The Exodus, Zion Gate,I’m sitting atop an English armored car, its mortar cannon and Hotchkiss machine-gun pointing to Zion Gate. I’m in dirty khaki, unshaven. My clothes are soiled, my hair grimy from the soot and the cinders of the Old City. I’m fortunate, though not happy, to be here. The whole flow of miserable humanity has gathered in the square in front of me, beneath the ancient walls that have been witness to so much bloodshed in the name of God, of Christ, of Allah. I am a modern witness to an ancient tradition of the Holy Land being enacted in front of me.

How quiet can a mob of 2,000 people be under the circumstances? The front of the queue is already at Zion Gate, trying to rush out of the hated city. They are crowding the narrow exit (everything is narrow and tight in this Old World) and are leaving at the proverbial snail’s pace. There are some who do not want to go- the women especially seem unwilling. A few paces away I see a father literally dragging his wife with one arm, and a child by the other, both of whom are wailing and kicking and do not want to leave. These ugly, ancient streets and ugly ancient hovels are home to some people, as sweet-smelling and comfortable as homes in Garden City and Forest Hills, U. S. A.

The shouts of the soldiers mix in with the wail of the women and the anguished cry of the men, and the eternal whimpering of the children. The cries of the children and the agony of the very old tug most at the heartstrings, for these are the most innocent and the most blameless. What sin has this child and this old old Jew committed to deserve this wrenching away from a home in which he was born, as were his father and grandfather before him?

A burst of four shots has just crackled from a machine-gun! They echo back, redoubling the terror. My first instinct is to jump off and seek protection, but I must write what I see. I am sure that what has just raced through me has terrorized these people equally. Why the sudden shots? Is it the beginning of a pogrom now that all the Jews, separated from the Haganah, have been herded in one tiny square with most of them conveniently lined up against the wall? This was an old Turkish technique, dreaded by the Armenians. Is it now to become an Arab technique of extermination?

The crowd huddles, tightens up, glues itself together, like a wave washing back on itself. The children have set up a pitiful wail. A rifle shot has just rung out! Its effect is electrifying. Half the mob surges toward Zion Gate, trampling those in front. The other half, in a wild stampede, tries to run the other way, back to the ghetto whose safety they had just left. It looks as though there’ll be a panic-a panic that could be stopped only by Arab gunfire. Was this the intent of those who set off the gunfire-to give the soldiers an excuse to fire into the mob?

Arab Legion officers are rushing among their men, shouting orders. They block the mob from fleeing back to the ghetto. There is considerable yelling, hitting, fighting back as the people are jostled to and from Zion Gate, to and from the ghetto. They are like fish struggling inside a net. Above them the screaming of women rises clear to the darkening heaven. God, am I going to witness a massacre? I swear I’d fight on the side of the Jews and die with them-not because they are Jews but because now I’m an Armenian. I can’t forget what my people suffered under the Moslem Turk.

Order is finally restored. I’m amazed that this could be done. These Legion soldiers are amazingly well disciplined! My hat is off to their commander, Glubb Pasha! In the meanwhile many packs have broken open, spilling the pitiful contents to the ground. These have been trampled upon and kicked around. Two cans of something-I cannot see, for it’s getting dark-rolled down the square toward me. Bits of clothing, books and trinkets are strewn around. Women and men repack their bundles, dragging them when they are too heavy.

An elderly woman is trying to lift her pack to her shoulder. It looks too heavy for her. She is trying to put it on her head, but can’t lift it that high. She’s now leaning it against the wall, inching it up, hoping to get under it. The weight is too heavy… no one is helping her… she can’t make it, and fans down with it. She remains on the ground, her legs sprawled, a bewildered look on her face. The pack has rolled down beside her.

These bookish old Jews amaze me. Here an aged rabbi is standing off by himself beneath the towering walls. Under his arm is a round bundle, containing all his belongings. With his free arm he is holding a holy book, reading, and swinging his head from side to side. Perhaps he was reciting the Kaddish, the memorial prayer for the dead. Could anything be more appropriate for the occasion? This orthodox Jew at prayer, the pitiful screams of the children, and the dark mass of humanity ebbing in a black tide toward Zion Gate, now a gaping black hole, are my last unforgettable impressions of the Last Exodus.

I see now a single file of prisoners emerging from Zion Gate Way into the square. They look young. They are the Haganah!

There were about 250 of them, the youths mixed in with able-bodied men up to about fifty years of age. They were lined up. Each was searched for arms, after which their bags and bundles were examined. I walked among them, studying their faces, looking into their eyes. They were uniformly short, most of them puny, thin, and tired, as unheroic-looking a group of first-rate fighters as I’ve ever seen. (Later I learned that only forty among them were actual Haganah members, the others being shopkeepers and students turned emergency fighters.) The sorry lot were marched into the Vank compound and spent the night in the Seminary Building and elsewhere on the grounds. (They were eventually trucked away to a prisoner-of-war camp, under International Red Cross supervision, at Mafrak, Jordan. Disappointed in the capture of such a small number of Haganah, Jordan officials took along civilians to make a more impressive showing of the Jewish resistance.)

That night the Jewish quarter was put to the torch, and burned from one end to the other, a huge conflagration consuming everything that had survived the other fires. I photographed the holocaust from the school rooftop. The unburied bodies under rubble and those buried since the Mandate’s end were cremated once again. Homes and hospitals and synagogues and shops were burned to their foundations. And the city wherein Jews had lived almost continuously for some 3,500 years was destroyed as never before-a job more thorough than when Titus leveled it, for the old-fashioned Roman general had no dynamite, and neither guns nor shells with the markings of His Majesty’s Army.

The Exodus was over, the graveyard sealed. The Jew had no reason, now, to return to the holy site of his antecedents. It was as Allah-and the British Foreign Office-wished matters to be.

Source- Carlson, John Roy. Cairo to Damascus. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. New York, 1951. p.333-337.