Eyewitness testimony of the Hebron Pogrom of 1929

Full story of the massacre from survivors taken from the trial, commission of inquiry and police records.

7.6.21, 15:30
The following eyewitness testimonies of the massacre are from articles in daily newspapers Haaretz, Dar Hayom, and Davar as well as special publications of Davar Hayamim, Davar Hayamim HaOlah, a special addition of the Jerusalem publication, and the Ketubim weekly. Other testimonies come from the Book of Remembrance of the Martyrs of the Hebron Yeshiva. It was compiled by Oded Avisar, and later published in his compendium of Hebron history, Sefer Hevron. It was reprinted in Hebron Massacre 1929, edited by Rehavam Zeevi and translated into English by Dr. Michal Rachel Suissa for her book Hebron: Rebirth from Ruins.
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, surreptitiously spread his anti-Semitic agitation throughout the country, Hebron included.
Reports of Arab plans to attack the Jews were rife and the tension could be felt everywhere. Still, the Arab leaders promised the Jews of Hebron that nothing would happen to them.
The extent to which the Hebron Jews trusted their Arab neighbors is testified to by the visit of Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Orlansky and his wife Yente from Zikhron Ya'akov on the Thursday prior to the massacre. They came to celebrate the Sabbath with their daughter, Hannah, and her husband, Eliezer Dan Slonim. Their youngest daughter had married earlier in the week in Tel Aviv and the newlyweds were expected.
That Thursday some young men arrived from the Haganah to inspect the town. They stored their weapons at the local branch of the Anglo-Palestine Bank to avoid arrest by the British Mandatory police. On Friday, the rabbis of Hebron went to the local commissioner, an Arab Christian named Abdullah Kardos. He promised to take responsibility for their safety and told them in confidence that many plainclothes police officers were stationed throughout the town to maintain peace and order the event it should become necessary.
On Friday, a group of Arabs led by Sheik Mohammed Ali Jaabari and Sheik Sabri Abdin marched through the streets shouting “Itbach al yahud! (Slaughter the Jews!)…We await the order from Mufti al-Husseini!”
At the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, which had been turned into a mosque, Aref al-Aref, who was governor of the city of Beersheba, preached and incited the murder of the Jews: “The government (British) is with us … Itbach al yahud- Slaughter the Jews!..."
That same day, in the morning, an Arab by the name of Haled came to the brothers Yaakov and Moshe Mizrahi, two carpenters he worked for, and said "though I’m risking my life, I want to inform you that the Arabs are planning to murder you. Two Arab clans, Harat al-Mashraka and Harat Beni Dar are armed and planning to kill you. You must find a way to save your lives.”
But the Jews in Hebron trusted their Arab neighbors. They were massacred by them on the holy day of the Jews, the Sabbath, Shabbat, the 24th August, 1929. The Jewish date was the 18th of Av, 5689 (TARPAT in Hebrew). Thus, this pogrom is referred to as "Tarpat."
Mr. Haim Shneerson, owner of the Eshel Avraham Hotel (Abraham’s tree) in Hebron, tells:
“Around 10 a.m., Rabbi Rahamim Yosef Franco and I called Jerusalem and spoke to someone in the City Council. The reply we got was that there was great fear in Jerusalem, but they didn’t anticipate problems in Hebron. After all, the Arabs of Hebron were opponents of the Supreme Moslem Council.
We tried again at 12:30 p.m., but no one answered. Since we could see that nothing was happening, we gave up and joined with some leaders of the Jewish community: Melamed, the now deceased Slonim, Bejayo and others, to decide what to do, particularly about those exposed and relatively isolated Jews who lived far from the center of town.
But at this point nothing was done. We consulted with Rabbi Franco, who grew up in Hebron and knew the local Arabs. At his insistence we decided to gather the Jews who lived outside the center of town. As we left the house, we were met by a hail of stones from an agitated Arab mob.
At 1 p.m., after prayers in the mosque, the Arab leaders came to Eliezer Dan Slonim and boasted about how quiet it was in Hebron. Around 2:30 p.m., a young Arab man arrived on a motorcycle from Jerusalem.
He announced that ‘the blood of thousands of Arabs flowed like water in the streets of Jerusalem,' and incited Hebron’s Arabs to avenge the blood. The incitement grew as yet more cars carrying Arabs arrived in Hebron from Jerusalem, spreading the word of riots in Jerusalem and calling for vengeance. They attacked three Jews they came across: one was stabbed in the back and seriously wounded. Two others who were hurt hid, one in Chaimson’s house and the other at Rabbi Franco’s.”
“The Jews are Guilty!”
That Friday (August 23 1929), an agitated Arab mob gathered at the house of the Hebron police deputy commander and swept through the streets. Just then Rabbi Yaakov Slonim, Eliezer Dan’s father, was on his way to the police station. The
Arabs attacked him with knives and stones while the Jews watched from the windows.
A Jewish woman who was at the rabbi’s house, dared to go out to the British Chief of Police (who participated in egging on the mob), and begged him to save the rabbi. His answer was: “This is no matter for a dumb, Jewish woman. Go home and stay there. Usually, it is the Jews who are to blame in these cases.” Though these remarks were said in English, the mob heard and was encouraged by them.
Witnesses tell that the wounded Rabbi Slonim pleaded with the police officer Ibrahim Gergura for help, but Gergura shoved him aside with his horse.  
Y. L. Grodzensky, the son of Moshe Grodzensky was quoted in Davar newspaper, September 4, 1929 stating:

 “When the riots began, there were people at our home. From the window, I could see an Arab open the gate to our garden so the mob could enter quickly. They broke windows and threw stones at the house.
A gunshot aimed at my father missed and we ran to the upper floors and shouted for help. There were about 30 Arabs surrounding the house. The late Eliezer Dan Slonim arrived with some Arab policemen to help us, but this didn’t stop the mob. One of the Torah students who were with us was injured by stones. My late brother Yaakov and my mother went home with Eliezer Dan because they felt safer there. My father, Moshe, refused to abandon our house.”
The First Victim of the Pogrom
On Friday evening, the throng moved to the yeshiva. Due to the Sabbath, there were only two people inside: the caretaker and Shmuel Rosenholtz, aged 23. Rabbi Zeev Elimelech Lichtenstein was at the yeshiva just prior to the mob’s arrival. His life was miraculously spared, but he was murdered the following day.
As the murderers stood at the door with knives and bloodthirsty eyes, the Yemenite-Jewish caretaker managed to hide in a cistern. Oblivious to the mob, Rosenholtz remained immersed in his Gemara. A large stone struck his head, stunning him and drenching his Gemara with blood. A moment later he was slain by knives and daggers.
Abdullah Yakub, a teacher at the local Islamic council school, loudly declared after the killing: “Alas, we found only one Jew in the yeshiva. But tomorrow, the number will increase significantly.”
[This testimony was submitted by the survivors to the British High Commissioner and published in the Palestine Bulletin, September 8, 1929.
The British police reacted to the murder of Rosenholtz by placing the Jews under house arrest. The British officer Raymond Cafferata was unhelpful to the Jews who came to him for assistance.
Shabbat: Pogrom from House to House
The streets were filled Shabbat morning by a group of bloodthirsty rioters screaming “Itbach al yahud! Slaughter the Jews!” In the lead was the leader of the Muslim organization in Hebron, Sheik Taleb Marka and his son, Zoheri, along with Sheik Tsabri Adin, teacher Abdullah Yakub - the son of Amin Hamoor, Salim Katabi and other Arab leaders.
They proclaimed: “The order has come from Haj Amin al-Husseini saying that now is the time to murder all Jews- from the youngest to the oldest. You may take the Jews’ women and possessions, in the name of Allah!”
At the Abushadid Home
On Shabbat, the mob arrived at the Abushadid family home and murdered the father, Eliyahu, aged 55. He was strangled after resisting the murderers, whom he knew personally. His son, Yitzhak was murdered and a baby was slain by being hurled against the wall. A woman was stabbed and killed. The house was next to the police station.
One shot from that police station would have dispersed the mob, but none came. Everyone stood outside and watched. Eliyahu’s 11 year old son, Yehuda, survived the massacre but was seriously wounded. He knew 24 of the attackers by name. All were from Hebron. Eliyahu’s wife, Venesya, 45, and their son Yosef, 24, were also injured.
At the Gozlan Home
Around 300 rioters attacked the house but were unable to breach the steel door. An Arab neighbor let them come in by way of the roof. It was Gozlan’s own employees who murdered him with knives and clubs. Both Yaakov Gozlan, 45, and his son Yitzhak, 19, were killed. His wife Sultana, 40, daughter Victoria, 14, and the rest of the family were seriously hurt before the looting of the home began in earnest.
At the Castel Home
The same happened at Rabbi Meir Shmuel Castel’s home. The rabbi, aged 69, was tortured to death. He was from a Hebron family which had lived there for generations and had many Arab employees. On Shabbat, one of them came and suggested he take their gold and silver valuables, to hide until the riots were over. This Arab took with him objects valued at 10,000 pounds, a considerable sum then, and walked calmly down and opened the door for the mob to come in and murder the rabbi. His wife fainted and the mob, believing her to be dead, let her be.
At the Hasson Home
Near Beit Hadassah, Hacham Rabbi Hanoch Hasson, 62, and his wife Klara, 59, were murdered when their home was set afire. Gamila Hasson, 60, was injured.
Beit Hadassah
From there, the mob moved towards Beit Hadassah and Beit Gershon. The Beit Hadassah hospital and pharmacy were set ablaze and all medical equipment destroyed. The injured were thereafter unable to receive any form of medical assistance. The Torah scrolls in the synagogue were torn to shreds. Anything of value was looted from the hospital, where Arabs had been treated for years, before it was set alight.
At Beit Gershon
Pharmacist and doctor, Ben Zion Gershon, 72, sat in a wheelchair. That didn’t stop the Arabs from gouging out his eyes before they stabbed him with a sword.
His wife Zehava, 40, had her hands cut off and she later died in Jerusalem. Their daughter Hava, 11, and son Yehuda, 5, were injured. Esther, 22, went through excruciating torture and was raped before she was murdered.
At the Capilouto -Borland Family
In the home of the Capilouto -Borland family, Torah student Avraham Dov Shapira, 18, fought with a knife in his hand until he was killed by a large group of bloodthirsty Arabs. Zvi Hirsch Heller, 15, was beaten while he shouted: “I’m just a child, why do you want to murder me?” He was stabbed and died later in Jerusalem. Yeshiva student Moshe Aharon Ripes, 25, asked his killers for a few seconds to recite the prayer “Hear, O’ Israel” (Shema Israel).
While he prayed, he was murdered with axes and daggers. The yeshiva’s two cooks, Shmuel Isaac Bernstein, 23, and Eliyahu Isshachar Sendrov, 17, were critically wounded. One died after being cut in the mouth and receiving massive head injuries. It took 24 hours for the other one to die, and his last words were: “I am the third victim in my family.” Eliyahu Capilouto, 35, and Nechama Borland, 55, were severely injured.
At the Kieselstein Home
Torah student Zeev Greenberg, 19, was the first to be killed at the Kieselstein home. The mob then assaulted the rest of the family who desperately tried to hide in the kitchen. Three of the family members, Yeshayahu, 17, Haya, 18, and Zvi Yosef, 47, along with a student, were later hospitalized with serious injuries. The home was looted and then destroyed.
At Moshe Reizmann’s Home
Kosher butcher Rabbi Yaakov Reizmann, 35, went out to the mob and offered them everything he owned. Hundreds of knives ended his life in the middle of the street. His brother, yeshiva student Moshe Reizmann, was murdered in the house and his mother-in-law Esther Frieda Hansson, 68, was gravely wounded and died later in Jerusalem. The child Yeshaya, 3, was hurt. The house was looted.
The Great Pogrom at the Bank Director’s House
The mob surrounded the Slonim family house where around 70 Jews hid. Eliezer Dan Slonim, 29, was director of the Anglo-Palestine Bank and the only Jew on the Hebron City Council. He was a respected man amongst Arabs. Many Jews had taken refuge in the Slonim house. The mob outside called to Slonim: “If you’ll give us all the strangers in the house, we’ll leave you and your family alone.” Slonim quickly replied, “There are no strangers here. They are all my family.”
The men now stood, wrapped in their prayer shawls, reciting the Sabbath prayer in fear and trembling. The sound of breaking glass could be heard from the neighboring Sakover house. The Arabs broke into the house and began to shoot and stab everyone there. Mr. Y. Yenni was shot in the hand. H. Vollansy, 22, was hit in the face and seriously hurt. Student Mordechai Kaplan, 22, was shot in the stomach and fell dead to the floor. “Shema Israel” could be heard from all sides. Many of the students were struck by gunfire and died. Others were gravely wounded as they tried to bar the doors.
Some of the killers leaped onto the house from the roof. Slonim fired his pistol, but was killed after being struck on the head with a metal bar. His wife Hannah, 28, was murdered and their 5-year old son, Aharon, died later of injuries at the Bikur Holim hospital in Jerusalem. Only 13-month old Shlomo, who was later sent to the hospital, survived the massacre, hidden under his mother’s corpse.
Israel Lazarovsky, 17, died after receiving multiple knife wounds. Yisrael Hillel Kaplinsky, 22, was shot several times and thereafter stabbed repeatedly with knives. He had a terrified look on his face as he said: “They attack me even though I’m dying…” He later died in the hospital in Jerusalem. Rabbi Abraham Yaakov Orlansky, 50, Chief Rabbi of Zikhron Ya'akov, was covered in a prayer shawl soaked in his own blood. His wife, Yente, 47, lay dying beside him.
Rabbi Zvi Dribkin, 67, had his belly slit open and his innards torn out. He had escaped the Eastern European pogroms and come to Israel six months earlier to find peace, but was instead slaughtered in the Arab pogrom. Yeshiva secretary Rabbi Zalman Ben Gershon, 27, was stabbed to death. Students Shlomo Yagel, 24, Zeev Berman, 23, Yaakov Vecksler, 17, and Aaron David Epstein, 16 (son of the rabbi of Chicago), were also murdered.
The old rabbi Aharon Leib Gutlevsky, 73, from Herzliya was killed along with his son-in-law Betzalel Lazarovsky, 38. His daughter, four-and-a-half-year old Deborah, was seriously injured and died later in Jerusalem. Husband and wife Yaakov and Leah Grodzensky, 22 and 28, were murdered. So were the teacher Haim Eliezer Dobnikov, 53, from Tel Aviv, and his wife, Pennina, 45. Shimon Ben David Cohen, 27, was murdered as well.
Many Arabs from Hebron participated in this barbaric mass murder – including the business associates of bank director Eliezer Dan Slonim. The massacre at Slonim’s house continued for about 30 long minutes. After that, everything was stolen and the house razed. Twenty-four people were killed and 13 wounded there, all Jews.
Some 30 Jews survived the pogrom in Slonim’s house: Eleven hid in a bathroom the mob miraculously failed to break into. Ten hid under the dead. Five hid behind a book closet. Four escaped. Then the mob moved on to Rabbi Moshe Mash’s house.
At the Homes of Moshe Mash and Moshe Goldshmid
When the murderers entered the home of Moshe Mash, they found no one there. The Jews had managed to jump from the roof to the neighboring house before the mob could catch them. Only an American student who was last in the line was stabbed and suffered serious injury. From there the rioters went to the home of Rabbi Moshe Goldshmid, 31, where 10 people were hiding.
They jumped from the second floor to the yard and were taken in by an Arab woman on the first floor. Moshe stayed behind, blocking the door with his body while the others escaped. When the murderers broke in, he and his wife Mina, 34, begged for their lives. Nevertheless, Moshe was put to death, suffering unspeakable torture. Mina and Musya, 5, were badly wounded. Two other children hid under a bed and weren’t hurt. Their
house was looted.
At the Grodzensky Home
Moshe Grodzensky was murdered instantly. Meshulam Shraga Mitevsky, 25, and Leah Grodzensky, 28, were critically hurt and died later in Jerusalem. A Torah student was gravely injured, but survived the massacre. Everything was stolen and the house plundered.
At Rabbi Betzalel Samrik’s Home
A large horde attacked the 73-year old rabbi’s home. Engineer Shlomo Unger, 22, lived below, and on the other side lived the baker Rabbi, Noach Immerman, 33. Rabbi Samrik was taken outside and murdered in such a horrible manner that it cannot be described here. The Arab killers also murdered three American yeshiva students in the home: Binyamin Horowitz, 20, Zvi Froman, 21, and Aharon Sheinberg, 22.
When the killers got to engineer Shlomo Unger, who was a big and strong man, they thought he was English and they asked him if he was a Christian. He stood straight and tall and said “I am a Jew.” His body was punctured like a sieve. His wife Nechama, 22, was stabbed and lost consciousness. She hung between life and death for three days before finally expiring. She left behind a two-year old child and a one month-old baby who had been hidden in a laundry sack.
From there the mob burst into the house of Rabbi Noah Immerman, who was put to death under gruesome circumstances. He was burned alive by his Arab co-worker Issa, who spoke fluent Yiddish.
His wife Royza (Risa), 27, and 9-year old daughter Tamar were badly hurt before the house was looted and destroyed.
At Rabbi Nachman Segal’s Home
Rabbi Segal, 30, was carrying his two-year old son Menachem in his arms when the Arabs broke in. They cut his arm off with an axe, seriously wounding the boy. They then slaughtered the child with axes and knives. The father died later that evening.
The mother, Luba, 24, was hurt and three of her fingers were hacked off. A yeshiva student was also murdered there. First they hacked his arm off, and then stabbed him repeatedly with daggers. An 18-year old student, Elhanan Zilgroch, lost an arm in the attack. In another room sat one of the yeshiva’s best students, Simcha Yitzhak Broida, 28, studying a volume of the Talmud.[6] The killers jumped on him and hanged him from the metal bars on the window. He suffered greatly before dying. Haim Zelig Krasner, 16, had his throat slit. Two visitors from Tel Aviv were also murdered.
At the Yeshivas
At the yeshivas, everyone was cut down and everything destroyed. The administration and registration papers, books and much more were set ablaze. Furniture was stolen or wrecked.
At the Home of Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein
A large group of Arabs gathered around the home of Rabbi Epstein, the head of the Slobodka Yeshiva. The men inside tried their best to stop the murderers while the women and children screamed in hysterical fear. The neighboring house belonged to the Governor of Hebron and was under police protection. Rabbi Zeev Elimelech Lichtenstein, 58, tried to escape but was murdered in the bathroom.
At the Haichal Family
On the road to the Eshel Avraham Hotel, the Haichal family owned a secluded house. The Arab mob surrounded it while a number of yeshiva students barricaded themselves inside. A British police officer and several other policemen arrived on horseback. The Haichal brothers went out and begged them for help.
Despite being surrounded by five policemen on horses, Israel Haichal, 20, was stabbed to death by Arabs wielding daggers. He fought them like a lion with his bare hands until he fell.
His brother, Eliyahu Dov, 16, ran towards a police officer and clung to the mane of his horse. He was attacked with swords and knives while the Arabs screamed “Does it hurt, ya Jew (ya yahud)?” The brothers’ struggle drew the murderers’ attention away from the house.
The Jews there were saved because the Arabs began to throw stones at the British officer while yelling “Take him off his horse! He must be killed!” When the officer realized it was him they wanted to kill, he ordered his policemen to fire warning shots.
The mob then dispersed.
The Haichal brothers’ mother watched from the window as the barbaric Arabs butchered her two sons, but she saved the yeshiva students hiding inside by saying:
“Don’t go out – the blood of my sons is enough!”
At Shmuel Tanhum’s Home
About 30-40 Jews had gathered in this house. The Arab landlord gathered all the Jews on the first floor. He stood guard outside the door against the Arab mob while his brother waited inside with an axe. All of the Jews inside were saved by the bravery of these two Arabs.
At Rabbi Slonim’s Home in the Old City
At the home of Rabbi Yaakov Slonim, father of Eliezer Dan, the mob arrived and forced its way inside. Screams from the house led to some brave Arab leaders to go in and chase the Arab horde away before escorting the Jews to the police
In Hebron’s Old City
The Old City of Hebron, which was a small ghetto whose inhabitants were mainly impoverished, was completely plundered. Alter Palatzi, 29, a penniless painter with six children and the only son of his old mother, was murdered. Rabbi Yitzhak Abu Hanna was killed along with Abraham Yenni, 50, and his wife Vida, 44. Every synagogue was
looted and demolished. The Abraham Avinu Synagogue (Our father Abraham), known for its splendor, was completely destroyed. The Ohel Avraham Synagogue (Abraham’s tent), which was next to the post office, was also ruined. The books and Torah scrolls there were burned.
The Horror Stories and the Bravery of an Arab
Yehuda Leib Schneerson, son of the owner of the Eshel Avraham Hotel and an eyewitness, said: “Sheik Taleb Marka, leader of the Arab mob, came to the hotel with his co-conspirators and shouted to them: ‘You Muslims! Here you have rich American Jews. Here you have Eliezer Dan Slonim who blinded Arab eyes with his credit. Butcher the Jews! Today is the day of Islam! This is the day the prophet charged us with. Allah and his messenger call upon you to avenge your brothers’ blood which was lost in Jerusalem! Allah is greater (Allahu akbar!), butcher the Jews, come with me and see before you the beautiful Jewish women.’
(Statment of Yehuda Leib Shneerson, son of Haim Shneerson, Central Zionist Archives (hereinafter C.Z.A.), 1929 Riots, Notes on Hebron, File S25/4601, Annex 16)
Rivka Slonim, sister of E. D. Slonim, relates: Soon after my father and I shut ourselves up in our home, our neighbor Abu-Shaker appeared on his white horse.
He tied up his horse and sat down on our doorstep. From what he told us – that the British police were aiding the rioters, standing aside when the mob stormed Jewish houses and slaughtered their inhabitants – we knew our final hour had come.
We didn’t believe that an old man would be able to save us from the bloodthirsty mob drenching Hebron in Jewish blood. He didn’t tell us that my brother, his wife and their 5-year old son Aharon were already slain just a few houses away. My father stood praying and I asked God for forgiveness for all my sins.
The mob arrived at our house and we heard Abu Shaker’s voice: ‘Go away! You may not come here! You’ll have to kill me first.’ He was 75 years old, but a strong man. A man from the mob raised his sword and said: ‘I’ll kill you, traitor!’ Abu Sachar replied: ‘Go ahead and kill! There is a rabbinical family here, and they are my family.’ The sword pierced his foot, but he refused to move even after the mob had retreated. When we tried to bring him inside for treatment, he refused out of fear that they would return.”
After the Massacre
The result of the pogrom was unbelievable. Dead people, severed limbs and blood flowed everywhere. Many women were raped; one of them by 13 murderous Arabs. For families such as the Gozlans, Immermans, Slonims, Ungers and Abushadids, their murderers were their own Arab "friends." Many Jews, though, were miraculously saved from the orgy of violence. A number of them were also helped by righteous Arabs or Arab friends.
The police gathered the injured Jews. In one hour, approximately 60 wounded Jews were assembled and brought to the police station at Beit Romano. There they were left on the basement floor. It was an indescribable scene: People with severed limbs, blood everywhere, many were screaming in pain and horror.
Two Jewish doctors, Kutai and Elkana, worked for 36 hours straight. In the evening, Dr. John MacQueen arrived with two nurses from Jerusalem. The two Arab doctors in the town showed no interest and assisted no one. Many of the injured required surgery and had to be sent to hospital in Jerusalem. However, it was too dangerous to drive there. Only on Sunday evening were 15 cars able to drive to Jerusalem, escorted by two armored vehicles.
About 500 terrified and distraught Jews had gathered at the police station. Women fainted in grief and many wept. The British wouldn’t allow the Jews to bury their dead and wanted to let Arabs do it. Only following an intense discussion were ten Jews (a minyan) allowed to participate in the burials. As the cars carrying the dead drove to the cemetery, Hebron’s Arabs began to sing [mockingly]. It was a macabre sight. One British sergeant said that he had served four years in the trenches yet never had seen such a sight.
The corpses were laid in a row on the ground, and the Jews were allowed to identify them before they were buried. The last grave contained three severed arms and a person’s cheek. After three days without food, the surviving Jews were forcibly deported to Jerusalem. Only the policeman Hanoch stayed behind in the city. The city became "Judenrein" but nevertheless full of Jew-murderers who now could pillage the houses and homes of those they had slaughtered and killed. The Jews of Hebron were housed at Straus Hospital in Jerusalem. On their faces one could see anguish and the fear of death.
After the Pogrom
The Governor of Jerusalem, Edward Keith-Roach, banned the publication of all Jewish newspapers immediately after the pogrom.
The Arab papers were allowed to publish as usual. On Monday, the Arab paper Akdam (Jaffa) printed a detailed account of the pogrom, but insisted that it was the Jews who started it by massacring Arabs.
The man who made the reality of the pogroms known throughout the world, despite British attempts to prevent it, was the Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, in a series of telegrams where he wrote:
“Concerning the falsehoods and bloody accusations filling the enemy’s media, Rabbi Kook declares it all to be lies and deceit. Especially the accusations of blood libel published in the Syrian press that Jews have desecrated Muslim sites, thrown bombs into the Omar mosque, raped Arab women, slaughtered children and other accusations of this sort.
The Jews have attempted only to protect themselves as best they could from the barbaric, Arab attack. With this declaration, Rabbi Kook invites all honest Muslim leaders throughout the world to come to Palestine and see with their own eyes that all this has been done to the Jews by Arabs – and not the other way around.”
In a British government document, dated August 25, 1929, one can read: “…a serious attack on the Jewish congregation in Hebron where more than 45 Jews and 8 Arabs were killed. Soldiers from the British Royal Air Force have been sent, and the British police in Hebron will restore order. Hebron’s Jews have been evacuated and are now living in police barracks under supervision.”
The pogrom shocked people the world over, but it was the British press especially which took up the affair and demanded action.
The Times wrote that it is the British government’s obligation to maintain control and bring order to Palestine.
The newspaper demanded a committee of inquiry immediately: “It is the Government’s duty to make clear that our policy in Palestine is not decided by one group that wishes to control another (the Jews). A stable policy is important for our honour and for our interests. If we back away and show weakness, we will meet greater and more dangerous things elsewhere.”
Daily News wrote that there is a danger of an anti-British movement spreading throughout the Muslim world: “Unless we stand by our mandate in Palestine, we will be made a laughing stock.”
In the U.S., the pogroms created a furor of reactions, and President Herbert Hoover expressed the government’s concern for American citizens in Israel.
The Supreme Arab Council made a statement accusing the so-called "Zionist communists" of allegedly producing flyers enticing Arabs to revolt against the British. The Arabs demanded nothing except that their rights be respected, according to the statement.
On the fourth day after the pogrom, the British Governor of Jerusalem, Edward Keith-Roach, visited the Supreme Moslem Council to “calm down” the Arabs. The Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, president of the Council, and Keith-Roach went together to the Omar mosque, which made a strong impression on the Arabs who “noticed this ‘righteous man’ and his sense of justice...”
The newspaper Al-Ahram wrote: “The British government thanked Haj Amin al-Husseini for his great effort in calming the situation down.”
On the 23rd of Av (August 29, 1929), The Jewish National Council, (Vaad Leumi, Knesset Israel), released a statement asking the Jews to remain calm and not even contemplate revenge nor any other type of reaction.
That day the High Commissioner, John Chancellor arrived back in Palestine after a holiday in England one week after the pogrom and immediately published a statement which, amongst other things, states: “Upon my return from England, I unfortunately found a chaotic situation of illegal killings and acts of violence in the country. I have heard of the gruesome misdeeds of the bloodthirsty and brutal criminals, of the barbaric misdeeds which were carried out on defenseless Jews, regardless of gender and/or age, such as happened in Hebron. Of terrible abuses impossible to describe, the burning of houses in cities and villages, the looting and destruction of property.
These criminal acts will bring down upon those responsible the wrath of all civilized peoples the world over. My foremost duty is to bring order to the country, severely punish those responsible and use all means possible to achieve this purpose. expect all residents of the country to assist me in performing my duty.”
In his public statement, dated September 4, 1929, he writes: “The Mandatory government in Palestine/Eretz Yisrael has issued instructions to assemble evidence, before it is destroyed, regarding whether the disturbances which began on 23.08.1929, were spontaneous or premeditated. In the mean-time, while His Majesty’s soldiers work to restore order, the civil government shall see to it that the appropriate individuals are brought to trial.”
On September 1, 1929, a medical committee was appointed comprising several British and two Jewish doctors, Dr. G. Garrey and Dr. S. Getzuina (spelled in the JTA Getsowa). On the 11th of September, 1929, they exhumed around 30 of the dead and examined the bodies. However, the bodies were in such poor condition that a conclusion was not possible.
On September 15, 1929, the committee filed its report which stated that the “claim” that the bodies had been tortured was not correct. The two Jewish doctors immediately issued their own counter report, where they underscored the fact that the examination was unable to reach any conclusion due to the condition of the bodies.
Even the grave containing severed arms and a portion of a human face was, by the committee, not interpreted as torture, but as something normal. Therefore, the British committee had no basis for its conclusions. Yet, the Supreme Arab Council embraced the report and exploited it for all it was worth.
The investigative committee sent out by the British Colonial Office accepted testimony from Arabs only, as well as the infamous police chief Cafferata and Governor Abdullah Kardos.
[“The Hebron Tragedy. Mr. Cafferata’s Evidence’, From Our Correspondent.”, The Times, Friday, November 8, 1929; pg. 13; Issue 45355; col D.]
Jews were not permitted to present their version to the committee, with the exception of Rabbi Yaakov Slonim, the father of the murdered E. D. Slonim.
Rabbi Slonim related the events of the two days in Hebron, of the murder of at least 67 Jews, the destruction of approximately 80 Torah scrolls, and the responsibility of the authorities, particularly Cafferata and Kardos who failed to prevent the pogrom. The committee disallowed Rabbi Slonim’s testimony.
On October 15, 1929, the trials of the murderers began. Sheik Marka, leader of the mob in Hebron, received a two-year prison term which was changed to house arrest, and everything “fizzled away."
Two of the four who murdered Rabbi Meir Shmuel Castel were acquitted due to “lack of evidence”. The two others were sentenced to death. The trials were a show for the gallery. Almost all the murderers went free and kept what they had plundered and stolen. This drove the Jewish community into a deep depression. The clear, positive attitude the British had towards the killers was visible. For most of the trials, a date for proceedings wasn’t even set.
The City of Forefathers Became “Judenrein”
The pogrom in Hebron was identical to the Eastern European pogroms. Jews who had escaped the pogroms in Europe shortly thereafter became victims of Arab pogroms.
The driving force was the same in both instances: A burning desire to exterminate the Jewish people. The pogroms in the Land of Israel were concealed by many, including Jews who didn’t want to accept that they were murdered just because they were Jews.
The British reaction to the pogrom was to expel about 1,000 Jews out of Hebron. The City of Forefathers became “Judenrein” until its liberation in 1967. At least 67 Jews were murdered and around 80 Torah scrolls burned in the Hebron pogrom.
In a short time, the oldest Jewish congregation in Israel was wiped out. The holy city of Hebron was forever stained with Jewish blood in a pogrom no words can sufficiently describe. The 18th of Av 5689, Tarpat (August 24, 1929) will forever stand as the day the “City of Forefathers” became the “City of Slaughter."
* The Scroll of Blood by Oded Avisar (Hebrew version of above article)
* The Hebron Horror - Palestine Bulletin⁩⁩, September 22, 1929
* Alleged Hebron Looters Aquitted - Palestine Bulletin⁩⁩, December 16, 1929
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The 1929 Hebron massacre pictures by Gershon Gera | 115 Images