1917 Jaffa deportation
Tel Aviv and Jaffa deportation was the forcible deportation on April 6, 1917, of the entire Jewish civilian population of Jaffa, including Tel Aviv, by the authorities of the Ottoman Empire in Palestine.
Jews who were affected by the deportation were unable to return to their homes until the British conquest, in the summer of 1918. 14% of the Jewish population left the area for Egypt, and 18% died as a result.
Before World War I
Unlike the Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians, the Jews were treated comparatively leniently by the Ottoman Empire, because Jews had sought refuge in the empire due to Bayezid II's welcoming policy. The Zionist leader Theodor Herzl even asked the then-Ottoman Sultan, Abdul Hamid II, to acquire Palestine and fulfil the promise of returning the Jews to Zion. The Sultan declined Herzl's request, but he agreed to allow the Jews to establish settlements in Palestine, where they would pay taxes to the Ottoman authorities.
However, as Turkish nationalism began to rise in the late 19th century, the Jewish position in the empire came into question. The Young Turks, who came to power in 1908, openly espoused the idea that all non-Turkish subjects had to be Turkified. Even though the Ottoman leaders did not target the Jews for Turkification, their skepticism of Jewish motives increased and as a result of it, they became increasingly hostile towards the Jews.
World War I
In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire entered World War I on the side of the Central Powers. Many people from the opposing Allied countries lived in Palestine, and its Turkish officials considered them a threat to military security. Two waves of expulsion occurred as part of Turkish failed defence of their fading empire.
In December 1914, the Turks expelled up to 6,000 Jews who resided in Jaffa. They were resettled in Alexandria, Egypt. The Ottoman Empire then issued forcible draft of Jews into the army, demanding Jews to take Ottoman citizenship or either getting expelled from the region before 15 May 1915. Following the devastating effect of the Lebanese famine, situation worsened. Aharon Aharonson described the situation,
"Meanwhile, people are literally starving. Horrified sights have seen our eyes: old women and children wandering, hunger and nightmare-madness in their dying eyes, no food falling under them and dying."
An unnamed eyewitness stated,
"Even wealthy people in Jerusalem are becoming recipients (of alms) and even courting the remaining."
Beginning of the expulsion
By January 1917, British forces had crossed the Sinai Desert and were about to invade Palestine, which alarmed the Turkish authorities. The Ottoman Empire began to become skeptical of the residents in the region, mostly Jews, as the Ottomans disdained them for alleged collaboration with the British.
At the start of March, all the inhabitants of Gaza were expelled, a town of 35,000–40,000 people, mostly Arabs. They had 48 hours to leave "even if crawling on their knees". Many of the men were conscripted and the rest scattered around Palestine and Syria, first to nearby villages and then further afield as those villages were also evacuated. Death from exposure or starvation was widespread. Gaza did not recover its pre-war population until the 1940s.
On 28 March 1917, Djemal Pasha ordered the evacuation of the inhabitants of Jaffa. They could go wherever they liked except Jerusalem or Haifa. Farmers with crops in their fields, the workers of the winery in Rishon Lezion, and the teachers and students of the Mikveh Israel school and the Latrun estate were excluded. Djemal Pasha, who was in charge of the Greater Syrian Theatre of the war, was forced to provide explanations.
Over 40,000 Jews had been forcibly deported, many would not return until after the British conquest and some died on their way, but many Arabs did. Friedman holds that this was a deliberate decision on the part of the Ottoman authorities. Sheffy regards that it is more reflective of cultural and behavioral differences: the Arabs had no central organization, and with their experience of how government decrees were enforced, just remained nearby until the storm had passed, whereas the Jews obeyed the evacuation decree as a group. In any case, when New Zealand troops entered Jaffa in November 1917, only an estimated 8,000 of the previous population of 40,000 was present.
Response from Yishuv
The Jews of Jaffa and Tel Aviv organized a migration committee, headed by Meir Dizengoff and Rabbi Menachem Itzhak Kelioner. The committee arranged the transportation of the Jewish deportees to safety, with the assistance of Jews from the Galilee, who arrived in Tel Aviv with carts. The exiles were driven to Jerusalem, to cities in central Palestine (such as Petah Tikva and Kfar Saba) and to the north of Palestine, where they were scattered among the different Jewish settlements in the Lower Galilee, in Zichron Yaacov, Tiberias, and Safed. Up to 16,000 deportees were evacuated from Tel Aviv, which was left with almost no residents.
The homes and property of the Jews of Jaffa and Tel Aviv were kept in the possession of the Ottoman authorities, and they were guarded by a handful of Jewish guards. Djemal Pasha also released two Jewish doctors to join the deportees. Nonetheless, many deportees had perished during the harsh winter of 1917–1918 from hunger and contagious diseases due to negligence by the Ottoman authorities: 224 deportees are buried in Kfar Saba, 15 in Haifa, 321 in Tiberias, 104 in Safed, and 75 in Damascus.
Many Jewish deportees ended up in Zichron Yaacov, Hadera, Petah Tikva and Kfar Saba, with few choosing to go to Jerusalem despite being forbidden by the Ottoman authorities. Sympathizing with the situation, some members of the population decided to provide needed medical and financial support. But when winter 1917–1918 arrived, the situation worsened for many deportees and many died by hunger, famine, starvation and maltreatment, as several Yishuvs didn't receive them and thought they could be Ottoman spies. Deterioration of condition had prompted many Jews to flee and several of them had migrated to Egypt, or Europe and the United States.
Aftermath and memorials
The deportation and subsequent deaths of so many Jewish deportees were not properly documented.
After Shragai's address, the Kfar Saba City Council voted to change the name "Pilots Street" in the city to "Tel Aviv-Jaffa" Street in October 2009 to commemorate the victims of the deportation. The Tel Aviv Founders' Families Association has been working for years with a burial society to establish a gilad in the Trumpeldor Cemetery in Tel Aviv in memory of those who perished among the deportees from Tel Aviv.
- Israel–Turkey relations
- Armenian genocide
- Assyrian genocide
- Greek genocide
- Great Famine of Mount Lebanon
- Deportations of Kurds (1916–1934)
- Aliyah and Yishuv during World War I
- Antisemitism in Turkey
- Racism in Turkey
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