Aliyah and yishuv during World War I

Prior to and during the period of World War I, the area of Palestine was controlled by the Ottoman Empire. This regime imposed many harsh demands on the Jewish settlement, and was ended in 1918 when the British Mandate became valid.

The difficulties Faced by the Jewish Settlement

The Jewish settlement was treated badly during the Ottoman regime. Upon the eruption of World War I, the regime severed supply lines to Palestine and caused a severe food shortage. This severing of supply lines also caused economic damage and prevented the arrival of donations. On top of these problems, the regime piled up additional difficulties such as war taxes and the confiscation of work animals, tools and food. Other difficulties (either unrelated or not in direct relation to the regime) arose in the form of a locust attack (which the settlers were not equipped to deal with), famine and poverty (the result of donations ceasing), massive disease eruptions (such as the typhus plague) and the closure of banks joined with inflation.

The attitude of the Ottoman administration to the Jews hardened as their situation in the war deteriorated and it made the functioning of the Jewish settlements much harder. This continuous situation kept on for about four years. Firstly the Ottoman authorities canceled the capitulations regime (immunity to foreign citizens) and as a result those that arrived from the concurrence countries (including the majority of the immigrants who originated from Russia) were now considered enemies. There started a sort of a war between the Ottoman authorities and the Zionist movement in Israel. The Ottoman authorities violated the freedom rights of the Jewish population. The Jewish population was not permitted to carry any weapons. It was forbidden to hold any stamps of the "Jewish National Fund" and it was forbidden to write any letters in Yiddish or Hebrew. It became mandatory to learn Turkish in the schools of the Jewish population and it became prohibited to wave the Zionist flag. The peak of the friction was when the Ottoman authorities demanded that some of the people would enlist to the Turkish army or to leave the country.

The Ottoman authorities even made a number of deportations from the country. In 1915 the Ottomans collected people that revolved in the streets of Tel Aviv and Jaffa and deported them with a ship to Egypt. In 1917 the Ottoman deported the Jewish population of Tel Aviv and Jaffa as a result of the progress of the British front in the south of the country (The Ottomans feared that the Jewish population in Tel Aviv would assist the British in taking control over the country). The Ottoman authorities also deportated the leaders of the Jewish population in the Land of Israel - David Ben Gurion and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi were deported from bounds of the empire in spite of the Zionist leadership officially declaring their support to the Ottoman empire.

The relation of the authorities evoke divisions of many opinions amongst leadership of the settlement. Ben Gurion ( leader of the laborers ) said that maybe the enlistment will cause to the sympathy from side Htorcim. Soldiers Jews Goiso L"amliot " regimental work put his business in the work debases. In the end Mlhh"a the first the Jewish settlement in the ebb. His number descends off 84,000 for 56,000 and he suffers from economic considerable difficulties.

Confrontment approaches

The Jewish Americans in the United States and even the American government began fund raising and accumulating food which they shipped over with boats in order to help the Jewish population in the Land of Israel. They confronted two major problems - The first was that they needed an agreement from the president of the United States in sending them the aid – this was the first time in which the American government operates a Pro Zionist policy. The second was to receive a concurrence from the Ottomans that the food and the money would be passed on to the Jewish population. The Ottoman authority agreed to this eventually in exchange of about 45% of the aid shipment.

The United States and Germany (which was a partner of Turkey during the war) had pressure on Turkey against the deportation of the Jewish population from the country.

Three possibilities came upon the Jewish settlers:
* Becoming a Turkish nationality with all the responsibilities that come with it (mainly enlistment to the army and paying the taxes).
* Collaboration with the British – officially (Jewish Legion) and underground (Nili).
* Fleeing – mainly to Egypt, which was the closest, in order to return easily after the crisis.

The position of the World Zionist Organization was a divided. The majority of the Zionist leaders supported and identified with Germany - it would be able to release Russian Jews from the burden of the czar, and Turkey which was a partner of Germany during the war would hopefully change it's mind about the Jewish population in Israel. In contrast with that, supporting the Allies of World War I might give a reason for the Ottomans to eliminate the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel. Still, identification with Germany during the war might have endangered the millions of Jews in Russia and Poland, and as the Allies of World War I would not agree to the national demands of the Jews. Due to these considerations eventually it was decided on a more neutral policy. This position required the moving of the central offices of the World Zionist Organization out of Berlin, but because this might have been seen by Germany as a betrayal, the offices remained in Berlin, though new offices were built in Denmark which was a neutral country during the war.

Chaim Weizmann and Ze'ev Jabotinsky supported political activism rather than neutralism. They estimated that the Ottoman empire was weakening and Britain would occupy the Land of Israel and therefore they invested their efforts in finding ways of collaboration with Britain. Ze'ev Jabotinsky offered to establish Jewish fighting units that would be a part of the British army. In return they will recognize in the moral right of the Jews to live in Israel. In contrast to him, Chaim Weizmann requested a political declaration on the rights of the Jewish population in Israel, in the assertion that British have a strategic interest to help to Jewish population, in order to have a hold of that area. He tried to arouse a humane emotion amongst the British to the suffering Jews. Weitzman tried to convince that it was in the good of Britain to help the Jews in contrast with Jabotinsky whom tried to use cold facts to convince the British. Eventually Weitzman method worked with the Balfour Declaration of 1917, whereas the method of Jabotinsky only worked partially by the establishment of the Jewish Legion. France, unlike Britain supported the Christians of Lebanon and not the Jews.

A big net of dozens of activists inside of the land of Israel decided to go against the decision of the World Zionist Organization on being neutral and they established the underground Nili organization. The leaders of Nili were Aaron and Sarah Aaronsohn, Avshalom Feinberg and Joseph Lishinski. The underground acted within the land of Israel and in Syria between 1915-1917. The interconnection between the Nili and the British intelligence took place during visits British ships in Atlit, through messengers in Egypt, and Pigeon post (when they needed to send announcements fast). Nili was exposed in 1917, and the Turkish authorities started a retaliation against the underground network and against the whole Jewish settlement.


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