Jerusalem (Dec. 14)
It is the government’s duty to abolish the humiliating conditions to which the Jews who go to pray at the Wailing Wall are subjected, declared Chief Rabbi Abraham Kook towards the close of his examination by Sir Boyd Merriman at the Inquiry Commission hearing.
The fifth day of the examination of the Jewish witnesses began with the venerable Rabbi’s elaborate evidence and ended with the testimony of Solomon Horowitz, a member of the temporary Zionist Executive during the riots. While Rabbi Kook affirmed the Jewish rights to the Wailing Wall, Horowitz unflinchingly flayed the dilatoriness of the Luke administration.
Rabbi Kook, who came to the hearing with a royal entourage of three cars including the Orientally dressed kavas (usual attendants of religious dignitaries and consuls), his orthodoxly dressed secretary, and three favorite students of his yeshivah, were his shtrumele (customary hat), and his silk kaftan, while his beard appeared to be considerably whiter than before the riots.
He held the attention of the Commission as no witness had done before, as he laboriously explained the Messianic Creed and the two categories of the hopes for rebuilding the Temple, one the celestial and the other the earthly. “It is our duty to endeavor to resettle the waste places of (Continued on Page 4)
With the Shulchan Aruch (book of laws) held handy, Rabbi Kook discussed the Tisha B’Ab and Yom Kippur customs as pertaining to the Wailing Wall. When he began speaking about the Moslem desecration of the Shrine during the Arab counter-demonstration, he made the Court quiver when he said, “There was once an English king who translated the Psalms into English, and now in our day, under English administration, brigands burned the Psalm books at the holiest Jewish place.” He completed his direct testimony by reading the warning letter that had been sent to him by the Moslem committee for the defense of the Mosque of Aksa, in which he and the Jews were threatened with dire consequences if the Jews continued to claim more than the right to visit the Wailing Wall in silence. The Rabbi explained that he had seen the High Commissioner about the letter, but that it was now his painful duty to lay the matter before the Commission.
The benevolence of the morning session, while the white-bearded Rabbi was testifying, gave way in the afternoon to a different sort of atmosphere when Solomon Horowitz took the stand. Government counsel Preedy made a determined attempt to get him to waver on the serious charges against the Palestine administration during the riots. Viscount Erleigh’s examination of Horowitz took little more than an hour, while Silley, cross-examining for the Arab side, took up less than half an hour. Preedy’s cross-examination, however, was not completed.
He forced Horowitz to give hitherto unknown details as to how he had been obliged to surrender his special constable’s armband when the government decided to disband the Jewish constables. Horowitz told of his protest then and repeated that there should have been no such distinction made between Jewish and non-Jewish British citizens, the first time this had been done since Jewish emancipation in England. He revealed that General Dobbie, in command of the British forces, had told him on the third day of the riots that there were enough troops in the country for all eventualities and disclosed that the government ordered, but later remanded, the evacuation of Safed. Horowitz compared High Commissioner Chancellor’s proclamation with the one issued by the Acting High Commissioner, Luke, and charged that “nevertheless, the reports reaffirmed that the government had capitulated to a band of murderers and traitors” after the Jews had been disarmed. Reporting that MacQueen, the government health department official, never examined the bodies of the dead, and remarking that he, Horowitz, was as credible as MacQueen, and that therefore he was justified in warning the Zionist Organization to tell the Colonial Office to discredit the report that there had been no mutilations. He insisted that common sense dictated that the troops should have fired in the air first and then at the mobs if they had not dispersed.
Horowitz persisted that Luke should have informed him of the decision to disband the Jewish constables, and not left it to Captain Playfair, commander of the Royal Air Forces in Transjordania. While all of the Commissioners tried to shake his testimony, Horowitz insisted that the government had juggled the figures when it lumped together the Hebron victims with the Jerusalem casualties, and added “the government’s communiques were justified if they were prepared for any other purpose than the mere truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
Preedy then exclaimed: “Were these cables the whole and nothing but the truth?” waving a sheaf of copies of the Zionist cables. “Yes,” replied Horowitz, “to the best of my knowledge and information.”