Israeli history photo of the week: Turks v. British, 1917

JPost special feature: Library of Congress collection that documents Israel before the creation of the state.

April 19, 2012 17:41
1 minute read.
Great Mosque of Gaza

Great Mosque of Gaza. (photo credit: American Colony-Jerusalem-Photo Dept.)


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The Library of Congress has recently digitalized a collection of over 10,000 photographs, taken by the "American Colony" in Jerusalem, a group of Christian utopians who lived in Jerusalem between 1881 and the 1940s. The photographers returned to the US, and bequeathed their massive collection to the Library of Congress in 1978. The collection includes Winston Churchill's visit to Jerusalem, Jewish expulsions from the Old City during Arab riots, and the building of Tel Aviv.

The collection also includes photos documenting the Turkish defeat of the British in Gaza 95 years ago.  In the early 1900s, the British Empire relied on the Suez Canal to maintain communications and trade with India, Australia and New Zealand. With that in mind, Germany encouraged Turkey to challenge British rule over Egypt and British control of the Suez Canal in the midst of World War I. The Turkish army in Palestine complied and crossed the Sinai, attacking British troops along the Suez. 

The British army stood their ground, pushing the Turks back 40 miles inland to a defense line stretching from Gaza to Be'er Sheva.  Despite attempts to push through Gaza with 60,000 soldiers and newly developed British tanks and poison gas, the British suffered a diasterous defeat on April 17, 1917.

The British campaign for the creation of a Jewish state would be stalled for six months.  It would be led by a new commander, a large number of reinforcements, and a new strategy that took the war in a new direction, east toward Beersheba.

More photos can be viewed at

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