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August 24, 1929 Report of Police Commissioner Cafferata

August 23, 1929 Hebron MassacreOn Saturday, August 24, 1929, at around 7:00 A.M., the Sabbath morning prayer was about to begin at the home of Eliezer Dan in Hebron. Dan was Rabbi Slonim’s son. The previous night, a few dozen Jews had huddled there, too afraid to stay in their own homes. Among those present at the morning service was Y.L. Grodzinsky, a tourist from Poland who had arrived in Hebron on the Thursday before. The prayers had just begun when Grodzinsky looked out the window and saw several cars packed with Arabs bearing sticks, swords, knives, and daggers driving in the direction of Jerusalem. As the vehicles passed the house, the Arabs spied the Jews and drew their fingers across their throats to signify slaughter.

As prayers continued at the Dan house, Grodzinsky noticed a group of attackers approaching. “Here come the Arabs,” he said, and the worshipers halted the service. “We went to reinforce the door and ran around the room like madmen,” Grodzinsky recalled. “The shrieks of the women and the babies’ wailing filled the house. With ten other people I put boxes and tables in front of the door, but the intruders broke it with hatchets and were about to force their way in. So we left the door and began running from room to room, but wherever we went we were hit by a torrent of stones. The situation was horrible. I can’t describe the wailing and screaming.

“In one room my mother was standing by the window shouting for help. I looked out and saw a wild Arab mob laughing and throwing stones. I was afraid my mother would be hit, so I don’t know how, but I grabbed her and shoved her behind a bookcase in the corner. I hid another young woman there, as well as a twelve-year-old boy and a yeshiva student, Finally I went behind the bookcase myself.

Suffocating, we sat on top of one another and heard the sound of the Arabs singing as they broke into the room and the shouting and groaning of the people being beaten. After about ten minutes the house grew still except for some stifled groans. Then there was loud gunfire, apparently from the police.”

Outside, Cafferata found himself facing a huge throng attacking Jewish homes. He ordered his men to shoot directly at the mob and began firing himself. One man was hit, but Cafferata continued to shoot because he saw no one fall; another two or three Arabs were hit, and the crowd began to disperse. Cafferata galloped to Jews street, where he had stationed some of his men to keep rioters at bay. In spite of the police presence, the mob was running amok. Cafferata shot again and knocked down two Arabs, his report stated. People tried to escape through the marketplace, and in their flight looted both Arab and Jewish stores.

A scream came from one of the houses. Cafferata entered the house and later described what he saw:

An Arab in the act of cutting off a child’s head with a sword. He had already hit him and was having another cut but on seeing me he tried to aim the stroke at me but missed; he was practically on the muzzle of my rifle. I shot him low in the groin. Behind him was a Jewish woman smothered in blood with a man I recognized as a police constable, named Issa Sherrif from Jaffa… He was standing over the woman with a dagger in his hand. He saw me and bolted into another room, shouting in Arabic, ‘Your honor, I am a policeman.’ I got into the room and shot him.”

Grodzinsky: “I barely managed to get out of my hiding place. It was difficult to move the bookcase because of the bodies that lay piled up against it. My eyes were dark from the sight of the dead and the wounded. I was overcome with terror and trembling. I could find no place to put my foot. In the sea of blood I saw Eliezer Dan and his wife, my friend Dubnikov, a teacher from Tel Aviv, and many more… Almost all had knife and hatchet wounds in their heads. Some had broken ribs. A few bodies had been slashed and their entrails had come out. I cannot describe the look in the eyes of the dying. I saw the same scene everywhere. In one room I recognized my brother’s wife, who lay there-half naked, barely alive. The entire house had been looted, it was full of feathers and there were blood stains on the walls…

“I approached the window and saw policemen. I asked them to send a doctor. That same moment some Arabs passed by carrying a dead man on a stretcher. When they saw me they set down the stretcher and threatened me with their fists. I returned to my hiding place. A moment later I heard voices. They were the voices of the wounded who had gotten up and also of people who had been miraculously saved by hiding in the shower room behind the toilet. Apparently the Arabs had gotten as far as the toilet and killed one of the people there.

I recognized my brother among the injured. He had a hatchet wound on his head and a large bruise on his forehead, probably from a rock. I threw water on him and he stood up, but he died of his wounds a few hours later. Dubkinov had apparently died of suffocation. His murdered wife lay next to him. I again approached the window and asked for doctors, because many people could have been saved with prompt medical help. One of the policemen outside answered me in Hebrew ― soon, he said. About a quarter of an hour later some cars came to take us to the police. We began taking care of the wounded.”

In a letter to the High Commissioner, the Jews of Hebron described other atrocities: sixty-eight-year-old Rabbi Meir Kastel and seventy-year-old Rabbi Zvi Drabkin, along with five young men, had been castrated. Baker Noah Imerman had been burned to death with a kerosene stove. The mob had killed pharmacist Ben-Zion Gershon, a cripple who had served Jews and Arabs for forty years; they had raped and killed his daughter as well. Yitzhak Abujzhdid and Dovnikov had been strangled with a rope. Yitzhak Abu Hannah, seventy years old, had been tied to a door and tortured until he died. Two-year-old Menachem Segal had had his head torn off. The letter detailed other acts of rape and torture. There are photographs of hands and fingers that had been cut off, perhaps for their rings and bracelets. Houses, stores, and synagogues had been looted and burned. Some people had survived only because they had lain under bodies and pretended to be dead. Toward 10:30 A.M. the riot ended and the Arab villagers returned to their homes.

Sixty-seven Jews had been killed. Most were Ashkenazic men, but there were also a dozen women and three children under the age of five among the dead. Seven of the victims were yeshiva students from the United States and Canada. Dozens of people had been wounded, about half of them women, and quite a few children, including a one-year-old boy whose parents had both been murdered. The American consulate reported that nine Arabs had been killed. The Hebron Jews were buried in mass graves; the survivors, including the wounded, were taken to Jerusalem.

Source: ; Segev, Tom. One Palestine Complete (p. 321-324) ; Report of Mr. Cafferata, Palestine Commission on the Disturbances of August 1929, Colonial No. 48 (London: HMSO 1930), vol. II, p. 984.

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