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Title: With the Turks in Palestine
Author: Aaronsohn, Alexander
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "With the Turks in Palestine" ***








   _What have I done, or tried, or said
    In thanks to that dear woman dead_?



To the editors of the _Atlantic Monthly_,
to the publishers, and to the many
friends who have encouraged me, I
am and shall ever remain grateful















   _Photograph by Underwood & Underwood_

   _Photograph by Underwood & Underwood_

   _Photograph by Mr. Julius Rosenwald, of Chicago, in March, 1911_


   _Photograph by Underwood & Underwood_


   _Photograph by Mr. Julius Rosenwald_

   _Photograph by Mr. Julius Rosenwald_

   _Photograph by Mr. Julius Rosenwald_

   _Photograph by Mr. Julius Rosenwald_

   _Photograph by Underwood & Underwood_

   _Photograph by Underwood & Underwood_

   _Photograph by Underwood & Underwood_

   _Photograph by Underwood & Underwood_

  _Photograph by Underwood & Underwood_

  _Photograph by Mr. Julius Rosenwald in March, 1914_

   _Photograph by Underwood & Underwood_


While Belgium is bleeding and hoping, while Poland suffers and dreams of
liberation, while Serbia is waiting for redemption, there is a little
country the soul of which is torn to pieces--a little country that is so
remote, so remote that her ardent sighs cannot be heard.

It is the country of perpetual sacrifice, the country that saw Abraham
build the altar upon which he was ready to immolate his only son, the
country that Moses saw from a distance, stretching in beauty and
loveliness,--a land of promise never to be attained,--the country that
gave the world its symbols of soul and spirit. Palestine!

No war correspondents, no Red Cross or relief committees have gone to
Palestine, because no actual fighting has taken place there, and yet
hundreds of thousands are suffering there that worst of agonies, the
agony of the spirit.

Those who have devoted their lives to show the world that Palestine can
be made again a country flowing with milk and honey, those who have
dreamed of reviving the spirit of the prophets and the great teachers,
are hanged and persecuted and exiled, their dreams shattered, their holy
places profaned, their work ruined. Cut off from the world, with no
bread to sustain the starving body, the heavy boot of a barbarian
soldiery trampling their very soul, the dreamers of Palestine refuse to
surrender, and amidst the clash of guns and swords they are battling for
the spirit with the weapons of the spirit.

The time has not yet come to write the record of these battles, nor even
to attempt to render justice to the sublime heroes of Palestine. This
book is merely the story of some of the personal experiences of one who
has done less and suffered less than thousands of his comrades.





Thirty-five years ago, the impulse which has since been organized as the
Zionist Movement led my parents to leave their homes in Roumania and
emigrate to Palestine, where they joined a number of other Jewish
pioneers in founding Zicron-Jacob--a little village lying just south of
Mount Carmel, in that fertile coastal region close to the ancient Plains
of Armageddon.

Here I was born; my childhood was passed here in the peace and harmony
of this little agricultural community, with its whitewashed stone houses
huddled close together for protection against the native Arabs who, at
first, menaced the life of the new colony. The village was far more
suggestive of Switzerland than of the conventional slovenly villages of
the East, mud-built and filthy; for while it was the purpose of our
people, in returning to the Holy Land, to foster the Jewish language and
the social conditions of the Old Testament as far as possible, there
was nothing retrograde in this movement. No time was lost in introducing
progressive methods of agriculture, and the climatological experiments
of other countries were observed and made use of in developing the ample
natural resources of the land.


Eucalyptus, imported from Australia, soon gave the shade of its cool,
healthful foliage where previously no trees had grown. In the course of
time dry farming (which some people consider a recent discovery, but
which in reality is as old as the Old Testament) was introduced and
extended with American agricultural implements; blooded cattle were
imported, and poultry-raising on a large scale was undertaken with the
aid of incubators--to the disgust of the Arabs, who look on such
usurpation of the hen's functions as against nature and sinful. Our
people replaced the wretched native trails with good roads, bordered by
hedges of thorny acacia which, in season, were covered with downy little
yellow blossoms that smelled sweeter than honey when the sun was on

More important than all these, a communistic village government was
established, in which both sexes enjoyed equal rights, including that of
suffrage--strange as this may seem to persons who (when they think of
the matter at all) form vague conceptions of all the women-folk of
Palestine as shut up in harems.

A short experience with Turkish courts and Turkish justice taught our
people that they would have to establish a legal system of their own;
two collaborating judges were therefore appointed--one to interpret the
Mosaic law, another to temper it with modern jurisprudence. All Jewish
disputes were settled by this court. Its effectiveness may be judged by
the fact that the Arabs, weary of Turkish venality,--as open and
shameless as anywhere in the world,--began in increasing numbers to
bring their difficulties to our tribunal. Jews are law-abiding people,
and life in those Palestine colonies tended to bring out the fraternal
qualities of our race; but it is interesting to note that in over thirty
years not one Jewish criminal case was reported from forty-five

Zicron-Jacob was a little town of one hundred and thirty "fires"--so we
call it--when, in 1910, on the advice of my elder brother, who was head
of the Jewish Experiment Station at Athlit, an ancient town of the
Crusaders, I left for America to enter the service of the United States
in the Department of Agriculture. A few days after reaching this country
I took out my first naturalization papers and proceeded to Washington,
where I became part of that great government service whose beneficent
activity is too little known by Americans. Here I remained until June,
1913, when I returned to Palestine with the object of taking
motion-pictures and stereopticon views. These I intended to use in a
lecturing tour for spreading the Zionist propaganda in the United

During the years of my residence in America, I was able to appreciate
and judge in their right value the beauty and inspiration of the life
which my people led in the Holy Land. From a distance, too, I saw better
the need for organization among our communities, and I determined to
build up a fraternal union of the young Jewish men all over the country.

Two months after my return from America, an event occurred which gave
impetus to these projects. The physician of our village, an old man who
had devoted his entire life to serving and healing the people of
Palestine, without distinction of race or religion, was driving home one
evening in his carriage from a neighboring settlement. With him was a
young girl of sixteen. In a deserted place they were set upon by four
armed Arabs, who beat the old man to unconsciousness as he tried, in
vain, to defend the girl from the terrible fate which awaited her.

Night came on. Alarmed by the absence of the physician, we young men
rode out in search of him. We finally discovered what had happened; and
then and there, in the serene moonlight of that Eastern night, with
tragedy close at hand, I made my comrades take oath on the honor of
their sisters to organize themselves into a strong society for the
defense of the life and honor of our villagers and of our people at

These details are, perhaps, useful for the better understanding of the
disturbances that came thick and fast when in August, 1914, the
war-madness broke out among the nations of Europe. The repercussion was
at once felt even in our remote corner of the earth. Soon after the
German invasion of Belgium the Turkish army was mobilized and all
citizens of the Empire between nineteen and forty-five years were called
to the colors. As the Young Turk Constitution of 1909 provided that all
Christians and Jews were equally liable to military service, our young
men knew that they, too, would be called upon to make the common
sacrifice. For the most part, they were not unwilling to sustain the
Turkish Government. While the Constitution imposed on them the burden of
militarism, it had brought with it the compensation of freedom of
religion and equal rights; and we could not forget that for six hundred
years Turkey has held her gates wide open to the Jews who fled from the
Spanish Inquisition and similar ministrations of other civilized

Of course, we never dreamed that Turkey would do anything but remain
neutral. If we had had any idea of the turn things were ultimately to
take, we should have given a different greeting to the _mouchtar_, or
sheriff, who came to our village with the list of mobilizable men to be
called on for service. My own position was a curious one. I had every
intention of completing the process of becoming an American citizen,
which I had begun by taking out "first papers." In the eyes of the law,
however, I was still a Turkish subject, with no claim to American
protection. This was sneeringly pointed out to me by the American Consul
at Haifa, who happens to be a German; so there was no other course but
to surrender myself to the Turkish Government.



There was no question as to my eligibility for service. I was young and
strong and healthy--and even if I had not been, the physical examination
of Turkish recruits is a farce. The enlisting officers have a theory of
their own that no man is really unfit for the army--a theory which has
been fostered by the ingenious devices of the Arabs to avoid
conscription. To these wild people the protracted discipline of military
training is simply a purgatory, and for weeks before the recruiting
officers are due, they dose themselves with powerful herbs and physics
and fast, and nurse sores into being, until they are in a really
deplorable condition. Some of them go so far as to cut off a finger or
two. The officers, however, have learned to see beyond these little
tricks, and few Arabs succeed in wriggling through their drag-net. I
have watched dozens of Arabs being brought in to the recruiting office
on camels or horses, so weak were they, and welcomed into the service
with a severe beating--the sick and the shammers sharing the same fate.
Thus it often happens that some of the new recruits die after their
first day of garrison life.

Together with twenty of my comrades, I presented myself at the
recruiting station at Acco (the St. Jean d'Acre of history). We had been
given to understand that, once our names were registered, we should be
allowed to return home to provide ourselves with money, suitable
clothing, and food, as well as to bid our families good-bye. To our
astonishment, however, we were marched off to the Hân, or caravanserai,
and locked into the great courtyard with hundreds of dirty Arabs. Hour
after hour passed; darkness came, and finally we had to stretch
ourselves on the ground and make the best of a bad situation. It was a
night of horrors. Few of us had closed an eye when, at dawn, an officer
appeared and ordered us out of the Hân. From our total number about
three hundred (including four young men from our village and myself)
were picked out and told to make ready to start at once for Saffêd, a
town in the hills of northern Galilee near the Sea of Tiberias, where
our garrison was to be located. No attention was paid to our requests
that we be allowed to return to our homes for a final visit. That same
morning we were on our way to Saffêd--a motley, disgruntled crew.


It was a four days' march--four days of heat and dust and physical
suffering. The September sun smote us mercilessly as we straggled along
the miserable native trail, full of gullies and loose stones. It would
not have been so bad if we had been adequately shod or clothed; but soon
we found ourselves envying the ragged Arabs as they trudged along
barefoot, paying no heed to the jagged flints. (Shoes, to the Arab, are
articles for ceremonious indoor use; when any serious walking is to be
done, he takes them off, slings them over his shoulder, and trusts to
the horny soles of his feet.)

To add to our troubles, the Turkish officers, with characteristic
fatalism, had made no commissary provision for us whatever. Any food we
ate had to be purchased by the roadside from our own funds, which were
scant enough to start with. The Arabs were in a terrible plight. Most of
them were penniless, and, as the pangs of hunger set in, they began
pillaging right and left from the little farms by the wayside. From
modest beginnings--poultry and vegetables--they progressed to larger
game, unhindered by the officers. Houses were entered, women insulted;
time and again I saw a stray horse, grazing by the roadside, seized by a
crowd of grinning Arabs, who piled on the poor beast's back until he was
almost crushed to earth, and rode off triumphantly, while their comrades
held back the weeping owner. The result of this sort of
"requisitioning," was that our band of recruits was followed by an
increasing throng of farmers--imploring, threatening, trying by hook or
by crook to win back the stolen goods. Little satisfaction did they get,
although some of them went with us as far as Saffêd.

Our garrison town is not an inviting place, nor has it an inviting
reputation. Lord Kitchener himself had good reason to remember it. As a
young lieutenant of twenty-three, in the Royal Engineering Corps, he was
nearly killed there by a band of fanatical Arabs while surveying for the
Palestine Exploration Fund. Kitchener had a narrow escape of it (one of
his fellow officers was shot dead close by him), but he went calmly
ahead and completed his maps, splendid large-scale affairs which have
never since been equaled--and which are now in use by the Turkish and
German armies! However, though Saffêd combines most of the unpleasant
characteristics of Palestine native towns, we welcomed the sight of it,
for we were used up by the march. An old deserted mosque was given us
for barracks; there, on the bare stone floor, in close-packed
promiscuity, too tired to react to filth and vermin, we spent our first
night as soldiers of the Sultan, while the milky moonlight streamed in
through every chink and aperture, and bats flitted round the vaulting
above the snoring carcasses of the recruits.

Next morning we were routed out at five. The black depths of the well in
the center of the mosque courtyard provided doubtful water for washing,
bathing, and drinking; then came breakfast,--our first government
meal,--consisting, simply enough, of boiled rice, which was ladled out
into tin wash-basins holding rations for ten men. In true Eastern
fashion we squatted down round the basin and dug into the rice with our
fingers. At first I was rather upset by this sort of table manners, and
for some time I ate with my eyes fixed on my own portion, to avoid
seeing the Arabs, who fill the palms of their hands with rice, pat it
into a ball and cram it into their mouths just so, the bolus making a
great lump in their lean throats as it reluctantly descends.

In the course of that same morning we were allotted our uniforms. The
Turkish uniform, under indirect German influence, has been greatly
modified during the past five years. It is of khaki--a greener khaki
than that of the British army, and of conventional European cut. Spiral
puttees and good boots are provided; the only peculiar feature is the
headgear--a curious, uncouth-looking combination of the turban and the
German helmet, devised by Enver Pasha to combine religion and
practicality, and called in his honor _enverieh_. (With commendable
thrift, Enver patented his invention, and it is rumored that he has
drawn a comfortable fortune from its sale.) An excellent uniform it is,
on the whole; but, to our disgust, we found that in the great olive-drab
pile to which we were led, there was not a single new one. All were old,
discarded, and dirty, and the mere thought of putting on the clothes of
some unknown Arab legionary, who, perhaps, had died of cholera at Mecca
or Yemen, made me shudder. After some indecision, my friends and I
finally went up to one of the officers and offered to _buy_ new uniforms
with the money we expected daily from our families. The officer,
scenting the chance for a little private profit, gave his consent.

The days and weeks following were busy ones. From morning till night, it
was drill, drill, and again drill. We were divided into groups of fifty,
each of which was put in charge of a young non-commissioned officer from
the Military School of Constantinople or Damascus, or of some Arab who
had seen several years' service. These instructors had a hard time of
it; the German military system, which had only recently been introduced,
was too much for them. They kept mixing up the old and the new methods
of training, with the result that it was often hopeless to try and make
out their orders. Whole weeks were spent in grinding into the Arabs the
names of the different parts of the rifle; weeks more went to teaching
them to clean it--although it must be said that, once they had mastered
these technicalities, they were excellent shots. Their efficiency would
have been considerably greater if there had been more target-shooting.
From the very first, however, we felt that there was a scarcity of
ammunition. This shortage the drill-masters, in a spirit of
compensation, attempted to make up by abundant severity. The whip of
soft, flexible, stinging leather, which seldom leaves the Turkish
officer's hand, was never idle. This was not surprising, for the Arab is
a cunning fellow, whose only respect is for brute force. He exercises it
himself on every possible victim, and expects the same treatment from
his superiors.

So far as my comrades and I were concerned, I must admit that we were
generally treated kindly. We knew most of the drill-exercises from the
gymnastic training we had practiced since childhood, and the officers
realized that we were educated and came from respectable families. The
same was also true with regard to the native Christians, most of whom
can read and write and are of a better class than the Mohammedans of the
country. When Turkey threw in her lot with the Germanic powers, the
attitude toward the Jews and Christians changed radically; but of this I
shall speak later.

It was a hard life we led while in training at Saffêd; evening would
find us dead tired, and little disposed for anything but rest. As the
tremendous light-play of the Eastern sunsets faded away, we would gather
in little groups in the courtyard of our mosque--its minaret towering
black against a turquoise sky--and talk fitfully of the little
happenings of the day, while the Arabs murmured gutturally around us.
Occasionally, one of them would burst into a quavering, hot-blooded
tribal love-song. It happened that I was fairly well known among these
natives through my horse Kochba--of pure Maneghi-Sbeli blood--which I
had purchased from some Anazzi Bedouins who were encamped not far from
Aleppo: a swift and intelligent animal he was, winner of many races, and
in a land where a horse is considerably more valuable than a wife, his
ownership cast quite a glamour over me.


In the evenings, then, the Arabs would come up to chat. As they speak
seldom of their children, of their women-folk never, the conversation
was limited to generalities about the crops and the weather, or to the
recitation of never-ending tales of Abou-Zeid, the famous hero of the
Beni-Hilal, or of Antar the glorious. Politics, of which they have
amazing ideas, also came in for discussion. Napoleon Bonaparte and Queen
Victoria are still living figures to them; but (significantly enough)
they considered the Kaiser king of all the kings of this world, with the
exception of the Sultan, whom they admitted to equality.

Seldom did an evening pass without a dance. As darkness fell, the Arabs
would gather in a great circle around one of their comrades, who
squatted on the ground with a bamboo flute; to a weird minor music they
would begin swaying and moving about while some self-chosen poet among
them would sing impromptu verses to the flute _obbligato_. As a rule the
themes were homely.

"To-morrow we shall eat rice and meat," the singer would wail.

"_Yaha lili-amali"_ (my endeavor be granted), came the full-throated
response of all the others. The chorus was tremendously effective.
Sometimes the singer would indulge in pointed personalities, with
answering roars of laughter.

These dances lasted for hours, and as they progressed the men gradually
worked themselves up into a frenzy. I never failed to wonder at these
people, who, without the aid of alcohol, could reproduce the various
stages of intoxication. As I lay by and watched the moon riding serenely
above these frantic men and their twisting black shadows, I reflected
that they were just in the condition when one word from a holy man would
suffice to send them off to wholesale murder and rapine.

It was my good fortune soon to be released from the noise and dirt of
the mosque. I had had experience with corruptible Turkish officers; and
one day, when barrack conditions became unendurable, I went to the
officer commanding our division--an old Arab from Latakieh who had been
called from retirement at the time of the mobilization. He lived in a
little tent near the mosque, where I found him squatting on the floor,
nodding drowsily over his comfortable paunch. As he was an officer of
the old régime, I entered boldly, squatted beside him and told him my
troubles. The answer came with an enormous shrug of the shoulders.

"You are serving the Sultan. Hardship should be sweet!"

"I should be more fit to serve him if I got more sleep and rest."

He waved a fat hand about the tent.

"Look at me! Here I am, an officer of rank and"--shooting a knowing
look at me--"I have not even a nice blanket."

"A crime! A crime!" I interrupted. "To think of it, when I, a humble
soldier, have dozens of them at home! I should be honored if you would
allow me--" My voice trailed off suggestively.

"How could you get one?" he asked.

"Oh, I have friends here in Saffêd but I _must_ be able to sleep in a
nice place."

"Of course; certainly. What would you suggest?"

"That hotel kept by the Jewish widow might do," I replied.

More amenities were exchanged, the upshot of which was that my four
friends and I were given permission to sleep at the inn--a humble place,
but infinitely better than the mosque. It was all perfectly simple.




So passed the days of our training, swiftly, monotonously, until the
fateful December morning when the news came like a thunderbolt that
Turkey was about to join hands with Germany. We had had reports of the
war--of a kind. Copies of telegrams from Constantinople, printed in
Arabic, were circulated among us, giving accounts of endless German
victories. These, however, we had laughed at as fabrications of a
Prussophile press agency, and in our skepticism we had failed to give
the Teutons credit for the successes they had actually won. To us, born
and bred in the East as we were, the success of German propaganda in the
Turkish Empire could not come as an overwhelming surprise; but its
fullness amazed us.

It may be of timely interest to say a few words here regarding this
propaganda as I have seen it in Palestine, spreading under strong and
efficient organization for twenty years.

In order to realize her imperialistic dreams, Germany absolutely needed
Palestine. It was the key to the whole Oriental situation. No mere
coincidence brought the Kaiser to Damascus in November, 1898,--the same
month that Kitchener, in London, was hailed as Gordon's avenger,--when
he uttered his famous phrase at the tomb of Saladin: "Tell the three
hundred million Moslems of the world that I am their friend!" We have
all seen photographs of the imperial figure, draped in an amazing
burnous of his own designing (above which the Prussian _Pickelhaube_
rises supreme), as he moved from point to point in this portentous
visit: we may also have seen Caran d'Ache's celebrated cartoon (a
subject of diplomatic correspondence) representing this same imperial
figure, in its Oriental toggery, riding into Jerusalem on an ass.

The nations of Europe laughed at this visit and its transparent purpose,
but it was all part of the scheme which won for the Germans the
concessions for the Konia-Bagdad Railway, and made them owners of the
double valley of the Euphrates and Tigris. Through branch lines
projected through the firman, they are practically in control of both
the Syrian routes toward the Cypriotic Mediterranean and the Lebanon
valleys. They also control the three Armenian routes of Cappadocia, the
Black Sea, and the trans-Caucasian branch of Urfa, Marach, and Mardine.
(The fall of Erzerum has altered conditions respecting this last.) They
dominate the Persian routes toward Tauris and Teheran as well; and last,
but not least, the Gulf branch of Zobeir. These railways delivered into
German hands the control of Persia, whence the road to India may be made
easy: through Syria lies the route to the Suez Canal and Egypt, which
was used in February, 1915, and will probably be used again this year.

To make this Oriental dream a reality, the Germans have not relied on
their railway concessions alone. Their Government has done everything in
its power to encourage German colonization in Palestine. Scattered all
over the country are German mills that half of the time have nothing to
grind. German hotels have been opened in places seldom frequented by
tourists. German engineers appeared in force, surveying, sounding,
noting. All these colonists held gatherings in the Arab villages, when
the ignorant natives were told of the greatness of Germany, of her good
intentions, and of the evil machinations of other powers. What I state
here can be corroborated by any one who knows Palestine and has lived in

About the time when we first knew that Turkey would join the Germanic
powers came the news that the "Capitulations" had been revoked. As is
generally known, foreigners formerly enjoyed the protection of their
respective consuls. The Turkish Government, under the terms of the
so-called Capitulations, or agreements, had no jurisdiction over an
American, for instance, or a Frenchman, who could not be arrested
without the consent of his consul. In the Ottoman Empire, where law and
justice are not at a premium, such protection was a wholesome and
necessary policy.

The revoking of the Capitulations was a terrible blow to all the
Europeans, meaning, as it did, the practical abolition of all their
rights. Upon the Arabs it acted like an intoxicant. Every boot-black or
boatman felt that he was the equal of the accursed Frank, who now had no
consul to protect him; and abuses began immediately. Moreover, as if by
magic, the whole country became Germanized. In all the mosques, Friday
prayers were ended with an invocation for the welfare of the Sultan and
"Hadji Wilhelm." The significance of this lies in the fact that the
title "Hadji" can be properly applied only to a Moslem who has made the
pilgrimage to Mecca and kissed the sacred stone of the Kaaba. Instant
death is the penalty paid by any Christian who is found within that
enclosure: yet Wilhelm II, head of the Lutheran faith, stepped forward
as "Hadji Wilhelm." His pictures were sold everywhere; German officers
appeared; and it seemed as if a wind of brutal mastery were blowing.

The dominant figure of this movement in Palestine was, without doubt,
the German Consul at Haifa, Leutweld von Hardegg. He traveled about the
country, making speeches, and distributing pamphlets in Arabic, in which
it was elaborately proved that Germans are not Christians, like the
French or English, but that they are descendants of the prophet
Mohammed. Passages from the Koran were quoted, prophesying the coming of
the Kaiser as the Savior of Islam.



The news of the actual declaration of war by Turkey caused a tremendous
stir in our regiment. The prevailing feeling was one of great
restlessness and discontent. The Arabs made many bitter remarks against
Germany. "Why didn't she help us against the Italians during the war for
Tripoli?" they said. "Now that she is in trouble she is drawing us into
the fight." Their opinions, however, soon underwent a change. In the
first place, they came to realize that Turkey had taken up arms against
Russia; and Russia is considered first and foremost the arch-enemy.
German reports of German successes also had a powerful effect on them.
They began to grow boastful, arrogant; and the sight of the plundering
of Europeans, Jews, and Christians convinced them that a very desirable
régime was setting in. Saffêd has a large Jewish colony, and it was
torment for me to have to witness the outrages that my people suffered
in the name of "requisitioning."

The final blow came one morning when all the Jewish and Christian
soldiers of our regiment were called out and told that henceforth they
were to serve in the _taboor amlieh_, or working corps. The object of
this action, plainly enough, was to conciliate and flatter the
Mohammedan population, and at the same time to put the Jews and
Christians, who for the most part favored the cause of the Allies, in a
position where they would be least dangerous. We were disarmed; our
uniforms were taken away, and we became hard-driven "gangsters." I shall
never forget the humiliation of that day when we, who, after all, were
the best-disciplined troops of the lot, were first herded to our work of
pushing wheelbarrows and handling spades, by grinning Arabs, rifle on
shoulder. We were set to building the road between Saffêd and Tiberias,
on the Sea of Galilee--a link in the military highway from Damascus to
the coast, which would be used for the movement of troops in case the
railroad should be cut off. It had no immediate strategic bearing on the
attack against Suez, however.

From six in the morning till seven at night we were hard at it, except
for one hour's rest at noon. While we had money, it was possible to get
some slight relief by bribing our taskmasters; but this soon came to an
end, and we had to endure their brutality as best we could. The
wheelbarrows we used were the property of a French company which,
before the war, was undertaking a highway to Beirut. No grease was
provided for the wheels, so that there was a maddening squeaking and
squealing in addition to the difficulty of pushing the barrows. One day
I suggested to an inspection officer that if the wheels were not greased
the axles would be burned out. He agreed with me and issued an order
that the men were to provide their own oil to lubricate the wheels!

I shall not dwell on the physical sufferings we underwent while working
on this road, for the reason that the conditions I have described were
prevalent over the whole country; and later, when I had the opportunity
to visit some construction camps in Samaria and Judaea found that in
comparison our lot had been a happy one. While we were breaking stones
and trundling squeaking wheelbarrows, however, the most disquieting
rumors began to drift in to us from our home villages. Plundering had
been going on in the name of "requisitioning"; the country was full of
soldiery whose capacity for mischief-making was well known to us, and it
was torture to think of what might be happening in our peaceful homes
where so few men had been left for protection. All the barbed-wire
fences, we heard, had been torn up and sent north for the construction
of barricades. In a wild land like Palestine, where the native has no
respect for property, where fields and crops are always at the mercy of
marauders, the barbed-wire fence has been a tremendous factor for
civilization, and with these gone the Arabs were once more free to sweep
across the country unhindered, stealing and destroying.

The situation grew more and more unbearable. One day a little Christian
soldier--a Nazarene--disappeared from the ranks. We never saw him again,
but we learned that his sister, a very young girl, had been forcibly
taken by a Turkish officer of the Nazareth garrison. In Palestine, the
dishonor of a girl can be redeemed by blood alone. The young soldier had
hunted for his sister, found her in the barracks, and shot her; he then
surrendered himself to the military authorities, who undoubtedly put him
to death. He had not dared to kill the real criminal,--the officer,--for
he knew that this would not only bring death to his family, but would
call down terrible suffering on all the Christians of Nazareth.


When I learned of this tragedy, I determined to get out of the army and
return to my village at all costs. Nine Turkish officers out of ten can
be bought, and I had reason to know that the officer in command at
Saffêd was not that tenth man. Now, according to the law of the country,
a man has the right to purchase exemption from military service for a
sum equivalent to two hundred dollars. My case was different, for I was
already enrolled; but everything is possible in Turkey. I set to work,
and in less than two weeks I had bought half a dozen officers, ranging
from corporal to captain, and had obtained consent of the higher
authorities to my departure, provided I could get a physician's
certificate declaring me unfit for service.

This was arranged in short order, although I am healthy-looking and the
doctor found some difficulty in hitting on an appropriate ailment.
Finally he decided that I had "too much blood"--whatever that might
mean. With his certificate in hand, I paid the regular price of two
hundred dollars from funds which had been sent me by my family, and
walked out of the barracks a free man. My happiness was mingled with
sadness at the thought of leaving the comrades with whom I had suffered
and hoped. The four boys from my village were splendid. They felt that I
was right in going home to do what I could for the people, but when they
kissed me good-bye, in the Eastern fashion, the tears were running down
their cheeks; and they were all strong, brave fellows.

On my way back to Zicron-Jacob, I passed through the town of Sheff'amr,
where I got a foretaste of the conditions I was to find at home. A
Turkish soldier, sauntering along the street, helped himself to fruit
from the basket of an old vender, and went on without offering to pay a
farthing. When the old man ventured to protest, the soldier turned like
a flash and began beating him mercilessly, knocking him down and
battering him until he was bruised, bleeding, and covered with the mud
of the street. There was a hubbub; a crowd formed, through which a
Turkish officer forced his way, demanding explanations. The soldier
sketched the situation in a few words, whereupon the officer, turning to
the old man, said impressively,--"If a soldier of the Sultan should
choose to heap filth on your head, it is for you to kiss his hand in



When I finally reached Zicron-Jacob, I found rather a sad state of
affairs. Military law had been declared. No one was supposed to be seen
in the streets after sundown. The village was full of soldiers, and
civilians had to put up with all kinds of ill-treatment. Moreover, our
people were in a state of great excitement because an order had recently
come from the Turkish authorities bidding them surrender whatever
fire-arms or weapons they had in their possession. A sinister command,
this: we knew that similar measures had been taken before the terrible
Armenian massacres, and we felt that some such fate might be in
preparation for our people. With the arms gone, the head men of the
village knew that our last hold over the Arabs, our last chance for
defense against sudden violence, would be gone, and they had refused to
give them up. A house-to-house search had been made--fruitlessly, for
our little arsenal was safely cached in a field, beneath growing grain.

It was a tense, unpleasant situation. At any time the Turks might decide
to back up their demand by some of the violent methods of which they
are past masters. A family council was held in my home, and it was
decided to send my sister, a girl of twenty-three, to some friends at
the American Syrian Protestant College at Beirut, so that we might be
able to move freely without the responsibility of having a girl at home,
in a country where, as a matter of course, the women-folk are seized and
carried off before a massacre. At Beirut we knew that there was an
American Consul-General, who kept in continual touch with the battleship
anchored in the harbor for the protection of American interests.

My sister got away none too soon. One evening shortly after her
departure, when I was standing in the doorway of our house watching the
ever fresh miracle of the Eastern sunset, a Turkish officer came riding
down the street with about thirty cavalrymen. He called me out and
ordered me to follow him to the little village inn, where he dismounted
and led me to one of the inner rooms, his spurs jingling loudly as we
passed along the stone corridor.

I never knew whether I had been selected for this attention because of
my prominence as a leader of the Jewish young men or simply because I
had been standing conveniently in the doorway. The officer closed the
door and came straight to the point by asking me where our store of
arms was hidden. He was a big fellow, with the handsome, cruel features
usual enough in his class. There was no open menace in his first
question. When I refused to tell him, he began wheedling and offering
all sorts of favors if I would betray my people. Then, all of a sudden,
he whipped out a revolver and stuck the muzzle right in my face. I felt
the blood leave my heart, but I was able to control myself and refuse
his demand. The officer was not easily discouraged; the hours I passed
in that little room, with its smoky kerosene lamp, were terrible ones. I
realized, however, how tremendously important the question of the arms
was, and strength was given me to hold out until the officer gave up in
disgust and let me go home.


My father, an old man, knew nothing of what had happened, but the rest
of my family were tremendously excited. I made light of the whole
affair, but I felt sure that this was only the beginning. Sure enough,
next morning--the Sabbath--the same officer returned and put three of
the leading elders of the village, together with myself, under arrest.
After another fruitless inquisition at the hotel, we were handcuffed and
started on foot toward the prison, a day's journey away. As our little
procession passed my home, my father, who was aged and feeble, came
tottering forward to say good-bye to me. A soldier pushed him roughly
back; he reeled, then fell full-length in the street before my eyes.

It was a dismal departure. We were driven through the streets shackled
like criminals, and the women and children came out of the houses and
watched us in silence--their heads bowed, tears running down their
cheeks. They realized that for thirty-five years these old men, my
comrades, had been struggling and suffering for their ideal--a
regenerated Palestine; now, in the dusk of their life, it seemed as if
all their hopes and dreams were coming to ruin. The oppressive tragedy
of the situation settled down on me more and more heavily as the day
wore on and heat and fatigue told on my companions. My feelings must
have been written large on my face, for one of them, a fine-looking
patriarch, tried to give me comfort by reminding me that we must not
rely upon strength of arms, and that our spirit could never be broken,
no matter how defenseless we were. Thus he, an old man, was encouraging
me instead of receiving help from my youth and enthusiasm.

At last we arrived at the prison and were locked into separate cells.
That same night we were tortured with the _falagy_, or bastinado. The
victim of this horrible punishment is trussed up, arms and legs, and
thrown on his knees; then, on the bare soles of his feet a pliant green
rod is brought down with all the force of a soldier's arm. The pain is
exquisite; blood leaps out at the first cut, and strong men usually
faint after thirty or forty strokes. Strange to say, the worst part of
it is not the blow itself, but the whistling of the rod through the air
as it rushes to its mark. The groans of my older comrades, whose gasps
and prayers I could hear through the walls of the cell, helped me bear
the agony until unconsciousness mercifully came to the rescue.

For several days more we were kept in the prison, sick and broken with
suffering. The second night, as I lay sleepless and desperate on the
strip of dirty matting that served as bed, I heard a scratch-scratching
at the grated slit of a window, and presently a slender stick was
inserted into the cell. I went over and shook it; some one at the other
end was holding it firm. And then, a curious whispering sound began to
come from the end of the stick. I put my ear down, and caught the voice
of one of the men from our village. He had taken a long bamboo pole,
pierced the joints, and crept up behind a broken old wall close beneath
my window. By means of this primitive telephone we talked as long as we
dared. I assured him that we were still enduring, and urged him on no
account to give up the arms to the Turkish authorities--not even if we
had to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Finally, when it was found that torture and imprisonment would not make
us yield our secret, the Turks resorted to the final test--the ordeal
which we could not withstand. They announced that on a certain date a
number of our young girls would be carried off and handed over to the
officers, to be kept until the arms were disclosed. We knew that they
were capable of carrying out this threat; we knew exactly what it meant.
There was no alternative. The people of our village had nothing to do
but dig up the treasured arms and, with broken hearts, hand them over to
the authorities.

And so the terrible news was brought to us one morning that we were
free. Personally, I felt much happier on the day I was put in prison
than when I was released. I had often wondered how our people had been
able to bear the rack and thumbscrew of the Spanish Inquisition; but
when my turn and my comrades' came for torture, I realized that the same
spirit that helped our ancestors was working in us also.

Now I knew that our suffering had been useless. Whenever the Turkish
authorities wished, the horrors of the Armenian massacres would live
again in Zicron-Jacob, and we should be powerless to raise a hand to
protect ourselves. As we came limping home through the streets of our
village, I caught sight of my own Smith & Wesson revolver in the hands
of a mere boy of fifteen--the son of a well-known Arab outlaw. I
realized then that the Turks had not only taken our weapons, but had
distributed them among the natives in order to complete our humiliation.
The blood rushed to my face. I started forward to take the revolver away
from the boy, but one of the old men caught hold of my sleeve and held
me back.




I have already spoken of the so-called "requisitioning" that took place
among our people while I was working at Saffêd. This, of course, really
amounted to wholesale pillage. The hand of the Turkish looters had
fallen particularly heavy on carts and draught animals. As the Arabs
know little or nothing of carting, hauling, or the management of horses
and mules, the Turks, simply enough, had "requisitioned" many of the
owners--middle-aged or elderly men--and forced them to go south to help
along with the tremendous preparations that were being made for the
attack on Suez. Among these were a number of men from our village. In
the course of time their families began to get the most harrowing
messages from them. They were absolutely destitute, no wages being paid
them by the Turks; their clothes were dropping off them in rags; many
were sick. After much excited planning, it was decided to send another
man and myself down south on a sort of relief expedition, with a
substantial sum of money that had been raised with great difficulty by
our people. Through the influence of my brother at the Agricultural
Experiment Station, I got permission from the _mouchtar_ to leave
Zicron-Jacob, and about the middle of January, 1915, I set out for

To Western minds, the idea of the Holy City serving as a base for modern
military operations must be full of incongruities. And, as a matter of
fact, it _was_ an amazing sight to see the streets packed with
khaki-clad soldiers and hear the brooding silence of ancient walls
shattered by the crash of steel-shod army boots. Here, for the first
time, I saw the German officers--quantities of them. Strangely out of
place they looked, with their pink-and-whiteness that no amount of hot
sunshine could quite burn off. They wore the regular German officer's
uniform, except that the _Pickelhaube_ was replaced by a khaki
sun-helmet. I was struck by the youthfulness of them; many were nothing
but boys, and there were weak, dissolute faces in plenty--a fact that
was later explained when I heard that Palestine had been the
dumping-ground for young men of high family whose parents were anxious
to have them as far removed as possible from the danger zone. Fast's
Hotel was the great meeting-place in Jerusalem for these young bloods.
Every evening thirty or forty would foregather there to drink and talk
women and strategy. I well remember the evening when one of them--a
slender young Prussian with no back to his head, braceleted and
monocled--rose and announced, in the decisive tones that go with a
certain stage of intoxication: "What we ought to do is to hand over the
organization of this campaign to Thomas Cook & Sons!"

However, the German officers were by no means all incompetents. They
realized (I soon found out) that they had little hope of bringing a big
army through the Egyptian desert and making a successful campaign there.
Their object was to immobilize a great force of British troops around
the Canal, to keep the Mohammedan population in Palestine impressed with
Turkish power, and to stir up religious unrest among the natives in
Egypt. It must be admitted that in the first two of these purposes they
have been successful.

The Turks were less far-sighted. They believed firmly that they were
going to sweep the English off the face of the earth and enter Cairo in
triumph, and preparations for the march on Suez went on with feverish
enthusiasm. The ideas of the common soldiers on this subject were
amusing. Some of them declared that the Canal was to be filled up by the
sandbags which had been prepared in great quantities. Others held that
thousands of camels would be kept without water for many days preceding
the attack; then the thirsty animals, when released, would rush into the
Canal in such numbers that the troops could march to victory over the
packed masses of drowned bodies.

The army operating against Suez numbered about one hundred and fifty
thousand men. Of these about twenty thousand were Anatolian
Turks--trained soldiers, splendid fighting material, as was shown by
their resistance at the Dardanelles. The rest were Palestinian Arabs,
and very inferior troops they were. The Arab as a soldier is at once
stupid and cunning: fierce when victory is on his side, but unreliable
when things go against him. In command of the expedition was the famous
Djemal Pasha, a Young Turk general of tremendous energy, but possessing
small ability to see beyond details to the big, broad concepts of
strategy. Although a great friend of Enver Pasha, he looked with
disfavor on the German officers and, in particular, on Bach Pasha, the
German Governor of Jerusalem, with whom he had serious disagreements.
This dislike of the Germans was reflected among the lesser Turkish
officers. Many of these, after long years of service, found themselves
subordinated to young foreigners, who, in addition to arbitrary
promotion, received much higher salaries than the Turks. What is more,
they were paid in clinking gold, whereas the Turks, when paid at all,
got paper currency.

Beersheba, a prosperous town of the ancient province of Idumea, was the
southern base of operations for the advance on Suez. Some of our
villagers had been sent to this district, and, in searching for them, I
had the opportunity of seeing at least the taking-off place of the
expedition. Beyond this point no Jew or Christian was allowed to pass,
with the exception of the physicians, all of whom were non-Mohammedans
who had been forced into the army.

Beersheba was swarming with troops. They filled the town and overflowed
on to the sands outside, where a great tent-city grew up. And everywhere
that the Turkish soldiers went, disorganization and inefficiency
followed them. From all over the country the finest camels had been
"requisitioned" and sent down to Beersheba until, at the time I was
there, thousands and thousands of them were collected in the
neighborhood. Through the laziness and stupidity of the Turkish
commissariat officers, which no amount of German efficiency could
counteract, no adequate provision was made for feeding them, and
incredible numbers succumbed to starvation and neglect. Their great
carcasses dotted the sand in all directions; it was only the wonderful
antiseptic power of the Eastern sun that held pestilence in check.

The soldiers themselves suffered much hardship. The crowding in the
tents was unspeakable; the water-supply was almost as inadequate as the
medical service, which consisted chiefly of volunteer Red Crescent
societies--among them a unit of twenty German nurses sent by the
American College at Beirut. Medical supplies, such as they were, had
been taken from the different mission hospitals and pharmacies of
Palestine--these "requisitions" being made by officers who knew nothing
of medical requirements and simply scooped together everything in sight.
As a result, one of the army physicians told me that in Beersheba he had
opened some medical chests consigned to him and found, to his horror,
that they were full of microscopes and gynecological instruments--for
the care of wounded soldiers in the desert!

Visits of British aeroplanes to Beersheba were common occurrences. Long
before the machine itself could be seen, its whanging, resonant hum
would come floating out of the blazing sky, seemingly from everywhere at
once. Soldiers rushed from their tents, squinting up into the heavens
until the speck was discovered, swimming slowly through the air; then
followed wholesale firing at an impossible range until the officers
forbade it. True to the policy of avoiding all unnecessary harm to the
natives, these British aviators never dropped bombs on the town,
but--what was more dangerous from the Turkish point of view--they would
unload packages of pamphlets, printed in Arabic, informing the natives
that they were being deceived; that the Allies were their only true
friends; that the Germans were merely making use of them to further
their own schemes, etc. These cleverly worded little tracts came
showering down out of the sky, and at first they were eagerly picked up.
The Turkish commanders, however, soon announced that any one found
carrying them would pay the death penalty. After that, when the little
bundles dropped near them, the natives would, run as if from high
explosive bombs.

All things considered, it is wonderful that the Turkish demonstration
against the Canal came as near to fulfillment as it did. Twenty thousand
soldiers actually crossed the desert in six days on scant rations, and
with them they took two big guns, which they dragged by hand when the
mules dropped from thirst and exhaustion. They also carried pontoons to
be used in crossing the Canal. Guns and pontoons are now at rest in the
Museum at Cairo.

Just what took place in the attack is known to very few. The English
have not seen fit to make public the details, and there was little to be
got from the demoralized soldiers who returned to Beersheba. Piece by
piece, however, I gathered that the attacking party had come up to the
Canal at dawn. Finding everything quiet, they set about getting across,
and had even launched a pontoon, when the British, who were lying in
wait, opened a terrific fire from the farther bank, backed by armored
locomotives and aeroplanes. "It was as if the gates of Jehannum were
opened and its fires turned loose upon us," one soldier told me.

The Turks succeeded in getting their guns into action for a very short
while. One of the men-of-war in the Canal was hit; several houses in
Ismaïlia suffered damage; but the invaders were soon driven away in
confusion, leaving perhaps two thousand prisoners in the hands of the
English. If the latter had chosen to do so, they could have annihilated
the Turkish forces then and there. The ticklish state of mind of the
Mohammedan population in Egypt, however, has led them to adopt a policy
of leniency and of keeping to the defensive, which subsequent
developments have more than justified. It is characteristic of England's
faculty for holding her colonies that batteries manned by Egyptians did
the finest work in defense of the Canal.

The reaction in Palestine after the defeat at Suez was tremendous. Just
before the attack, Djemal Pasha had sent out a telegram announcing the
overwhelming defeat of the British vanguard, which had caused wild
enthusiasm. Another later telegram proclaimed that the Canal had been
reached, British men-of-war sunk, the Englishmen routed--with a loss to
the Turks of five men and two camels, "which were afterwards recovered."
"But," added the telegram, "a terrible sand-storm having arisen, the
glorious army takes it as the wish of Allah not to continue the attack,
and has therefore withdrawn in triumph."

These reports hoodwinked the ignorant natives for a little while, but
when the stream of haggard soldiers, wounded and exhausted, began
pouring back from the south, they guessed what had happened, and a
fierce revulsion against the Germano-Turkish régime set in. A few weeks
before the advance on Suez, I was in Jaffa, where the enthusiasm and
excitement had been at fever-pitch. Parades and celebrations of all
kinds in anticipation of the triumphal march into Egypt were taking
place, and one day a camel, a dog, and a bull, decorated respectively
with the flags of Russia, France, and England, were driven through the
streets. The poor animals were horribly maltreated by the natives, who
rained blows and flung filth upon them by way of giving concrete
expression to their contempt for the Allies. Mr. Glazebrook, the
American Consul at Jerusalem, happened to be with me in Jaffa that day;
and never shall I forget the expression of pain and disgust on his face
as he watched this melancholy little procession of scapegoats hurrying
along the street.

Now, however, all was changed. The Arabs, who take defeat badly, turned
against the authorities who had got them into such trouble. Rumors
circulated that Djemal Pasha had been bought by the English and that the
defeat at Suez had been planned by him, and persons keeping an ear close
to the ground began to hear mutterings of a general massacre of Germans.
In fact, things came within an ace of a bloody outbreak. I knew some
Germans in Jaffa and Haifa who firmly believed that it was all over with
them. In the defeated army itself the Turkish officers gave vent to
their hatred of the Germans. Three German officers were shot by their
Turkish comrades during the retreat, and a fourth committed suicide.
However, Djemal Pasha succeeded in keeping order by means of stern
repressive methods and by the fear roused by his large body-guard of
faithful Anatolians.


We felt sure that the Turkish defeat would put a damper on the arrogance
of the soldiery. But even the Mohammedan population were hoping that the
Allies would push their victory and land troops in Syria and Palestine;
for though they hated the infidel, they loved the Turk not at all, and
the country was exhausted and the blockade of the Mediterranean by the
Allies prevented the import and export of articles. The oranges were
rotting on the trees because the annual Liverpool market was closed to
Palestine, and other crops were in similar case. The country was short,
too, of petroleum, sugar, rice, and other supplies, and even of matches.
We had to go back to old customs and use flint and steel for fire, and
we seldom used our lamps. Money was scarce, too, and, Turkey having
declared a moratorium, cash was often unobtainable even by those who had
money in the banks, and much distress ensued.

As the defeated army was pouring in from the south, I decided to leave
Beersheba and go home. The roads and the fields were covered with dead
camels and horses and mules. Hundreds of soldiers were straggling in
disorder, many of them on leave but many deserting. Soon after the
defeat at the Canal several thousand soldiers deserted, but an amnesty
was declared and they returned to their regiments.

When I arrived at Jerusalem I found the city filled with soldiers.
Djemal Pasha had just returned from the desert, and his quarters were
guarded by a battery of two field guns. Nobody knew what to expect; some
thought that the country would have a little more freedom now that the
soldiery had lost its braggadocio, while others expected the lawlessness
that attends disorganization. I went to see Consul Glazebrook. He is a
true American, a Southerner, formerly a professor of theology at
Princeton. He was most earnest and devoted in behalf of the American
citizens that came under his care, rendering at Jerusalem the same sort
of service that Ambassador Morgenthau has rendered at Constantinople. He
was practically the only man who stood up for the poor, defenseless
people of the city. He received me kindly, and I told him what I knew of
conditions in the country, what I had heard among the Arabs, and of my
own fears and apprehensions. He was visibly impressed and he advised me
to see Captain Decker, of the U.S.S. Tennessee, who was then in Jaffa,
promising to write himself to the captain of my proposed visit.

I went to Jaffa the same day and after two days' delay succeeded in
seeing Captain Decker, with the further help of Mr. Glazebrook, who took
me with him. The police interfered and tried to keep me from going
aboard the ship, but after long discussions I was permitted to take my
place in the launch that the captain had sent for the consul.

Captain Decker was interested in what I had to say, and at his request I
dictated my story to his stenographer. What became of my report I do not
know,--whether it was transmitted to the Department of State or whether
Captain Decker communicated with Ambassador Morgenthau,--but at all
events we soon began to see certain reforms inaugurated in parts of the
country, and these reforms could have been effected only through
pressure from Constantinople. The presence of the two American cruisers
in the Mediterranean waters has without any doubt been instrumental in
the saving of many lives.



While I was traveling in the south, another menace to our people's
welfare had appeared: the locusts. From the Soudan they came in
tremendous hosts--black clouds of them that obscured the sun. It seemed
as if Nature had joined in the conspiracy against us. These locusts were
of the species known as the pilgrim, or wandering, locust; for forty
years they had not come to Palestine, but now their visitation was like
that of which the prophet Joel speaks in the Old Testament. They came
full-grown, ripe for breeding; the ground was covered with the females
digging in the soil and depositing their egg-packets, and we knew that
when they hatched we should be overwhelmed, for there was not a foot of
ground in which these eggs were not to be found.

The menace was so great that even the military authorities were obliged
to take notice of it. They realized that if it were allowed to fulfill
itself, there would be famine in the land, and the army would suffer
with the rest. Djemal Pasha summoned my brother (the President of the
Agricultural Experiment Station at Athlit) and intrusted him with the
organization of a campaign against the insects. It was a hard enough
task. The Arabs are lazy, and fatalistic besides; they cannot understand
why men should attempt to fight the _Djesh Allah_ ("God's Army"), as
they call the locusts. In addition, my brother was seriously handicapped
by lack of petroleum, galvanized iron, and other articles which could
not be obtained because of the Allies' blockade.

In spite of these drawbacks, however, he attempted to work up a
scientific campaign. Djemal Pasha put some thousands of Arab soldiers at
his disposition, and these were set to work digging trenches into which
the hatching locusts were driven and destroyed. This is the only means
of coping with the situation: once the locusts get their wings, nothing
can be done with them. It was a hopeless fight. Nothing short of the
coöperation of every farmer in the country could have won the day; and
while the people of the progressive Jewish villages struggled on to the
end,--men, women, and children working in the fields until they were
exhausted,--the Arab farmers sat by with folded hands. The threats of
the military authorities only stirred them to half-hearted efforts.
Finally, after two months of toil, the campaign was given up and the
locusts broke in waves over the countryside, destroying everything. As
the prophet Joel said, "The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the
corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth.... The
land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate

Not only was every green leaf devoured, but the very bark was peeled
from the trees, which stood out white and lifeless, like skeletons. The
fields were stripped to the ground, and the old men of our villages, who
had given their lives to cultivating these gardens and vineyards, came
out of the synagogues where they had been praying and wailing, and
looked on the ruin with dimmed eyes. Nothing was spared. The insects, in
their fierce hunger, tried to engulf everything in their way. I have
seen Arab babies, left by their mothers in the shade of some tree, whose
faces had been devoured by the oncoming swarms of locusts before their
screams had been heard. I have seen the carcasses of animals hidden from
sight by the undulating, rustling blanket of insects. And in the face of
such a menace the Arabs remained inert. With their customary fatalism
they accepted the locust plague as a necessary evil. They could not
understand why we were so frantic to fight it. And as a matter of fact,
they really got a good deal out of the locusts, for they loved to feast
upon the female insects. They gathered piles of them and threw them upon
burning charcoal, then, squatting around the fire, devoured the roasted
insects with great gusto. I saw a fourteen-year-old boy eat as many as a
hundred at a sitting.



During the locust invasion my brother sent me on an inspection tour to
investigate the ravages of the insect in Syria. With an official
_boyouroulton_ (passport) in my pocket, I was able to travel all over
the country without being interfered with by the military authorities. I
had an excellent opportunity to see what was going on everywhere. The
locusts had destroyed everything from as far south as the Egyptian
desert to the Lebanon Mountains on the north; but the locust was not the
only, nor the worst, plague that the people had to complain of. The
plundering under the name of "military requisitions," the despotic rule
of the army officers, and the general insecurity were even more

As I proceeded on my journey northward, I hoped to find consolation and
brighter prospects in the independent province of the Lebanon. Few
Americans know just what the Lebanon is. From the repeated allusions in
the Bible most people imagine it to be nothing but a mountain. The truth
is that a beautiful province of about four thousand square miles bears
that name. The population of the Lebanon consists of a Christian sect
called Maronites and the Druses, the latter a people with a secret
religion the esoteric teachings of which are known only to the
initiated, and never divulged to outsiders. Both these peoples are
sturdy, handsome folk. Through the machinations of the Turks, whose
policy is always to "divide and rule," the Maronites were continually
fighting against the Druses. In 1860 Turkish troops joined with the
Druses and fell upon the Maronites with wholesale massacres that spread
as far south as Damascus, where ten thousand Christians were killed in
two days.


The European powers were moved at last. Fifty warships were sent to
Beirut, and ten thousand French troops were landed in the Lebanon, to
create order. Under the pressure of the European powers the Sublime
Porte was forced to grant an autonomy for the province of the Lebanon.
The French, English, German, Russian, Austrian, and, a year later, the
Italian, Governments were signing the guaranty of this autonomy.

Since then the Lebanon has had peace. The Governor of the province must
always be a Christian, but the General Council of the Lebanon includes
representatives of all the different races and religions of the
population. A wonderful development began with the liberation from
Turkish oppression. Macadamized roads were built all over the province,
agriculture was improved, and there was complete safety for life and
property. There is a proverb now in Palestine and Syria which says, "In
the Lebanon a virgin may travel alone at midnight and be safe, and a
purse of gold dropped in the road at midday will never be stolen." And
the proverb told the literal truth.

When one crossed the boundary from Turkish Palestine into the Lebanon
province, what a change met his eyes!--peaceful and prosperous villages,
schools filled with children, immense plantations of mulberry trees and
olives, the slopes of the mountains terraced with beautiful vineyards, a
handsome and sturdy population, police on every road to help the
stranger, and young girls and women with happy laugh and chatter working
in the fields. With a population of about six hundred thousand this
province exported annually two million dollars' worth of raw silk,
silkworm-raising being a specialty of the Lebanon.

When autonomy was granted the Lebanon, French influence became
predominant among the Maronites and other Christians of the province.
French is spoken by almost all of them, and love for France is a
deep-rooted sentiment of the people. On the other hand, the Druses feel
the English influence. For the last sixty years England has been the
friend of the Druses, and they have not forgotten it.

It may be worth while to tell in a few words the story of one man who
accomplished wonders in spreading the influence of his country. Sir
Richard Wood was born in London, a son of Catholic parents. From his
early boyhood he aspired to enter the diplomatic service. The East
attracted him strongly, and in order to learn Arabic he went with
another young Englishman to live in the Lebanon. In Beirut they sought
the hospitality of the Maronite patriarch. For a few days they were
treated with lavish hospitality, and then the patriarch summoned them
before him and told them that they must leave the city within
twenty-four hours. The reason for their disgrace they discovered later.
Not suspecting that they were being put to the test, they had eaten meat
on a Friday, and this made the patriarch think that they were not true
Catholics, but were there as spies.

Leaving Beirut in haste, Wood and his friend sought shelter with the
Druses, who received them with open arms. For two years Wood lived
among the Druses, in the village of Obey. There he learned Arabic and
became thoroughly acquainted with the country and with the ways of the
Druses, and there he conceived the idea of winning the Druses for
England to counteract the influence of the French Maronites. He went
back to London, where he succeeded in impressing his views upon the
Foreign Office, and he returned to Syria charged with a secret mission.
Before long he persuaded the Druse chieftains to address a petition to
England asking for British protection.

British protection was granted, and for over thirty years Richard Wood,
virtually single-handed, shaped the destiny of Syria. It was he who
broke the power of Ibrahim Pasha, the son of Mehemet Ali; it was he who
guided Admiral Stopford in the bombardment of Beirut; it was he, again,
who brought about the landing of English troops in Syria in 1841; we
find him afterwards in Damascus as British Consul, and wherever he went
he was always busy spreading English power and prestige. He understood
the East thoroughly and felt that England must be strong in Syria if she
wished to retain her imperial power. It is very unfortunate that the
policy of Sir Richard Wood was not carried out by his nation.

It was with high hopes and expectations that I approached the Lebanon.
I was looking forward to the moment when I should find myself among
people who were free from the Turkish yoke, in a country where I should
be able to breathe freely for a few hours.

But how great was my consternation, when, on entering the Lebanon, I
found on all the roads Turkish soldiers who stopped me every minute to
ask for my papers! Even then I could not realize that the worst had
happened. Of course, rumors of the Turkish occupation of the Lebanon had
reached us a few weeks before, but we had not believed it, as we knew
that Germany and Austria were among those who guaranteed the autonomy of
the Lebanon. It was true, however; the scrap of paper that guaranteed
the freedom of the Lebanon had proved of no more value to the Lebanese
than had that other scrap of paper to Belgium. As I entered the
beautiful village of Ed-Damur, one of the most prosperous and enchanting
places on earth, I saw entire regiments of Turkish troops encamped in
and about the village.

While I was watering my horse, I tried to ask questions from a few
inhabitants. My fair hair and complexion and my khaki costume made them
take me for a German, and they barely answered me, but when I addressed
them in French their faces lit up. For the Lebanon, for all it is
thousands of miles away from France, is nevertheless like a French
province. For fifty years the French language and French culture have
taken hold of the Lebanon. No Frenchman has more love for and faith in
France than lie in the hearts of the Lebanese Christians. They have
never forgotten that when massacres were threatening to wipe out all the
Christians of the Lebanon, ten thousand French soldiers swept over the
mountains to spread peace, life, and French gayety.

And when the poor people heard the language they loved, and when they
found out that I too was the son of an oppressed and ruined community,
all the sadness and bitterness of their hearts was told me,--how the
Turkish soldiers had spread over the beloved mountains of Lebanon; how
the strong, stalwart young Lebanese had been taken away from the
mountains and forced into the Turkish army; how the girls and women were
hiding in their homes, afraid to be seen by the soldiers and their
officers; how the chieftains were imprisoned and even hanged; and how
violence and pillage had spread over the peaceful country.[Footnote:
Since the above was written the American press has chronicled many
atrocities committed in the Lebanon. The execution of leaders and the
complete blockade of the mountains by the Turkish authorities resulted
in the starving of eighty thousand Lebanese. The French Government has
warned Turkey through the American Ambassador that the Turks will be
held accountable for their deeds.]

I could not help wondering at the mistakes of the Allies. If they had
understood the situation in Palestine and Syria, how differently this
war might have eventuated! The Lebanon and Syria would have raised a
hundred thousand picked men, if the Allies had landed in Palestine. The
Lebanon would have fought for its independence as heroically as did the
Belgians. Even the Arab population would have welcomed the Allies as
liberators. But alas!

With a saddened heart I pursued my journey into Beirut. My coming was a
joyful surprise to my sister. Many sad things had happened since she had
last seen me. During my imprisonment she had suffered tortures, not
knowing what would happen to me, and now that she saw me alive she cried
from happiness. She told me how kindly she had been treated by President
Bliss, of the Syrian Protestant College, and of all the good things the
college had done.

What a blessing the college was for the people of Beirut! Many
unfortunate people were saved from prison and hardships through the
intervention of President Bliss. He never tired of rendering service,
wonderful personal service. But alas, even his influence and power began
to wane. The American prestige in the country was broken, and the
Turkish Government no longer respected the American flag. An order
issued from Constantinople demanded that the official language of the
college be Turkish instead of English, and Turkish officers even dared
to enter the college premises to search for citizens belonging to the
belligerent nations, without troubling to ask permission from the
American Consul.




Beirut is a city of about two hundred thousand inhabitants, half of whom
are Christians and the rest Mohammedans and Jews. The pinch of hunger
was already felt there. Bread was to be had only on tickets issued by
the Government, and prices in general were extremely high. The
population were discontented and turbulent, and every day thousands of
women came before the governor's residence to cry and protest against
the scarcity of bread.

The Allies' warships often passed near the town, but the people were not
afraid of them, for it was known that the Allies had no intention of
bombarding the cities. Only once had a bombardment taken place. Toward
the end of March, 1915, a French warship approached the bay of Haifa and
landed an officer with a letter to the commandant of that town giving
notice of his intention to bombard the German Consulate at 3 P.M. sharp.
This was in retaliation for the propaganda carried on by the consul,
Leutweld von Hardegg, and chiefly because of his desecration of the
grave of Bonaparte's soldiers. The consul had time to pack up his
archives and valuables, and he left his house before three. The
bombardment began exactly at three. Fifteen shells were fired with a
wonderful precision. Not one house in the neighborhood of the consulate
was touched, but the consulate itself was a heap of ruins after a few
shells had struck it. The population was exceedingly calm. Only the
German colony was panic-stricken, and on every German house an American
flag was raised. It was rather humorous to see all the Germans who were
active in the Turkish army in one capacity or another seek safety by
means of this trick.

This bombardment had a sobering effect upon the Mohammedan population.
They saw that the Allies were not wholly ignorant of what was going on
in the country and that they could retaliate, and safety for the
non-Mohammedans increased accordingly.

In general Beirut was a rather quiet and safe place. The presence of an
American cruiser in the port had much to do with that. The American
sailors were allowed to come ashore three times a week, and they spent
their money lavishly. It was estimated that Beirut was getting more than
five thousand dollars a week out of them. But the natives were
especially impressed by the manliness and quick action of the American
boys. Frequently a few sailors were involved in a street fight with
scores of Arabs, and they always held their own. In a short time the
Americans became feared, which in the Orient is equivalent to saying
they were respected. The Beirut people are famous for their fighting
spirit, but this spirit was not manifested after a few weeks of intimate
acquaintance with the American blue-jackets.

My inspection of the devastation caused by the locusts completed, I
returned home. The news that greeted me there was alarming. I must
narrate with some detail the events which finally decided me to leave
the country. About one hour's ride on horseback from our village lives a
family of Turkish nobles, the head of which was Sadik Pasha, brother of
the famous Kiamil Pasha, several times Grand Vizier of the Empire.
Sadik, who had been exiled from Constantinople, came to Palestine and
bought great tracts of land near my people. After his death his
sons--good-for-nothing, wild fellows--were forced to sell most of the
estate--all except one Fewzi Bey, who retained his part of the land and
lived on it. Here he collected a band of friends as worthless as himself
and gradually commenced a career of plundering and "frightfulness" much
like that of the robber barons of mediaeval Germany. Before the
outbreak of the war he confined his attentions chiefly to the Arabs,
whom he treated shamefully. He raided cattle and crops and carried off
girls and women in broad daylight. On one occasion he stopped a wedding
procession and carried off the young bride. Then he seized the
bridegroom, against whom he bore a grudge, and subjected the poor
Bedouin to the bastinado until he consented to divorce his wife by
pronouncing the words, "I divorce thee," three times in the presence of
witnesses, according to Mohammedan custom. This Bedouin was the grandson
of the Sheikh Hilou, a holy man of the region upon whose grave the Arabs
are accustomed to make their prayers. But we villagers of Zicron-Jacob
had never submitted to Fewzi Bey in any way; our young men were
organized and armed, and after a few encounters he let us alone.

After the mobilization, however, and the taking away of our arms, this
outlaw saw that his chance had come. He began to send his men and his
camels into our fields to harvest our crops and carry them off. This
pillage continued until the locusts came--Fewzi, in the mean while,
becoming so bold that he would gallop through the streets of our village
with his horsemen, shooting right and left into the air and insulting
old men and women. He boasted--apparently with reason--that the
authorities at Haifa were powerless to touch him.


There was one hope left. Djemal Pasha had boasted that he had introduced
law and order; the country was under military rule; it remained to see
what he would say and do when the crimes of Fewzi Bey were brought to
his notice. Accordingly, armed with my _boyouroulton_, or passport, of a
locust-inspector, I rode to Jerusalem, where I procured, through my
brother, who was then in favor, an interview with Djemal Pasha. He
received me on the very day of my arrival, and listened attentively
while for a whole hour I poured out the story of Fewzi Bey's outrages. I
put my whole heart into the plea and wound up by asking if it was to the
credit of the progressive Young Turks to shelter feudal abuses of a
bygone age. Djemal seemed to be impressed. He sprang from his chair,
began walking up and down the room; then with a great dramatic gesture
he exclaimed, "Justice shall be rendered!" and assured me that a
commission of army officers would be sent at once to start an
investigation. I returned to Zicron-Jacob with high hopes.

Sure enough, a few days later Fewzi Bey was summoned to Jerusalem; at
the same time the "commission," which had dwindled to one single officer
on secret mission, put in an appearance and began to make inquiries
among the natives. He got little satisfaction at first, for they lived
in mortal terror of the outlaw; they grew bolder, however, when they
learned his purpose. Complaints and testimonies came pouring in, and in
four days the officer had the names of hundreds of witnesses,
establishing no less than fifty-two crimes of the most serious nature.
Fewzi's friends and relatives, in the mean while, were doing their
utmost to stem the tide of accusations. The Kaimakam (lieutenant-
governor) of Haifa came in person to our village and threatened the
elders with all sorts of severities if they did not retract the charges
they had made. But they stood firm. Had not Djemal Pasha, commander-in-
chief of the armies in Palestine, given his word of honor that we should
have redress?

We were soon shown the depth of our naïveté in fancying that justice
could be done in Turkey by a Turk. Fewzi Bey came back from Jerusalem,
not in convict's clothes, but in the uniform of a Turkish officer!
Djemal Pasha had commissioned him commandant of the Moujahaddeen
(religious militia) of the entire region! It was bad enough to stand him
as an outlaw; now we had to submit to him as an officer. He came riding
into our village daily, ordering everybody about and picking me out for
distinguished spitefulness.

My position soon became unbearable. I was, of course, known as the
organizer of the young men's union which for so long had put up a
spirited resistance to Fewzi; I was still looked upon as a leader of the
younger spirits, and I knew that sooner or later Fewzi would try to make
good his threat, often repeated, that he would "shoot me like a dog." It
was hardly likely that an open attempt on my life would be made. When
Ambassador Morgenthau visited Palestine, he had stayed in our village
and given my family the evidence of his sincere friendship. These things
count in the East, and I soon got the reputation of having influential
friends. However, there were other ways of disposing of me. One evening,
about sunset, while I was riding through a valley near our village, my
horse shied violently in passing a clump of bushes. I gave him the spur
and turned and rode toward the bushes just in time to see a horseman
dash out wildly with a rifle across his saddle. I kept the incident to
myself, but I was more cautious and kept my eyes open wherever I went.
One afternoon, a fortnight later, as I was riding to Hedera, another
Jewish village, two hours' ride away, a shot was fired from behind a
sand-dune. The bullet burned a hole in the lapel of my coat.

That night I had a long talk with my brother. There was no doubt
whatever in his mind that I should try to leave the country, while I, on
the contrary, could not bear to think of deserting my people at the
crisis of their fortunes. It was a beautiful night, such a night, I
think, as only Palestine can show, a white, serene, moon-bathed night.
The roar of the Mediterranean came out of the stillness as if to remind
us that help and salvation could come only from the sea, the sea upon
which scores of the warships of the Allies were sailing back and forth.
We had argued into the small hours before I yielded to his persuasion.




It was all very well to decide to leave the country; to get safely away
was a different matter. There were two ways out. One of these--the land
route by Constantinople--could not be considered. The other way was to
board one of the American cruisers which, by order of Ambassador
Morgenthau, were empowered to assist citizens of neutral countries to
leave the Ottoman Empire. These cruisers had already done wonderful
rescue work for the Russian Jews in Palestine, who, when war was
declared, were to have been sent to the Mesopotamian town of Urfa--there
to suffer massacre and outrage like the Armenians. This was prevented by
Mr. Morgenthau's strenuous representations, with the result that these
Russian Jews were gathered together as in a great drag-net and herded to
Jaffa, amidst suffering unspeakable. There they were met by the American
cruisers which were to transport them to Egypt. Up to the very moment
when they set foot on the friendly warships they were robbed and
horribly abused by the Jaffa boatmen. The eternal curse of the
Wandering Jew! Driven from Russia, they come to seek shelter in Turkey;
Turkey then casts them from her under pretext that they are loyal to
Russia. Truly, the Jew lifts his eyes to the mountains, asking the
ancient and still unanswered question, "Whence shall come my help?"

The Turkish Government later repented of its leniency in allowing these
Russian Jews to escape, and gave orders that only neutrals should leave
the country--and then only under certain conditions. I was not a
neutral; my first papers of American citizenship were valueless to
further my escape. I had heard, however, that the United States cruiser
Tennessee was to call at Jaffa, and I determined to get aboard her by
hook or by crook. One evening, as soon as darkness had fallen, I bade a
sorrowful farewell to my people, and set off for Jaffa, traveling only
by night and taking out-of-the-way paths to avoid the pickets, for now
that the locust campaign was over, my _boyouroulton_ was useless. At
dawn, two days later, I slipped into Jaffa by way of the sand-dunes and
went to the house of a friend whom I could trust to help me in every
possible way, and begged him to find me a passport for a neutral. He set
off in search and I waited all day at his house, consumed with
impatience and anxiety. At last, toward evening, my friend returned,
but the news he brought was not cheering. He had found a passport,
indeed, but his report of the rigors of the inspection at the wharf was
such as to make it clear that the chances of my getting through on a
false passport were exceedingly slim, since I was well known in Jaffa.
If I were caught in such an undertaking, it might mean death for me and
punishment for the friends who had helped me.

Evidently this plan was not feasible. All that night I racked my brain
for a solution. Finally I decided to stake everything on what appeared
to be my only chance. The Tennessee was due on the next day but one,
early in the morning. I gave my friend the name of a boatman who was
under obligations to me and had sworn to be my friend for life or death.
Even under the circumstances I hesitated to trust a Mohammedan, but it
seemed the only thing to do; I had no choice left. My friend brought the
boatman, and I put my plan before him, appealing to his daring and his
sense of honor. I wanted him to take me at midnight in his fishing-boat
from an isolated part of the coast and wait for the appearance of the
Tennessee; then, on her arrival, amid the scramble of boats full of
refugees, I was to jump aboard, while he would return with the other
boats. The poor fellow tried to remonstrate, pointing out the dangers
and what he called--rightly enough, doubtless--the folly of the plan. I
stuck to it, however, making it clear that his part would be well paid
for, and at last he consented and we arranged a meeting-place behind the
sand-dunes by the shore.

I put a few personal belongings into a little suit-case and had my
friend give it to one of the refugees who was to sail on the Tennessee.
If I succeeded, I was to recover it when we reached Egypt. The only
thing I took with me was the paper which declared my "intention of
becoming an American citizen," the "first paper." From this document I
was determined not to part. I shall not tell how I kept it on me, as the
means I used may still be used by others in concealing such papers and a
disclosure of the secret might bring disaster to them. Suffice it to say
that I had the paper with me and that no search would have brought it to

Arrived next morning at the appointed place, I gave the signal agreed
upon, the whine of a jackal, and, after repeating it again and again, I
heard a very low and muffled answer. My boatman was there! I had some
fear that he might have betrayed me and that I should presently see a
soldier or policeman leap out of the little boat, but my fears proved
groundless, the man was faithful.


We rowed out quietly, our boat a little nutshell on the tossing waves.
But I was relieved; the elements did not frighten me; on the contrary, I
felt secure and refreshed in the midst of the sea. When morning began to
dawn, scores of little boats came out of the harbor and circled about
waiting for the cruiser. This was our chance. I crouched in the bottom
of our boat and to all appearances my boatman was engaged merely in
fishing. After I had lain there over an hour with my heart beating like
a drum and with small hopes for the success of my undertaking, I heard
at last the whistle of the approaching cruiser followed by a Babel of
mad shouting and cursing among the boatmen. In the confusion I felt it
safe to sit up. No one paid the slightest attention to me. All were
engaged in a wild race to reach and mount the Tennessee's ladder. I
scrambled up with the rest, and when, on the deck, an officer demanded
my passport, I put on a bold front and asked him to tell Captain Decker
that Mr. Aaronsohn wished to see him.

Ten minutes later I stood in the captain's cabin. There I unfolded my
story, and wound up by asking him if, under the circumstances, my "first
papers" might not entitle me to protection. As I spoke I could see the
struggle that was going on within him. When he answered it was to
explain, with the utmost kindness, that if he took me aboard his ship it
would be to forfeit his word of honor to the Turkish Government, his
pledge to take only citizens of neutral countries; that he could not
consider me an American on the strength of my first papers; and that any
such evasion might lead to serious complications for him and for his
Government. Well, there was nothing for me to do but to withdraw and go
back to Jaffa to face trial for an attempt to escape.

When I reached the deck again I found it swarming with refugees, many of
whom knew me and came up to congratulate me on getting away. I could
only shake my head and with death in my heart descend the Tennessee's
ladder. It did not matter now what boat I took. Any boatman was eager
enough to take me for a few cents. As I sat in the boat, every stroke of
the oars bringing me nearer to the shore and to what I felt was
inevitable captivity, a great bitterness swelled my heart. I was tired,
utterly tired of all the dangers and trials I had been going through for
the last months. From depression I sank into despair and out of despair
came, strange to say, a great serenity, the serenity of despair.

On the quay I ran into Hassan Bey, commandant of the police, who was
superintending the embarkation of refugees. I knew him and he knew me.
Half an hour later I was in police headquarters under examination by
Hassan Bey. I was desperate, and answered him recklessly. A seasick man
is indifferent to shipwreck. This was the substance of our

"How did you get aboard the ship?"

"In a boat with some refugees. A woman hid me with her skirts."

"So you were trying to escape, were you?"

"If I had been, I shouldn't have come back."

"Then what did you do on the cruiser?"

"I went to talk to the captain, who is a friend of mine. My life is in
danger. Fewzi Bey is after me, and I wanted _my friends in America_ to
know how justice is done in Palestine."

"Who are your friends in America?"

"Men who could break you in a minute."

"Do you know to whom you are speaking?"

"Yes, Hassan Bey. I am sick of persecution. I wish you would hang me
with your own hands as you hanged the young Christian; my friends would
have your life for mine."

I wonder now how I dared to speak to him in this manner. But the bluff
carried. Hassan Bey looked at me curiously for a moment--then smiled
and offered me a cigarette, assuring me that he believed me a loyal
citizen, and declaring he felt deeply hurt that I had not come to him
for permission to visit the cruiser. We parted with a profusion of
Eastern compliments, and that evening I started back to Zicron-Jacob.




The failure of my attempt to leave the country only sharpened my desire
to make another trial. The danger of the enterprise tended to reconcile
me to deserting my family and comrades and seeking safety for myself. As
I racked my brain for a promising plan, a letter came from my sister in
Beirut with two pieces of news which were responsible for my final
escape. The American College was shortly to close for the summer, and
the U.S.S. Chester was to sail for Alexandria with refugees aboard.
Beirut is a four days' trip from our village, and roads are unsafe. It
was out of the question to permit my sister to come home alone, and it
was impossible for any of us to get leave to go after her; nor did we
want to have her at home in the unsettled condition of the country. I
began wondering if I could not possibly get to Beirut and get my sister
aboard the Chester, which offered, perhaps, the last opportunity to go
out with the refugees. It would be a difficult undertaking but it might
be our only chance and I quickly made up my mind to carry it out if it
were a possible thing. I had to act immediately; no time was to be
lost, for no one could tell how soon the Chester might sail.

My last adventure had been entered upon with forebodings, but now I felt
that I should succeed. To us Orientals intuition speaks in very audible
tones and we are trained from childhood to listen to its voice. It was
with a feeling of confidence in the outcome, therefore, that I bade this
second good-bye to my family and dearest friends. Solemn hours they
were, these hours of farewell, hours that needed few words. Then once
more I slipped out into the night to make my secret way to Beirut.

It was about midnight when I left home, dressed in a soldier's uniform
and driving a donkey before me. I traveled only by night and spent each
day in hiding in some cave or narrow valley where I could sleep with
some measure of security. For food I had brought bread, dried figs, and
chocolate, and water was always to be found in little springs and pools.
In these clear, warm nights I used to think of David, a fugitive and
pursued by his enemies. How well I could now understand his despairing
cry: "How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever?... How long shall
mine enemy be exalted over me?"

Five nights I journeyed, and at last one morning beautiful Beirut
appeared in the distance and I found myself in the forest of pines that
leads into the city. The fresh dawn was filled with the balmy breath of
the pines and all the odors of the Lebanon. Driving my donkey before me,
I boldly approached the first picket-house and saluted the
non-commissioned officer in military fashion. He stopped me and asked
whence I came and where I was going. I smiled sweetly and replied that I
was the orderly of a German officer who was surveying the country a few
hours to the south and that I was going to Beirut for provisions. Then I
lighted a cigarette and sat down for a chat. After discussing politics
and the war for a few minutes, I jumped up, exclaiming that if I didn't
hurry I should be late, and so took my departure. It was all so simple,
and it brought me safely to Beirut. My donkey, having served the purpose
for which I had brought him, was speedily abandoned, and I hurried to a
friend's house, where I exchanged my uniform for the garb of a civilian.

My sister was the most surprised person on earth when she saw me walking
into her room, and, when I told her that I wanted her to go with me on
the Chester, she thought me crazy, for she knew that hundreds of persons
were trying in vain to find means of leaving the country and it seemed
to her impossible that we, who were Turkish subjects, could succeed in
outwitting the authorities. Even when I had explained my plans and she
was willing to admit the possibility of success, she still felt doubts
as to whether it would be right for her to leave the country while her
friends were left behind in danger. I assured her, however, that our
family would feel relieved to know that we were in safety and could come
back fresh and strong after the war to help in rebuilding the country.

Having gained her consent, I still had the difficult problem of ways and
means before me. The Chester had orders to take citizens of neutral
countries only. Passports had to be examined by the Turkish authorities
and by the American Consul-General, who gave the final permission to
board the cruiser. How was I to pass this double scrutiny? After long
and arduous search, with the assistance of several good friends, I at
last discovered a man who was willing to sell me the passports of a
young couple belonging to a neutral nation. I cannot go into particulars
about this arrangement, of course. Suffice it to say that my sister was
to travel as my wife and that we both had to disguise ourselves so as to
answer the descriptions on the passports. When I went to the American
Consulate-General to get the permit, I found the building crowded with
people of all nations,--Spanish and Greek and Dutch and Swiss,--all
waiting for the precious little papers that should take them aboard the
American cruiser, that haven of liberty and safety. The Chester was to
take all these people to Alexandria, and those who had the means were to
be charged fifty cents a day for their food. From behind my dark goggles
I recognized many a person in disguise like myself and seeking escape.
We never betrayed recognition for fear of the spies who infested the

After securing my permit, I ran downstairs and straight to "my" consul,
whose dragoman I took along with me to the _seraya_, or government
building. Of course, the dragoman was well tipped and he helped me
considerably in hastening the examination I had to undergo at the hands
of the Turkish officials. All went well, and I hurried back to my sister

The Chester was to sail in two days, but while we were waiting, the
alarming news came that the American Consul had been advised that the
British Government refused to permit the landing of the refugees in
Egypt and that the departure of the Chester was indefinitely postponed.
With a sinking at my heart I rushed up to the American Consulate for
details and there learned that the U.S.S. Des Moines was to sail in a
few hours for Rhodes with Italian and Greek refugees and that I could
go on her if I wished. In a few minutes I had my permit changed for the
trip on the Des Moines and I hurried home to my sister. We hastily got
together the few belongings we were to take with us, jumped into a
carriage, and drove to the harbor.

We had still another ordeal to go through. My sister was taken into a
private room and thoroughly searched; so was I. Nobody could leave the
country with more than twenty-five dollars in cash on his person. Our
baggage was carefully overhauled. No papers or books could be taken. My
sister's Bible was looked upon with much suspicion since it contained a
map of ancient Canaan. I explained that this was necessary for the
orientation of our prayers and that without it we could not tell in
which direction to turn our faces when praying! This seemed plausible to
the Moslem examiners and saved the Bible, the only book we now possess
as a souvenir from home. Now our passports were examined again and
several questions were asked. My sister was brave and self-possessed,
cool and unconcerned in manner, and at last the final signature was
affixed and we jumped into the little boat that was to take us out to
the ship.

At this moment a man approached, a dry-goods dealer of whom my sister
had made some purchases a few months before. He seemed to recognize her
and he asked her in German if she were not Miss Aaronsohn. I felt my
blood leave my face, and, looking him straight in the eye, I whispered,
"If you say one word more, you will be a dead man; so help me God!" He
must have felt that I meant exactly what I said, for he walked off
mumbling unintelligibly.

At last the boat got away, and five minutes later we were mounting the
side of the Des Moines. Throngs of refugees covered the decks of the
cruiser. Their faces showed tension and anxiety. Their presence there
seemed too good to be true, and all awaited the moment when the ship
should heave anchor. A Filipino sailor showed us about, and as he spoke
Italian, I told him I wanted to be hidden somewhere till the ship got
under way. I felt that even yet we were not entirely safe. That my fears
were justified I discovered shortly, when from our hiding-place I saw
the shopkeeper approaching in a small boat with a Turkish officer. They
looked over all the refugees on the deck, but searched for us in vain.
After a half-hour more of uncomfortable tension the engines began to
sputter, the propellers revolved, and--we were safe!


The day was dying and a beautiful twilight softened the outlines of the
Lebanon and the houses of Beirut. The Mediterranean lay quiet and
peaceful around us, and the healthy, sturdy American sailors gave a
feeling of confidence. As the cruiser drew out of the harbor, a great
cry of farewell arose from the refugees on board, a cry in which was
mingled the relief of being free, anguish at leaving behind parents and
friends, fear and hope for the future. A little later the sailors were
lined up in arms to salute the American flag when it was lowered for the
night. Moved by a powerful instinct of love and respect, all the
refugees jumped to their feet, the men bareheaded and the women with
folded hands, and in that moment I understood as I had never understood
before the real sacred meaning of a flag. To all those people standing
in awe about that piece of cloth bearing the stars and stripes America
was an incarnation of love universal, of freedom and salvation.

The cool Syrian night, our first night on the cruiser, was spent in
songs, hymns, and conversation. We were all too excited to sleep.
Friends discovered friends and tales of woe were exchanged, stories of
hardship, injustice, oppression, all of which ended with mutual
congratulations on escaping from the clutches of the Turks.


*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "With the Turks in Palestine" ***

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