Melach Haaretz preparatory program students discover Ottoman army military position
Melach Haaretz preparatory program students discover Ottoman army military position Gili Stern, Antiquities Authority

Evidence of fierce battles between the British and Ottoman armies in the form of dozens of bullet casings, shell fragments, and military items from World War I was recently exposed in an archaeological excavation of the Antiquities Authority with youth volunteer participation near Rosh Ha'ayin.

The excavation was carried out as part of paving an access road between Rosh Ha'ayin and Afek Industrial Park, financed by the Rosh Ha'ayin municipality.

Students of the military preparatory school Melach Haaretz, Antiquities Authority, and Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority presented the findings to the military attache at the British Embassy in Israel, Colonel Ronny Westerman and the chairman of the World Heritage Organization in Israel, Eran Tirosh, at the Migdal Tzedek National Park.

The first bullet shell was discovered by a member of the Melach Haaretz program who participated in the project. "Yitzhak Kalantarov approached me curiously with a finding in his hand," says Yossi Elisha, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

"I was surprised to discover that it was a rifle bag, and I was even more surprised when it turned out to be a World War I bag," says Elisha. "As archaeologists, we expect to expose antiquities sites of hundreds and thousands of years ago, while here we have a relatively young story, 100 years old, but we were all drawn to the fascinating story of the battle, and the students collected more and more shells, pieces of shells and various military objects. In addition, two military posts were discovered that were used by the Ottoman army. One was located inside an ancient field tower and the other was adjacent to an agricultural terrace.

According to Elisha, "these findings are evidence of one of the major battles that took place in Eretz Yisrael between the British forces and the Turkish forces during the First World War."

At the beginning of the excavation, an insignia fragment belonging to a British hat was discovered at one of the posts, and next to it were bullets and Ottoman rifle bags. "The excitement was great, because this is concrete evidence of the fighting between the forces in the area," says Assaf Peretz, a researcher at the Israel Antiquities Authority. "Our excitement increased even more when archaeologist Shahar Crispin identified the name of the unit to which the soldier with the hat belonged - the Norfolk Regiment."

According to Peretz, "the fighting on this site was part of the Battle of Megiddo, which took place on September 19, 1918. Two battalions, the '1/4 Battalion' and the 1/5 Battalion' of the British Norfolk unit, attacked the ridge where the excavated site was located. This was to assist another battalion that attacked the Ottoman fortifications. We found the insignia from the British hat inside the Ottoman position, vividly illustrating the historical account."

Alexander Glick, a weapons expert at the Israel Antiquities Authority, reconstructed the battlefield as shown by the findings: "The British forces shelled the positions of the Turks with 18-pound cannons, which were the most common cannons in the British Army during World War I. Fragments of artillery shells and shrapnel bullets were found in the excavation (fragmentation bullets that were inside the shells). It seems that the Turkish forces were severely damaged by this barrage. At the same time, they returned massive light-weapons fire at the British forces, as can be seen from the bullet casings of Rubi Mauser, discovered in Turkish positions. Interestingly, the rifles and the knapsacks were made in Germany and supplied shortly before the battle - evidence of Turkish dependence on arms and ammunition from their German allies."

The area of ​​Migdal Tzedek National Park (Majdal Yaba) where the findings were first presented to the military attache of the British Embassy in Israel, was also included in the long list of sites throughout Israel in which battles took place during World War I (1917-1918), the war in which the Yildirim army group fought against each other (The name of the Axis army - the Ottoman Empire, the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire), and the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (the so-called Allied Army led by Britain and its colonies, France, Italy, and more; an army better known as the Allenby Army).