Found in the Baptist and Reflector of January 6, 1921


J. Frank Norris

For the first time in nearly three thousand years has all Palestine been under the dominion of one Jewish ruler This was actually and officially brought to pass September 1, 1920! Sir Herbert Samuel, a Jew, is the “High Commissioner,” with absolute civil and military powers. The last Jew to hold such powers over all Palestine was Solomon!

As I write these notes from the British military headquarters located on Mount Olivet, I am reminded afresh that the military history of Palestine, so tragic and so eventful, may be pictured as the procession of nearly all the world’s conquerors, viz: Tiglath-Pileser, Sargon, Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar; Cambysses and Alexander; Pompey, Caesar, Augustus, Titus and Hadrian; Omar and Saladin; Tamerlane; Napoleon.

Is there not something deeply significant in the fact that the people who witnessed the splendor of Egypt and the glory of Babylon, the culture of Greece and the power of Rome, are still the same with all their traditions, laws and religion, while their contemporaries are found in museums or discovered beneath ruins of twenty, thirty and forty centuries old?

I am very happy that it was my good fortune to come to Palestine at this particular time. The time of twenty centuries “desolation” will soon end. The day of the New Palestine has begun. Let nu one misunderstand that the Jews have it back. I was in Jerusalem in time to witness the formal and final transfer of the rule of Palestine from the British control office at Cairo to the British headquarters at Mount Olivet. (They occupy the half million dollar church and hotel built by the Kaiser in 1896-98.)

Sir Herbert Samuel was postmaster general of England up to the time of his campaign in Jerusalem. He is a very strong man, just past forty, fine physique, commanding personality and approachable by all classes. You think of the typical American business Jew when talking to him. When he first came the Moslem and the Catholic population opposed him because he was a Jew. He has won all classes and all religions to his leadership.

Take this instance. Last spring there was an outbreak of the Moslems against the Jews. Several hundred were killed and wounded. By concerted action the Moslems fell on the Jewish quarters one Sunday morning with clubs and knives and before the British troops could quell the outbreak much destruction and murder had been wrought. The ringleader, a Mohammedan newspaper editor, escaped to the Bedouin tribes east of the Jordan. Two weeks ago Sir Herbert Samuel visited these descendants of Ishmael. He won them and they proffered allegiance to him on condition he would pardon the aforesaid ringleader and allow him to come back to Jerusalem. He agreed to do so.

How will the Jews get possession of thee land? This question, which is being discussed a great deal by various publications, answers itself when once you see the conditions.

For centuries the Arabs have occupied the land, therefore, naturally and justly he feels that he has an undisputed title thereto. It will be the survival of the fittest and on perfectly legal grounds. It will be the story over again of the American Indian giving way to the white man. The process has already set in.

The Jew is industrious, the Arab lazy; the Jew is progressive, the Arab is only halt civilized. I know there are those who undertake to prove that the “natives” have a high state of civilization, even if not after the Western ideals. I crossed Palestine in a Ford car in four different directions, visiting all the places of interest, and I found only ignorance, poverty, disease and superstition among the natives. They are clothed in rags, have very poor or no houses at all, know nothing of sanitation, and soap would be as much out of place as the average Theological Seminary professor would be at a revival meeting.

The Arab scratches the fertile fields with a wooden plow, still treads out the grain with the oxen and grinds it by handfuls at “the mill.” But only a casual glance at the new and modern Jewish village will convince any man what is going to happen. I visited one at the foot of Mount Carmel, near Haifa. The irrigated land with acres of orange groves, olive trees, almonds, figs and mulberry for silk worms tell it all.

To further illustrate how the Jew will get the land, and on peaceful lines of the survival of the fittest, I saw two gangs at different places working on the road. One gang of Arabs below Hebron were there for the purpose of breaking rock for the new pike, but they were all quarreling with the foreman My guide said they wanted to quit, clamoring they had worked enough that day. It was 10 a. m. and the whole fifty walked off with pay for only two hours. This out-herods all the “shorter hour” campaigns from Russia to America. Near Nazareth I saw about the same number at work at the same business. It was nearly six o’clock p. m. They didn’t so much as look up at our car. When I was told that they were Jews I stopped and took a picture of the entire gang. A man doesn’t need divine inspiration to know what the result will be in a few years.

Every ship going in the direction of Palestine is crowded with Jews. In crossing the Mediterranean over three hundred crowded the deck, by permission of ship authorities, after every available space of steerage, second and first-class, was taken. They were from every land, though most of them were from Russia and Central Europe. While most of them are very poor, yet there are men of education and wealth among them. Many from America are going. One old Jew, past three score and ten, was from Columbus, Ohio. He said he wanted to be buried in the land of his fathers. A mother and two daughters from San Francisco were on board. The daughters were educated and were going to teach in the Jewish schools.

As the train left Lod (ancient Lyda) it seemed to me that everybody in the twelve coaches were singing. It was all in Hebrew, and for three hours we wound around through the steep Judean mountains over as fine & railroad as is found in America. More than twenty-five hundred years ago the ancestors of these same people returned from Babylonian captivity:

“And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because he is good, for his mercy endureth forever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.”

I don’t know what my ancestors were doing at that time, perhaps eating each other for breakfast. Neither do care or want to know, but the Jews were writing the laws for all coming time.

Nothing seems settled by the war I crossed Europe from England to Russia and from Russia through the Balkans to Italy and Greece. Uncertainty, uneasiness and unrest are on every hand. Plenty to eat and plenty to wear, therefore, it is not economic. Nobody knows what it is. Call it postwar conditions it you will, but now two years after the war finds more unsettled conditions than at any time since the war. Statesmen and diplomats are entirely confused. Labor and capital are at each other’s throats in death grapple. The more a man sees and hears the less dogmatic he feels as to the outcome. But for faith in the unshaken Word of God a man would be sorely tempted to give up in despair. In it all, through it all and overtopping all, there is one clear-cut result of the war: The Jew has Palestine again. The conquest, which cost the Crusaders ten million lives and failed was accomplished by General Edmund Allenby in one short brilliant campaign. It took a world cataclysm, the breaking up of all old alliances, to bring about this result. England could not give Palestine to the Jews for fear of offending the Mohammedan population, thereby endangering her Indian possessions. Germany couldn’t because of her alliance with Turkey. Russia was not only not the friend but the persecutor of the Jew. France and other European powers were unable, even if willing. America’s policy of non-interference rendered us powerless to help the Jew. But in the midst of the crisis, in the darkest hour of the war, the Jew, shrewd and far-sighted, saw his long deferred opportunity. A strong and representative committee representing the Zionistic movement, secured from Mr. A. J. Balfour, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, this official decree:

“The Government of Great Britain views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use its best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly under stood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by the Jews in any other country.”

This decree is framed and hangs on the walls of Sir Herbert Samuel’s office on Mount Olivet. What Nehemiah’s helped to bring this about, or even wrote the decree we will have to wait till all things are made known to find out, In the light of prophecy, in meaning to the present world crisis, and above all, in its deep significance to the future of all the world, I would place the decree of Balfour of Britain alongside that of Cyrus of Babylon, if not above it.

Nominally Palestine is an English Province. It has “Dominion Home Rule.” Actually it is an independent state. Whether on grounds of policy or otherwise the English deserve large credit for what they have done, and propose to do for the country. They have the right to claim the promise, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.”

In Southern Palestine I came upon the Governor of Beersheba, a British Major, in a lame Ford. He had just received it and didn’t know how to fix it. (A bad spark plug was all the trouble). My ten years’ experience came in good time. We rode together the rest of the way, my car going on in front. He told me the Ford car was the biggest factor in winning Palestine from the Turk. For this as well as for the other self-evident reasons I shall always ride in a Ford.

This officer explained to me the plans of irrigation for Palestine. He said the flood waters of the Jordan could be so con served as to water every plain and valley in the land. It was highly interesting to find that this officer was very religious, and believed profoundly in the destiny of the Jews.

The new government has made several very important changes and improvements already. An abundant supply of water for Jerusalem comes by aqueduct from the same supply of the Pools of Solomon, about ten miles south of the city.

Very strict sanitary laws are enforced. The hospitals for treating the blind are the best. The land is filled with the blind. Because the mothers are so ignorant, the children are terribly afflicted with sore eyes. The very best nurses and doctors are here in numbers. There will be no more leprosy – all the lepers have been gathered out of the land and the men placed in one asylum and the women in another. No more marrying among the lepers.

Though subordinate, but by no means unimportant, will be the discovery of countless monuments, which so rich a history has bequeathed, both above and below the ground Under the Turkish rule no excavations, with few exceptions, were allowed. The universities, scientists and Bible scholars have longed for the day when freedom of exploration and excavation would be granted. A few years ago a foundation for a house was being dug on the site of Ancient Samaria. By accident, the tomb of King Ahab was discovered. The man making the excavation was fined by the Turkish Government and the hole was promptly filled up.

The Germans (who, through their alliance with the Sultan, had their hands on all Palestine), secured special permission to excavate Jericho. Coins, wares and other valuable Biblical testimony was secured. The ruins of Askelon, one of the five powerful cities of ancient Philistia, are now being excavated. Many interesting things have been found, among them inscriptions telling of the coming of the Israelites into Canaan and of the wars between the two peoples. Who knows what secrets lie buried beneath the ruins of the Temple? Great things are taking place in this the strangest of all lands.