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Increase in Jewish Population Chief Cause of Wailing Wall Dispute, Keith Roach Says

July 17, 1930
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The increase in the Jewish population of Palestine since the British occupation is the chief cause of the dispute between the Moslems and the Jews over the Wailing Wall, it was implied by Keith Roach, district commissioner for the Southern district, and the chief actor in the drama at the Wailing Wall dispute, Yom Kippur, 1928, who as the first government witness testified today before the Wailing Wall Commission.


In the midst of the Yom Kippur prayers at the Wall in 1928 the British police under the command of Inspector Duff attempted to remove the screen put up for the services to separate men and women worshippers. The congregation resisted the police attempt to remove the screen but it was forcibly removed. The police official later said that his action had been on orders from Keith Roach. His instructions were said to have been based on complaints from the Moslem Supreme Council.

In his testimony today, Mr. Roach asserted that the Turks had followed a laisse faire policy because Jewish attendance at the services at the Wall was small. He admitted having seen campstools used at the Wall which the government tolerated until the new regulations were issued by High Commissioner Chancellor.


Mr. Roach considered that there had been a distinct change in the form of the service at the Wall during his term in office. He said that the screen was first used during the 1928 Rosh Hashonah services. He said that his attention was first called to the use of the screen at Yom Kippur, 1928, when he ordered its removal. The government had not permitted the use of chairs, he stated, because it interfered with the right of way and might give the Jews the idea that they had property rights there.

Replying to Dr. Mordecai Eliash, chief counsel for the Jews, Mr. Roach said that the new door which the Moslems had built might be an innovation although he pointed out that he knew two officers had used the passage previously. At the request of Abdul Auni Bey, Arab counsel, he read a letter from Chief Rabbi Kook to Sir Ronald Storrs, former governor of Jerusalem, asking for permission to use benches at the Wall during the high holidays, and a letter from Harry C. Luke, former chief secretary, to Nashashibi, forwarding the complaint of the Jews that the Moslems had befouled the Wall.

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