Investing in the spiritual rebirth of the Jewish people

100 Years Ago in Jerusalem (1917)

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--Theresa Newell, 23 Aug 2017
 
Allenby reviews his troopsOne hundred years ago this Fall, the world changed – especially the map of the Middle East. Because the Ottoman Empire headquartered in Istanbul, Turkey, aligned itself with Germany in World War I, the entire area was up for grabs by the Allied Forced as Germany surrendered. England, France and Russia all vied for sections of the old Empire. At the same time an internal battle among the adherents of Islam–-Arab and Turks–-was raging and rife with intrigue, spies and plots. In the midst of promises made and political power plays, General Sir Edmund Allenby marched into Jerusalem and received the surrender of the Ottomans. Thus, 1917 was the year that changed the world-–a world which continues to demand our attention and prayer.
 

General Edmund Allenby Takes Jerusalem 1917

On December 11, 1917 General Edmund Allenby, Field Marshal of the British Empire's Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF), walked through the Jaffa Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem declaring victory over the Ottoman Empire by England and its allies. The event took place just in front of the entrance to the compound of CMJ's Christ Church, which had stood since the 1840s as the oldest Protestant church in the Middle East. It was the first day of Chanukah 1917, celebrating the liberation of Jerusalem by the Maccabees in 163 BC!
 
Chanukah with Judah Maccabee and General Allenby in JerusalemIt was the most historic of moments. With him were soldiers of the honor guard composed of English, Welsh, Scottish, Indian, Australian and New Zealand troops, with twenty soldiers each from Italy and France continuing the line inside the gate. East met West in a way that changed history and set the stage for the formation 31 years later of the State of Israel.
 
The Balfour Declaration had been signed in London on October 31, 1917 calling for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. On that same day General Allenby's legion captured the city of Beersheba. This battle opened the way for the British force to move toward Jerusalem by early December.[1] While the Balfour Declaration was a great political coup for the Jewish aspirations for a homeland, it was not until Allenby's military victory that it was possible for the Declaration's intent to be set in motion. 
 
For over 400 years the territory of the future home for the Jews had been under Ottoman Turkish rule! While Jerusalem was a holy city for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, access to the area had been not only greatly restricted while under Ottoman rule but had become an undesirable place to live - subject to disease and poverty.
 
This year as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, we also focus on the importance of Allenby's triumphant military campaign. His entrance was the first time Jerusalem had been liberated from Muslim rule since the Crusader period ended in AD 1291.
 
 

Who was Allenby?

General Sir Edmund Allenby, Kcb Art, Wikimedia The men under his command nicknamed him "Bloody Bull," but Allenby did not start out wanting to be in the military. Born in Nottinghamshire in England on April 23, 1861, Allenby failed the exam for India civil service, but passed the one to enter Sandhurst Military Academy. He fought in the Second Boer War in South Africa in 1900 and then in World War I -- first on the Western Front in France and later in the Middle East, where he took command in June 1917. Prime Minister David Lloyd George told Allenby that his objective was to take "Jerusalem before Christmas." 
 
Twice Allenby's predecessor had failed in the attempt to capture Gaza, giving access to the route to Jerusalem. Under Allenby, known as one of the greatest mounted cavalry officers of England, the EEF was reorganized and not only took Gaza, but stormed Beersheba, which opened the door to Jerusalem's capture. The element of surprise showed Allenby's skill as a strategist as his British, Australian and New Zealanders attacked from three sides -- a military feat that had never happened before in the taking of Beersheba.
 
He was created 1st Viscount Allenby of Megiddo and of Felixstowe in October 1919 and served as High Commissioner of Egypt from 1919 to 1925. 
 
Allenby dismounting at Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem (1917)In its official response to the restoration of Jerusalem and the British declaration of a Jewish homeland in Israel, CMJ asked: "What does all this mean for us Christians? In the light of prophetic Scripture we recognise that such an action on the part of our Government and on the part of the Allied Powers, in being united in their resolve to reinstate the Jew in his own land, is full of significance. Our Lord, when asked the question, 'What shall be the signs of Thy coming and of the end of the age?' gave one of the signs, in Luke 21:24, to be that 'Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles (nations) until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.' Ever since A.D. 70 Jerusalem and Palestine have been under Gentile domination, and now we seem to be on the very verge of a literal fulfillment of the last prediction. . . ."[2]
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1 For details of this historic battle, read Anzacs, Empires and Israel's Restoration (1798-1948) by Kelvin Crombie.
2 Crombie, p 203.
 
 Images: 
1. Gen Allenby reviewing his troops in front of David’s Citadel opposite Christ Church, Jerusalem.
2. Chanukah with Judah Maccabee and General Allenby in Jerusalem. Illustrated by M.M. Harris, San Francisco. Published by A.B. Schayer, Cincinnati, Ohio: 1918.
3. Gen. Sir Edmund Allenby, painting by Philip Tennyson Cole [Wikimedia].
4. Gen. Allenby dismounting in front of Jaffa gate in order to walk in, showing respect for the holy places of Jerusalem.