A Significant Contingent of Jewish Soldiers Helped the British Army Liberate Palestine from the Turks

(Algemeiner) Jacob Sivak - In 1915 during World War I, the British established the Zion Mule Corps, the first independent Jewish fighting force in well over a millennium, to deliver desperately needed supplies to the troops trying to dislodge the Turks at Gallipoli. It was commanded by Lt.-Col. John Henry Patterson, an Irish Protestant who sympathized with the Zionist cause. The Corps was made up of 737 volunteers, largely Russian-Jewish refugees in Egypt, who were expelled from Palestine by the Turks. After Allied forces were evacuated from Gallipoli, Jewish soldiers of the Jewish Legion, commanded by Patterson, participated in Gen. Allenby's offensive on Palestine. The Legion included former members of the Zion Mule Corps as well as British and Russian Jews. Later, they were joined by volunteers from the U.S. and Canada. The battalion, which trained in Nova Scotia in Canada, included David Ben-Gurion, the future Prime Minister of Israel. The Legion, numbering 5,000 soldiers, participated in battles north of Jerusalem, at Megiddo, as well as on the east bank of the Jordan River. Close to 100 men were killed or died from malaria. After the force was disbanded, some members founded Moshav Avihayil in central Israel. Before he died, Col. Patterson asked that his remains be transferred to Israel to be close to the men of the Legion, and in 2014 his remains were reinterred at Avihayil. The writer, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, is a retired professor from the University of Waterloo.

2023-01-12 00:00:00

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