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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

Our Allies. — The Jews

page 15

Our Allies.
The Jews.

The Jew of Palestine was strange to us. He is not of the variety which in happier days than these offered us long odds about hopeless outsiders at Flemington and Rand wick. Nor does he closely resemble the obliging gentleman who, in our cities at home, will upon occasion generously stretch a point, and lend you fifteen shillings upon a five guinea watch. And except that both are called Jews, there is nothing in common between the humble Israelite of Palestine and the mighty financiers who dwell in Park Lane and Berkeley Square. That school of Jew has not so far joined in the long desired return to Judaea. They are content to continue in their life of martyrdom in the lands of the Christians. Those who have come home to the land of Jacob are of another kind.

The Palestine Jew of to-day must be sharply divided into two types. There is the Jew of Jerusalem and the Jew of the new Zionist villages or settlements. Of-the Jerusalem Jew it is not proposed to write here, beyond saying that he is exceedingly poor in physique, has a genius for surviving amidst insanitary conditions, and is a loyal ally in that he is tireless in assisting us to spend our money. He is of many nationalities. Sometimes he may be a new comer, drawn to the Golden City by race and religious feelings, but more often by the rich trade with the tourists and pilgrims. Occasionally he is a member of very old Jewish families which have possibly endured in Palestine since the days of the Prophets.

The Jew of the new villages is far more attractive. He is a wholesome primary producer, a coloniser, a builder against heavy odds. True, the industry of these villages has been heavily subsidised by philanthropic Jewish millionaires, and it is still difficult in some of the settlements to discover to what extent the little Jewish farmers are independent of outside support. But despite this generous spoon-feeding the Jewish colonisers have done well. In the streets of the picturesque villages to-day, with their neat white cottages with the red-tiled roofs peeping through luxuriant plantations, and orange groves and orchards and vineyards spreading over the surrounding hills, one is inclined to look upon the life of the coloniser as idyllic and almost luxurious. The climate is soft and yet exhilarating, the rainfall is remarkably uniform; the soil is light and easy to work; the fruit trees bear with exceptional regularity; the large cooperative cellars are filled with red and golden wine. The colonies are close to deep sea ports, and at the very door of Europe. Labour is plentiful and cheap. Here is Arcadia.

But it was not always so. Twenty-five years ago the Jewish pioneers waged a deadly and precarious fight for their footing. The Arabs harassed them without pity, stealing their implements and goods and menacing their women. The Turk, careless of their appeals for protection, taxed them remorselessly. But the Jews made good. And they made good because they came of stern stock, to whom persecution and outrage were not strangers. They came from many lands, but most of them are children of Southern Russia, thrifty, industrious peasants who were skilled in the tilling of the soil and reared under the shadow of the pogrom.

They have shown the way to the Jews of the world who wish to return to Zion. But while applauding their achievement, one should not overlook the fact that their success has not been gained in Judaea proper. The most successful colonies are those down on the fat Philistine Plain which was not the true home of the Jews of the Old Testament. Clever cultivators as these immigrants are, it is doubtful whether they could do as their hardy forefathers of old, and win a livelihood and build a great nation upon the steep, forbidding uplands of Judaea.

To us, when we broke from our long "captivity" in the Desert below Gaza and streamed exultant over the Philistine Plain, these Jewish villages were places of delight. In their pretty animated streets we returned to civilisation after our long sojourn in the wilderness. Again we had floors beneath our feet and roofs above our heads, wine from the wood, and Jaffa oranges, large and bursting with sweet juice, at the rate of four a penny. And best of all, we met and talked to pretty girls again—Russian and Rumanian, French and Spanish maids. Allies indeed!