This week marks the fourth anniversary of the outbreak of the Palestine riots of 1929, which began, appropriately enough, on Tisha B’ab, aniversary of the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans, and raged for two weeks before they were finally halted.
Hundreds of Jews were killed during the riots in all sections of Palestine. But only in Hebron was the fighting one-sided. There young Jewish theological students and aged rabbis were brutally and barbarously butchered by Arab hooligans. Elsewhere in Palestine the young, vigorous Jewish workers and farmers defended themselves bravely against the Arabs until they were disarmed by British officials.
Orders to evacuate outlying colonies were ignored by the Jews and they defended themselves against bands outnumbering them many times.
In the cities self-defense corps were hurriedly organized and strenuous efforts were made to protect the Jewish population.
DEFENSE OF HULDAH RETOLD
Outstanding in the gallant record of self-defense during those trying days in Palestine was the heroic battle fought by the Jews at Huldah, a Jewish colony twenty-five miles southeast of Tel Aviv.
When the word came that Huldah was in danger, a group of young Jewish fighters headed by Ephraim Chizik made its way to the colony from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. On the way they were attacked by Arabs at several points and were compelled to fight their way through to Huldah.
Thirty-one young men in all assembled to defend Huldah. Chizik, a Galilean, commanded the group. The defense of Huldah is a gallant chapter in Jewish history, but it is best told in the language of one of the group who fought under Chizik’s command.
“On Monday morning, August 26, seven men left our midst; they were bound for Tel Aviv and Rehoboth. Two promised to return by train towards evening. We changed the guard. We perceived that a car had come to Arabic Huldah; that a huge Arab mob had gathered about it. We felt something was about to take place. At two in the afternoon the guard was relieved once again. For a while we could make out no suspicious Arab maneuver in the vicinity. At five the car left the Arab village, heading towards the direction of Ramleh. At five-thirty Chizik and Benjamin Galili left on horseback to meet the two comrades who had promised to come back. On the road they saw Arabs descending from the hills. Galili urged returning. Chizik refused, saying: “And shall we leave our comrades at the train?” They continued. The comrades failed to appear. On the way back Chizik and his companion remarked the Arabs approaching the way so as to bar their path, but they succeeded crossing before the others. The Arabs began firing; the saddle fell from Chizik’s horse. He dismounted and adjusted it. At half-past six they were safely back at the yard.
ARABS GATHER AND ATTACK
“About that time all the roads leading to Huldah had been intercepted. A while later streams of Arabs began flowing toward us, shouting, “To Huldah.” We were all stationed at our post at Chizik’s command. Then began an exchange of shots. The Arabs managed at last to set fire to all of our crops on the threshing grounds. The crowd of assailants was immense and they did not heed our bullets. We were compelled to move back into the enclosed yard. This yard, however, was not quite suitable for the defense, and we were ordered by Chizik to retreat toward the house. The command was to crawl. So we did. Ephraim then followed last, covering our retreat, firing as he went along, emptying first his revolver and then his rifle. Before he entered the house he stood erect for a moment and was struck with a bullet. We brought him into the house where he died a few minutes later, while we were attempting to bandage his wound.
“The battle continued. Twenty-three of us against a tremendous mob of Arabs. The battlefield was illuminated by the flames on the threshing floors and from the adjoining woods, which by then had caught fire. The Arabs were attempting to enter the yard and loot it. But from behind sand bags previously placed on the windows of the house by Ephraim’s command our defense continued. During the nearly five hours of this battle, not one Arab managed to enter the yard. Some of the assailants did, however, come quite close the house from a different direction. An Arab who fell wounded near the house was begging us for a drink. We did try to get some water out to him but found the fire of his Arab friends too heavy to come to his aid.
BURIAL OF CHIZIK
“When English officers and troops arrived at about 1:00 a. m., we were told to take up our arms, to leave the house and ride with them. We carried with us the body of Ephraim, but when we got to the car the English commandant refused to take it. We explained that this was the body of our leader; that without him we would not leave. When we continued to remain stubborn, the commandant took out his revolver and pointed it at us meaningly. We were forced to leave Ephraim’s body wrapped as it was, in a white sheet, at the side of the tank-car.
“It was three weeks later before the brothers and sisters of Ephraim Chizik struggled through to devastated Huldah. He lay where his comrades had left him, but the flames had reached his body.
“No shroud was available, so Zipporah, a younger sister, took the white kerchief from her head and covered her brother’s face.
“No spade nor shovel. They dug his grave with their hands and broke some branches from an uncharred olive tree to put upon it.”