Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Hebron, Five Weeks After the Massacre

October 9, 1929
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

If the Jewish world considers it has heard enough regarding Hebron, it is not purposed to add descriptions of the gruesomeness accompanying what is going down in Jewish history as the “Hurban Hevron.” The destruction was in the minds of all Jews reciting the Nessanetekef on Saturday and Sunday, a stricken people adding the massacres of Hebron and Safed to the insufferably long martyrdoms of a hunted race.

On the eve of the New Year an expedition went on Thursday to Hebron to prepare a report on behalf of the reconstruction committee, to inspect the ground whereon, should the Hebron survivors or others desire it, a new Jewish quarter would be reared as soon as expedient, replacing the ancient murder traps of the old ghetto. H. Wolofsky, publisher of the “Canadian Jewish Eagle,” Montreal; M. M. Ussishkin, two Jerusalem businessmen, Mohl and Perlman, a representative of the Sephardic community and one of the Ashkenazic community, as well as one Hebronite, were members of the expedition, which did not intend to examine the horror striking evidence of the inexplicable visitation of seven Fridays ago. It practically avoided the deserted ghetto, which has been boarded up on all sides by the authorities, pending the Commission of Inquiry’s probable visit. We did not expect to visit Slonim’s and the other houses of slaughter, to which entrance is allowed by special permission of the Chief Secretary.

We closely inspected the empty lots belonging to Jewish societies in the Jewish quarter overlooking the smiling olive groves and vineyards just under the windows of antiquated tenements, where modern cottages and gardens are planned if, when the wounds are healed, when the memory of the sixty-six victims ceases to haunt them, when the Jews will become reconciled, as they undoubtedly will, once more to reside amidst the neighbors, friends and lifelong associates who suddenly became slaughterers of men and rappers of women.

But the practical commission could not help seeing things such as the wrecked and charred Hadassah clinic, which for more than a decade cured the Arabs who turned around and destroyed the premises, pillaged the medicants which had saved them from decimation by loathsome diseases; it could not help hearing reports of the mob’s demand that A. D. Slonim should surrender the “foreigners,” meaning the Yeshiva students sheltered in his house if his and his family’s lives were to be spared and the martyr’s historic answer, “We Jews are one.”

We lingered in the former home of the Slobodka Yeshiva, a large, wellventilated, bright, white, square hall, with windows overlooking the fertile valley. The hall, which accommodated 170 Talmudists, is now denuded of every particle of furniture, showing as a sign of the tragedy shattered window panes, battered-down doors, the bloodstained floor marking the spot where the first Yeshiva “bocher” was killed on Friday afternoon, after which the blood-lusting mob ran through the streets shouting, “We found only one in the Yeshiva. He lives no more, but the future will yield more.” Up a narrow winding stone staircase I climbed alone to the attic, where a monastic Mathmid, perhaps a secret Kabbalist, had penciled such mystic Hebrew inscriptions as: “Seeing I was born for a given purpose and life turned out to the contrary, what use is life?” Or, “Come let us reckon up the meaning of the world,” wondering whether this monastic scholar is alive and still speculating on life’s purpose or whether his speculations were terminated by a knife.

Through winding, labyrinthian passages leading from the ghetto, we groped our way to the Cave of the Machpelah and mounted the seven steps permitted to Jewish and Christian “heretics,” while Perlman, his (Continued on Page 4)

An Arab police corporal asked me when I thought complete calm would be restored, to which I answered, “When some, at least, of the two hundred prisoners will expiate their crimes, serving as an example and warning to others. But even this is not altogether certain, since it is rumored the Mufti gave an undertaking to the family of Sheik Taleb Markah, chief instigator of the Hebron massacre, that the sheik will not pay the capital penalty.”

Leaving Hebron hours later, we took along an unreasable picture not only of the destruction, which is reparable, but a haunting reminder that an unspeakable tragedy occurred in one of the four holy cities where the Jews were physically and morally incapable of self-defense. Massacres happened to us before, but as M. M. Ussishkin, after the Jerusalem riots of 1920, told Ronald Storrs, who tried to comfort him that the loss of life was not very great, gravity of a given disaster depends upon the time and place, reminding him that more than nineteen centuries ago one Jew was executed in Jerusalem, but the world never forgot nor is likely to forget.


In the proceedings of the Commission of Inquiry, the Jews are anxious that the most searching investigation be conducted and that arrangements be made such as will afford adequate opportunity not only to present the Jewish case but also to refute the challenge of evidence from the other sides. There will be at least two other sides as, for the purposes of the inquiry, the Palestine government is treated as a party called on to give and reply to testimony, the same as the Zionist and Arab Executives, which have been invited to submit their cases.

It is perhaps significant that the three bodies are reported to have received similar communications from the Commission after its last meeting in London on September 28, although it is already clear that the government is privileged to have some of its evidence presented to the Commission in camera, when the representatives of the other parties will be excluded.

The procedure as now laid down permits two representatives of each side, one of whom is to be the counsel without being called such. The representatives, as they are called, will be allowed to examine their own witnesses and those of the other sides and also sum up the evidence at the end of the Commission’s hearing. Although not sitting as a court of justice, the Commission will take evidence on oath and call any witnesses they require.

The Zionists were the first to choose their counsel, who is understood to be an eminent K.C., and it is probable the Arabs will follow suit. What will come as a surprise is a report current in Jerusalem today that the Palestine government has selected a noted English counsel, thereby confessing, perhaps, that it has a case to defend.

The Commission is not arriving before the end of the month, but the Zionist counsel is expected to leave London on Thursday.

Recommended from JTA