelites had to suffer the humiliation of having to go to the Philistine iron smiths to have their agricultural tools sharpened. In fact King Saul and his son Jonathan were the only ones in all the land of Israel who possessed a sword. (1 Samuel 13:19-22) Thus, Israel’s pathetic little force did not even have any proper weapons to defend itself with against this overwhelming host. No wonder the Israelites were trembling with fear, as the stakes were so murderously stacked against them. Truth to say, humanly speaking they had absolutely no chance, but then there was YHVH, the Almighty God of Israel, who, as we shall see made up for His peoples shortfall.


By Major Vivian Gilbert

The first thing we purchased after the capture of Jerusalem was a Bible and matches. We had recently received a welcome issue of army cigarettes from the base, but the army service corps forgot to send up matches. We used the Bibles as guide books to Palestine, and remarkably fine ones they turned out to be! It was wonderfully interesting to read the history of all the places we were visiting daily, and men in the ranks were as keen as the officers. It was no uncommon sight to come across Cockney soldiers out under the stars when they should have been sleeping, arguing about some incident in the Bible because of a place or event in the day’s march that made the Biblical pages live again. British soldiers on guard paced where the Israelite soldiers once paced; we drank from Abraham’s wells…

Major Vivian Gilbert


February 13th we took over the Deir Ibu Obeid-Ras es Suffa-Hizmeh line from the 53rd Division, and on the 14th of the same month operation orders were issued for an attack on Jericho with the object of driving the enemy across the River Jordan. Before the main attack, it was necessary to strengthen the line by the capture of a small village, directly to our front, known as Mukhmas or Michmash. The village was on a high rocky hill. The brigade outpost-line was on a chain of hills, too, and between us and the enemy ran a deep valley. A frontal attack was decided upon; that is, supported by artillery and machine guns, the brigade was to advance down into the valley just before dawn, and take Michmash from the front. All orders were given out and the troops were getting what rest was possible from zero hour.

In his bivouac, by the light of a candle, the Brigade Major was reading his Bible. When the raid was first discussed the name Michmash had seemed vaguely familiar, although he could not quite place it. Just as he was about to turn in for the night, however, he recollected and thought he would look it up. He found what he was searching for in 1 Samuel Chapters 13 & 14:

“13:16 And Saul and Jonathan his son, and the people that were present with them, abode in Gibeah of Benjamin: but the Philistines encamped in Michmash. 14:1 Now it came to pass upon a day that Jonathan the son of Saul, said unto the young man that bare his armour, Come let us go over into the Philistine’s garrison, that is on the other side, but he told not his father…. 14:3 And the people knew not that Jonathan was gone. 14:4 And between the passages, by which Jonathan sought to go over into the Philistine garrison, there was a sharp rock on the one side and a sharp rock on the other side: And the name of one was Bozez, and the name of the other was Seneh. 14:5 The forefront of the one was situated northward over against Michmash, and the other southward against Gibeah. And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over to the garrison... 14:6 It may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.”

And the Major read on how Jonathan went through the pass, or passage, of Michmash, between Bozeh and Seneh, and climbed the hill dragging his armour-bearer with him until they came to a place high up, about “a half acre of land which a yoke of oxen might plough;” and the Philistines who were sleeping awoke, thought they were surrounded by the armies of Saul, fled in disorder, and “the multitude melted away.” Saul then attacked with his whole army. It was a great victory for him; his first against the Philistines, and “so the LORD saved Israel that day, and the battle passed over unto beth Aven.”

The Brigadier Major thought to himself: “This pass, these two rocky headlands and flat piece of ground are probably still here; very little has changed in Palestine through the centuries,” and he awoke the Brigadier. Together they read the story over again. Then the General sent out scouts, who came back reporting finding the pass, thinly held by Turks, with rocky crags on either side, obviously Bozez and Seneh; whilst in the distance high up in Michmash the moonlight was shining upon a flat piece of ground just about big enough for a team to plough. The General decided then and there to change the plan of attack, and instead of the whole brigade, one infantry company alone advanced at dead of night along the pass at Michmash. A few Turks were met and silently dealt with. We passed between Bozez and Seneh, climbed the hillside, and just before dawn found ourselves on the flat piece of ground. The Turks who were sleeping awoke, thought they were surrounded by the armies of Allenby and fled in disorder. We killed or captured every Turk that night in Michmash; so that, after thousands of years, the tactics of Saul and Jonathan were repeated with success by a British force.

The above is an extract from: “The Romance of the Last Crusade. With Allenby to Jerusalem,” New York, 1923, by Major Vivian Gilbert, see also John Tom Spach: “Allenby and the Last Crusade,” Military History, March 1996.

Editorial Commentary: By Stephen J. Spykerman

To learn more check this article: The Liberation of Jerusalem in 1917

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