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Zionist Organization Appeals to the League on Western Wall Issue

November 2, 1928
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(Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

The full text of the memorandum on the Western Wall issue addressed by Col. Frederick H. Kisch, political representative of the Jerusalem Zionist Executive, for the President of the Zionist Organization to the Secretary General of the League of Nations for consideration by the Permanent Mandates Commission was obtained by the representative of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency here. The memorandum was addressed, in accordance with the Mandates procedure, to the Acting High Commissioner of Palestine, H. C. Luke, for transmission to the Secretary General of the League.

The document, which represents the appeal of the Jewish people to the nations of the world for the full protections of the full protection of their right to their Holy Places in the land of their fathers, demands that the Mandates Commission take immediate steps to find a solution to the problem. The full text follows:

“On behalf of the Executive of the Zionist Organization, which is recognized as the Jewish Agency for Palestine in Article 4 for the Palestine Mandate, I have the honor to request that this petition may be transmitted through the proper channels to the Secretary General of the League of Nations for the information of the Permanent Mandates Commission.

“2. The petition relates to a deplorable incident which recently occurred in Jerusalem on the Jewish Day of Atonement, which has caused the most painful impression throughout the Jewish world.

“About 9 a. m on the Jewish Day of Atonement, falling on September 24, 1928, British police, acting on orders received from the Deputy District Commissioner of Jerusalem, broke through the crowded worshippers at the Kothel-Maaravi, generally known as the Wailing Wall, and effected the removal of portable screen which had been set up the previous evening. The screen separated men and women at worship, in accordance with the traditional Jewish religious rite, but did not interfere with the right of way. The entreaties of the worshippers that the removal of the screen be postponed until the conclusion of the Services and the Fast of the Day of Atonement were ignored. In carrying out the order to remove the screen, the police thrust aside, and, as was perhaps inevitable for the execution of the order, knocked down several aged worshippers, men and women. One worshipper holding on to the screen was dragged along the ground.

“The identical screen had been in use in the same position ten days previously on the Feast of the Jewish New Year, without any complaint or protest having been communicated to any Jewish authority.

“3. The Government of Palestine in an official communique have justified the action taken, on the grounds that the screen and its attachment to the pavement constituted an infraction of the status quo which the Government was unable to permit, and that the beadle in charge of the arrangements for the conduct of the Services at the Wall had been instructed, on the eve of the Day of Atonement, that the screen would have to be removed before the Services on the following day.

“The Executive regret that they can not be satisfied with this explanation, and maintain that no formal departure from previous custom as regards ceremonial arrangements for relligious Services at the Wall could justify the use of police for aggressive action at such a place and on such a day. Nor can the Zionist Organization admit that any error on the part of a mere caretaker, referred to above as the beadle, could justify the action taken by the District Authorities without giving previous notification to any responsible Jewish authority.

“4. The Executive remind the Permanent Mandates Commission that this is not the first occasion upon which the Palestine Government have found it necessary to make aggressive use of the police at the Kothel-Maaravi. The previous incident also occurred on the Day of Atonement when, in 1925, police were sent by the District Authorities to remove seats and benches placed at the Kothel-Maaravi for the use of aged and infirm worshippers during the Fast, as reported in paragraph 9 of the letter dated May 3, 1926 addressed by Dr. Weizmann on behalf of the Zionist Organization to the High Commissioner for Palestine, for transmission to the Secretary General of the League of Nations. On that, as on the present occasion, the order for police action was given by the Administrative Officer concerned, as a result of representations received from the Moslem authorities in regard to arrangements made for the conduct of Jewish religious services.

“5. The Executive feel confident that it was the desire both of the Permanent Mandates Commission, and of the Mandatory Government to prevent any repetition of such an incident as occurred on the Day of Atonement in 1925. The fact that recurrence has not been prevented is evidence of the impossibility of prolonging the present state of affairs.

“6. In order that the Permanent Mandates Commission may appreviate what such an incident means to the Jewish people it is necessary to explain that the Day of Atonement is the most sacred day of the Jewish calendar. The Shmonch Esrei prayer during which the incident occurred and the police broke in among the worshippers, is the most important prayer of the whole day of worship. The Kothel-Maaravi has ever been the most holy spot for the Jewish nation since the destruction of the Temple.

“7. On the other hand, the Jewish place of prayer at the Wall is not holy to any other nation or community, and while the Jews have for generations past undertaken the most arduous journeys in order to be able to pray at the Wall if only for a few moments, the Moslem neighbors have never used the site for prayer, and have not hesitated to desecrate it in the most offensive manner.

The Executive wish emphatically to repudiate as false and libelous the rumors which have been circulated that it is the intention of the Jewish people to menace the inviolability of the Moslem Holy Place which encloses the Mosque of Aksa and the Mosque of Omar.

“8. The demand of the Jewish people is that they shall be given freedom to pray according to their religious rites without external interference. The land in front of the Wall is a place of prayer for Jews, and an end must be put to a situation under which an institution belonging to another community, in this case the Moslem Supreme Council, can interfere with the manner in which the Jews arrange their religious Services at their most Holy Place.

“9. Similarly, the Jewish people believe that the Permanent Mandates Commission will recongnized that it is inconsistent with the spirit and the letter of the Mandate, that Jewish worshippers before the Wall should be confined to a narrow alley-way (thirty-two metres long by five metres wide), through the fact that on the adjacent land there are a few hutments, the property of the Wakf (Moslem Ecclesiastical Foundation), but having no religious significance. These dwellings are occupied by members of the Moroccan community, who pass to and from through the praying place of the Jews, often carrying loads and sometimes dirving laden donkeys before them.

“10. The situation thus explained is painful and humiliating to the whole Jewish world, and the Executive venture to think that it is unworthy both of the League of Nations and of the Mandatory Power, under whose joint auspices the administration of Palestine is conducted.

“11. The Jewish people have always been anxious to secure for themselves proper conditions for free and undisturbed worship at the Kothel-Maaravi by direct arrangement with the Moslem authorities, with fair compensation for any proprietary rights affected. The Executive submit that the provision of such conditions for Jewish worship at the most sacred place of prayer for all Jewry, is an essential condition of civilized government in Palestine. That real freedom of worship is impossible under existing conditions is demonstrated by reason and confirmed by experience. The Executive therefore submit that the Mandatory Government should take all necessary steps to ensure that an arrangement eliminating the present obstacles to the free exericise of worship at this Holy Place shall be effected within the very near future.

“The Jewish Agency appeals to the Permanent Mandates Commission and to the Mandatory Power to secure this end.”

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