WWI Centenary: Armies that Fought in the Holy Land

Jews in Palestine starved in WWI, but the Jewish soldiers from overseas rejoiced to see them.

Lenny Ben David ,

Kiwi Memorial in Rishon
Kiwi Memorial in Rishon

Above and on the main page: a memorial erected by the Jews of Rishon LeZion in memory of the New Zealand soldiers who died in the battle of Ayun Kara on November 14, 1917 (Victoria University of Wellington Library)

We have often stressed in these posting the huge dimensions of World War I in Palestine.  The armies, battles and casualties were often on the same scale as those on the "Western Front" in Europe.  The war raged from the Suez Canal to Damascus and Iraq.

The 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement that carved up the Middle East after the war is being ripped to shreds in the regional fighting today.

Commemorating the centenary of World War I, we present the picture history of the Palestine battles, the soldiers from Turkey, Austria and German on one side and the British army with its contingents from Australia, New Zealand, and India.  We will also post pictures showing the Jewish soldiers and volunteers from Great Britain, Australia, the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Palestine itself.  The Jewish soldiers also provided incredible pictures of the Jewish communities they found in Palestine.

school house in Rishon LeZion with Jewish students and teachers. The picture was taken by Trooper Charles Thomas Broomfield of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles after the November 14, 1917 battle of Ayun Kara and the liberation of Rishon LeZion. Rishon was founded on July 31, 1882 by Russian Jews who purchased 835 acres from the Arab village of Ayun Kara. Find more Broomfield pictures here.

More on the New Zealand soldiers, Broomfield, and the Jews of Rishon LeZion can be found here. We provide a fascinating quote from Broomfield's diary:

The people and the settlement [Rishon] was to have a strong influence on the New Zealanders. The Jewish village was the first taste of something closer to the environment of home. Since crossing the arid Sinai Desert and its confrontation with a hostile Turkish enemy and, more often than not, a treacherous contact with Arab Bedu tribesmen - The Auckland Mounted Rifles agreed it was a joy to meet a people who had just been freed from Turkish tyranny. It was a land worked into agriculture and planted with fruit trees and vineyards.

"Mounted rifle troops and horses stopped to the side of a road through the mountains of Palestine." The photo appears to be at the Sha'ar Haggai/Bab el Wad junction between Jaffa and Jerusalem.(National Library of New Zealand)

"Mounted New Zealand World War I troops in Palestine, moving towards the Jordan River. Photographs taken during World War I of the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces in Jerusalem, and the Auckland Mounted Rifles in Egypt, Sinai and Palestine. Ref: 1/2-066833-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand"

For more, see WW100: Centenary of World War I -- Historic Pictures of the Armies that Fought in the Holy Land