Israel's History in Pictures: Passover in Jerusalem 1919

Tags: Passover, Tradition, Soldiers and Defense

By Lenny Ben-David

The Jewish Brigade soldiers of WWI hoped to liberate the Holy Land from the Turks.

Jewish Brigade 1919, Pasover in Jerusalem


The British army captured Jerusalem from the Turks in December 1917 and continued their Palestine campaign for another year until the capture of Damascus. Meanwhile, the Jewish Legion, consisting of Jewish volunteers, sat in Cairo chafing at the bit to join the fight in Palestine. They finally joined Allenby's forces in June 1918 and fought against the Turks in the Jordan River Valley.

Jewish soldiers of the British army celebrating Passover in Jerusalem in 1919. (Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives) The photo is signed by Ya'akov Ben-Dov who moved to Palestine in 1907 from Kiev. He was drafted into the Ottoman army during World War I and served as a photographer in Jerusalem. Ben-Dov filmed Allenby's entry into Jerusalem in 1917

The Jewish battalions of the Jewish Legion were manned by volunteers from Palestine, Europe, the United States and Canada. Soldiers stirred by the call to action by Zionist leaders Zev Jabotinsky and Yosef Trumpeldor. Colonel John Henry Patterson, the unit's first commanding officer, described the Legion:

Recruiting poster for Jewish soldiers

(Library of Congredits)

"The Jewish Legion was the name for five battalions of Jewish volunteers established as the British Army's 38th through 42nd (Service) Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers. The initial unit, known as the Zion Mule Corps, was formed in 1914-1915 during World War I, when Britain was at war against the Ottoman Turks, as Zionists around the world saw an opportunity to promote the idea of a Jewish National Homeland."

Jewish soldiers celebrating Passover at the British Jewish Soldiers Home in Jerusalem, 1919 (Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)

(Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)

Father and daughter?

Note the soldier in the front, possibly an officer, with a child on his lap and a young boy behind him.

We invite readers to respond if they can identify any of the soldiers in the photos.

The following picture is dated Passover 1918. The uniforms and hats are even more varied and include Australian bush hats and Scottish tams.

Jewish soldiers from various British units celebrating Passover in Jerusalem, 1918.

(Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)

Nazareth, in the Galilee region, is the cradle of Christianity, the city where the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the place where Jesus spent his childhood and youth.

Jewish soldiers in the British army in Jerusalem for Passover, 1919

(Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)

Hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of Jewish men from Canada and the United States volunteered to fight in the British Army's Jewish Legion to liberate the Holy Land.

Jewish Legion soldiers at the Western Wall after British conquest, 1917

The caption on this Wikipedia photo reads "Jewish Legion soldiers at the Western Wall after British conquest, 1917." Was the photo taken in 1917 after the British captured the city in December, in which case this was a group of Jewish soldiers from various units, or after June 1918 when the Jewish Legion was first dispatched to Palestine?

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Bring Israel into your Passover Seder today!

About the Author

Lenny  Ben-David
Lenny Ben-David served as a senior Israeli diplomat in Washington. Today he is director of publications at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is a public affairs consultant and publishes

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Tags: Passover, Tradition, Soldiers and Defense