Israeli history photo of the week: Churchill in Palestine

The Secretary of State for the Colonies visited Palestine in 1921, voiced Support for Jewish State.

December 8, 2011 11:02
2 minute read.

Churchilll 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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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 great British leader Winston Churchill visited Palestine in 1921, relatively early in his career while serving as Colonial Secretary. He was attending a conference in Cairo, and, according to Churchill, he was invited to Jerusalem by his friend the British Commissioner for Palestine, Herbert Samuel.

While in Jerusalem he attended a tree-planting ceremony at Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus with Sir Herbert Samuel.

Churchill's most important meeting -- related to the division and leadership of the post-war Middle East -- was a secret meeting with Emir Abdullah (later King Abdullah of Transjordan) and T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). A photograph from the meeting was preserved in the Library of Congress collection.

He also met with the Muslim, Christian and Jewish religious leadership of Jerusalem. In an incredible film clip, Churchill takes leave of the leading rabbis of the time, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Chief Rabbi of the Ashkenazic community; Rabbi Joseph Chaim Zonnenfeld, Chief Rabbi of the ultra-Orthodox Eidah Charedis community; and Rabbi Jacob Meir, chief Rabbi of the Sephardi community.

In January 1925, Rabbi Zonnenfeld traveled to Amman to meet with Abdullah, his father King Hussein of the Hijaz and brother King Faisal of Iraq.

Churchill also met with a former mayor of Jerusalem and Arab leader, Musa Kazim el Husseini. Husseini was related to the Jew-hating Mufti Haj Amil el-Husseini and father of the notorious Arab militia fighter, Abdul Khadar el-Husseini. The Husseinis' hatred of Jews was only matched by their hatred for King Abdullah, and Husseini clan members were involved in Abdullah's assassination on the Temple Mount in 1951.

Musa Kazim el Husseini petitioned Churchill to stop the immigration of Jews into Palestine and claimed that life for the Arabs was better under the Ottomans. Churchill responded with his famous rhetorical brilliance, defending the Balfour Declaration and the reestablishment of the Jewish homeland.
More photos can be viewed at

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