Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Jewish Legion for Palestine

The remarkable episode of the Jewish Legion in World War I, within the framework of the British Army, is a milestone in the history of Zionism. For the first time, a military unit was created with Jewish soldiers, Jewish volunteer youth from the Diaspora (mainly from England, the USA and Canada) and Eretz Israel. As Jews, they were all guided by the same spirit, making them want to take part in the liberation of the country from the Turkish rule and secure it for the Jewish people. The movement started with the creation of the "Zion Mule Corps" in Alexandria, Egypt, which was initiated by Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Yosef Trumpeldor and manned by volunteers who had been expelled from Eretz-Israel by the Turks. The battalion took part in the war on the Gallipoli front in 1915 and was disbanded after the British evacuation from there.

In 1917, the British Government agreed to establish Jewish units which would fight on the Eretz Israel front. The 38th Battalion Royal Fusiliers and 39th Battalion were created with volunteers from England, USA and Canada. Serving in them were David Ben-Gurion and Itzhak Ben Zvi. The battalions were trained in England and Egypt and succeeded in participating in the final attack of the British army against the Turks. The 40th Battalion was set up with volunteers from the small Jewish population in Eretz-Israel and included E. Golomb, D. Hoz and M. Smilanski.

In 1919, the Legion soldiers who remained after the liberation were organized into one battalion which was given the name the "First Judeans ". In 1921, they took an active part in the defense of Tel Aviv against the Arab rioters, without any official authorization. The battalion was then disbanded. The Jewish Legion members, with and without uniform, took an active part in the defense of the Jewish population. They served in key posts in the underground Jewish force, the "Haganah", which later became the Israel Defense Forces.

The stamp depicts the emblem of the Jewish Legion on a background of horsemen of the Legion. The tab inscription is "Jewish Legion for Palestine" in Hebrew and in English accompanied by a Star of David.

Thank you Merja for this nice FDC.

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