The JTown Times
After a two-week hiatus due to my reserve duty and then followed by my catching COVID-19, we are finally back with a new edition to Fringe History!
Today’s column will be a somber one that fits the current atmosphere in Israel – today we speak about the Nebi Musa Riots.
This day in the year 1920 saw another violent week in Jerusalem, only a month after the Battle at Tel-Hai, disaster strikes again.
April 4, 1920 – It’s the second day of Passover, while simultaneously Muslims are celebrating Nebi Musa, a pilgrimage to the supposed grave of Moses (Musa) according to Muslims. Jews say he has no tomb. Two celebrations are occuring simultaneously.
Only this year the festivities would not pass in peace and quiet.
No one knows for certain what set off this deadly day, but there certainly were catalysts.
Muslim religious leaders delivered passionate speeches against Jews who were returning to Israel, stirring a frenzy in their worshippers. A frenzy so great that it caused them to run out and sack the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City. The riots lasted from April 4th until the 7th, killing 5 Jews and 4 Arabs; while hundreds more (mainly Jews) were wounded.
The bloody week saw a huge setback in Arab, Jewish, and British relations. After the riots a sense of distrust and malice was felt by all sides.
The Arabs and the Jews distrusted the British for essentially abandoning Jerusalem to anarchy. The Arabs and the Jews, given the bloodshed, were set back once again.
At the time, the British Military Governor of Jerusalem was Ronald Storrs, and the following is what he wrote about that fateful week.
“Enough that for the time all the carefully built relations of mutual understanding between British, Arabs and Jews seemed to flare away in an agony of fear and hatred.
“Our dispositions might perhaps have been better (though they had been approved by higher authority), but I have often wondered whether those who criticized us in Europe and America could have had the faintest conception of the steep, narrow and winding alleys within the Old City of Jerusalem, the series of steps up or down which no horse or car can ever pass, the deadly dark corners beyond which a whole family can be murdered out of sight or sound of a police post not a hundred yards away.
“What did they know of the nerves of Jerusalem, where in times of anxiety the sudden clatter on the stones of an empty petrol tin will produce a panic?
“The Police were but partially trained and wholly without tradition. There was no British Gendarmerie: we had not one single British Constable.” (Storrs, Ronald, The Memoirs of Sir Ronald Storrs, 1937, p. 348).
The outcome of these riots left profound change on geopolitics of that time. The British had decided that there should be a civilian administration ruling British Mandate Palestine and not a military one, while also promising that they would not let British Mandate Palestine follow suit to a Jewish majority or be submissive to Arab rule.
The Jews in response formed the Haganah, which not only played a major rule in the liberation of our homeland, but is as well the predecessor to the I.D.F.
Today we remember those who needlessly lost their lives in the violence of Nebi Musa 1920, and still over 100 years later our countrymen are being gunned down in the street for the same reasons.
Cheers, good tidings, and keep your head on a swivel; may we see peaceful days soon.