One Hundred Years since the British Occupation of Jerusalem
Opening: September 2017
A ‘Hanukkah miracle’ and a ‘Christmas present’ were just some of the expressions used to describe the historic transition of Jerusalem – sacred to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – to the British army as it entered the city in the winter of 1917 and ended 400 years of Ottoman rule.
The Turkish forces beat a hasty retreat from Jerusalem, having given a letter of surrender to the mayor of the city. Bearing a white flag, he set out to hand over Jerusalem to representatives of the British army. After a number of encounters with soldiers and officers, the city surrendered. On 11 December 1917, General Edmund Allenby stood at the entrance to the Citadel (today, the Tower of David Museum) and addressed the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for the first time in its history, in a proclamation that was translated and read in seven languages and that urged them to carry on with their religious customs, prayers, and traditions under the auspices of the new regime.
The series of events by which the holy city was entrusted to its new rulers combined the cruelty of war with the compassion shown by both the city’s defeated rulers and by its occupiers. There was humility and there were moments of glory. However, there were also a fair number of local legends and comic coincidences, as well as a few puzzles that still remain unsolved… some of which, one hundred years on, we will attempt to answer together with some new questions we shall be posing.
The focal point of the exhibition will be the dramatic story of the surrender of Jerusalem told from fresh and varied viewpoints. The exhibition will explain the initial measures taken by the new regime, reflecting the events and desperate conditions of the First World War in Jerusalem.
The exhibition will be mounted in the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, the museum of the city and the very place where the high point of this historic drama took place. The exhibition will focus on a number of key figures, some of them were forgotten over the years and of course the main hero, General Allenby, who become a symbol for many of the country’s inhabitants, and it will cover the ceremonies and events surrounding the first months of the new government, some of which became embedded in local traditions.
The exhibits, many of which will be on view for the first time, will include postcards, souvenirs, diaries, and placards that reveal what life was like in the city as it began a new and highly significant chapter in its history.