The US Navy Saved Jews in the Holy Land in 2016

Why did the navy have to bring the aid the US sent Jews during WWI?

Lenny Ben David ,

WWI, Jerusalem
WWI, Jerusalem

The above is the U.S. Navy receipt for emergency aid supplies destined for the Jews of Palestine from the Joint Distribution Committee 100 years ago, February 21, 1916. According to the JDC file, the supplies included matzot for Passover. (JDC Archives)

We have written previously how the United States Government rallied to save the Jews of the Holy Land from famine and expulsion by the Turkish army during World War I.  But we are now adding an important historic document from that episode showing the vital involvement of American Jewry and the United States Navy exactly 100 years ago.

At the start of the war, Jewish men were forcibly conscripted into the Turkish Army, a devastating locust plague ravaged the land in 1915, Turkish troops were looting supplies in preparation for their attack on the Suez Canal, charitable funds from European Jewish communities for the Jews of Palestine were cut off, and plans were being drawn up by the Turks to expel the Jews from the land. 

The United States Ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau, warned American Jewish leaders of the danger to the Jews of the Holy Land and appealed to them for funds. 

The forced conscription and looting of  Jerusalem homes. (1914, Ottoman Imperial Archives)

The American government had not yet entered the war and U.S. aid could still get through. But to ensure that the money and supplies would not be stolen by rapacious Turkish officials, the U.S. secretary of state approved the use of American warships for the deliveries. Thirteen U.S. ships were used for the deliveries and for providing passage to Jews expelled from the land by the Turks.

For history in pictures site, click here. More information and photographs on this historic episode will appear in the forthcoming book, American Interests in the Holy Land, Revealed in Early Photographs by Lenny Ben-David.