WITH THE TURKS IN PALESTINE
(No illustrations in this format)
II PRESSED INTO THE SERVICE
III THE GERMAN PROPAGANDA
IV ROAD-MAKING AND DISCHARGE
V THE HIDDEN ARMS
VI THE SUEZ CAMPAIGN
VII FIGHTING THE LOCUSTS
VIII THE LEBANON
IX A ROBBER BARON OF PALESTINE
X A RASH ADVENTURE
LIVED AND FOUGHT AND DIED FOR A REGENERATED PALESTINE
the editors of the Atlantic Monthly, to the publishers, and to the many
friends who have encouraged me, I am and shall ever remain grateful
Belgium is bleeding and hoping, while Poland suffers and dreams of liberation,
while Serbia is waiting for redemption, there is a little country the soul of
which is torn to pieces—a little country that is so remote, so remote
that her ardent sighs cannot be heard.
is the country of perpetual sacrifice, the country that saw Abraham build the
altar upon which he was ready to immolate his only son, the country that Moses
saw from a distance, stretching in beauty and loveliness,—a land of
promise never to be attained,—the country that gave the world its symbols
of soul and spirit. Palestine!
war correspondents, no Red Cross or relief committees have gone to Palestine, because no
actual fighting has taken place there, and yet hundreds of thousands are
suffering there that worst of agonies, the agony of the spirit.
who have devoted their lives to show the world that Palestine can be made again a country flowing
with milk and honey, those who have dreamed of reviving the spirit of the
prophets and the great teachers, are hanged and persecuted and exiled, their
dreams shattered, their holy places profaned, their work ruined. Cut off from
the world, with no bread to sustain the starving body, the heavy boot of a
barbarian soldiery trampling their very soul, the dreamers of Palestine refuse to surrender, and amidst the
clash of guns and swords they are battling for the spirit with the weapons of
time has not yet come to write the record of these battles, nor even to attempt
to render justice to the sublime heroes of Palestine. This book is merely the story of
some of the personal experiences of one who has done less and suffered less
than thousands of his comrades.
years ago, the impulse which has since been organized as the Zionist Movement
led my parents to leave their homes in Roumania and
emigrate to Palestine, where they joined a number of other Jewish pioneers in
founding Zicron-Jacob—a little village lying
just south of Mount Carmel, in that fertile coastal region close to the ancient
Plains of Armageddon.
I was born; my childhood was passed here in the peace and harmony of this
little agricultural community, with its whitewashed stone houses huddled close
together for protection against the native Arabs who, at first, menaced the
life of the new colony. The village was far more suggestive of Switzerland than of the conventional slovenly
villages of the East, mud-built and filthy; for while it was the purpose of our
people, in returning to the Holy Land, to
foster the Jewish language and the social conditions of the Old Testament as
far as possible, there was nothing retrograde in this movement. No time was
lost in introducing progressive methods of agriculture, and the climatological experiments of other countries were observed
and made use of in developing the ample natural resources of the land.
imported from Australia,
soon gave the shade of its cool, healthful foliage where previously no trees
had grown. In the course of time dry farming (which some people consider a
recent discovery, but which in reality is as old as the Old Testament) was
introduced and extended with American agricultural implements; blooded cattle
were imported, and poultry-raising on a large scale was undertaken with the aid
of incubators—to the disgust of the Arabs, who look on such usurpation of
the hen's functions as against nature and sinful. Our people replaced the
wretched native trails with good roads, bordered by hedges of thorny acacia
which, in season, were covered with downy little yellow blossoms that smelled
sweeter than honey when the sun was on them.
important than all these, a communistic village government was established, in
which both sexes enjoyed equal rights, including that of suffrage—strange
as this may seem to persons who (when they think of the matter at all) form
vague conceptions of all the women-folk of Palestine as shut up in harems.
short experience with Turkish courts and Turkish justice taught our people that
they would have to establish a legal system of their own; two collaborating
judges were therefore appointed—one to interpret the Mosaic law, another
to temper it with modern jurisprudence. All Jewish disputes were settled by
this court. Its effectiveness may be judged by the fact that the Arabs, weary
of Turkish venality,—as open and shameless as anywhere in the
world,—began in increasing numbers to bring their difficulties to our
tribunal. Jews are law-abiding people, and life in those Palestine colonies tended to bring out the
fraternal qualities of our race; but it is interesting to note that in over
thirty years not one Jewish criminal case was reported from forty-five
Zicron-Jacob was a little town of one hundred and thirty
"fires"—so we call it—when, in 1910, on the advice of my
elder brother, who was head of the Jewish Experiment Station at Athlit, an ancient town of the Crusaders, I left for America to enter the service of the United States
in the Department of Agriculture. A few days after reaching this country I took
out my first naturalization papers and proceeded to Washington, where I became part of that
great government service whose beneficent activity is too little known by
Americans. Here I remained until June, 1913, when I returned to Palestine with the object
of taking motion-pictures and stereopticon views. These I intended to use in a
lecturing tour for spreading the Zionist propaganda in the United States.
the years of my residence in America,
I was able to appreciate and judge in their right value the beauty and
inspiration of the life which my people led in the Holy
Land. From a distance, too, I saw better the need for organization
among our communities, and I determined to build up a fraternal union of the
young Jewish men all over the country.
months after my return from America,
an event occurred which gave impetus to these projects. The physician of our
village, an old man who had devoted his entire life to serving and healing the
people of Palestine, without distinction of race or religion, was driving home
one evening in his carriage from a neighboring settlement. With him was a young
girl of sixteen. In a deserted place they were set upon by four armed Arabs,
who beat the old man to unconsciousness as he tried, in vain, to defend the
girl from the terrible fate which awaited her.
came on. Alarmed by the absence of the physician, we young men rode out in
search of him. We finally discovered what had happened; and then and there, in
the serene moonlight of that Eastern night, with tragedy close at hand, I made
my comrades take oath on the honor of their sisters to organize themselves into
a strong society for the defense of the life and honor of our villagers and of
our people at large.
details are, perhaps, useful for the better understanding of the disturbances
that came thick and fast when in August, 1914, the war-madness broke out among
the nations of Europe. The repercussion was at
once felt even in our remote corner of the earth. Soon after the German
invasion of Belgium
the Turkish army was mobilized and all citizens of the Empire between nineteen
and forty-five years were called to the colors. As the Young Turk Constitution
of 1909 provided that all Christians and Jews were equally liable to military
service, our young men knew that they, too, would be called upon to make the
common sacrifice. For the most part, they were not unwilling to sustain the
Turkish Government. While the Constitution imposed on them the burden of
militarism, it had brought with it the compensation of freedom of religion and
equal rights; and we could not forget that for six hundred years Turkey has
held her gates wide open to the Jews who fled from the Spanish Inquisition and
similar ministrations of other civilized countries.
course, we never dreamed that Turkey
would do anything but remain neutral. If we had had any idea of the turn things
were ultimately to take, we should have given a different greeting to the mouchtar, or sheriff, who came to our village with
the list of mobilizable men to be called on for
service. My own position was a curious one. I had every intention of completing
the process of becoming an American citizen, which I had begun by taking out
"first papers." In the eyes of the law, however, I was still a
Turkish subject, with no claim to American protection. This was sneeringly
pointed out to me by the American Consul at Haifa, who happens to be a German; so there
was no other course but to surrender myself to the Turkish Government.
II PRESSED INTO THE SERVICE
was no question as to my eligibility for service. I was young and strong and
healthy—and even if I had not been, the physical examination of Turkish
recruits is a farce. The enlisting officers have a theory of their own that no
man is really unfit for the army—a theory which has been fostered by the
ingenious devices of the Arabs to avoid conscription. To these wild people the
protracted discipline of military training is simply a purgatory, and for weeks
before the recruiting officers are due, they dose themselves with powerful
herbs and physics and fast, and nurse sores into being, until they are in a
really deplorable condition. Some of them go so far as to cut off a finger or
two. The officers, however, have learned to see beyond these little tricks, and
few Arabs succeed in wriggling through their drag-net. I have watched dozens of
Arabs being brought in to the recruiting office on camels or horses, so weak
were they, and welcomed into the service with a severe beating—the sick
and the shammers sharing the same fate. Thus it often
happens that some of the new recruits die after their first day of garrison
with twenty of my comrades, I presented myself at the recruiting station at Acco (the St. Jean
d'Acre of history). We had been given to understand
that, once our names were registered, we should be allowed to return home to
provide ourselves with money, suitable clothing, and food, as well as to bid
our families good-bye. To our astonishment, however, we were marched off to the
Hân, or caravanserai, and locked into the great
courtyard with hundreds of dirty Arabs. Hour after hour passed; darkness came,
and finally we had to stretch ourselves on the ground and make the best of a
bad situation. It was a night of horrors. Few of us had closed an eye when, at
dawn, an officer appeared and ordered us out of the Hân.
From our total number about three hundred (including four young men from our
village and myself) were picked out and told to make ready to start at once for
Saffêd, a town in the hills of northern Galilee near
the Sea of Tiberias, where
our garrison was to be located. No attention was paid to our requests that we
be allowed to return to our homes for a final visit. That same morning we were
on our way to Saffêd—a motley, disgruntled
was a four days' march—four days of heat and dust and physical suffering.
The September sun smote us mercilessly as we straggled along the miserable
native trail, full of gullies and loose stones. It would not have been so bad
if we had been adequately shod or clothed; but soon we found ourselves envying
the ragged Arabs as they trudged along barefoot, paying no heed to the jagged
flints. (Shoes, to the Arab, are articles for ceremonious indoor use; when any
serious walking is to be done, he takes them off, slings them over his
shoulder, and trusts to the horny soles of his feet.)
add to our troubles, the Turkish officers, with characteristic fatalism, had
made no commissary provision for us whatever. Any food we ate had to be
purchased by the roadside from our own funds, which were scant enough to start
with. The Arabs were in a terrible plight. Most of them were penniless, and, as
the pangs of hunger set in, they began pillaging right and left from the little
farms by the wayside. From modest beginnings—poultry and
vegetables—they progressed to larger game, unhindered by the officers.
Houses were entered, women insulted; time and again I saw a stray horse,
grazing by the roadside, seized by a crowd of grinning Arabs, who piled on the
poor beast's back until he was almost crushed to earth, and rode off
triumphantly, while their comrades held back the weeping owner. The result of
this sort of "requisitioning," was that our band of recruits was
followed by an increasing throng of farmers—imploring, threatening, trying by hook or by crook to win back the stolen goods.
Little satisfaction did they get, although some of them went with us as far as Saffêd.
garrison town is not an inviting place, nor has it an inviting reputation. Lord
Kitchener himself had good reason to remember it. As a young lieutenant of
twenty-three, in the Royal Engineering Corps, he was nearly killed there by a
band of fanatical Arabs while surveying for the Palestine Exploration Fund. Kitchener had a narrow
escape of it (one of his fellow officers was shot dead close by him), but he
went calmly ahead and completed his maps, splendid large-scale affairs which
have never since been equaled—and which are now in use by the Turkish and
German armies! However, though Saffêd combines most
of the unpleasant characteristics of Palestine
native towns, we welcomed the sight of it, for we were used up by the march. An
old deserted mosque was given us for barracks; there, on the bare stone floor,
in close-packed promiscuity, too tired to react to filth and vermin, we spent
our first night as soldiers of the Sultan, while the milky moonlight streamed
in through every chink and aperture, and bats flitted round the vaulting above
the snoring carcasses of the recruits.
morning we were routed out at five. The black depths of the well in the center
of the mosque courtyard provided doubtful water for washing, bathing, and
drinking; then came breakfast,—our first government
meal,—consisting, simply enough, of boiled rice, which was ladled out
into tin wash-basins holding rations for ten men. In true Eastern fashion we
squatted down round the basin and dug into the rice with our fingers. At first
I was rather upset by this sort of table manners, and for some time I ate with
my eyes fixed on my own portion, to avoid seeing the Arabs, who fill the palms of
their hands with rice, pat it into a ball and cram it into their mouths just
so, the bolus making a great lump in their lean throats as it reluctantly
the course of that same morning we were allotted our uniforms. The Turkish
uniform, under indirect German influence, has been greatly modified during the
past five years. It is of khaki—a greener khaki than that of the British
army, and of conventional European cut. Spiral puttees and good boots are
provided; the only peculiar feature is the headgear—a curious,
uncouth-looking combination of the turban and the German helmet, devised by Enver Pasha to combine religion and practicality, and
called in his honor enverieh. (With
commendable thrift, Enver patented his invention, and
it is rumored that he has drawn a comfortable fortune from its sale.) An
excellent uniform it is, on the whole; but, to our disgust, we found that in
the great olive-drab pile to which we were led, there was not a single new one.
All were old, discarded, and dirty, and the mere thought of putting on the
clothes of some unknown Arab legionary, who, perhaps, had died of cholera at Mecca or Yemen,
made me shudder. After some indecision, my friends and I finally went up to one
of the officers and offered to buy new uniforms with the money we
expected daily from our families. The officer, scenting the chance for a little
private profit, gave his consent.
days and weeks following were busy ones. From morning till night, it was drill,
drill, and again drill. We were divided into groups of
fifty, each of which was put in charge of a young non-commissioned officer from
the Military School of Constantinople or Damascus,
or of some Arab who had seen several years' service. These instructors had a
hard time of it; the German military system, which had only recently been
introduced, was too much for them. They kept mixing up the old and the new
methods of training, with the result that it was often hopeless to try and make
out their orders. Whole weeks were spent in grinding into the Arabs the names
of the different parts of the rifle; weeks more went to teaching them to clean
it—although it must be said that, once they had mastered these
technicalities, they were excellent shots. Their efficiency would have been
considerably greater if there had been more target-shooting. From the very
first, however, we felt that there was a scarcity of ammunition. This shortage
the drill-masters, in a spirit of compensation, attempted to make up by
abundant severity. The whip of soft, flexible, stinging leather, which seldom
leaves the Turkish officer's hand, was never idle. This was not surprising, for
the Arab is a cunning fellow, whose only respect is for brute force. He
exercises it himself on every possible victim, and expects the same treatment from
far as my comrades and I were concerned, I must admit that we were generally
treated kindly. We knew most of the drill-exercises from the gymnastic training
we had practiced since childhood, and the officers realized that we were educated
and came from respectable families. The same was also true with regard to the
native Christians, most of whom can read and write and
are of a better class than the Mohammedans of the country. When Turkey threw in
her lot with the Germanic powers, the attitude toward the Jews and Christians
changed radically; but of this I shall speak later.
was a hard life we led while in training at Saffêd;
evening would find us dead tired, and little disposed for anything but rest. As
the tremendous light-play of the Eastern sunsets faded away, we would gather in
little groups in the courtyard of our mosque—its minaret towering black
against a turquoise sky—and talk fitfully of the little happenings of the
day, while the Arabs murmured gutturally around us. Occasionally, one of them
would burst into a quavering, hot-blooded tribal love-song. It happened that I
was fairly well known among these natives through my horse Kochba—of
pure Maneghi-Sbeli blood—which I had purchased
from some Anazzi Bedouins who were encamped not far
from Aleppo: a swift and intelligent animal he was, winner of many races, and
in a land where a horse is considerably more valuable than a wife, his
ownership cast quite a glamour over me.
the evenings, then, the Arabs would come up to chat. As they
speak seldom of their children, of their women-folk never, the
conversation was limited to generalities about the crops and the weather, or to
the recitation of never-ending tales of Abou-Zeid,
the famous hero of the Beni-Hilal, or of Antar the glorious. Politics, of which they have amazing
ideas, also came in for discussion. Napoleon Bonaparte and Queen Victoria are
still living figures to them; but (significantly enough) they considered the
Kaiser king of all the kings of this world, with the exception of the Sultan,
whom they admitted to equality.
did an evening pass without a dance. As darkness fell, the Arabs would gather
in a great circle around one of their comrades, who squatted on the ground with
a bamboo flute; to a weird minor music they would begin swaying and moving
about while some self-chosen poet among them would sing impromptu verses to the
flute obbligato. As a rule the themes were homely.
we shall eat rice and meat," the singer would wail.
(my endeavor be granted), came the full-throated response of all the others.
The chorus was tremendously effective. Sometimes the singer would indulge in
pointed personalities, with answering roars of laughter.
dances lasted for hours, and as they progressed the men gradually worked
themselves up into a frenzy. I never failed to wonder
at these people, who, without the aid of alcohol, could reproduce the various
stages of intoxication. As I lay by and watched the moon riding serenely above
these frantic men and their twisting black shadows, I reflected that they were
just in the condition when one word from a holy man would suffice to send them
off to wholesale murder and rapine.
was my good fortune soon to be released from the noise and dirt of the mosque.
I had had experience with corruptible Turkish officers; and one day, when
barrack conditions became unendurable, I went to the officer commanding our
division—an old Arab from Latakieh who had been
called from retirement at the time of the mobilization. He lived in a little
tent near the mosque, where I found him squatting on the floor, nodding
drowsily over his comfortable paunch. As he was an officer of the old régime, I
entered boldly, squatted beside him and told him my troubles. The answer came
with an enormous shrug of the shoulders.
are serving the Sultan. Hardship should be sweet!"
should be more fit to serve him if I got more sleep
waved a fat hand about the tent.
at me! Here I am, an officer of rank and"—shooting a knowing look at
me—"I have not even a nice blanket."
"A crime! A crime!" I
interrupted. "To think of it, when I, a humble soldier,
have dozens of them at home! I should be honored if you would allow
me—" My voice trailed off suggestively.
could you get one?" he asked.
I have friends here in Saffêd but I must be
able to sleep in a nice place."
"Of course; certainly. What would you suggest?"
hotel kept by the Jewish widow might do," I replied.
amenities were exchanged, the upshot of which was that my four friends and I
were given permission to sleep at the inn—a humble place, but infinitely
better than the mosque. It was all perfectly simple.
III THE GERMAN PROPAGANDA
passed the days of our training, swiftly, monotonously, until the fateful
December morning when the news came like a thunderbolt that Turkey was about to
join hands with Germany. We had had reports of the war—of a kind. Copies
of telegrams from Constantinople, printed in
Arabic, were circulated among us, giving accounts of endless German victories.
These, however, we had laughed at as fabrications of a Prussophile
press agency, and in our skepticism we had failed to give the Teutons credit for the successes they had actually won. To
us, born and bred in the East as we were, the success of German propaganda in
the Turkish Empire could not come as an
overwhelming surprise; but its fullness amazed us.
may be of timely interest to say a few words here regarding this propaganda as
I have seen it in Palestine,
spreading under strong and efficient organization for twenty years.
order to realize her imperialistic dreams, Germany
absolutely needed Palestine.
It was the key to the whole Oriental situation. No mere coincidence brought the
Kaiser to Damascus in November, 1898,—the
same month that Kitchener, in London, was hailed as Gordon's
avenger,—when he uttered his famous phrase at the tomb of Saladin:
"Tell the three hundred million Moslems of the world that I am their
friend!" We have all seen photographs of the imperial figure, draped in an
amazing burnous of his own designing (above which the
Prussian Pickelhaube rises supreme), as he
moved from point to point in this portentous visit: we may also have seen Caran d'Ache's celebrated cartoon
(a subject of diplomatic correspondence) representing this same imperial
figure, in its Oriental toggery, riding into
Jerusalem on an ass.
nations of Europe laughed at this visit and its transparent purpose, but it was
all part of the scheme which won for the Germans the concessions for the
Konia-Bagdad Railway, and made them owners of the double valley of the
Euphrates and Tigris. Through branch lines
projected through the firman, they are practically in
control of both the Syrian routes toward the Cypriotic
Mediterranean and the Lebanon
valleys. They also control the three Armenian routes of Cappadocia, the Black
Sea, and the trans-Caucasian branch of Urfa,
Marach, and Mardine. (The
fall of Erzerum has altered conditions respecting
this last.) They dominate the Persian routes toward Tauris
and Teheran as well; and last, but not least, the Gulf branch of Zobeir. These railways delivered into German hands the
control of Persia, whence
the road to India may be
made easy: through Syria
lies the route to the Suez Canal and Egypt, which was used in February,
1915, and will probably be used again this year.
make this Oriental dream a reality, the Germans have not relied on their
railway concessions alone. Their Government has done everything in its power to
encourage German colonization in Palestine.
Scattered all over the country are German mills that half of the time have
nothing to grind. German hotels have been opened in places seldom frequented by
tourists. German engineers appeared in force, surveying, sounding, noting. All
these colonists held gatherings in the Arab villages, when the ignorant natives
were told of the greatness of Germany,
of her good intentions, and of the evil machinations of other powers. What I
state here can be corroborated by any one who knows Palestine and has lived in it.
the time when we first knew that Turkey would join the Germanic
powers came the news that the
"Capitulations" had been revoked. As is generally known, foreigners
formerly enjoyed the protection of their respective consuls. The Turkish Government,
under the terms of the so-called Capitulations, or agreements, had no
jurisdiction over an American, for instance, or a Frenchman, who could not be
arrested without the consent of his consul. In the Ottoman
Empire, where law and justice are not at a premium, such
protection was a wholesome and necessary policy.
revoking of the Capitulations was a terrible blow to all the Europeans,
meaning, as it did, the practical abolition of all their rights. Upon the Arabs
it acted like an intoxicant. Every boot-black or boatman felt that he was the
equal of the accursed Frank, who now had no consul to protect him; and abuses
began immediately. Moreover, as if by magic, the whole country became
Germanized. In all the mosques, Friday prayers were ended with an invocation
for the welfare of the Sultan and "Hadji
Wilhelm." The significance of this lies in the fact that the title "Hadji" can be properly applied only to a Moslem who
has made the pilgrimage to Mecca
and kissed the sacred stone of the Kaaba. Instant
death is the penalty paid by any Christian who is found within that enclosure:
yet Wilhelm II, head of the Lutheran faith, stepped forward as "Hadji Wilhelm." His pictures were sold everywhere;
German officers appeared; and it seemed as if a wind of brutal mastery were
dominant figure of this movement in Palestine
was, without doubt, the German Consul at Haifa,
Leutweld von Hardegg. He
traveled about the country, making speeches, and distributing pamphlets in
Arabic, in which it was elaborately proved that Germans are not Christians,
like the French or English, but that they are descendants of the prophet
Mohammed. Passages from the Koran were quoted, prophesying the coming of the
Kaiser as the Savior of Islam.
news of the actual declaration of war by Turkey caused a tremendous stir in
our regiment. The prevailing feeling was one of great restlessness and
discontent. The Arabs made many bitter remarks against Germany.
"Why didn't she help us against the Italians during the war for Tripoli?" they said.
"Now that she is in trouble she is drawing us into the fight." Their
opinions, however, soon underwent a change. In the first place, they came to
realize that Turkey had
taken up arms against Russia;
is considered first and foremost the arch-enemy. German reports of German
successes also had a powerful effect on them. They began to grow boastful,
arrogant; and the sight of the plundering of Europeans, Jews, and Christians
convinced them that a very desirable régime was setting in. Saffêd
has a large Jewish colony, and it was torment for me to have to witness the
outrages that my people suffered in the name of "requisitioning."
final blow came one morning when all the Jewish and Christian soldiers of our
regiment were called out and told that henceforth they were to serve in the taboor amlieh, or
working corps. The object of this action, plainly enough, was to conciliate and
flatter the Mohammedan population, and at the same time to put the Jews and
Christians, who for the most part favored the cause of the Allies, in a
position where they would be least dangerous. We were disarmed; our uniforms
were taken away, and we became hard-driven "gangsters." I shall never
forget the humiliation of that day when we, who, after all, were the
best-disciplined troops of the lot, were first herded to our work of pushing
wheelbarrows and handling spades, by grinning Arabs, rifle on shoulder. We were
set to building the road between Saffêd and Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee—a link in the
military highway from Damascus
to the coast, which would be used for the movement of troops in case the railroad should be cut off. It had no immediate strategic
bearing on the attack against Suez,
six in the morning till seven at night we were hard at it, except for one
hour's rest at noon. While we had money, it was possible to get some slight
relief by bribing our taskmasters; but this soon came to an end, and we had to
endure their brutality as best we could. The wheelbarrows we used were the
property of a French company which, before the war, was undertaking a highway
to Beirut. No
grease was provided for the wheels, so that there was a maddening squeaking and
squealing in addition to the difficulty of pushing the barrows. One day I
suggested to an inspection officer that if the wheels were not greased the
axles would be burned out. He agreed with me and issued an order that the men
were to provide their own oil to lubricate the wheels!
shall not dwell on the physical sufferings we underwent while working on this
road, for the reason that the conditions I have described were prevalent over
the whole country; and later, when I had the opportunity to visit some
construction camps in Samaria and Judaea found that in comparison our lot had been a happy
one. While we were breaking stones and trundling squeaking wheelbarrows,
however, the most disquieting rumors began to drift in to us from our home
villages. Plundering had been going on in the name of "requisitioning";
the country was full of soldiery whose capacity for mischief-making was well
known to us, and it was torture to think of what might be happening in our
peaceful homes where so few men had been left for protection. All the
barbed-wire fences, we heard, had been torn up and sent north for the
construction of barricades. In a wild land like Palestine, where the native has
no respect for property, where fields and crops are always at the mercy of
marauders, the barbed-wire fence has been a tremendous factor for civilization,
and with these gone the Arabs were once more free to sweep across the country
unhindered, stealing and destroying.
situation grew more and more unbearable. One day a little Christian
soldier—a Nazarene—disappeared from the ranks. We never saw him
again, but we learned that his sister, a very young girl, had been forcibly
taken by a Turkish officer of the Nazareth
garrison. In Palestine,
the dishonor of a girl can be redeemed by blood alone. The young soldier had
hunted for his sister, found her in the barracks, and shot her; he then
surrendered himself to the military authorities, who undoubtedly put him to
death. He had not dared to kill the real criminal,—the officer,—for
he knew that this would not only bring death to his family, but would call down
terrible suffering on all the Christians of Nazareth.
I learned of this tragedy, I determined to get out of the army and return to my
village at all costs. Nine Turkish officers out of ten can be bought, and I had
reason to know that the officer in command at Saffêd
was not that tenth man. Now, according to the law of the country, a man has the
right to purchase exemption from military service for a sum equivalent to two
hundred dollars. My case was different, for I was already enrolled; but
everything is possible in Turkey.
I set to work, and in less than two weeks I had bought half a dozen officers,
ranging from corporal to captain, and had obtained consent of the higher
authorities to my departure, provided I could get a physician's certificate
declaring me unfit for service.
was arranged in short order, although I am healthy-looking and the doctor found
some difficulty in hitting on an appropriate ailment. Finally he decided that I
had "too much blood"—whatever that might mean. With his
certificate in hand, I paid the regular price of two hundred dollars from funds
which had been sent me by my family, and walked out of the barracks a free man.
My happiness was mingled with sadness at the thought of leaving the comrades
with whom I had suffered and hoped. The four boys from my village were
splendid. They felt that I was right in going home to do what I could for the
people, but when they kissed me good-bye, in the Eastern fashion, the tears
were running down their cheeks; and they were all strong, brave fellows.
my way back to Zicron-Jacob, I passed through the
town of Sheff'amr,
where I got a foretaste of the conditions I was to find at home. A Turkish
soldier, sauntering along the street, helped himself to fruit from the basket
of an old vender, and went on without offering to pay a farthing. When the old
man ventured to protest, the soldier turned like a flash and began beating him
mercilessly, knocking him down and battering him until he was bruised,
bleeding, and covered with the mud of the street. There was a hubbub; a crowd
formed, through which a Turkish officer forced his way, demanding explanations.
The soldier sketched the situation in a few words, whereupon the officer,
turning to the old man, said impressively,—"If a soldier of the
Sultan should choose to heap filth on your head, it is for you to kiss his hand
I finally reached Zicron-Jacob, I found rather a sad
state of affairs. Military law had been declared. No one was supposed to be
seen in the streets after sundown. The village was full of soldiers, and
civilians had to put up with all kinds of ill-treatment. Moreover, our people
were in a state of great excitement because an order had recently come from the
Turkish authorities bidding them surrender whatever fire-arms or weapons they
had in their possession. A sinister command, this: we knew that similar
measures had been taken before the terrible Armenian massacres, and we felt
that some such fate might be in preparation for our people. With the arms gone,
the head men of the village knew that our last hold over the Arabs, our last
chance for defense against sudden violence, would be gone, and they had refused
to give them up. A house-to-house search had been made—fruitlessly, for
our little arsenal was safely cached in a field, beneath growing grain.
was a tense, unpleasant situation. At any time the Turks might decide to back
up their demand by some of the violent methods of which they are past masters.
A family council was held in my home, and it was decided to send my sister, a
girl of twenty-three, to some friends at the American Syrian Protestant College
at Beirut, so that we might be able to move freely without the responsibility
of having a girl at home, in a country where, as a matter of course, the
women-folk are seized and carried off before a massacre. At Beirut we knew that there was an American
Consul-General, who kept in continual touch with the battleship anchored in the
harbor for the protection of American interests.
sister got away none too soon. One evening shortly after her departure, when I
was standing in the doorway of our house watching the ever fresh miracle of the
Eastern sunset, a Turkish officer came riding down the
street with about thirty cavalrymen. He called me out and ordered me to follow
him to the little village inn, where he dismounted and led me to one of the
inner rooms, his spurs jingling loudly as we passed along the stone corridor.
never knew whether I had been selected for this attention because of my
prominence as a leader of the Jewish young men or simply because I had been
standing conveniently in the doorway. The officer closed the door and came
straight to the point by asking me where our store of arms was hidden. He was a
big fellow, with the handsome, cruel features usual enough in his class. There
was no open menace in his first question. When I refused to tell him, he began
wheedling and offering all sorts of favors if I would betray my people. Then,
all of a sudden, he whipped out a revolver and stuck the muzzle right in my
face. I felt the blood leave my heart, but I was able to control myself and
refuse his demand. The officer was not easily discouraged; the hours I passed
in that little room, with its smoky kerosene lamp, were terrible ones. I
realized, however, how tremendously important the question of the arms was, and
strength was given me to hold out until the officer gave up in disgust and let
me go home.
father, an old man, knew nothing of what had happened, but the rest of my family were tremendously excited. I made light of the whole
affair, but I felt sure that this was only the beginning. Sure enough, next
morning—the Sabbath—the same officer returned and put three of the
leading elders of the village, together with myself, under arrest. After
another fruitless inquisition at the hotel, we were handcuffed and started on
foot toward the prison, a day's journey away. As our little
procession passed my home, my father, who was aged and feeble, came tottering
forward to say good-bye to me. A soldier pushed him roughly back; he
reeled, then fell full-length in the street before my
was a dismal departure. We were driven through the streets shackled like
criminals, and the women and children came out of the houses and watched us in
silence—their heads bowed, tears running down their cheeks. They realized
that for thirty-five years these old men, my comrades, had been struggling and
suffering for their ideal—a regenerated Palestine; now, in the dusk of their life, it
seemed as if all their hopes and dreams were coming to ruin. The oppressive
tragedy of the situation settled down on me more and more heavily as the day
wore on and heat and fatigue told on my companions. My feelings must have been
written large on my face, for one of them, a fine-looking patriarch, tried to
give me comfort by reminding me that we must not rely upon strength of arms,
and that our spirit could never be broken, no matter how defenseless we were.
Thus he, an old man, was encouraging me instead of receiving help from my youth
last we arrived at the prison and were locked into separate cells. That same
night we were tortured with the falagy, or
bastinado. The victim of this horrible punishment is trussed up, arms and legs,
and thrown on his knees; then, on the bare soles of his feet a pliant green rod
is brought down with all the force of a soldier's arm. The pain is exquisite;
blood leaps out at the first cut, and strong men usually faint after thirty or
forty strokes. Strange to say, the worst part of it is not the blow itself, but
the whistling of the rod through the air as it rushes to its mark. The groans
of my older comrades, whose gasps and prayers I could hear through the walls of
the cell, helped me bear the agony until unconsciousness mercifully came to the
several days more we were kept in the prison, sick and broken with suffering.
The second night, as I lay sleepless and desperate on the strip of dirty
matting that served as bed, I heard a scratch-scratching at the grated slit of
a window, and presently a slender stick was inserted into the cell. I went over
and shook it; some one at the other end was holding it firm. And then, a
curious whispering sound began to come from the end of the stick. I put my ear
down, and caught the voice of one of the men from our village. He had taken a
long bamboo pole, pierced the joints, and crept up
behind a broken old wall close beneath my window. By means of this primitive
telephone we talked as long as we dared. I assured him that we were still
enduring, and urged him on no account to give up the arms to the Turkish
authorities—not even if we had to make the ultimate sacrifice.
when it was found that torture and imprisonment would not make us yield our
secret, the Turks resorted to the final test—the ordeal which we could
not withstand. They announced that on a certain date a number of our young
girls would be carried off and handed over to the officers, to be kept until
the arms were disclosed. We knew that they were capable of carrying out this
threat; we knew exactly what it meant. There was no alternative. The people of
our village had nothing to do but dig up the treasured arms and, with broken
hearts, hand them over to the authorities.
so the terrible news was brought to us one morning that we were free.
Personally, I felt much happier on the day I was put in prison than when I was
released. I had often wondered how our people had been able to bear the rack
and thumbscrew of the Spanish Inquisition; but when my turn and my comrades'
came for torture, I realized that the same spirit that helped our ancestors was
working in us also.
I knew that our suffering had been useless. Whenever the Turkish authorities
wished, the horrors of the Armenian massacres would live again in Zicron-Jacob, and we should be powerless to raise a hand to
protect ourselves. As we came limping home through the streets of our village,
I caught sight of my own Smith & Wesson revolver in the hands of a mere boy
of fifteen—the son of a well-known Arab outlaw. I realized then that the
Turks had not only taken our weapons, but had distributed them among the
natives in order to complete our humiliation. The blood rushed to my face. I
started forward to take the revolver away from the boy, but one of the old men
caught hold of my sleeve and held me back.
have already spoken of the so-called "requisitioning" that took place
among our people while I was working at Saffêd. This,
of course, really amounted to wholesale pillage. The hand of the Turkish
looters had fallen particularly heavy on carts and draught animals. As the
Arabs know little or nothing of carting, hauling, or the management of horses
and mules, the Turks, simply enough, had "requisitioned" many of the
owners—middle-aged or elderly men—and forced them to go south to
help along with the tremendous preparations that were being made for the attack
on Suez. Among these were a number of men from our village. In the course of
time their families began to get the most harrowing messages from them. They
were absolutely destitute, no wages being paid them by the Turks; their clothes
were dropping off them in rags; many were sick. After much excited planning, it
was decided to send another man and myself down south on a sort of relief
expedition, with a substantial sum of money that had been raised with great
difficulty by our people. Through the influence of my brother at the
Agricultural Experiment Station, I got permission from the mouchtar
to leave Zicron-Jacob, and about the middle of
January, 1915, I set out for Jerusalem.
Western minds, the idea of the Holy
City serving as a base
for modern military operations must be full of incongruities. And, as a matter
of fact, it was an amazing sight to see the streets packed with
khaki-clad soldiers and hear the brooding silence of ancient walls shattered by
the crash of steel-shod army boots. Here, for the first time, I saw the German
officers—quantities of them. Strangely out of place they looked, with
their pink-and-whiteness that no amount of hot sunshine could quite burn off.
They wore the regular German officer's uniform, except that the Pickelhaube was replaced by a khaki sun-helmet. I
was struck by the youthfulness of them; many were nothing but boys, and there
were weak, dissolute faces in plenty—a fact that was later explained when
I heard that Palestine
had been the dumping-ground for young men of high family whose parents were
anxious to have them as far removed as possible from the danger zone. Fast's
Hotel was the great meeting-place in Jerusalem
for these young bloods. Every evening thirty or forty would foregather there to
drink and talk women and strategy. I well remember the evening when one of
them—a slender young Prussian with no back to his head, braceleted and monocled—rose
and announced, in the decisive tones that go with a certain stage of
intoxication: "What we ought to do is to hand over the organization of
this campaign to Thomas Cook & Sons!"
the German officers were by no means all incompetents. They realized (I soon
found out) that they had little hope of bringing a big army through the
Egyptian desert and making a successful campaign there. Their object was to
immobilize a great force of British troops around the Canal, to keep the
Mohammedan population in Palestine impressed
with Turkish power, and to stir up religious unrest among the natives in Egypt. It must
be admitted that in the first two of these purposes they have been successful.
Turks were less far-sighted. They believed firmly that they were going to sweep
the English off the face of the earth and enter Cairo
in triumph, and preparations for the march on Suez went on with feverish enthusiasm. The
ideas of the common soldiers on this subject were amusing. Some of them
declared that the Canal was to be filled up by the sandbags which had been
prepared in great quantities. Others held that thousands of camels would be
kept without water for many days preceding the attack; then the thirsty
animals, when released, would rush into the Canal in such numbers that the
troops could march to victory over the packed masses of drowned bodies.
army operating against Suez
numbered about one hundred and fifty thousand men. Of these about twenty
thousand were Anatolian Turks—trained soldiers, splendid fighting
material, as was shown by their resistance at the Dardanelles.
The rest were Palestinian Arabs, and very inferior troops they were. The Arab
as a soldier is at once stupid and cunning: fierce when victory is on his side,
but unreliable when things go against him. In command of the expedition was the
famous Djemal Pasha, a Young Turk general of
tremendous energy, but possessing small ability to see beyond details to the
big, broad concepts of strategy. Although a great friend of Enver
Pasha, he looked with disfavor on the German officers and, in particular, on
Bach Pasha, the German Governor of Jerusalem,
with whom he had serious disagreements. This dislike of the Germans was
reflected among the lesser Turkish officers. Many of these, after long years of
service, found themselves subordinated to young foreigners, who, in addition to
arbitrary promotion, received much higher salaries than the Turks. What is
more, they were paid in clinking gold, whereas the Turks, when paid at all, got
Beersheba, a prosperous town of the ancient province of Idumea, was the southern base of
operations for the advance on Suez.
Some of our villagers had been sent to this district, and, in searching for
them, I had the opportunity of seeing at least the taking-off place of the
expedition. Beyond this point no Jew or Christian was allowed to pass, with the
exception of the physicians, all of whom were non-Mohammedans who had been
forced into the army.
Beersheba was swarming
with troops. They filled the town and overflowed on to the sands outside, where
a great tent-city grew up. And everywhere that the Turkish soldiers went,
disorganization and inefficiency followed them. From all over the country the
finest camels had been "requisitioned" and sent down to Beersheba until, at the
time I was there, thousands and thousands of them were collected in the
neighborhood. Through the laziness and stupidity of the Turkish commissariat
officers, which no amount of German efficiency could counteract, no adequate
provision was made for feeding them, and incredible numbers succumbed to
starvation and neglect. Their great carcasses dotted the sand in all
directions; it was only the wonderful antiseptic power of the Eastern sun that
held pestilence in check.
soldiers themselves suffered much hardship. The crowding in the tents was
unspeakable; the water-supply was almost as inadequate as the medical service,
which consisted chiefly of volunteer Red Crescent societies—among them a
unit of twenty German nurses sent by the American
College at Beirut. Medical supplies, such as they were,
had been taken from the different mission hospitals and pharmacies of Palestine—these
"requisitions" being made by officers who knew nothing of medical
requirements and simply scooped together everything in sight. As a result, one
of the army physicians told me that in Beersheba
he had opened some medical chests consigned to him and found, to his horror,
that they were full of microscopes and gynecological instruments—for the
care of wounded soldiers in the desert!
of British aeroplanes to Beersheba were common occurrences. Long
before the machine itself could be seen, its whanging, resonant hum would come floating out of the
blazing sky, seemingly from everywhere at once. Soldiers rushed from their
tents, squinting up into the heavens until the speck was discovered, swimming
slowly through the air; then followed wholesale firing at an impossible range
until the officers forbade it. True to the policy of avoiding all unnecessary
harm to the natives, these British aviators never dropped bombs on the town,
but—what was more dangerous from the Turkish point of view—they
would unload packages of pamphlets, printed in Arabic, informing the natives that
they were being deceived; that the Allies were their only true friends; that
the Germans were merely making use of them to further their own schemes, etc.
These cleverly worded little tracts came showering down out of the sky, and at
first they were eagerly picked up. The Turkish commanders, however, soon
announced that any one found carrying them would pay the death penalty. After
that, when the little bundles dropped near them, the natives would, run as if
from high explosive bombs.
things considered, it is wonderful that the Turkish demonstration against the
Canal came as near to fulfillment as it did. Twenty thousand soldiers actually
crossed the desert in six days on scant rations, and with them they took two
big guns, which they dragged by hand when the mules dropped from thirst and
exhaustion. They also carried pontoons to be used in crossing the Canal. Guns
and pontoons are now at rest in the Museum at Cairo.
what took place in the attack is known to very few. The English have not seen
fit to make public the details, and there was little to be got from the
demoralized soldiers who returned to Beersheba.
Piece by piece, however, I gathered that the attacking party had come up to the
Canal at dawn. Finding everything quiet, they set about getting across, and had
even launched a pontoon, when the British, who were lying in wait, opened a
terrific fire from the farther bank, backed by armored locomotives and aeroplanes. "It was as if the gates of Jehannum were opened and its fires turned loose upon
us," one soldier told me.
Turks succeeded in getting their guns into action for a very short while. One
of the men-of-war in the Canal was hit; several houses in Ismaïlia
suffered damage; but the invaders were soon driven away in confusion, leaving
perhaps two thousand prisoners in the hands of the English. If the latter had
chosen to do so, they could have annihilated the Turkish forces then and there.
The ticklish state of mind of the Mohammedan population in Egypt, however,
has led them to adopt a policy of leniency and of keeping to the defensive,
which subsequent developments have more than justified. It is characteristic of
faculty for holding her colonies that batteries manned by Egyptians did the
finest work in defense of the Canal.
reaction in Palestine after the defeat at Suez was tremendous. Just
before the attack, Djemal Pasha had sent out a
telegram announcing the overwhelming defeat of the British vanguard, which had
caused wild enthusiasm. Another later telegram proclaimed that the Canal had
been reached, British men-of-war sunk, the Englishmen routed—with a loss
to the Turks of five men and two camels, "which were afterwards
recovered." "But," added the telegram, "a terrible
sand-storm having arisen, the glorious army takes it as the wish of Allah not
to continue the attack, and has therefore withdrawn in triumph."
reports hoodwinked the ignorant natives for a little while, but when the stream
of haggard soldiers, wounded and exhausted, began pouring back from the south,
they guessed what had happened, and a fierce revulsion against the Germano-Turkish régime set in. A few weeks before the
advance on Suez, I was in Jaffa, where the enthusiasm and excitement
had been at fever-pitch. Parades and celebrations of all kinds in anticipation
of the triumphal march into Egypt
were taking place, and one day a camel, a dog, and a bull, decorated
respectively with the flags of Russia,
France, and England, were
driven through the streets. The poor animals were horribly maltreated by the
natives, who rained blows and flung filth upon them by way of giving concrete
expression to their contempt for the Allies. Mr. Glazebrook,
the American Consul at Jerusalem, happened to be
with me in Jaffa
that day; and never shall I forget the expression of pain and disgust on his
face as he watched this melancholy little procession of scapegoats hurrying
along the street.
however, all was changed. The Arabs, who take defeat badly, turned against the
authorities who had got them into such trouble. Rumors circulated that Djemal Pasha had been bought by the English and that the
defeat at Suez
had been planned by him, and persons keeping an ear
close to the ground began to hear mutterings of a general massacre of Germans.
In fact, things came within an ace of a bloody outbreak. I knew some Germans in
Jaffa and Haifa
who firmly believed that it was all over with them. In the defeated army itself
the Turkish officers gave vent to their hatred of the Germans. Three German
officers were shot by their Turkish comrades during the retreat, and a fourth
committed suicide. However, Djemal Pasha succeeded in
keeping order by means of stern repressive methods and by the fear roused by
his large body-guard of faithful Anatolians.
felt sure that the Turkish defeat would put a damper on the arrogance of the
soldiery. But even the Mohammedan population were
hoping that the Allies would push their victory and land troops in Syria and Palestine;
for though they hated the infidel, they loved the Turk not at all, and the
country was exhausted and the blockade of the Mediterranean
by the Allies prevented the import and export of articles. The oranges were
rotting on the trees because the annual Liverpool market was closed to Palestine, and other
crops were in similar case. The country was short, too, of petroleum, sugar,
rice, and other supplies, and even of matches. We had to go back to old customs
and use flint and steel for fire, and we seldom used our lamps. Money was
scarce, too, and, Turkey
having declared a moratorium, cash was often unobtainable even by those who had
money in the banks, and much distress ensued.
the defeated army was pouring in from the south, I decided to leave Beersheba and go home.
The roads and the fields were covered with dead camels and horses and mules.
Hundreds of soldiers were straggling in disorder, many of them on leave but
many deserting. Soon after the defeat at the Canal several thousand soldiers
deserted, but an amnesty was declared and they returned to their regiments.
I arrived at Jerusalem
I found the city filled with soldiers. Djemal Pasha
had just returned from the desert, and his quarters were guarded by a battery
of two field guns. Nobody knew what to expect; some thought that the country
would have a little more freedom now that the soldiery had lost its
braggadocio, while others expected the lawlessness that attends
disorganization. I went to see Consul Glazebrook. He
is a true American, a Southerner, formerly a professor of theology at Princeton. He was most earnest and devoted in behalf of
the American citizens that came under his care, rendering at Jerusalem
the same sort of service that Ambassador Morgenthau has rendered at Constantinople. He was practically the only man who stood
up for the poor, defenseless people of the city. He received me kindly, and I
told him what I knew of conditions in the country, what I had heard among the Arabs, and of my own fears and apprehensions. He was visibly
impressed and he advised me to see Captain Decker, of the U.S.S. Tennessee, who
was then in Jaffa,
promising to write himself to the captain of my proposed visit.
went to Jaffa
the same day and after two days' delay succeeded in seeing Captain Decker, with
the further help of Mr. Glazebrook, who took me with
him. The police interfered and tried to keep me from going aboard the ship, but
after long discussions I was permitted to take my place in the launch that the
captain had sent for the consul.
Decker was interested in what I had to say, and at his request I dictated my
story to his stenographer. What became of my report I do not
know,—whether it was transmitted to the Department of State or whether
Captain Decker communicated with Ambassador Morgenthau,—but at all events
we soon began to see certain reforms inaugurated in parts of the country, and
these reforms could have been effected only through pressure from
Constantinople. The presence of the two American cruisers in the Mediterranean
waters has without any doubt been instrumental in the saving of many lives.
I was traveling in the south, another menace to our people's welfare had
appeared: the locusts. From the Soudan they came in
tremendous hosts—black clouds of them that obscured the sun. It seemed as
if Nature had joined in the conspiracy against us. These locusts were of the
species known as the pilgrim, or wandering, locust; for forty years they had
not come to Palestine,
but now their visitation was like that of which the prophet Joel speaks in the
Old Testament. They came full-grown, ripe for breeding; the ground was covered
with the females digging in the soil and depositing their egg-packets, and we
knew that when they hatched we should be overwhelmed, for there was not a foot
of ground in which these eggs were not to be found.
menace was so great that even the military authorities were obliged to take
notice of it. They realized that if it were allowed to fulfill itself, there
would be famine in the land, and the army would suffer with the rest. Djemal Pasha summoned my brother (the President of the
Agricultural Experiment Station at Athlit) and intrusted him with the organization of a campaign against
the insects. It was a hard enough task. The Arabs are lazy,
and fatalistic besides; they cannot understand why men should attempt to fight
the Djesh Allah ("God's
Army"), as they call the locusts. In addition, my brother was seriously
handicapped by lack of petroleum, galvanized iron, and other articles which
could not be obtained because of the Allies' blockade.
spite of these drawbacks, however, he attempted to work up a scientific
campaign. Djemal Pasha put some thousands of Arab
soldiers at his disposition, and these were set to work digging trenches into
which the hatching locusts were driven and destroyed. This is the only means of
coping with the situation: once the locusts get their wings, nothing can be
done with them. It was a hopeless fight. Nothing short of the coöperation of every farmer in the country could have won
the day; and while the people of the progressive Jewish villages struggled on
to the end,—men, women, and children working in the fields until they
were exhausted,—the Arab farmers sat by with folded hands. The threats of
the military authorities only stirred them to half-hearted efforts. Finally,
after two months of toil, the campaign was given up and the locusts broke in
waves over the countryside, destroying everything. As the prophet Joel said,
"The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the
corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth....
The land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate
only was every green leaf devoured, but the very bark was peeled from the
trees, which stood out white and lifeless, like skeletons. The fields were
stripped to the ground, and the old men of our villages, who had given their
lives to cultivating these gardens and vineyards, came out of the synagogues
where they had been praying and wailing, and looked on the ruin with dimmed
eyes. Nothing was spared. The insects, in their fierce hunger, tried to engulf
everything in their way. I have seen Arab babies, left by their mothers in the
shade of some tree, whose faces had been devoured by the oncoming swarms of
locusts before their screams had been heard. I have seen the carcasses of
animals hidden from sight by the undulating, rustling blanket of insects. And
in the face of such a menace the Arabs remained inert. With their customary
fatalism they accepted the locust plague as a necessary evil. They could not
understand why we were so frantic to fight it. And as a matter of fact, they
really got a good deal out of the locusts, for they loved to feast upon the
female insects. They gathered piles of them and threw them upon burning
charcoal, then, squatting around the fire, devoured the roasted insects with
great gusto. I saw a fourteen-year-old boy eat as many as a hundred at a
VIII THE LEBANON
the locust invasion my brother sent me on an inspection tour to investigate the
ravages of the insect in Syria.
With an official boyouroulton (passport) in my
pocket, I was able to travel all over the country without being interfered with
by the military authorities. I had an excellent opportunity to see what was
going on everywhere. The locusts had destroyed everything from as far south as
the Egyptian desert to the Lebanon Mountains
on the north; but the locust was not the only, nor the worst, plague that the
people had to complain of. The plundering under the name of "military
requisitions," the despotic rule of the army officers, and the general
insecurity were even more desolating.
I proceeded on my journey northward, I hoped to find consolation and brighter
prospects in the independent province of the Lebanon. Few Americans know just
what the Lebanon
is. From the repeated allusions in the Bible most people imagine it to be
nothing but a mountain. The truth is that a beautiful province of about four
thousand square miles bears that name. The population of the Lebanon consists of a Christian
sect called Maronites and the Druses, the latter a
people with a secret religion the esoteric teachings of which are known only to
the initiated, and never divulged to outsiders. Both
these peoples are sturdy, handsome folk. Through the machinations of the Turks,
whose policy is always to "divide and rule," the Maronites
were continually fighting against the Druses. In 1860 Turkish troops joined
with the Druses and fell upon the Maronites with
wholesale massacres that spread as far south as Damascus, where ten thousand Christians were
killed in two days.
European powers were moved at last. Fifty warships were sent to Beirut, and ten thousand French troops were landed in the Lebanon, to
create order. Under the pressure of the European powers the Sublime Porte was
forced to grant an autonomy for the province of the Lebanon.
The French, English, German, Russian, Austrian, and, a year later, the Italian,
Governments were signing the guaranty of this autonomy.
then the Lebanon
has had peace. The Governor of the province must always be a Christian, but the
General Council of the Lebanon
includes representatives of all the different races and religions of the
population. A wonderful development began with the liberation from Turkish
oppression. Macadamized roads were built all over the province, agriculture was
improved, and there was complete safety for life and property. There is a
proverb now in Palestine and Syria which
says, "In the Lebanon a virgin may travel alone at midnight and be safe,
and a purse of gold dropped in the road at midday will never be stolen."
And the proverb told the literal truth.
one crossed the boundary from Turkish Palestine into the Lebanon province, what
a change met his eyes!—peaceful and prosperous villages, schools filled
with children, immense plantations of mulberry trees and olives, the slopes of
the mountains terraced with beautiful vineyards, a handsome and sturdy
population, police on every road to help the stranger, and young girls and
women with happy laugh and chatter working in the fields. With a population of
about six hundred thousand this province exported annually two million dollars'
worth of raw silk, silkworm-raising being a specialty of the Lebanon.
autonomy was granted the Lebanon,
French influence became predominant among the Maronites
and other Christians of the province. French is spoken by almost all of them,
and love for France
is a deep-rooted sentiment of the people. On the other hand, the Druses feel
the English influence. For the last sixty years England has been the friend of the
Druses, and they have not forgotten it.
may be worth while to tell in a few words the story of one man who accomplished
wonders in spreading the influence of his country. Sir Richard Wood was born in
London, a son
of Catholic parents. From his early boyhood he aspired to enter the diplomatic
service. The East attracted him strongly, and in order to learn Arabic he went
with another young Englishman to live in the Lebanon. In Beirut they sought the hospitality of the Maronite patriarch. For a few days they were treated with
lavish hospitality, and then the patriarch summoned them before him and told
them that they must leave the city within twenty-four hours. The reason for
their disgrace they discovered later. Not suspecting that they were being put
to the test, they had eaten meat on a Friday, and this made the patriarch think
that they were not true Catholics, but were there as spies.
haste, Wood and his friend sought shelter with the Druses, who received them
with open arms. For two years Wood lived among the Druses, in the village of Obey. There he learned Arabic and became
thoroughly acquainted with the country and with the ways of the Druses, and
there he conceived the idea of winning the Druses for England to
counteract the influence of the French Maronites. He
went back to London, where he succeeded in
impressing his views upon the Foreign Office, and he returned to Syria charged
with a secret mission. Before long he persuaded the Druse
chieftains to address a petition to England asking for British
protection was granted, and for over thirty years Richard Wood, virtually
single-handed, shaped the destiny of Syria. It was he who broke the
power of Ibrahim Pasha, the son of Mehemet Ali; it was he who guided Admiral Stopford in the bombardment of Beirut; it was he, again,
who brought about the landing of English troops in Syria in 1841; we find him
afterwards in Damascus as British Consul, and wherever he went he was always
busy spreading English power and prestige. He understood the East thoroughly
and felt that England must
be strong in Syria
if she wished to retain her imperial power. It is very unfortunate that the
policy of Sir Richard Wood was not carried out by his nation.
was with high hopes and expectations that I approached the Lebanon. I was
looking forward to the moment when I should find myself among people who were
free from the Turkish yoke, in a country where I should be able to breathe
freely for a few hours.
how great was my consternation, when, on entering the Lebanon,
I found on all the roads Turkish soldiers who stopped me every minute to ask
for my papers! Even then I could not realize that the worst had happened. Of
course, rumors of the Turkish occupation of the Lebanon
had reached us a few weeks before, but we had not believed it, as we knew that Germany and Austria
were among those who guaranteed the autonomy of the Lebanon. It was true, however; the
scrap of paper that guaranteed the freedom of the Lebanon
had proved of no more value to the Lebanese than had that other scrap of paper
As I entered the beautiful village
one of the most prosperous and enchanting places on earth,
I saw entire regiments of Turkish troops encamped in and about the village.
I was watering my horse, I tried to ask questions from a few inhabitants. My
fair hair and complexion and my khaki costume made them take me for a German,
and they barely answered me, but when I addressed them in French their faces
lit up. For the Lebanon, for
all it is thousands of miles away from France, is nevertheless like a
French province. For fifty years the French language and French culture have
taken hold of the Lebanon.
No Frenchman has more love for and faith in France than lie in the hearts of
the Lebanese Christians. They have never forgotten that when massacres were
threatening to wipe out all the Christians of the Lebanon, ten thousand French
soldiers swept over the mountains to spread peace, life, and French gayety.
when the poor people heard the language they loved, and when they found out
that I too was the son of an oppressed and ruined community, all the sadness
and bitterness of their hearts was told me,—how the Turkish soldiers had
spread over the beloved mountains of Lebanon; how the strong, stalwart young
Lebanese had been taken away from the mountains and forced into the Turkish
army; how the girls and women were hiding in their homes, afraid to be seen by
the soldiers and their officers; how the chieftains were imprisoned and even
hanged; and how violence and pillage had spread over the peaceful
country.[Footnote: Since the above was written the American press has
chronicled many atrocities committed in the Lebanon. The execution of leaders
and the complete blockade of the mountains by the Turkish authorities resulted
in the starving of eighty thousand Lebanese. The French Government has warned Turkey through
the American Ambassador that the Turks will be held accountable for their
could not help wondering at the mistakes of the Allies. If they had understood
the situation in Palestine and Syria, how
differently this war might have eventuated! The Lebanon
and Syria would have raised
a hundred thousand picked men, if the Allies had landed in Palestine. The Lebanon would have fought for its
independence as heroically as did the Belgians. Even the Arab population would
have welcomed the Allies as liberators. But alas!
a saddened heart I pursued my journey into Beirut. My coming was a joyful surprise to my
sister. Many sad things had happened since she had last seen me. During my
imprisonment she had suffered tortures, not knowing what would happen to me,
and now that she saw me alive she cried from happiness. She told me how kindly
she had been treated by President Bliss, of the Syrian Protestant
College, and of all the
good things the college had done.
a blessing the college was for the people of Beirut! Many unfortunate people were saved
from prison and hardships through the intervention of President Bliss. He never
tired of rendering service, wonderful personal service. But alas, even his
influence and power began to wane. The American prestige in the country was
broken, and the Turkish Government no longer respected the American flag. An
order issued from Constantinople demanded that
the official language of the college be Turkish instead of English, and Turkish
officers even dared to enter the college premises to search for citizens
belonging to the belligerent nations, without troubling to ask permission from
the American Consul.
IX A ROBBER BARON OF PALESTINE
Beirut is a city of about
two hundred thousand inhabitants, half of whom are Christians and the rest
Mohammedans and Jews. The pinch of hunger was already felt there. Bread was to
be had only on tickets issued by the Government, and prices in general were
extremely high. The population were discontented and
turbulent, and every day thousands of women came before the governor's
residence to cry and protest against the scarcity of bread.
Allies' warships often passed near the town, but the people were not afraid of
them, for it was known that the Allies had no intention of bombarding the
cities. Only once had a bombardment taken place. Toward the end of March, 1915,
a French warship approached the bay
of Haifa and landed an
officer with a letter to the commandant of that town giving notice of his
intention to bombard the German Consulate at 3 P.M. sharp. This was in
retaliation for the propaganda carried on by the consul, Leutweld
von Hardegg, and chiefly because of his desecration
of the grave of Bonaparte's soldiers. The consul had time to pack up his
archives and valuables, and he left his house before three. The bombardment
began exactly at three. Fifteen shells were fired with a wonderful precision.
Not one house in the neighborhood of the consulate was touched, but the
consulate itself was a heap of ruins after a few shells had struck it. The
population was exceedingly calm. Only the German colony was panic-stricken, and
on every German house an American flag was raised. It was rather humorous to
see all the Germans who were active in the Turkish army in one capacity or
another seek safety by means of this trick.
bombardment had a sobering effect upon the Mohammedan population. They saw that
the Allies were not wholly ignorant of what was going on in the country and
that they could retaliate, and safety for the non-Mohammedans increased
was a rather quiet and safe place. The presence of an American cruiser in the
port had much to do with that. The American sailors were allowed to come ashore
three times a week, and they spent their money lavishly. It was estimated that Beirut was getting more
than five thousand dollars a week out of them. But the natives were especially
impressed by the manliness and quick action of the American boys. Frequently a
few sailors were involved in a street fight with scores of Arabs, and they
always held their own. In a short time the Americans became feared, which in
the Orient is equivalent to saying they were respected. The Beirut people are famous for their fighting
spirit, but this spirit was not manifested after a few weeks of intimate
acquaintance with the American blue-jackets.
inspection of the devastation caused by the locusts completed, I returned home.
The news that greeted me there was alarming. I must narrate with some detail
the events which finally decided me to leave the country. About one hour's ride
on horseback from our village lives a family of Turkish nobles, the head of
which was Sadik Pasha, brother of the famous Kiamil Pasha, several times Grand Vizier of the Empire. Sadik, who had been exiled from Constantinople, came to Palestine and bought
great tracts of land near my people. After his death his
sons—good-for-nothing, wild fellows—were forced to sell most of the
estate—all except one Fewzi Bey,
who retained his part of the land and lived on it. Here he collected a band of
friends as worthless as himself and gradually commenced a career of plundering
and "frightfulness" much like that of the
robber barons of mediaeval Germany.
Before the outbreak of the war he confined his attentions chiefly to the Arabs,
whom he treated shamefully. He raided cattle and crops and carried off girls
and women in broad daylight. On one occasion he stopped a wedding procession
and carried off the young bride. Then he seized the bridegroom, against whom he
bore a grudge, and subjected the poor Bedouin to the bastinado until he
consented to divorce his wife by pronouncing the words, "I divorce
thee," three times in the presence of witnesses, according to Mohammedan
custom. This Bedouin was the grandson of the Sheikh Hilou,
a holy man of the region upon whose grave the Arabs are accustomed to make
their prayers. But we villagers of Zicron-Jacob had
never submitted to Fewzi Bey
in any way; our young men were organized and armed, and after a few encounters
he let us alone.
the mobilization, however, and the taking away of our arms, this outlaw saw
that his chance had come. He began to send his men and his camels into our
fields to harvest our crops and carry them off. This pillage continued until
the locusts came—Fewzi, in the mean while,
becoming so bold that he would gallop through the streets of our village with his
horsemen, shooting right and left into the air and insulting old men and women.
He boasted—apparently with reason—that the authorities at Haifa were powerless to
was one hope left. Djemal Pasha had boasted that he
had introduced law and order; the country was under military rule; it remained
to see what he would say and do when the crimes of Fewzi
Bey were brought to his notice. Accordingly, armed
with my boyouroulton, or passport, of a
locust-inspector, I rode to Jerusalem,
where I procured, through my brother, who was then in favor, an interview with Djemal Pasha. He received me on the very day of my arrival,
and listened attentively while for a whole hour I poured out the story of Fewzi Bey's outrages. I put my
whole heart into the plea and wound up by asking if it was to the credit of the
progressive Young Turks to shelter feudal abuses of a bygone age. Djemal seemed to be impressed. He sprang from his chair,
began walking up and down the room; then with a great dramatic gesture he exclaimed,
"Justice shall be rendered!" and assured me that a commission of army
officers would be sent at once to start an investigation. I returned to Zicron-Jacob with high hopes.
enough, a few days later Fewzi Bey
was summoned to Jerusalem;
at the same time the "commission," which had dwindled to one single
officer on secret mission, put in an appearance and began to make inquiries
among the natives. He got little satisfaction at first, for they lived in
mortal terror of the outlaw; they grew bolder, however, when they learned his
purpose. Complaints and testimonies came pouring in, and in four days the
officer had the names of hundreds of witnesses, establishing no less than
fifty-two crimes of the most serious nature. Fewzi's
friends and relatives, in the mean while, were doing their utmost to stem the
tide of accusations. The Kaimakam
(lieutenant-governor) of Haifa
came in person to our village and threatened the elders with all sorts of
severities if they did not retract the charges they had made. But they stood
firm. Had not Djemal Pasha, commander-in-chief of the
armies in Palestine,
given his word of honor that we should have redress?
were soon shown the depth of our naïveté in fancying that justice could be done
by a Turk. Fewzi Bey came
back from Jerusalem,
not in convict's clothes, but in the uniform of a Turkish officer! Djemal Pasha had commissioned him commandant of the Moujahaddeen (religious militia) of the entire region! It
was bad enough to stand him as an outlaw; now we had to submit to him as an
officer. He came riding into our village daily,
ordering everybody about and picking me out for distinguished spitefulness.
position soon became unbearable. I was, of course, known as the organizer of
the young men's union which for so long had put up a spirited resistance to Fewzi; I was still looked upon as a leader of the younger
spirits, and I knew that sooner or later Fewzi would
try to make good his threat, often repeated, that he would "shoot me like
a dog." It was hardly likely that an open attempt on my life would be
made. When Ambassador Morgenthau visited Palestine,
he had stayed in our village and given my family the evidence of his sincere
friendship. These things count in the East, and I soon got the reputation of
having influential friends. However, there were other ways of disposing of me.
One evening, about sunset, while I was riding through a valley near our
village, my horse shied violently in passing a clump of bushes. I gave him the
spur and turned and rode toward the bushes just in time to see a horseman dash
out wildly with a rifle across his saddle. I kept the incident to myself, but I
was more cautious and kept my eyes open wherever I went. One afternoon, a
fortnight later, as I was riding to Hedera, another Jewish
village, two hours' ride away, a shot was fired from behind a sand-dune. The
bullet burned a hole in the lapel of my coat.
night I had a long talk with my brother. There was no doubt whatever in his
mind that I should try to leave the country, while I,
on the contrary, could not bear to think of deserting my people at the crisis
of their fortunes. It was a beautiful night, such a night, I think, as only Palestine can show, a
white, serene, moon-bathed night. The roar of the Mediterranean
came out of the stillness as if to remind us that help and salvation could come
only from the sea, the sea upon which scores of the warships of the Allies were
sailing back and forth. We had argued into the small hours before I yielded to
was all very well to decide to leave the country; to get safely away was a
different matter. There were two ways out. One of these—the land route by
Constantinople—could not be considered.
The other way was to board one of the American cruisers which, by order of
Ambassador Morgenthau, were empowered to assist citizens of neutral countries
to leave the Ottoman Empire. These cruisers
had already done wonderful rescue work for the Russian Jews in Palestine,
who, when war was declared, were to have been sent to the Mesopotamian town of Urfa—there to
suffer massacre and outrage like the Armenians. This was prevented by Mr.
Morgenthau's strenuous representations, with the result that these Russian Jews
were gathered together as in a great drag-net and herded to Jaffa, amidst suffering unspeakable. There
they were met by the American cruisers which were to transport them to Egypt. Up to
the very moment when they set foot on the friendly warships they were robbed
and horribly abused by the Jaffa
boatmen. The eternal curse of the Wandering Jew! Driven from Russia, they come to seek shelter in Turkey; Turkey
then casts them from her under pretext that they are loyal to Russia. Truly,
the Jew lifts his eyes to the mountains, asking the ancient and still
unanswered question, "Whence shall come my help?"
Turkish Government later repented of its leniency in allowing these Russian
Jews to escape, and gave orders that only neutrals should leave the
country—and then only under certain conditions. I was not a neutral; my
first papers of American citizenship were valueless to further my escape. I had
heard, however, that the United States
cruiser Tennessee was to call at Jaffa, and I determined
to get aboard her by hook or by crook. One evening, as soon as darkness had
fallen, I bade a sorrowful farewell to my people, and set off for Jaffa, traveling only by
night and taking out-of-the-way paths to avoid the pickets, for now that the
locust campaign was over, my boyouroulton was
useless. At dawn, two days later, I slipped into Jaffa by way of the sand-dunes and went to
the house of a friend whom I could trust to help me in every possible way, and
begged him to find me a passport for a neutral. He set off in search and I
waited all day at his house, consumed with impatience and anxiety. At last,
toward evening, my friend returned, but the news he brought was not cheering.
He had found a passport, indeed, but his report of the rigors of the inspection
at the wharf was such as to make it clear that the chances of my getting
through on a false passport were exceedingly slim, since I was well known in Jaffa. If I were caught
in such an undertaking, it might mean death for me and punishment for the
friends who had helped me.
this plan was not feasible. All that night I racked my brain for a solution.
Finally I decided to stake everything on what appeared to be my only chance.
was due on the next day but one, early in the morning. I gave my friend the
name of a boatman who was under obligations to me and had sworn to be my friend
for life or death. Even under the circumstances I hesitated to trust a
Mohammedan, but it seemed the only thing to do; I had no choice left. My friend
brought the boatman, and I put my plan before him, appealing to his daring and
his sense of honor. I wanted him to take me at midnight in his fishing-boat
from an isolated part of the coast and wait for the appearance of the Tennessee; then, on her
arrival, amid the scramble of boats full of refugees, I was to jump aboard,
while he would return with the other boats. The poor fellow tried to
remonstrate, pointing out the dangers and what he called—rightly enough,
doubtless—the folly of the plan. I stuck to it, however, making it clear
that his part would be well paid for, and at last he consented and we arranged
a meeting-place behind the sand-dunes by the shore.
put a few personal belongings into a little suit-case and had my friend give it
to one of the refugees who was to sail on the Tennessee. If I succeeded, I was to recover
it when we reached Egypt.
The only thing I took with me was the paper which declared my "intention
of becoming an American citizen," the "first paper." From this
document I was determined not to part. I shall not tell how I kept it on me, as
the means I used may still be used by others in concealing such papers and a
disclosure of the secret might bring disaster to them. Suffice it to say that I
had the paper with me and that no search would have brought it to light.
next morning at the appointed place, I gave the signal agreed upon, the whine
of a jackal, and, after repeating it again and again, I heard a very low and
muffled answer. My boatman was there! I had some fear that he might have
betrayed me and that I should presently see a soldier or policeman leap out of
the little boat, but my fears proved groundless, the man was faithful.
rowed out quietly, our boat a little nutshell on the tossing waves. But I was
relieved; the elements did not frighten me; on the contrary, I felt secure and
refreshed in the midst of the sea. When morning began to dawn, scores of little
boats came out of the harbor and circled about waiting for the cruiser. This
was our chance. I crouched in the bottom of our boat and to all appearances my
boatman was engaged merely in fishing. After I had lain there over an hour with
my heart beating like a drum and with small hopes for the success of my
undertaking, I heard at last the whistle of the approaching cruiser followed by
of mad shouting and cursing among the boatmen. In the confusion I felt
it safe to sit up. No one paid the slightest attention to me. All were engaged
in a wild race to reach and mount the Tennessee's
ladder. I scrambled up with the rest, and when, on the deck, an officer
demanded my passport, I put on a bold front and asked him to tell Captain
Decker that Mr. Aaronsohn wished to see him.
minutes later I stood in the captain's cabin. There I unfolded my story, and
wound up by asking him if, under the circumstances, my "first papers"
might not entitle me to protection. As I spoke I could see the struggle that
was going on within him. When he answered it was to explain, with the utmost
kindness, that if he took me aboard his ship it would be to forfeit his word of
honor to the Turkish Government, his pledge to take only citizens of neutral
countries; that he could not consider me an American on the strength of my
first papers; and that any such evasion might lead to serious complications for
him and for his Government. Well, there was nothing for me to do but to
withdraw and go back to Jaffa
to face trial for an attempt to escape.
I reached the deck again I found it swarming with refugees, many of whom knew
me and came up to congratulate me on getting away. I could only shake my head
and with death in my heart descend the Tennessee's
ladder. It did not matter now what boat I took. Any boatman was eager enough to
take me for a few cents. As I sat in the boat, every stroke of the oars
bringing me nearer to the shore and to what I felt was inevitable captivity, a great bitterness swelled my heart. I was tired, utterly tired of all the dangers and trials I had
been going through for the last months. From depression I sank into despair and
out of despair came, strange to say, a great serenity, the serenity of despair.
the quay I ran into Hassan Bey, commandant of the
police, who was superintending the embarkation of refugees. I knew him and he
knew me. Half an hour later I was in police headquarters under examination by
Hassan Bey. I was desperate, and answered him
recklessly. A seasick man is indifferent to shipwreck. This was the substance
of our conversation:—
did you get aboard the ship?"
"In a boat with some refugees. A woman hid me with her
you were trying to escape, were you?"
I had been, I shouldn't have come back."
what did you do on the cruiser?"
went to talk to the captain, who is a friend of mine. My life is in danger. Fewzi Bey is after me, and I
wanted my friends in America
to know how justice is done in Palestine."
are your friends in America?"
"Men who could break you in a minute."
you know to whom you are speaking?"
Hassan Bey. I am sick of persecution. I wish you
would hang me with your own hands as you hanged the young Christian; my friends
would have your life for mine."
wonder now how I dared to speak to him in this manner. But the bluff carried.
Hassan Bey looked at me curiously for a
moment—then smiled and offered me a cigarette, assuring me that he
believed me a loyal citizen, and declaring he felt deeply hurt that I had not
come to him for permission to visit the cruiser. We parted with a profusion of
Eastern compliments, and that evening I started back to Zicron-Jacob.
failure of my attempt to leave the country only sharpened my desire to make
another trial. The danger of the enterprise tended to reconcile me to deserting
my family and comrades and seeking safety for myself. As I racked my brain for
a promising plan, a letter came from my sister in Beirut with two pieces of news which were
responsible for my final escape. The American
College was shortly to close for the
summer, and the U.S.S. Chester was to sail for Alexandria with refugees aboard. Beirut is a four days'
trip from our village, and roads are unsafe. It was out of the question to
permit my sister to come home alone, and it was impossible for any of us to get
leave to go after her; nor did we want to have her at home in the unsettled
condition of the country. I began wondering if I could not possibly get to Beirut and get my sister aboard the Chester, which offered, perhaps, the last
opportunity to go out with the refugees. It would be a difficult undertaking
but it might be our only chance and I quickly made up my mind to carry it out
if it were a possible thing. I had to act immediately; no time was to be lost,
for no one could tell how soon the Chester
last adventure had been entered upon with forebodings, but now I felt that I
should succeed. To us Orientals intuition speaks in very audible tones and we
are trained from childhood to listen to its voice. It was with a feeling of
confidence in the outcome, therefore, that I bade this second good-bye to my
family and dearest friends. Solemn hours they were, these hours of farewell,
hours that needed few words. Then once more I slipped out into the night to
make my secret way to Beirut.
was about midnight when I left home, dressed in a soldier's uniform and driving
a donkey before me. I traveled only by night and spent each day in hiding in
some cave or narrow valley where I could sleep with some measure of security.
For food I had brought bread, dried figs, and chocolate, and water was always
to be found in little springs and pools. In these clear, warm nights I used to
think of David, a fugitive and pursued by his enemies. How well I could now
understand his despairing cry: "How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever?... How long shall mine enemy be exalted over
nights I journeyed, and at last one morning beautiful Beirut appeared in the distance and I found
myself in the forest of pines that leads into the city. The fresh dawn was
filled with the balmy breath of the pines and all the odors of the Lebanon.
Driving my donkey before me, I boldly approached the first picket-house and
saluted the non-commissioned officer in military fashion. He stopped me and
asked whence I came and where I was going. I smiled sweetly and replied that I
was the orderly of a German officer who was surveying the country a few hours
to the south and that I was going to Beirut
for provisions. Then I lighted a cigarette and sat down for a chat. After
discussing politics and the war for a few minutes, I jumped up, exclaiming that
if I didn't hurry I should be late, and so took my departure. It was all so
simple, and it brought me safely to Beirut.
My donkey, having served the purpose for which I had brought him, was speedily
abandoned, and I hurried to a friend's house, where I exchanged my uniform for
the garb of a civilian.
sister was the most surprised person on earth when she saw me walking into her
room, and, when I told her that I wanted her to go with me on the Chester, she
thought me crazy, for she knew that hundreds of persons were trying in vain to
find means of leaving the country and it seemed to her impossible that we, who
were Turkish subjects, could succeed in outwitting the authorities. Even when I
had explained my plans and she was willing to admit the possibility of success,
she still felt doubts as to whether it would be right for her to leave the
country while her friends were left behind in danger. I assured her, however,
that our family would feel relieved to know that we were in safety and could
come back fresh and strong after the war to help in rebuilding the country.
gained her consent, I still had the difficult problem of ways and means before
me. The Chester
had orders to take citizens of neutral countries only. Passports had to be
examined by the Turkish authorities and by the American Consul-General, who gave
the final permission to board the cruiser. How was I to pass this double
scrutiny? After long and arduous search, with the assistance of several good
friends, I at last discovered a man who was willing to sell me the passports of
a young couple belonging to a neutral nation. I cannot go into particulars
about this arrangement, of course. Suffice it to say that my sister was to
travel as my wife and that we both had to disguise ourselves so as to answer
the descriptions on the passports. When I went to the American
Consulate-General to get the permit, I found the building crowded with people
of all nations,—Spanish and Greek and Dutch and Swiss,—all waiting
for the precious little papers that should take them aboard the American
cruiser, that haven of liberty and safety. The Chester
was to take all these people to Alexandria,
and those who had the means were to be charged fifty cents a day for their
food. From behind my dark goggles I recognized many a person in disguise like
myself and seeking escape. We never betrayed recognition for fear of the spies
who infested the place.
securing my permit, I ran downstairs and straight to "my" consul,
whose dragoman I took along with me to the seraya,
or government building. Of course, the dragoman was well tipped and he helped
me considerably in hastening the examination I had to undergo at the hands of
the Turkish officials. All went well, and I hurried back to my sister
Chester was to sail in two days, but while we were waiting, the alarming news
came that the American Consul had been advised that the British Government
refused to permit the landing of the refugees in Egypt and that the departure
of the Chester was indefinitely postponed. With a sinking at my heart I rushed
up to the American Consulate for details and there learned that the U.S.S. Des
Moines was to sail in a few hours for Rhodes
with Italian and Greek refugees and that I could go on her if I wished. In a
few minutes I had my permit changed for the trip on the Des Moines and I hurried home to my sister.
We hastily got together the few belongings we were to take with us, jumped into
a carriage, and drove to the harbor.
had still another ordeal to go through. My sister was taken into a private room
and thoroughly searched; so was I. Nobody could leave the country with more
than twenty-five dollars in cash on his person. Our baggage was carefully
overhauled. No papers or books could be taken. My sister's Bible was looked
upon with much suspicion since it contained a map of ancient Canaan.
I explained that this was necessary for the orientation of our prayers and that
without it we could not tell in which direction to turn our faces when praying!
This seemed plausible to the Moslem examiners and saved the Bible, the only
book we now possess as a souvenir from home. Now our passports were examined
again and several questions were asked. My sister was brave and self-possessed,
cool and unconcerned in manner, and at last the final signature was affixed and
we jumped into the little boat that was to take us out to the ship.
this moment a man approached, a dry-goods dealer of whom my sister had made
some purchases a few months before. He seemed to recognize her and he asked her
in German if she were not Miss Aaronsohn. I felt my
blood leave my face, and, looking him straight in the eye, I whispered,
"If you say one word more, you will be a dead man; so help me God!"
He must have felt that I meant exactly what I said, for he walked off mumbling
last the boat got away, and five minutes later we were mounting the side of the
Throngs of refugees covered the decks of the cruiser. Their faces showed
tension and anxiety. Their presence there seemed too good to be true, and all
awaited the moment when the ship should heave anchor. A Filipino sailor showed
us about, and as he spoke Italian, I told him I wanted to be hidden somewhere
till the ship got under way. I felt that even yet we were not entirely safe.
That my fears were justified I discovered shortly, when from our hiding-place I
saw the shopkeeper approaching in a small boat with a Turkish officer. They
looked over all the refugees on the deck, but searched for us in vain. After a
half-hour more of uncomfortable tension the engines began to sputter, the
propellers revolved, and—we were safe!
day was dying and a beautiful twilight softened the outlines of the Lebanon and the houses of Beirut. The Mediterranean
lay quiet and peaceful around us, and the healthy, sturdy American sailors gave
a feeling of confidence. As the cruiser drew out of the harbor, a great cry of
farewell arose from the refugees on board, a cry in which was mingled the
relief of being free, anguish at leaving behind parents and friends, fear and
hope for the future. A little later the sailors were lined up in arms to salute
the American flag when it was lowered for the night. Moved by a powerful
instinct of love and respect, all the refugees jumped to their feet, the men
bareheaded and the women with folded hands, and in that moment I understood as
I had never understood before the real sacred meaning of a flag. To all those
people standing in awe about that piece of cloth bearing the stars and stripes America was an
incarnation of love universal, of freedom and salvation.
cool Syrian night, our first night on the cruiser, was spent in songs, hymns,
and conversation. We were all too excited to sleep. Friends discovered friends
and tales of woe were exchanged, stories of hardship, injustice, oppression,
all of which ended with mutual congratulations on escaping from the clutches of