The Path of the Orange Peels: Nachum Gutman’s Adventures Under Ottoman Oppression

How the First World War halted one young Jewish boy's carefree life.

At the age of 12, Nachum Guttman’s family moved to the Achuzat Bayit neighborhood. The neighborhood’s first residents, as seen in a picture he drew at the time, were dung beetles. The place – the Achuzat Bayit neighborhood (as we have already mentioned!), was just beginning to take shape. Not the shape of a city, definitely not the magnificent city it was yet to become, but the shape of “a tiny but planned and enduring” neighborhood.

The Original Settlers

In 1910, within a year of its establishment, the neighborhood changed its name to Tel Aviv. This decision was taken at the end of the especially tumultuous meeting devoted to finding a new name for the future city – the runner-up was “Neveh Jaffa”, and “Herzliya” was also one of the suggestions.

Gutman did not burden the readers of the book about his childhood experiences with all these details. As the author and artist wrote on the page before the first introduction to his book “Path of the Orange Peels”:

“At this period of time – when Tel Aviv has the form of Tel Aviv as preserved in the memory of its first residents – my story begins.”

The story of the young boy from Tel Aviv essentially begins when he was exiled from it. He was not the only one exiled, the entire Jewish population of Tel Aviv-Jaffa was deported together with him. This was the order of the failing Turkish regime which was infuriated with the Jews who refused to enlist in the Ottoman army (and understandably so), and who often supported (either by actions or in their hearts) the British army in the First World War, which had already broken out.

The temporary home Guttman’s family moved to

We are, of course, unable to follow the entire plot of Nachum Gutman’s childhood adventures. However, it is sufficient to encounter the events which begin the book to be persuaded that only great authors really managed to reveal the true face of the war – the war as a complete absurdity.

The cover of Nachum Guttman’s book

“Help, Robbers”

This was the cry Nachum Gutman heard on the morning of a typical day, as typical as mornings during a world war can ever be. Gutman dashed out of his house and discovered “the open mouth of the neighbor the beekeeper which was flowing with blood”, a souvenir from the beating he had received from two Turkish soldiers.

The soldiers’ appearance, especially their “worn clothes and gaunt faces” stirred up mixed emotions in the lad. Were the soldiers’ violent and aggressive behaviors – theft and breaking into the precious beehives – not sufficient reason to develop feelings of hatred toward them? If so, why did he only manage to feel pity and mercy for these two wretched people?

It’s not hard telling which is which

When the commotion ended, Gutman returned to the hut his deported family lived in. His grandmother called him to eat breakfast, and only after he finished the last bite, as she was concerned he would choke, the grandmother commanded her grandson:

“My son, get up and flee”.

Grandma told Gutman that the Turkish soldiers, crazed from hunger, are searching for strong boys to enlist in the army. As Tel Aviv is desolate they went to search for recruits among its deportees.

“Return to Tel Aviv at once”, she issued her order, “before the Turkish army encircles all of Petach Tikva”. She quickly put a quarter of a loaf of bread made from dura flour in Gutman’s pocket, and did not forget to add: “You will find oranges on the way. Go, for God’s sake.”

The spy

Thus, the exiled boy was forced to return to the city from which he had been exiled, while avoiding attackers and robbers.

The article was written in collaboration with the Nachum Gutman Museum of Art

The Story of the Jerusalemite Women Who Saved Their Sisters from Prostitution

The end of the First World War left Jerusalem devastated and impoverished. Hundreds of women from the Jewish Yishuv were compelled to find work in prostitution.

At the end of the First World War, the city of Jerusalem was left devastated and impoverished. Life in the shadow of deprivation, destitution, and unemployment compelled many women of the Jewish Yishuv, some of them young girls, to work in prostitution. While the city’s Jewish committee wasted its time on discussions on searching for a culprit, the city’s women rolled up their sleeves and set about diminishing the terrible phenomenon. Despite the opposition and derision that surrounded them, it was their actions that practically eradicated prostitution from Jerusalem.


“The Female Jerusalemite Pioneer” an article in “Chadashot Ha’Aretz” from August 21, 1919


“In the month of February,” reads the short news bulletin published on August 21, 1919, “twelve young unemployed girls aged 12-14 began to work in a vegetable garden under the supervision of a professional laborer.” The seemingly innocent article concealed more than it revealed.

Jerusalem is left desolate

The First World War years were especially trying for the city of Jerusalem. Despite being captured by the British with not a single shot fired, the rule of the new empire on the block was preceded by four long years of suffering and poverty. The Ottoman Empire, which made little effort to develop the Land of Israel, considered the Jews of the Land – especially the new immigrants who were not citizens of the Empire – a potential fifth column. The population of the Jewish settlement in Jerusalem dwindled during the War and had halved by its end.

On December 9, 1917, the Ottoman troops began their panicked retreat from Jerusalem. General Allenby, commander of the battle for the Land of Israel, arrived two days later and was greeted with much ado. The city officially surrendered to the British Empire. The exultant cries with which the British Army was received did not stop the continued suffering of the city’s residents (primarily the women).


A parade of Jewish volunteers to the British army, Jerusalem. From: The Land of Israel at the End of the First World War, A Photograph Album in the National Library of Israel collection

The War Against Prostitution

Intense hunger and poverty were prevalent in the Jewish neighborhoods. There were over 3,000 orphans in the community of 26,000 people. Life in the shadow of deprivation, destitution, and lack of employment, compelled hundreds of women from the Jewish Yishuv, including young girls, to work in prostitution. They crowded together in the brothels established in Nachalat Shivah and Batei Miland (with the knowledge and approval of the British rulers). British soldiers who settled in Jerusalem were their main consumers.

The Jewish leadership of the city was well aware of the plight of the women working in prostitution, which became one of the main ordeals of the city’s Jewish residents: it was mentioned briefly in City Committee meetings in March 1918, and an entire sitting was dedicated to the topic in June. The identity of the girls and women who worked in prostitution was not the focus of these discussions. Instead, emphasis was placed on the damage caused to the neighborhoods by the objectionable occupation, and lengthy discussions about the impurity which defiled the holiness of the city’s Jews.

While the Jewish Committee in Jerusalem wasted its time on discussions focused on searching for culprits to blame, the women of the Jewish community instituted a series of flash initiatives to reduce prostitution in the city: firstly, they delivered evening classes to women to keep them away from work during “business hours”, and organized professional courses for young girls. The courses aimed to provide them with an education and alternative ways of earning a livelihood which had not been available to them.


“Evening lectures in Jerusalem”, an article in “Chadashot Ha’Aretz” from July 1, 1919. Despite the lack of mention of the activities of the “Women’s Societies”, they were the ones to push for the opening of evening lectures for orphans, both male and female.

When they saw that their endeavors bore fruit, the women of the community worked to involve the British Army authorities and the Jewish Committee of the city as well.


“A new weaving factory”, a product of the pressure the women of the city placed on the military ruler (who was the one who authorized the existence of the brothels). An article in “Chadashot Ha’Aretz” from July 17, 1919

The women of the city didn’t stop there; they introduced other initiatives – distributing clothes to children in collaboration with the city committee and women of Hadassah, helping the hospital staff and taking thousands of orphans under their wings – first in an orphan assembly and later by bringing them to attend classes they arranged.

A bi-lingual poster published a year later, in November 1918, demonstrates the manner in which both the Zionist leadership in the Land of Israel and the Ashkenazi committee in the city viewed the phenomenon. The poster quotes the Head of the Zionist Delegates in the Land of Israel, Dr. Chaim Weizmann:

“Dr. Weizmann informs us of the saddening fact that due to the difficult conditions in the Land of Israel, prostitution and drunkenness developed in Jerusalem, there are five hundred Jewish prostitutes in Jerusalem alone, who lack desire to work in the factories and earn money easily.”


Dr. Chaim Weizmann’s speech, a copy from the Die Zeit newspaper published on 2nd Kislev 5678 (November 6, 1918). From the archive file of “The City Committee for the Ashkenazi Congregation”

A vocal protest was organized in the Meah She’arim Yeshiva. Its goal was not to protect the women who had deteriorated to their current state against their will, but rather a vigorous denial of the evil fabrications disseminated by the Ashkenazi Committee.

The express prohibition against operations of the brothels in Jerusalem was only taken in September 1919. Many months had passed since the women of the various societies active in the city approached the military ruler – Colonel Storrs. It was thanks to the prompt action of the women of Jerusalem, who refused to look away and refused to blame the women working as prostitutes, that the phenomenon was almost completely destroyed even before the brothels in the city were finally ordered to close.


N.I.L.I’s Story Told Through the Diary of the Man Who Gave It Its Name

Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn is not the first name which enters our minds when we hear the name N.I.L.I, but his diary gives us a glimpse into the activities of the first Jewish espionage organization in the Yishuv.

לוי יצחק (ליובה) שניאורסון. התמונה לקוחה מתוך "בית אהרנסון – מוזיאון ניל"י"

It was on a December night in 1914, several months after the First World War began raging through Europe, that a group of young people from Hadera, a Moshava that was part of the Jewish Yishuv, went on a nighttime trip to the beach. “Suddenly Yocheved Madorsky cried out that something had got into her eye,” Levi Yitzchak (Lowa) Schneersohn writes in his diary. “Dr. Glicker was also with us and he treated her eye by the light of a pocket flashlight which my brother Mendel happened to have with him.” The light from the flashlight aroused the suspicion of several nearby Bedouins, and they approached the group, who greeted them.

The entire meeting lasted no longer than a few short minutes. The Jewish youngsters offered cigarettes to their guests, who happily accepted them and parted from them a short while later. The event is unlikely to have left an impression on its participants, if not for what took place a few days later.

Levi Yitzchak (Lowa) Schneersohn

On Saturday, January 18, 1915, a delegation from the Ottoman government, made up of a unit of mounted riders and masses of furious Arabs, entered Hadera. The delegation first separated the Arab laborers from the Jews of the Moshava. The head of the delegation, Sheikh Abu-Hantesh then began to interrogate the laborers about the secret intelligence activities the members of the Moshava have been carrying out with the British army.

As the investigation proceeded, the Sheikh’s frustration from the responses he received grew, and the questions were replaced with shouts and blows. During the exchange it became clear to the members of the Moshava that the Ottoman delegation saw the pocket flashlight the doctor used to check Madorsky’s eyes as proof which aroused their suspicions about a connection between the members of the settlement and the British. Even after the delegation was disbanded, following intervention of a senior Arab who passed by, tempers did not subside.

A few weeks later, a Turkish officer appeared in the Moshava and arrested 13 of its members, including Levi Yitzchak, his brother Mendel and their close friend Avshalom Feinberg. This was a turning point in the lives of Levi Yitzchak and his friend Feinberg, and they discussed the possibility “of concrete help to the English, who are going to liberate the Holy Land.” What exactly should they do, the pair did not know. ​

At the end of March 1915 Feinberg first raised the plan he had previously kept to himself. He did so before Schneersohn and their mutual friend by the name of Aaron Aaronsohn. “There is still no clear-cut plan” Schneersohn wrote in his diary, but “Avshalom already knows. He will travel to Egypt. He will reach English headquarters. He will tell them: Listen gentlemen, we are a group of young Jews, who are familiar with all the roads in Israel, we will help you!”

Almost five months passed until Feinberg managed to carry out his plan and board an American refugee ship on its way to Egypt. In the meantime, life on the Moshava settled into a worrying routine: the farmers worked in the fields, the Turks continued to sniff around, occasionally bursting into the Moshava to confiscate the farmers’ weapons. Feinberg returned in November with glad tidings: the British accepted his proposal and will make contact from now on at Atlit Beach.

A month passed, then two months and there was no sign the British intended to keep their word. The unpleasant silence led Feinberg to concoct a new daring plan: to contact the British through Sinai. It was only though Aaronsohn’s efforts that Feinberg was released after being caught on the way.

The women of the city didn’t stop there; they introduced other initiatives – distributing clothes to children in collaboration with the city committee and women of Haddasah, helping the hospital staff and taking thousands of orphans under their wings – first in an orphan assembly and later by bringing them to attend classes they arranged.

1915 passed with no practical success, and 1916 began with even more worrying news.

Massacre of the Armenians, Oppression in the Land of Israel

Sarah Aaronsohn, Aaaron’s sister, returned at the beginning of 1916 from Constantinople in Turkey to the Land of Israel with the terrible news: the enormous Armenian massacre committed by the Ottomans. A terrible fear spread through all the listeners: would the Jewish Yishuv suffer the same fate? The fear encouraged Feinberg, Schneersohn and the Aaronsohn siblings to redouble their efforts to contact the British.

Once again, it was Feinberg who took matters into his own hands. This time, he decided to make his way to Constantinople. Upon arrival, he received an urgent telegram from Aaronsohn instructing him to rush back to Israel: on March 16, 1916, the British had made contact on the Atlit Beach.

Sarah Aaronsohn in the agricultural experiments station in Atlit, it is not known what year the picture was photographed. The picture was taken from “Beit Aaronsohn – N.I.L.I Museum”

With a vague promise to make contact again, the members of the organization began to gather all the information they could about the Ottoman army’s movements, its level of preparation for a British attack and its future plans regarding the Land of Israel.  The success of the secret organization, which was soon joined by Sarah Aaronsohn and other friends, actually caused great frustration. “If this material was given to the British, it would be of substantial help to them in beating the Turkish army fast,” Schneersohn overly estimated the achievements of his organization in mid-May 1916.

The members of the organization ran out of patience at the end of May 1916 and Aaaron Aaronsohn decided to travel to Constantinople, from where he would travel to England via Berlin. “The plan is to take me along as his secretary,” Schneersohn wrote on the page in his diary dated the end of May 1916. “Although only God knows how I will explain my journey at home.” Fortunately for him, his father chose not to challenge his son and accepted his explanations with a blank face.

The pair reached Constantinople at the beginning of August. Schneersohn’s reception when he descended from the train proved to be a preview of what awaited him in the Turkish city: the clerk refused to authorize Schneersohn – who was using an alias – to enter the city. After threats from Aaronsohn and numerous thoughts and considerations from the clerk, he came to like the idea, “and when he received baksheesh [a bribe] his thoughts became clear and he allowed us to continue on our way.”

In Constantinople, Schneersohn attempted to maintain his false identity, Mr. Chaim Cohen – Aaronsohn’s clerk. It was not always easy. The hotel the pair stayed in was “a center for people from the Land of Israel. All the young people from Jaffa who study in the officials’ school near the city come here.” There were also several familiar faces who could have mistakenly disclosed Schneersohn’s true identity.

In testimony from his diary dated the end of August Schneersohn relates about one such incident. “This morning, Dr. Rupin entered the hotel, saw me, recognized me, greeted me heartily and said: “How are you Mr. Schneersohn?” Without batting an eyelid, I replied: “I am Chaim Cohen”. Dr. Rupin didn’t flinch. He smiled and immediately corrected himself: “How are you, Mr. Chaim Cohen?” We chatted a little. I didn’t ask why he had come. I also did not tell him anything.”

Schneersohn’s experiences in Constantinople show the sometimes amateur behavior of the organization he and his friends established. His alias was not revealed, but as he did not have any official documents, he was not allowed to continue with Aaronsohn to Berlin. Aaronsohn had to carry on alone, and Schneersohn worked to obtain a permit to return to Israel – a mission which proved to be complex in its own right.

Personal secretary and transcriber of manuscripts for Dr. Rupin, vendor of matches on street corners – the refugee did all sorts of jobs to avoid using the last few coins he had left for his journey home. With Dr. Rupin’s help, Schneersohn managed to catch a military train to the Land of Israel as the servant of a German officer, Mauer Klein. With a new red tarbush on his head, Schneersohn finally set out for home.

With Mauer Klein on the way to the Land of Israel, documented in Levi Schneersohn’s diary

Back in Israel

At the agricultural experiments station established by Aaronsohn in Atlit, which served as the organization’s base, Schneersohn discovered that Feinberg had disappeared after setting out once again to the Sinai Desert on his way to British controlled Egypt. Schneersohn did not share his feelings with his friends, but was sure that Feinberg had met with disaster.

“I am lying on the sofa in Avshalom’s room. My friend, my friend!” Levi Schneersohn hides from the Turks in the Feinberg house

The connection with the British was re-established in February 1917. At ten o’clock in the morning, after the “Managam” intelligence ship transmitted the agreed-upon signals, the members of the organization split into two groups and went out to the Atlit beach to meet their contact people. That night, Baruch Rav and Yehuda Maldin returned with “A terrified, confused and half-crazed person”, shaking from fear and cold.

A warm blanket, steaming cup of tea and the friends gathered around him encouraged him to stutter, with a mouth reeking of alcohol, “Aaronsohn…ship…come…Reuven…where is Chaim Cohen? … come…”, and while stammering, he pulled a medallion out of his pocket and gave it to Sarah”.

Sarah recognized the medallion, testimony in Levi Schneersohn’s diary

Sarah recognized her brother Aaron’s medallion and realized it her brother who sent the mysterious man sitting before her. Once the mysterious man recovered from the whisky the British had fortified him with, he identified himself as Leibel Bernstein – a former soldier in the Zion Mule Corps who joined the British intelligence.

The friends tried to help him to return to his ship with the information they had gathered, but the tempestuous sea led him returning to the station an hour later – this time naked and shuddering with cold – and begged them not to let the Turks discover him.

The connection was renewed on February 28, and Schneersohn was the first to alight on the deck of the British ship to the encouraging cries of Aaron Aaronsohn – “Come up, come up: you are standing on English ground, and are a free man!”. Schneersohn requested to know what had befallen Avshalom.

He did not receive an answer until the following day. “Avshalom was killed in the desert” was all Aaronsohn told his friend. He was unable to respond – not with tears, nor screams, he sat “like a rock”, indifferent to the passage of time.

The shock of the discovery is clearly expressed in the diary

After he recovered, Aaronsohn and a British officer asked Schneersohn: “Lowa, perhaps you know what name is suitable for our affair?” It took Schneersohn a few seconds to understand. The solution was provided by an old habit of Schneersohn’s – he took the Bible he carried with him everywhere out of his pocket, opened it at random, pointed at a line without looking and counted seven lines down “Netzach Yisrael Lo Yeshaker {The Eternity of Israel will not deceive}”, or in an acronym – N.I.L.I.

The British officer, who heard the name, smiled teasingly at the pair and said in English: “Oh, how nice. She must be a lovely girl, this Nili”.

A memo a few pages long about recruitment to the NILI organization

The End

From that moment and until the spy network was discovered in September 1917 following the capture and torture of one of its members, Na’aman Belkind, Schneersohn served as the contact officer between the members in Atlit and the British. He spent most of his time on the ship, or in various bases in Egypt – deciphering and translating the reports supplied by the members in Atlit. Even after Belkind’s capture, the residents of Atlit refused to escape on the intelligence ship.

They initially believed they would manage to arrange for the prisoner’s release (they did not know that Belkind had broken in the interrogations he underwent, until it was too late for them). Additionally, they were afraid that them leaving would bring disaster upon the Jewish Yishuv.

In early October 1917, the Ottoman Army surrounded Zikhron Ya’akov and arrested many Nili members. Among them, Sarah Aaronsohn. After days of torture, she shot herself, making sure she would not reveal anything about Nili, its activities and members. She lay dying for three days before she finally passed away. During investigations in Nazareth, the body of Nili member Reuven Schwartz was found hanging in the detention cell. Yosef Lischinsky, another member of Nili, managed to escape the Ottoman army for 20 days. We was eventually captured and was hung together with Na’aman Belkind on December 16, 1917, in Damascus.

A letter in the Schneersohn archive attests to the attitude toward the members of the organization after they were discovered. When the surviving members of N.I.L.I were revealed they received negative treatment from most of the Yishuv, who saw them as impetuous youngsters who had endangered the entire Yishuv. The letter was sent in 1919 to Dr. Chaim Weizmann, and relates the story of the ring and lists the names of its members. We do not know if Schneersohn and his surviving friends received a response from the head of the Committee of Zionist Delegates in Israel.

It was the British army which recognized the organization’s contribution, and awarded most of them various honors. Schneersohn copied the certificate of appreciation he received into a notebook.

The transcription of the certificate of appreciation Schneersohn received, from one of his many notebooks kept in the Levi Schneersohn collection

It was not until the 1960’s that attitudes toward the N.I.L.I organization changed. Two events brought this change about: the discovery of Avshalom Feinberg’s corpse in Sinai after the Six Day War, and the public discussion in the wake of the discovery. In the same year, 1967, the book “From the Diary of a NILI Member”, based on Schneersohn’s diaries, was published.

Levi Yitzchak Lowa Schneersohn died in 1975. His personal archive was donated to the National Library a year later.

The article was written with the help of Ivgi Slutzk, the archive department of the National Library.


The Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn Archive has been reviewed and described thanks to the generous support of The Leir Foundation.


Rare Album: The Machine Gun Squadron Soldier Documents the Conquest of the Land of Israel

We have an original copy of the 20th Machine Gun Squadron soldier's journal from the First World War.

While founding the 20th Machine Gun Squadron on July 4, 1917, its commanders found themselves dealing with an unexpected obstacle: only 30 of the squadron’s 121 soldiers had been trained to operate the latest weapons. The other soldiers had never been stationed in such a unit.

The impending battle to conquer the Land of Israel left no time for unnecessary delays, and a new order received several days before gave the soldiers of the new squadron a glimpse into the tremendous challenge that awaited them. On August 12, a month after its establishment, the squadron set out for the new military front: The Land of Israel.

The story of the squadron was documented in the book “Through Palestine with the 20th Machine Gun Squadron”, ​which was handed out to members of the unit after the war. One of the soldiers decided to stick photographs he took during the squadron’s trek through the Land of Israel.

Most likely the photographer, and original owner of the book. His identity is unknown.

The fascinating story of the squadron as documented through the eyes of one of its soldiers is preserved in the National Library.

View the full book here

The Original Cover of “Through Palestine with the 20th Machine Gun Squadron”

Under the fierce sun, with aching shoulders, and constant fear of depletion of the daily water ration, the squadron’s warriors spent 18 days traversing the Sinai desert. They took advantage of their stay in the British camp to continue the drills – they spent half a day practicing operating the weapons which were new to most of them, and the second half of the day – on horse riding.

Members of the Squadron. Besides the few drawings in the book, the Library’s copy contained photographs in the first few pages
The Women of Jerusalem by the Western Wall
Some of the drawings that accompany the book

 The soldiers encountered their first battle as a squadron seven miles south of the city of Be’er Sheba. With reinforcements on their left and the Australian units on their right, the solders of the machine gun squadron attacked the terrifying trenches the Ottomans had dug in the road leading to the city: the attackers and defenders fought the entire morning and afternoon.

The dust that flew in all directions inhibited both sides from seeing more than a few meters in front of them. After several hours of fighting, the soldiers discovered, to their utter dismay, that the Ottomans had retreated to the city. The order arrived at four in the afternoon: attack Be’er Sheba, which also proved to be deserted of enemy troops.

The Road to Jericho
A drawing by one of the squadron members
A soldier photographs “Native Women”

 “Be’er Sheba”, the soldiers wrote in the squadron book, “was extremely disappointing. It is barely a village in the way Europeans understand the term – a place one can buy cigarettes and something to eat; there was nothing to be found, and the only buildings in it which were not wooden huts were deserted.” When the soldiers toured around the area they were unimpressed by the arid desert which surrounded them, and by the lack of traversable roads.

The soldiers also reached Gaza after the Ottomans retreated from the city – This is not mentioned anywhere in the book, but it’s likely that the soldiers didn’t take part in the hard battles to conquer Gaza. Despite the short distance from Be’er Sheba, they encountered a different type of settlement – roadside villages, populated by farmers who worked their lands. As they approached they discovered a horrifying sight: dirt and refuse, men resting while the women did the hard work. The soldiers found nothing positive to say about this city either.

A map of the route the squadron took in the Land of Israel

The soldiers continued from Gaza to Ramallah, from Ramallah to the Arab village of Qezaze, from there they followed the train tracks to Jerusalem. The enemy soldiers predicted this path of advance and dug trenches along the way. The fierce battles led to a series of casualties. The squadron’s commanders decided to retreat and re-organize in the Jaffa area. On their way to Jaffa, the soldiers came across Rehovot for the first time.

Rehovot reminded the soldiers of the life they had left behind in Britain.  The soldiers met the Zionist settlers and bought sacks full of juicy Jaffa oranges from them. Anyone who did not have enough money with them bartered for the preserved meat they received from the squadron. The meeting with the Jewish settlers excited the soldiers, who regarded them as the beginning of the rebuilding of the Jewish nation.

Caves close to the Red Sea

After a short rest, the soldiers advanced on Jerusalem once again. The Ottoman defenders were aware of the importance of the holy city: they sent most of the forces stationed in the Land of Israel to defend the road to Jerusalem. With every additional meter the soldiers of the Machine Gun Squadron managed to capture from the enemy, the warriors’ focal effort was to station the terrifying artillery machines at the highest place in the battle zone. They took advantage of every gain they managed to achieve: coverage from other units, use of snipers, silent advance at night or – when there was no other option – firing burning fire on the enemy to force them to flee from the position they had taken up.

Thus, on December 8, 1917, despite the defective roads, the constant lack of water and Ottoman and German opposition along the way, the soldiers of the Machine Gun Squadron, together with Allenby’s other forces, managed to open the road to Jerusalem.

Jaffa Gate
Damascus Gate
Bedouin Riders

More than four hundred years of Ottoman rule in the Holy Land came to an end a day later, with the surrender of the city of Jerusalem. The date was merely symbolic, as most of northern Israel was still under Ottoman rule, which disintegrated in the following months.

“How wondrous,” declared the emotional soldiers who finally beheld the city of Jerusalem. The holy city was freed on the eve of the festival of Hanukah, and as the Ottomans fled from Jerusalem, the Jews celebrated the historical victory of the Maccabees over the ancient Greek conquers.

The squadron lost 3 commanders and 67 soldiers during the conquest of the Land of Israel.