Temple Mount: Jerusalem Israel
CELEBRATING THE CENTENARY OF…
“THE LIBERATION OF JERUSALEM 1917”
Recognizing the Finger of God
PALESTINE WAS THE MILITARY DOORMAT OF EMPIRES
In Biblical times the land of Israel was a strategic land bridge, trade route and buffer zone between the greater and lesser empires of antiquity – Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia and the Hittite kingdom. Powerful armies traversed this land – advancing, retreating and destroying. The Egyptians came under their Pharaoh’s Shishak, Rameses the Great, and Thutmose III. The cruellest conquerors of all without question were the Assyrians. The Assyrians came down like a wolf on the fold. Remember the names of Tiglath Pileser III, Shalmaneser IV, Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarshaddon and Ashurbanipal. These are just a few of the Assyrian kings who brutally ravaged the land of Israel. They destroyed and deported whole nations, including both Israel and Judah, and conquered Egypt. From the Assyrians the domination passed to Babylon, and after Nebuchadnezzar’s forces had destroyed Solomon’s glorious Temple, the Holy Land witnessed a succession of armies led by legendary figures Persian spearmen and archers came and went. The solid phalanxes of the Macedonian Greeks came followed by the iron disciplined legions of Imperial Rome, who destroyed both the Temple and Jerusalem. They in turn were followed by Arab and Saracen horsemen who poured across the land like locusts from the deserts of Arabia. The war-weary soil of the land was then visited by Crusader warriors of Christendom, who briefly wrested control of the Holy Land from Saladin, the Saracen leader. Finally, Selim I [the cruel], defeated the Mamelukes in Syria and captured Jerusalem in 1517 for the Ottoman Empire.
EFFECTS OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION
It was the Protestant Reformation in Europe which, for the first time in centuries, made the Bible available to the common man. Thus the words of the great Prophets of the Bible, which spoke so eloquently about the ultimate restoration of Israel, soon began to strike a chord with those who had thrown off the yoke of the Roman Church. This was especially the case in the Netherlands and England. Thus the early seeds of Zionism began to take root within Christianity even in the first part of the 17th century, and this at a time whilst the long wars of the Reformation were still going on. Christian Bible believers had begun to wonder what they could do to speed the coming of the promised Messiah. Their focus was on the prophecies in the books of Zechariah and Isaiah, together with multiple others which declared that Israelites were to re-conquer the Holy Land. These same concepts were also brought to America by the Puritans who came over from England. They were excited to discover that the re-conquest of the land of Israel was spoken of by the prophets:
“For the LORD of HOSTS will visit His flock, the HOUSE OF JUDAH, and will make them as His royal horse in the battle… They shall be like mighty men, who tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets in the battle… Those of EPHRAIM shall be like a mighty man… I will bring them to the land of Gilead and Lebanon…”
(Zechariah 10:3, 5a, 7a & 10b, emphasis added)
Notice how Zechariah describes those conquering Israelites as two separate houses, e.g. Judah and Ephraim. Isaiah continues the same theme as he prophesies that:
“He will raise a banner for the nations and assemble THE OUTCASTS OF ISRAEL [Ephraim], and He will gather THE DISPERSED OF JUDAH from the four corners of the earth..”
IMPORTANT CLUE AS TO THE IDENTITY OF EPHRAIM
Notice how both prophets quoted above make no reference to the intervention of any foreign powers to assist the Jews in reclaiming their Land of Promise, and neither do they speak of any non-Israelite power protecting them whilst there. They refer instead to action by the two houses of Israel, (Judah and Ephraim).
This is highly significant, as the prophets speak of a combined effort by both houses i.e. Judah and Israel. They do not refer to any other nations being involved! So the question is, who has been working alongside Judah to put the nation of Israel back on the map and then to make it stay there? Whoever they are, that body should be the Ephraim mentioned in the Scriptures above!
So what does history tell us? WHO IS THIS MYSTERIOUS EPHRAIM THAT HELPS JUDAH BACK INTO THE LAND OF ISRAEL? The record of history shows the British government at the forefront in assisting the Jews in their quest to return to their land, with the Americans closely behind.
In this we are given an important clue as to the identity of Ephraim. After all, it was the British Army, assisted by the Anzac forces of Australia and New Zealand, including a number of Jewish brigades, who liberated the Holy Land in December 1917.
Great Britain was the first great power to do something practical by formally recognizing that the Jews had national rights, thus helping to facilitate the creation of the Jewish State. The year 2017 marks the centenary anniversary of the famous Balfour Declaration, which set the whole process in motion. Thus it is a fact of history that the greatest empire in the world recognized the right of the Jews to have their own homeland in Palestine.
The Balfour Declaration
Winston Churchill laid a foundation stone in Jerusalem for the Hebrew University and stood publicly against the betrayal of Britain’s promises in the 1939 White Paper. In early 1942 the Nazi-German juggernaut lead by Rommel’s desert army broke through the British lines and took the strategic city of Tobruk. Rommel’s forces then continued their eastward thrust to the Suez Canal. Had they taken possession of the Canal nothing would have impeded their conquest of the Holy Land, which would have meant certain death for its close on half a million Jewish population. The Jewish leadership, considering the possibility of defeat by the British, decided to remain in the land and fight the invading Germans as best they could. It was decided to establish a fortress on Mount Carmel, and to bring the entire Jewish population of Palestine there, and to hold out against the Germans for as long as possible. Had the British and Anzac forces not been able to hold the line the world might have come to know of a Masada Mark II, with some half a million Jews committing suicide, rather than submitting to certain death at the hands of their fascist Nazi enemies.
As Providence would have it, the German onslaught was finally halted at a little place called El Alamein in July 1942. The final battle of El Alamein in Egypt against Rommel’s forces began on October 23rd 1942. The future of the entire region and much of the rest of the world depended upon the outcome of this battle. After ten days of intense conflict in which thousands of men from both sides fought and died, the German line was broken, and the allied British and Anzac forces streamed through and continued to chase the retreating Germans. The degree of gratitude which the Jewish people had for these heroes is epitomized in a gift which the Jewish leadership of Palestine, the Vaad Leumi, later presented to General Montgomery, the British Commander of the Allied Commonwealth Forces. It was a beautiful Bible, and with it was the following inscription in English and Hebrew:
“To Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery, the gallant leader of the victorious British forces, by whose hand God has placed salvation in Zion in the days of El Alamein.”
History shows how, after many setbacks, let-downs, (including some major British ones), trials and tribulations both within and without the Land, the Jewish State of Israel emerged from the hideous ashes of the Holocaust in May 1948.
Ever since that auspicious moment the new country had no truer friend in the world than the American people. It is a fact of history that ever since the foundation of the State of Israel; the United States of America has stood by her as her ‘big brother’ protector.
When we thus observe the joint involvement, first of all of the British and her Australian and New Zealand Commonwealth brothers, and secondly of the mighty United States, we are given the clearest possibly indication of who, ‘the outcast castaways of Israel,’ (the house of Ephraim) really are. As the Bible says: “By their fruit ye shall know them!”
We must also never forget that it was those same nations, INCLUDING Canada and South Africa, who stood resolute in a great alliance against the evil Axis powers, and it was through their combined strength that they were able to defeat Hitler’s Third Reich. Even though they were not able to prevent the unspeakably brutal horrors of the Holocaust, they nevertheless were able to bring it to an end, and thus save the remaining Jewish population of the world. As the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words,” or, loosely, as the Bible puts it: “You judge a tree by its fruit!”
THE JUDAH CONNECTION E.G. (for example) JOSEPH RECUES HIS OLDER BROTHER
Clearly the British and American peoples’ historic involvement with the State of Israel presents us with another remarkable indicator of their true Hebrew origins. The fact is that these two leaders of the House of Israel helped to re-establish their older brother Judah back into the Land of Promise, just as was prophesied by the prophets Zechariah and Isaiah. Incredibly it was at the Jewish Feast of Hanukkah, the feast that signifies deliverance, that the British, together with the Jewish brigades, and the Australian and New Zealand Anzac forces liberated the city of Jerusalem on December 9, 1917.
A few years later in 1920, Max Nordau, the co-founder of the Zionist movement, was quoted in the London Evening Standard as having said: “We thought that the Messiah would be an individual, but I feel now as if it were a collective entity, and that its name might be the British nation.” In the same year the League of Nations gave the Mandate to rule Palestine to Great Britain. From here on the Jewish people were on a countdown to the establishment of their own State. In all of this we can see the hand of Providence at work through His people Israel.
The League of Nations gave the Mandate to rule Palestine to Great Britain.
TURKEY WAS ALLIED WITH THE IMPERIAL FORCES OF GERMANY
For the Turks in 1914, ‘the war to end all wars’ would give the Ottoman Empire a chance to gain its former glory, a time to be great again perhaps? In the first few years of the war between Turkey and Great Britain, British and Turkish soldiers had fought each other to a standstill. The British Imperial forces had suffered 252,000 casualties. The Turks, who were near breaking point, had suffered similar losses. The one benefit that can be said of the failed Gallipoli campaign was that the destruction of some of the best Turkish units facilitated the eventual British victory in Palestine during 1917-1918.
It is not generally understood that the Turkish forces were effectively led by and under the command of experienced German officers. The most senior of these were respectively General Erich von Falkenhayn and General Kress von Kressenstein.
General Erich von Falkenhayn
General Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein
The war in Palestine had actually begun in January 1915 with a Turkish offensive against the Suez Canal. It was easily beaten off. However, when in 1916/1917 the British General Sir Archibald Murray counter attacked across Sinai, his forces were repulsed at Gaza. Then in June 1917 General Allenby was sent from France to redeem the situation. Prime Minister Lloyd George was to give the responsibility to Allenby of presenting the British Empire with a Christmas present – THE CAPTURE OF JERUSALEM FROM THE TURKS.
British General Sir Archibald Murray
British Prime Minister David Lloyd George
General Sir Beauvoir de Lisle saw Allenby at the Grosvenor Hotel in London before he left for Cairo and was told: “The last man failed, and I do not see why I should succeed!” Sir Beauvoir consoled Allenby with the Biblical prediction that Jerusalem would be delivered from Turkish rule in 1917. He was quoting from a book called “Light for the Last Days,” published in the 1880’s by Dr. and Mrs. H. Grattan Guinness. These predictions pointed to 1917 as the year of the delivery of Jerusalem from Turkish rule. Allenby was much impressed by these predictions and he received a second witness from another book called: “The Fullness of the Nations,” written by another eminent prophetic Bible student; Dr. H. Aldersmith (MB Lond., FRCS). In his book, Aldersmith said that Jerusalem would fall to Great Britain in 1917.
General Sir Beauvoir de Lisle
As well as meeting with government and military officials, Allenby was summoned to a meeting with the redoubtable Lord Fisher, the First Sea Lord. In one of the most extraordinary discussions of the entire war, recorded for posterity by Lord Fisher’s secretary; Allenby was told that that he would be, as Commander in Chief, God’s instrument for Jerusalem’s capture in December 1917. Stunned by the frankness of Lord Fisher’s revelation, Allenby politely asked how Britain’s most distinguished living sailor had come to that deduction. The hours rolled by as Lord Fisher explained to Allenby the Hebrew origins of the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic peoples, the covenants God made with the nation of Israel, Israel’s position in the latter days, the Biblical prophecies that had ordained the growth of the British Empire, and lastly the prophecies relating to the capture of Jerusalem in December 1917.
Lord John Fisher
Lord Fisher also told Allenby that aircraft [as birds flying – as per Isaiah 31:5] would be absolutely essential for the success of the campaign.
“So the LORD of Hosts will come down to fight for Mount Zion and for its hill. Like birds flying about, so will the LORD of Hosts defend Jerusalem. Defending He will also deliver it; Passing over, He will preserve it.”
David Ben Gurion
(His young age.)
Allenby eventually took his leave of Lord Fisher while thoughtfully considering all he had been told. Armed and fortified with this knowledge, General Allenby arrived in Egypt like a whirlwind. It was not long before many officers who spent too much time propping up the bar in Shepherds Hotel in Cairo, which was the HQ for Great Britain’s Egyptian Expeditionary Army, found themselves on a boat back to England, and from there on the not too comfortable conditions in the trenches on the Western Front. Allenby’s purge of the dross was very thorough and he inspired new hope and confidence into what had been a rather dispirited army. Seldom in the course of military history has the personality of a new commander had such an electrifying effect on his troops.
Allenby’s campaign was going to be fought with a maximum of snare and subterfuge. He surrounded himself with staff officers of high intelligence, and moved his headquarters from Cairo to the Sinai. There he studies every aspect of Palestine – its history, its geography, its flora and fauna, and its resources. He used a copy of George Adam Smith’s Historical Atlas of the Holy Land, given him by Prime Minister Lloyd George, as a campaign aid. He also poured over the Old Testament. He then assembled around him an army of astonishing complexity, like a crusade. It included soldiers from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, plus smaller contingents from Singapore, Hong Kong, the West Indies, as well as a number of Jewish brigades. One of the soldiers who fought in one of these brigades was Ben Gurion, the future Prime Minister of the State of Israel.
Allenby’s attack was to be the last great cavalry campaign in history. He fought it as a cavalryman, making sweeping use of his 28,000-odd British, Australian and New Zealand Horse of the Desert Mounted Corps, not forgetting his infantry which at 47,000 was numerically the largest component of his attacking force.
Among the famous regiments of the British army assembled in Sinai, there were men who were to write a new chapter in the history of British arms. They had been at Gallipoli. On their slouch hats they carried the sunburst badge of the Australian Commonwealth Military Forces and plumes of emu feathers. These were the men of the Australian Light Horse, later to become legendary mounted on their equally famous horses, the Australian Stock Horse – the ‘Waler.’ Other hats carried the badges of the regiments making up the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, who together with their Australian comrades were known as the ANZACS. These men were hardy descendants of British pioneers – tall, lean, powerful, and cocky, with an easy air of freedom about them. Tanned by the Mediterranean sun and elated by the adventure of foreign travel so far from home, and above all self-reliant, these men more than anyone, apart from T.E. Lawrence [Lawrence of Arabia], gave the campaign its epic allure. As one historian later wrote: “They brought to the army a loose-limbed authority all of their own, as though they were not the subjects of events, but their Sardonic masters.” Many of the survivors returning to Australia and New Zealand encouraged the teaching that the British people are descended from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, as a witness to their experiences in Palestine.
The Australian Stock Horse the ‘Waler.’
Thomas Edward Lawrence
(Lawrence of Arabia)
The Australian Commonwealth Military Forces Slouch Hat with its plumes of emu feathers and sunburst badge.
One of the more unusual units available to Allenby was the Imperial Camel Corps [ICC]. Four battalions were raised of each comprised of 830 men and one thousand camels. This Imperial Camel Corps could move forty miles per day and go for nearly five days without water or supplies. Their exploits with, raids, reconnaissance, spearheading attacks and liaison with T.E. Lawrence’s Arab forces made them a truly unique formation and forerunner of the famed World War II Long Range Desert Group and Special Air Services – known today as the S.A.S. A Camel is able to drink thirty gallons of water at one watering and go six days into the desert without a drink. They are the ships of the desert.
Imperial Camel Corps [ICC]
Units of the British Indian Army’s Indian Imperial Service Cavalry were also available to Allenby.
British infantry was trained to march on decreasing amounts of water in order to acclimatize them for operations. Some 150,000 horses with mules and donkeys were assembled and 60,000 camels procured. These camels were to keep the men and horses supplied with water. Each camel could carry 24 gallons of water. Water was as precious as gold in southern Palestine/Sinai. The water pipe line from the Nile was extended and a rock basin reservoir was constructed to store half a million gallons of water. Smaller pipes were laid forward to area springs to reach the front lines. Biblical research had even uncovered ancient water cisterns at Um Jerrar, which were mentioned in the Book of Genesis. For labour and transport services, some 90,000 Egyptians volunteered or were conscripted. These men of the Egyptian Labour Corps made the British engineering miracles of railway and pipeline possible by their efforts.
So there lay Allenby’s army in Sinai, coiled, ready to spring. But time was short and many staff officers were concerned that Jerusalem would not be taken by Christmas 1917, if at all. Most were not aware that God’s divine time clock was ticking, and that every move made, every battle won, every skirmish lost, was to be controlled by that clock, as confirmed by prophecy spoken over two thousand five hundred years ago by His chosen men, the prophets of Israel.
The key to gaining a foothold in the Holy Land was the capture of Gaza at the western coastal end of the Turkish defensive line, and Beersheba at the eastern end. The most direct route to Jerusalem in 1917 would lie up the coast. This was the route that invaders had taken for millennia. For the British, it would eliminate the problem of water supply, plus it would enable formidable naval support to be brought to bear. This coastal route was guarded by Gaza which has defied two previous attempts to take and was well defended. Beersheba, apart from its own wells, was in an area almost totally devoid of water. Therefore it was assumed by all that although it had to be captured; Gaza had to be taken first. The key however, to opening the road to Jerusalem would indeed be the capture of the large sprawling Arab village of Beersheba, which also contained public buildings, a railway centre and an airfield. The town was water rich as it was in the days of Abraham. A winding road ran northeast from Beersheba to Hebron, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, northwest along the plain to Gaza and south to Aqaba. The logical plan was to capture Gaza and then take Beersheba. The Turks nor their German Commanders thought it possible for Allenby to throw the greater part of his force at the Beersheba flank. They believed that the shortage of water made any operation impossible. They were convinced Allenby would attack at Gaza.
Allenby decided to reverse the logical plan and make Beersheba the first target and Gaza the second. He was going to stop trying to break the lock, and try to take of the hinge instead. But to cross a waterless desert undetected to capture Beersheba meant taking a tremendous risk. If it failed the British army would be in a worse position than it had been in the previous spring. Allenby needed complete surprise and Beersheba had to fall in one day, otherwise his army – both men and horses would run out of water. As in the whole of his campaign timing was to be crucial.
To gain complete surprise, the British embarked on one of the most famous and successful acts of deception in the history of warfare. It was the brainchild of Richard Meinertzhagen, head of Field Intelligence for Allenby. He prepared some fake documents which showed that there would be a decoy attack on Beersheba to cover a third major assault on Gaza. These documents together with some lunch and money were packed in a haversack. As a final stroke of genius, he enlisted the aid of a hospital nurse from El Arish and coached her into writing a remarkably moving letter, supposedly from his wife, describing their recently born son. He added this to the contents of his haversack and rode out to no-man’s land near El Girheir. There he dismounted and was fired upon by a Turkish patrol. He remounted, letting go of his haversack, binoculars, water bottle and riffle, all stained with fresh blood bled from his horse, acting to make the Turks think he was wounded. The haversack was sent to the German and Turkish high command. The Turks were wary of a ruse, but the Germans were convinced by the letter regarding the baby that the find was genuine. General Von Kressenstein was quick to move a division from Beersheba to Gaza. On the 15th October 1917, five days after Meinertzhagen had planted his decoy material, the German general visited Beersheba. He told the Turkish commander Ismet Bey; “Beersheba can be subjected to an attack from one or two infantry brigades and cavalry from the south west, but it is impossible for large mounted forces to operate from the east of Beersheba.” But Ismet Bey remained wary. This talented officer set about improving his defences on all fronts, including the east and made elaborate plans for demolition. First all the wells and storages were wired with explosives, and then demolition charges were set in ammunition dumps, buildings and railway carriages. By the last week of October Beersheba would be wired like a gigantic bomb – a death-trap for any invader!
THE BATTLE FOR BEERSHEBA
Allenby had set the assault on Beersheba for 31 October 1917. Before this, while a massive naval bombardment was concentrated on Gaza, by the mighty British naval fleet stationed just off shore. Lieutenant General Chetwode’s 47,000 British Infantry and 214 guns would move out on secret night marches and attack Beersheba from the south and west. At the same time, the Australian Lieutenant General Sir Harry Chauvel’s Desert Mounted Corps, [comprising 28,000 British, Australian, New Zealand Horse, & Royal Horse Artillery, Imperial Camel Corps, and Indian Imperial service Cavalry], would circle far down to the south and move in on Beersheba from the desert flank – east and northeast. The attacking horsemen would still face a 43 kilometre ride from water to launch the attack. Allenby’s orders contained an explicit instruction – Beersheba must be taken on the first day to water the Desert Mounted Corps and to prevent the Turks from understanding his strategy and reinforcing their left wing.
Australian Lieutenant General Sir Harry Chauvel
Lieutenant-General Sir Philip Chetwode
Allenby had to move his great concentration of men, undetected if possible from his left to his right flank. He did this in stages with the troops moving by night and spending the days in wadis. In this deception, he was greatly aided by having air superiority. However, the secret of Allenby’s pending assault on Beersheba was preserved by a very fortunate event. On the night of 30th October 1917, after a desperate combat, a Bristol F2 Fighter of the Royal Flying Corps shot down a German spotter aircraft and pictures were seized that were taken behind enemy lines. These would have revealed Allenby’s plans to the enemy.
Bristol F2 Fighter of the Royal Flying Corps
The Australian Light Horse, in the van of the Desert Mounted Corps, had left for Beersheba in the late afternoon of 28 October. They rode away from the setting sun – silently four abreast, regiment following regiment in a huge column more than eight miles long, snaking out of the hills of the Wadi Gaza then across the flatland towards the south-east and the rising full moon. Behind them the decoy bombardment from land and sea on Gaza flashed and rumbled like sheet lightning. Despite their problems with water [some horses had not drunk for 36 hours], by the 31st October the Desert Mounted Corps were now to the south and east of Beersheba as a result of their night marches.
Lt. General Chauvel ordered two regiments of the Australian Light Horse to charge Beersheba. It was now 4:00 pm and the sun would set at 4:50 pm. By the time the regiments had drawn up in their squadrons, there were only 20 minutes left to sunset. The horses were thirsty – some had not drunk for many hours – and they were to charge Beersheba along a three mile plain first under artillery fire and then under machine gun and rifle fire. The Australian Light Horse like the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, were not cavalry but mounted infantry and as such did not carry swords. Some two thousand mounted riders charged, drawing their riffle bayonets to flash their sharpened blades in the coppery sunlight. They came thundering at breakneck speed racing towards the Turkish machine gun posts with the setting sun at their backs the riders screamed at the tops of their voices. It was a sight so terrible and the sound of eight thousand horses hooves coming towards the Turks was so fearful that it utterly terrified the Turkish soldiers at their machine gun posts, so much so that they vacated their posts and ran away leaving their weapons behind. Thus the last mounted charge in history succeeded. With the setting sun before them, they took Beersheba after the most vicious fighting between Australians and Turks since Gallipoli.
Belatedly, as the Australians rode through the town, a German engineer began to detonate the explosives that had been placed in Beersheba by Ismet Bey. He was unfamiliar with the system, as the German officer in charge just happened to be on holiday in Jerusalem! Ammunition dumps, a flour mill and the first two of the seven precious wells, exploded with a sustained and terrific roar. The German engineer was detonating charges at random from a switchboard in the town’s central square when two Australian Light Horsemen caught him. For a few moments three men held the fate of Allenby’s campaign to capture Jerusalem and the entire future of the Middle East in their hands. All the planning and all the fighting hinged on this small personal confrontation. The Australians bailed the German up with an awesome bloodcurdling yell and he surrendered. The wells were saved and as darkness fell, 58,500 men and 100,000 animals swarmed in on Beersheba, drinking 1,800,000 litres of water to slake their thirst. History’s last great mounted charge had saved an army and set it on the way to Jerusalem. After more bitter fighting, the Turkish left flank was rolled up as planned. The Turks had no option but to retreat and when the British probed into Gaza on the morning of 7th November, they found it abandoned. Gaza the stronghold of the Philistines, denied to them twice, was now in British hands. The road to Jerusalem was open.
THE BATTLE FOR JERUSALEM
Despite the loss of Gaza, the Turks fought to save their army with bitter rear guard actions. Their retreat was entirely orderly and certainly not a rout. One of these Turkish counter attacks was only overcome by a splendid cavalry charge by the Worcester and Warwickshire Yeomanry in the best tradition of British cavalry. These Turkish rear guards plus the everlasting problems with the water supply, made the advance up the coastal plain slow. The Royal Flying Corps attacked the retreating Turkish columns constantly and reported that the Turks were now in considerable confusion. However, the Turkish army halted in their retreat northwards at the Ramleh–Junction Station on the railway line from Jaffa to Jerusalem, and dug in. Although they constructed defensive positions, they were overrun by the advancing British forces. Many prisoners were taken and on November 14, Junction Station was taken.
Ramleh – Junction Station: Ramleh, Israel
Mounted troops pressed northwards. Naaneh, Ayun Kara and Gezer were captured in brilliant attacks and later on the same day Ramleh and Ludd fell. On November 16 Jaffa (the Biblical Joppa, now Tel Aviv) was occupied without opposition.
That Allenby had advanced some fifty miles in ten days was remarkable, for the Turks were tough fighters and the British supply column was getting longer every day.
The Land of Israel has been a very difficult country for the invader since Biblical times. Everything conspires to give the inhabitant easy means of defence against large armies. It is a country for ambushes, entanglements and surprise where large armies have no room to fight and the defenders can remain hidden. (Historical Geography of the Holy Land, by Sir George Adam-Smith).
Allenby’s written instructions concerning Jerusalem were clear. In an order to General Chetwode, he wrote: “On no account is any risk to be run of bringing the city of Jerusalem or its immediate environs within the area of operations.”
The advance towards Jerusalem really started on 18 November. The Turks were now divided into two armies, one down on the coastal plain and retiring towards the Plain of Sharon, and the other in the hills east towards Jerusalem. The British plan was to cut the Nablus to Jerusalem road to prevent any supplies being brought in from the north, and to make a pincer movement to round the southwest and also round the northeast. A gap was to be allowed in the northeast to give the enemy the opportunity of escaping should they decide to do so. The idea was to avoid any street fighting within the Holy City, which would be very bitter and destructive.
The seasonal rains which had been overdue now arrived. Immediately the night temperatures dropped and the British Infantry shivered in their khaki uniforms. Communications were severed and road disintegrated into quagmires. The rail link to the north was destroyed through floods. Artillery could not move off the main roads. By 20th November the operations were in jeopardy as much from the weather as from the Turks. God’s time table for the capture of Jerusalem, as Allenby knew, was being imposed on his army.
The 75th Division advanced along the Jaffa – Jerusalem road towards Ramallah, the probable site of the Biblical Arimathea, while the 52nd Division entered the Vale of Ajalon, the scene where at Joshua’s command the moon and the sun stood still before the children of Israel. Advance units got as far as El Gib, the Biblical Gibeon, where King Saul of Israel had his headquarters, a few miles northwest of Jerusalem.
On 21st November, Turks were discovered on the heights of Nebi, today known as Samuel’s Mountain, as it was the home and burial place of the Prophet Samuel. The Crusaders called it “the Mountain of Joy,” because from here they caught their first sight of Jerusalem. These heights were the ‘key’ to Jerusalem. On 21st November the 75th Division attacked uphill in failing light and took the summit by midnight. This proved to be the first gain in the battle for Jerusalem. The Turks counter-attacked three times, subjecting the heights to artillery bombardment which caused heavy British casualties and destroyed a Mosque on the summit. The hand to hand fighting was bloody but the Gurkhas and the Soldiers from the Hampshire Regiment defending the Mosque and summit held on – just!
Major William John Robertson
For many British soldiers the campaign had a timeless dreamlike quality about it. For despite the daily discomforts of soldiering, Biblical scenes, places and events of bygone days crowded the minds of the men as they fought over place after place they had heard about from their parents, teachers and ministers. It was not unusual for their officers to inform their men of the Biblical and historic significance of the places before they were taken. Major John Robertson commented: “I have seen a dozen men lying around a trooper who had a copy of the Bible, and who was reading out the story of Sampson at Gaza, and wherever the column moved, inquiries were constantly made as to the history attached to the places passed.”
However, the spectre of assaulting Jerusalem haunted many knowing full well the sullen ferocity the Turks would show in defence. But spreading from regiment to regiment, from padre to padre, there was a feeling that something unusual was about to happen. Some said that Biblical prophecy was going to be fulfilled, some dismissed this, most preferred to wait and see.
In the meantime over two thousand donkeys and camels were traveling the mud covered roads and climbing the slippery hills with provisions and munitions from Jaffa for the British troops. However, many of the British troops were surviving on fresh air, as worsening weather had prevented some essential food supplies reaching them.
In the last days of November and early December 1917 after some ferocious skirmishes with the Turks, British troops began their preparations for the assault on Turkish positions around Jerusalem. On 7th December a very fierce storm broke out, adding to the expectancy of friend and foe alike. At dawn on the 8th December the British forces took a strong defensive position to the west of Jerusalem. The 53rd Welsh Division having taken Bethlehem, had to fight very hard for the Mount of Olives. Some of the bitterest fighting of the whole campaign took place there, and the Turks were only defeated after numerous bayonet charges. Near sunset, British troops came within sight of Jerusalem. A sudden panic fell on the Turks west and southwest of Jerusalem. Cavalry and transport columns broke ranks and galloped furiously city-ward along the Jaffa Road. In passing they alarmed all units within sight, and the infantry arose and fled leaving their boots and riffles behind, never pausing to think or fight. While the shades of night hung above the Holy City, Turkish guns fired continuously to cover their retreat. German and Turkish officers, wild with rage, tried to rally the retreating rabble, but to no avail. This day, December 8th, was the Feast of Hanukkah commemorating the deliverance of Jerusalem by Judas Maccabaeus over two thousand years ago in 164 A.D.
Jaffa Gate: Jerusalem, Israel
Towards midnight the Governor of Jerusalem Ismet Bey, smashed all the instruments in the Telegraph Office and wrote a letter of surrender. At 2:00 am on Sunday, 9th December, tired Turks began to troop through the Jaffa Gate from the west and southwest, and anxious citizens peering out of their windows to learn the meaning of the tramping, were cheered by the sullen remark of a Turkish officer (WE’VE GOT TO GO), and from 2:00 am to 7:00 am the Turks streamed through and out of the city, which echoed for the last time to their shuffling tramp. By 7:00 am on Sunday morning the last of the Turkish troops were passing through St Stephen’s Gate on the east and making their way along the Jericho road.
THE MAYOR OF JERUSALEM, with the letter of surrender from Ismet Bey, and accompanied by a few frightened policemen, came out of the city bearing a white flag and attempted to surrender the city to a party of cooks of the London Regiment who had lost their way. They then tried to surrender the keys of the city to Sergeants Hurcombe and Sedgwick of the London Regiment who, unused to the politics of total surrender, directed them to a group of gunner officers who were too busy to be bothered, as they were trying to get their guns into good firing position for the coming assault. Eventually the surrender party managed to contact General O’Shea of the 60th Division who graciously accepted the surrender of the city, much to the relief of the Mayor of Jerusalem, who had spent the entire morning of the 9th of December to do just that.
General John O’Shea of the
The news flashed around the British Army that the Turks had gone. The news was greeted with a mixture of relief and incredulity. Soon British patrols took charge of the city. The citizens of Jerusalem, who had feared their city would be destroyed, rejoiced with clapping of hands and shrill cries of delight. Women threw flowers on General O’Shea’s car and spread palm leaves on the road. Old men kissed the gun carriages as they rolled by. Jubilation bordering on hysteria prevailed everywhere.
As soon as the Turkish Army had left the city, even before the last soldier had gone, crowds stormed the Turkish barracks. In revenge for repeated and severe requisitions the barracks were thoroughly looted. British soldiers in a firm but good natured manner put a stop to this behaviour and protected enemy prisoners, some of whom were Austrian and German.
In those days the walled city of Jerusalem stood almost uncluttered by suburbs on its ancient rocky site. Its seven gates were still its every day entrances and exits. The British Army was now encamped outside the walls – bivouacked among the olive groves. They lay there just as armies might have lain there in Biblical or Medieval times with smoke arising from their fires. Most of the soldiers felt they had been witness to an event of overwhelming historical and perhaps prophetic importance, the significance of which was much discussed. IT WAS A MIRACLE – JERUSALEM WAS TAKEN WITHOUT A SINGLE SHOT BEING FIRED!
On the 11th December 1917, General Allenby entered Jerusalem simply and quietly on foot. He went through the Jaffa Gate – the Gate of Friends in Arabic. The last foreign visitor of any eminence had been the Kaiser of Imperial Germany, who had arrived in 1898 in a ceremonial entry of preposterous pomp. Allenby’s entry was in total contrast. He was more like a pilgrim than a conqueror. The General entered on foot, as he did not want to enter the Holy City as a conqueror. His party was a small almost meagre procession consisting of the Commander-in-Chief with his staff, with the guard of honour – less than 150 all told passed through the Gate unheralded by a single trumpet note; a purely military act with the minimum of military display told the people of the city that the old order had had changed. The troops drawn up in a guard of honour were dressed in their battle frayed khaki, as was Allenby himself. No guns were fired and no flags were flown. Only the bells of Jerusalem rang. Among Allenby’s retinue was T.E. Lawrence, the legendary Lawrence of Arabia, who had been leading the so-called Arab Army along the line of the Hejaz railway, protecting Allenby’s eastern flank. Like Allenby, Lawrence thought the entry into Jerusalem was the supreme moment of the war. The procession came to a halt at the Citadel. Here the Commander-in-Chief and his staff formed up on the steps of King David’s Tower with the notables of the city behind them, to listen to the reading of the proclamation in several languages. Allenby read the proclamation declaring Jerusalem to be under the Jurisdiction of the British Empire and guaranteeing religious freedom for all religions in the city. Indian Muslim troops were provided as a guard for the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount.
King David's Tower
General Allenby entering into Jerusalem via the Jaffa Gate on foot.
General Allenby entering into Jerusalem via the Jaffa Gate on foot.
PROCLAMATION OF MARTIAL LAW IN JERUSALEM
“TO THE INHABITANTS OF JERUSALEM, THE BLESSED, AND THE INHABITANTS DWELLING IN ITS VICINITY:
THE DEFEAT AFFLICTED UPON THE TURKS BY THE TROOPS UNDER MY COMMAND HAS RESULTED IN THE OCCUPATION OF YOUR CITY BY MY FORCES. I THEREFORE HERE, AND NOW, PROCLAIM IT TO BE UNDER MARTIAL LAW, UNDER WHICH FORM OF ADMINISTRATION IT WILL REMAIN AS LONG AS MILITARY CONSIDERATIONS MAKE IT NECESSARY.
However, lest any of you should be alarmed, by reason of your experiences at the hand of the enemy who has retired, I hereby inform you that it is my desire that every person should pursue his lawful business without fear of interruption. Furthermore, since your city is considered with affection by the adherents of three of the great religions of mankind, and its soil has been consecrated by the prayers and pilgrimages of devout people of these three religions for many centuries, therefore I do make known to you that every sacred building, monument, holy spot, shrine, traditional site, pious bequest, or place of prayer, of whatsoever form of the three religions, will be maintained and protected according to the existing customs and beliefs of those to whose faith they are sacred.
Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby, General
Commander-in-Chief Egyptian Expeditionary Force
December 11, 1917
Prime Minister Lloyd George’s hope of the capture of Jerusalem as a Christmas present for the British Empire was now a reality. The good news of the capture of the Holy City provided an enormous boost to the morale to all of the allied nations enmeshed in the terrible carnage in the trenches of the Western Front.
Allenby himself summarized his victory thus, ‘In forty days many strong Turkish positions have been captured, and the Force has advanced sixty miles over a front of some thirty miles wide. The enemy has been heavily defeated, only the nature of the country has saved them from complete destruction. Over 12,000 prisoners and more than a hundred guns have been taken, and the Turkish casualties for the period were approximately 25,000, almost half as many again as the British which were about 18,000. Jerusalem has been captured without damage to a single sacred building.
“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets.”
Field Marshal the Earl Archibald Percival Wavell
In his biography of General Allenby, Field Marshall Wavell recounts a saying among the Arabs which was well known to the Turks: “When the waters of the Nile flow into Palestine, then will a prophet of Allah deliver Jerusalem from the Turkish yoke.” The Arabs called Allenby ‘Allah-en-Nebi,’ which means ‘Prophet of Allah,’ and indeed the waters of the Nile did flow into Palestine via the pipeline laid all the way from the Nile Delta by the Royal Engineers. The leader called ‘The Prophet of God’ did drive the Turks out of the land. The deliverance of Jerusalem was accomplished in just forty days [31st October: Beersheba falls – 9th December: Mayor surrenders Jerusalem], forty – a very familiar number in the history of Israel.
Although the Royal Flying Corps was grounded by very bad weather conditions during the first few days in December 1917, the combined effect of new and efficient aircraft and the new spirit of aggression within the ranks of the aircrew completely reversed the position of air superiority originally held by the Imperial German Airforce. The Royal Flying Corps [the forerunner of the famous R.A.F.], absolutely cleared the skies of the Holy Land by the first days of December 1917, before the weather deteriorated. In this too, we can see the Hand of Providence, which was to enable the prophecy of Isaiah 31:5 to be fulfilled to the letter. Once again the prophecy goes:
“As birds flying, so will the Lord of Hosts defend Jerusalem, defending also He will deliver it, passing over He will preserve it.”
Considering Isaiah gave this prophetic forecast some two thousand five hundred years previously, it is nothing short of an out and out miracle that it was so perfectly fulfilled in every detail. So much so, that it seems that the ancient Prophet gave an eye witness account at a time when aircraft were not even ever dreamed off.
Once Jerusalem had been occupied by British troops, the Turks made up their minds to get the city back at any costs. Heavy shelling took place and attempts were made to bomb the city from the air. However, the shelling failed as did the attempts to bomb it. The sound of droning aeroplanes in the deep blue sky above Jerusalem told of the British flying men denying a passage to the enemy machines. British bombing and strafing of the Turkish artillery were completed without aerial opposition and the shelling ceased with little damage done.
Again on 27th December, the Turks made thirteen determined attacks. During this period of fighting the citizens of Jerusalem were on the roofs of their houses each day, praying that the British might have the strength to withstand the onslaughts coming for many days. The attacks all failed, mainly, according to Turkish prisoners, because of the bombing and machine gunning by aircraft – “like a flock of angry birds” said one captured officer, and in this he inadvertently echoed the words of the prophet Isaiah.
No. 14 Bomber Squadron played a central role in ending four hundred years of Turkish domination over Jerusalem. To commemorate their role in the deliverance of Jerusalem in 1917, they adopted as their motto: “I spread my wings and keep my promise!” This is the English translation from the Arabic motto which is an extract from the Koran. This motto was suggested by His Highness the Emir Abdullah of Transjordan, as he felt divine intervention had saved Jerusalem from destruction in 1917, and that aircraft were central to God’s plan for this.
Abdullah Ibn Husein
Emir of Transjordan
The prophet Isaiah had forecast that God, in some far distant time in the future, would defend, deliver and preserve Jerusalem and he used a special phrase “AS BIRDS FLYING,” a curious way to describe the capture and deliverance of a city. Thus, it is an astonishing link with Isaiah’s writings, that in 1917 A.D. the city was in fact delivered, defended, and preserved without any damage for three reasons:
General Allenby expressly ordered that no fighting should take place in the Holy City.
Allenby’s aim was to attack the Turks at Lifta to the north of Jerusalem, to encircle the enemy and at the same time to leave him a way out, so that the Turk would find himself forced to evacuate the city without it being damaged by fighting. This plan succeeded.
The Royal Flying Corps had by this time completed its dominance of the skies over the Holy Land.
Another most interesting coincidence/God incidence was that the Church of England Prayer Book had in its morning lesson for 8th December 1917, Isaiah Chapter 31, which of course included verse 5. December 8th was the date when the Turks began their disorderly retreat from Jerusalem. From thousands of scriptures which could have been chosen for December 8th, the very prophecy which was to be fulfilled on that date happened to be the lesson!
Egyptian coins minted in 1917 bear two corresponding dates.
Turning to the Book of Daniel we find that, in a crucial time towards the end of the age, Jerusalem would be delivered from the abomination of desolation after one thousand three hundred and thirty five days ,[Daniel 12:12]. We are told in Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6 that God gives us each day for a year, so going by this Biblical principle 1335 days equals 1335 years. If we take the rise of Islam from its beginning in 622 A.D., - 1335 lunar years later, by the Hebrew, as well as the Islamic calendar, we come to our Christian year 1917 A.D. It just so happens that Egyptian coins minted in 1917 bear two corresponding dates, side by side, the Moslem date in Arabic numerals of 1335, and in ordinary numerals 1917. Islam as a religion dates its commencement from 622 A.D. – the Hegira when Mohammed fled from Mecca to Medina and was received as a prophet and prince. It is from this date that Islamic calendar commences. The amazing truth is that it does not end there, as in Daniel Chapter 12 the prophet mentions three prophetic time slots that are highly significant:
1260 – “THE DOWN TREADING – [Daniel 12:7] It shall be for a time, times and a half.” [Revelation 11:2]
1290 – “THE DESOLATER” or “DESOLATION” – [Daniel 12:11] “From the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.”
1335 – “BLESSEDNESS” – [Daniel 12:12] “Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.”
When we apply these numbers to the rise of the desolating Moslem/Islamic power in 622 A.D. and fast forward those numbers towards our time using the LUNAR calendar, we come to the following historic dates:
1260 – Takes us to A.D. 1844 – This was the year when Great Britain and other Christian European nations forced the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire to sign the decree of Toleration, which abolished the death penalty for conversion from Islam to Christianity or any other religion. This was a definitive stage in breaking the power of the desolater.
1290 – Takes us to A.D. 1873 – This year saw the beginning of clamour among the Ashkenazi Jews of central and Eastern Europe for a home in Palestine, as they were under increasing pressure of terrible pogroms and persecution. Open rebellion in the Balkan States occupied by the Sultan.
1335 – Takes us to A.D. 1917 – Saw the fall of Jerusalem to British forces under General Allenby.
Now when we apply these same Biblically significant numbers again starting with 622 A.D. as our departure point, but this time around using the SOLAR calendar, we get another set of significant dates in the history of the Middle East.
1260 SOLAR years from 622 A.D., we come to 1882 - This was the year when Britain invaded Egypt. Egypt was nominally part of the Ottoman Empire and this loss marked a further decline in Muslim power.
1290 SOLAR years from 622 A.D., we come to 1912 - This year saw the first Balkan War and the beginning of the final breakup of the Ottoman Empire.
1335 SOLAR years from 622 A.D., we come to 1957 – This year was full of turmoil for the Middle East – especially as America in the wake of the Suez Crisis had called time on Israel’s invasion of Egypt. Israel is forced to return Gaza to Egypt, whereas both France and Great Britain too are forced to withdraw, which in turn leads to the resignation of Sir Anthony Eden in Britain. Egypt subsequently flies troops to Syria amid fears of an attack by Israel and Turkey.
Sir Anthony Eden
ALSO if we project 1335 SOLAR years forward from A.D. 632 [the year Mohammed died and the caliphate was established], we come to 1967 – the year of the SIX DAY WAR, when Israel gained EAST JERUSALEM, THE GOLAN HEIGHTS and THE WEST BANK.
It just goes to show that God’s Divine Time Clock revolves around His Nation and His People Israel and it covers all of history as HISTORY IS ‘HIS’ STORY!
FINALLY, even the day and the month of Jerusalem’s deliverance were prophesied by the little known prophet Haggai. He said the event would occur on the 24th day of the Hebrew month Kislev, which for the year 1917 was 9th December! The importance of this date is strongly emphasized by Haggai, as three times he used the word CONSIDER AS HE STATES:
“CONSIDER FROM THIS DAY FORWARD: From before the stone was laid upon stone in the temple of the Lord. CONSIDER now from this day forward, from the twenty fourth day of the ninth month, from the date that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid – CONSIDER IT: BUT FROM THIS DAY I WILL BLESS YOU and again the word of the Lord came to Haggai on the twenty fourth day of the month.”
(Haggai 2:10, 15, 18 & 20)
As we have already seen the 24th of Kislev just so happens to be the FIRST DAY OF HANUKKAH – and also know that Hanukkah is all about the deliverance of Jerusalem by the Maccabees in 164 A.D., and that the whole purpose of that awesome victory was the cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple. Did you notice how Haggai too emphasized the importance of the Temple of the Lord in his day? Clearly there has to be a yet future time when the Temple will be rebuilt, and the probability certainly exists for a yet future captivity in the near future, followed by yet another deliverance of the Holy City, which at that time will lead to the rebuilding of the Temple, as a House of Prayer for all nations.
It surely must be beyond all reasonable doubt that all these extraordinary prophecies cannot be just coincidence! Many incidents related in the history of this campaign also bear the stamp of omnipotence – the defeat at Gallipoli making a campaign in Palestine to defeat Turkey, and therefore Jerusalem a necessity. Allenby’s interest in divine prophecy and the interest of the top leadership of Great Britain, such as Prime Minister Lloyd George, the Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, and the First Sea Lord, Lord Fisher being convinced of Great Britain and kindred peoples descent from the Lost Tribes of Israel. This in turn followed by Meinertzhagen’s brilliant deception to fool the German’s, plus the highly fortuitous shooting down of the German spotter plane just prior to the attack on Beersheba, the desperate mounted charge before nightfall to secure the wells at Beersheba, plus the seconds between success or disaster as the German engineer began to destroy the wells, coupled with the fortuitous absence of the highly proficient German explosives expert being on holiday in Jerusalem on that crucial day? The delays experienced on the way to Jerusalem that ensured the British army would reach and occupy the city at the appointed date and time, as prophesied by the Prophets of Israel. The unexplained sudden panic the Turks showed on the evening of December 8th. The truth is that the ALMIGHTY ALWAYS HAS THE LAST WORD.
Allenby believed in God. He often consulted the Bible for spiritual guidance and for the valuable historical and geographical insights it offered for an army campaigning in the Holy Land. Frequently he would ask his staff officers to bow their heads and pray with him for the success of an attack with few casualties. One incident worthy of record was told by the New Zealand officer Colonel C.E.R. Mackesy. British artillery had come within striking distance of Jerusalem and was coming under fire from guns obviously from within the city itself. Allenby did not want to fire back, feeling it would be unworthy of the British nation to fire on such a sacred spot. So deeply did Allenby feel about this that he cabled the Prime Minister Lloyd George for directions, and received the reply that the Cabinet left him free to do whatever he deemed necessary. Not satisfied, Allenby cabled the King for guidance. H.M. King George V replied, “Pray about it!” Gathering his staff around him, Allenby followed the King’s advice. Not long after the Turkish firing stopped and Allenby was told of the Turkish surrender.
Colonel Charles Ernest Randolph Mackesy
H.M. King George V
Allenby lost his son Michael, who was killed as a horse artillery lieutenant in France. Allenby’s wife assisted in Red Cross work in Egypt. After the war, Allenby was appointed British High Commissioner in Egypt. In 1919 he was raised to the peerage, becoming Viscount Allenby of Megido and Felixstowe. To the Arabs he would be remembered as ‘Allah-en-Nebi,’ and to his soldiers he would remain “The Bull.” He died in 1936 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.
EPITAPH FOR THE HORSES
At the end of hostilities in the Holy Land and Syria, Light Horsemen and New Zealand Mounted Riflemen learned that they would have to leave their horses behind. The reason given was that to take them back home would endanger the health of Australian and New Zealand livestock. Also the cost of transport would be too expensive! A huge wave of protest swept through the ranks and the idea of selling the horses was dropped. One Australian officer remarked, “Long experience of the native and his barbarous, at times hideously cruel, treatment of animals caused a universal shudder throughout Australian and New Zealand ranks at the mere thought of our gallant steeds in their possession.” Rather than being sold, the horses were classified A, B, C, or D according to age and condition. A and B class would go to the British Indian Army cavalry units, all C and D class horses would be shot. For some faithful horses it was the last nosebag, a pat and then a bullet fired by special squads of marksmen. It was a black sad day with many men distraught as they said goodbye to their faithful mounts, the Walers, full of spirit and light in their eyes to the last. These horses had been so much part of their lives in the last great cavalry campaign in history. This then is their well-deserved epitaph!
This message has been compiled and edited by Stephen J. Spykerman, who in turn has largely gleaned his material from the Book by Andrew Evans, titled: AS BIRDS FLYING – Isaiah 31:5 – JERUSALEM 1917, Published by Artisan Sales, Thousand Oaks.
Other material was obtained from; WITH ALLENBY IN PALESTINE, by Mathew Hughes; plus adventure film: WITH ALLENBY IN PALESTINE, produced by Lovell Thomas.
Further material was provided by HOW JERUSALEM WAS WON by William Thomas Massey & ALLEBY A STUDY IN GREATNESS by General Sir Archibald Wavell, plus additional comments from: THE COVENANT WITH DEATH – ISAIAH 28:15, by Stephen J. Spykerman.
HOW THE BRITISH USED THE BIBLE TO REPEAT AN ANCIENT ISRAELITE VICTORY
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
General Sir Edmund Allenby
David Ben Gurion
(His young age.)
Colonel John Henry Patterson
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.
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.
THE TAKING OF MICHMASH BY THE BRITISH
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
Men praying at the Wailing Wall: Jerusalem, Israel