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April 4, 1920 Nebi Musa Festivities Turn Violent

Nebi Mussa Riots in JerusalemDuring the Muslim celebration of Nebi Musa, thousands of Muslims made pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as is custom for the holiday.  Once there, the festivities turned into a political demonstration, then violent.

  • Huge pictures of King Faisal were hoisted, while anti-Jewish remarks were called out.
  • Marchers in the procession then attacked near-by Jews with sticks and knives.
  • Some of the Arab police did nothing; others joined in the rioting.
  • British troops were not able to calm the situation until late that evening, when they detained several hundred Arabs in a mosque for the night. Rioting resumed when they were released the next day.
  • The British were forced to disarm the Arab police force and institute martial law for a period afterwards.

Source:  2, pp132-134.

A crowd from Hebron and Nablus, associated with the annual Muslim Nebi Musa pilgrimage that had taken place two days earlier, assembled near the Jaffa gate of the old city of Jerusalem. (The Nebi Musa pilgrimage commemorated the supposed carrying of Moses’ body, by a Bedouin, to a grave across the Jordan known as Nebi Musa, Moses’ shrine.) At the Jerusalem gathering, the pilgrims’ emotions were skillfully aroused by the public display of a picture of King Faisal, the declaration of his “reign in Palestine” and by an appeal to set upon the Jews.

After some preliminary shop looting and the assaulting of Jews who happened to be in the area, the crowd surged through the Jaffa Gate into the heart of the Old City. Until then, the British forces remained passive. Only once the rampaging mob was well within the walls of the Old City did they spring into action. They surrounded the Old City and with fixed bayonets prevented anyone from entering it. As a consequence, while the rioters were having a field day, Jewish defense groups were largely unable to reach their imperiled brethren. Members of the Jewish Legion (who then numbered about 400) were confined to their barracks and the few who made their way to Jerusalem were detained by military police. The mayhem that claimed the lives of 8 Jews and ended up wounding 211 others continued for three days.

Source: The Hope: Fulfilled The Rise of Modern Israel By Leslie Stein Printed by Praeger March 2003 pg 151

“Palestine Arab opposition to Zionism and desire for self-government led to a threat to public security. … three days of rioting in Jerusalem, in which Arab mobs fell upon Jews with sticks, stones and knives. The Arab Police either adopted a passive attitude or joined in the riots. British troops were called out, the police were disarmed and order was finally reestablished. As a result of these disturbances, five Jews and four Arabs were killed and 211 Jews and 21 Arabs were wounded.”

Source: Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Jewish Problems in Palestine and Europe. Report to the United States Government and His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, Lausanne, Switzerland, April 20, 1946. Washington: U.S. Govt Print. Off, 1946;

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