--Theresa Newell, 23 Aug 2017
One 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!
It 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. 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.