What: The Battle of Jerusalem
When: 17 November – 30 December 1917
Not long after the Balfour Declaration was signed on 2 November 1917 promising the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine after World War I, British troops led by General Edmund Allenby turned towards Jerusalem. The Battle for Jerusalem occurred during the British Empire’s Sinai and Palestine Campaign against the Ottoman Empire.
The Fall of Jerusalem
The Ottomans surrendered Jerusalem to Britain on 9 December 1917. The Ottoman Army withdrew its troops and surrendered the Holy City to British command with a letter from the city’s governor:
“For the past two days, bombs have been raining on Jerusalem, holy to all communities. Therefore, the Ottoman Government, in order to safeguard the religious places from ruin and destruction, has withdrawn its forces from the city and has commissioned officials to take care of the religious places like the Holy Sepulchre and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Hoping that your treatment will also be similar…”
Two days later, Allenby entered the Holy City on foot through the Jaffa gate, becoming the 34th conqueror of Jerusalem. The fighting started on 17 November and continued until 30 December, three weeks after Jerusalem’s surrender.
Upon Allenby’s entry, a proclamation declaring martial law and Jerusalem under siege was read aloud in English, French, Arabic, Hebrew, Russian and Greek, in which Allenby assured the people that Britain would not harm Jerusalem, its residents, or its holy sites.
“Since your city is regarded with affection by the adherents of three of the great religions of mankind and its soil has been consecrated by the prayers and pilgrimages of multitudes of devout people of these three religions for centuries, therefore do I make it known to you that every sacred building, monument, holy spot, shrine, traditional site, endowment, pious bequest, or customary place of prayer of whatsoever form of the three religions will be maintained and protected according to the existing customs and beliefs of those to whose faith they are sacred.”
Allenby reportedly declared, “The wars of the Crusades are now complete,” and then British Prime Minister David Lloyd George described the capture of Jerusalem as “a Christmas present for the British people.”
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