1929 letter to Rabbi Kook over Jewish ownership of Western Wall discovered

"For my great astonishment I do not have the power to elaborate as I just learned the wall is to be registered as the Arabs' property due to the fear the government would carry out pogroms."

Rabbi Wintroub's letter to Rabbi Kook, 1929. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Rabbi Wintroub's letter to Rabbi Kook, 1929.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A 1929 letter from Rabbi Noah Wintroub to Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Abraham Isaac Kook calling for Jewish ownership over the Western Wall was revealed by Beit Harav Kook Archive on Thursday.

Following the Palestine Riots of 1929, Jewish representatives and Zionist activists founded the Western Wall Committee. According to agreements reached between the committee and the British authorities, the Zionist movement was to declare the Western Wall Arab property, with the Arabs allow Jewish prayer at the wall.

"For my great astonishment I do not have the power to elaborate as I just learned the wall is to be registered as the Arabs' property due to the fear the government would carry out pogroms," Wintroub said in his letter to Kook.

Wintroub demanded the Religious-Zionist leader oppose the agreements reached with the British, calling on the latter to refrain fro signing it and comparing it to the persecution of Jews under Greek rule ahead of the Maccabean Revolt.

"If the evil rulers are willing to carry out pogroms, they will do so even if the agreement is signed. If, God forbid, [British rule] remains in this land, the People of Israel will not remain on this land," Wintroub said.

"We are convinced this plague is eliminated from this land, and be cursed he who assists in harming 'this pleasant hill country and Lebanon,' as his fate shall be like that of the destroyers and his name shall remain infamous."

Rabbi Chaim Sonnenfeld and Kook opposed the agreements the Western Wall Committee reached with the authorities of Mandatory Palestine. "If the issue depends on my signature, how can I forgo the Lord's gift to the People of Israel?" Kook said.

Sonnenfeld showed his opposition to the agreements to a British delegation, saying he "can not go against the promise of the Lord and will not give out a grain of the Land of Israel."

On August 23, 1929, riots incited by Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini's claims of Jewish expropriation of the area around the Temple Mount, broke out in Jerusalem, spreading across Mandatory Palestine with Arab mobs attacking the Jewish population

Some 133 Jews were killed by rioters, with up to 68 massacred in Hebron. Around 116 Arabs died in the riots. The 1930 Shaw Report said "Arabs in Hebron made a most ferocious attack on the Jewish ghetto and on isolated Jewish houses lying outside the crowded quarters of the town."

In the attack, "of which no condemnation could be too severe, was accompanied by wanton destruction and looting," the report said. Two days after the massacre, the Nebi Akasha Mosque in Jerusalem was destroyed by Jewish rioters.

According to the Shaw Report, tensions rose in Palestine after around 6,000 young Revisionist-Zionist activists marched around the wall of the Old City on August 15, marking Tisha B'Av, showting "undesirable elements."

Following the event, al-Husseini's Supreme Muslim Council organized another march near the Western Wall. Arab media reported a flyer saying "Hearts are in tumult because of these barbaric deeds, and the people began to break out in shouts of 'war, Jihad...rebellion.'"