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Zionism and Israel - Encyclopedic Dictionary
Jewish Legion (Hagdud Ha'ivri, Gdud Ha'ivri)) Definition

Jewish Legion ( Hagdud Ha'ivri, Gdud Ha'ivri) - Volunteers in the British Army organized by Ze'ev (Valdimir) Jabotinsky and Joseph Trumpeldor, who initiated the idea, signed up 500 volunteers and with the help of Colonel John Henry Patterson eventually persuaded the British to form first the Zion Mule Corps and then the 38th - 42 battalions of the Royal fusiliers. They served with distinction on several fronts and helped the British conquer Palestine from the Ottoman Turks. David Ben-Gurion was among the many volunteers in the Jewish Legion

The Mule Corps was disbanded in 1916 after service in the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign, and Colonel Patterson, who was ill, was billeted back to England, where he later served in the Irish Fusiliers for a time. He was called up to lead the Jewish Legion in 1917. Both Jabotinsky and Trumpeldor who were officers, were recognized for their valor. The Jewish Legion consisted of Jewish volunteers from around the world, including the US, but the core of included many men like Jabotinsky and Trumpeldor, who fled Turkish Palestine during WW I.

Jabotinsky was decorated for his role in fording the Jordan River. General Chaytor told the Jewish troops: "By forcing the Jordan fords, you helped in no small measure to win the great victory gained at Damascus."

Jewish Legion Soldiers in Jerusalem with Allenby, 1917
Soldiers of the Jewish Legion at the West Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem in December 1917, after liberating Jerusalem as part of the forces commanded by General Allenby

Soldiers of the 38th Fusiliers Battalion, one of the components of the Legion, were paraded in the Whitechapel Road, led by Colonel Patterson, in February of 1918 before they were shipped off to Palestine. They met a tumultuous and joyous reception among the Jews of London, as well as generating amazement among other bystanders, as related in this article about the parade of the Jewish Legion in London./P>

Jewish Legion on parade

Jewish Legion on parade under Col. Patterson in the Whitechapel Road, February 22, 1918.

It is falsely stated in several histories that the Jewish Legion never saw service in Palestine. It is true that British commanders were often anti-Semitic and tried to keep the Jewish Legion out of the fighting. Patterson and the 38th Battalion were kept out of the fighting in Palestine until June of 1918, when they arrived from Egypt and were stationed in Sarafend camp. They were then sent to relieve the Grenadier Guards in Jaljulya, and then attached to the 60th division and sent to the Jordan valley, where they formed a key pivot of the British line along the Melhallah rift. On September 19, 1918, the battalion crossed the river at Umm Es Shert. They advanced and held Es Salt in what later became Transjordan.

Thousands of Palestinian Jews joined the Legion in 1918, but the anti-Zionist British military administration disbanded the Legion in 1920, leaving only the 38th Battalion, stationed in Palestine. Colonel Margolin took over the 38th Battalion, renamed the Judeans, following Patterson's retirement. Margolin led the Battalion against Arab rioters in Jaffa in 1921, whereupon the Battalion was disbanded. Jabotinsky was arrested for possessing a pistol after the Nebi Musa riots of 1920, and was sentenced to 15 years in jail, but later pardoned. Legion volunteers helped to form the nucleus of the Haganah.

The list of those who served in the Jewish Legion includes many famous Zionists:

Gershon Agron, Mayor of Jerusalem.

Yaacov (Jacques) Behar, Zionist Activist in Brazil and Argentina.

Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, second Israeli President.

Yaakov Dori, first Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces.

Levi Eshkol, third Israeli Prime Minister.

Eliayahu Golomb, founding member of the Haganah.

David Grun (or "Green"), later Ben-Gurion, head of the Zionist executive, first Prime Minister of Israel.

Dov Hoz, Zionist activist, Haganah fighter.

Ze'ev Jabotinsky, a founder of the Haganah and leader of the Revisionist movement.

Julius Jacobs, Zionist Executive Secretary; killed in King David Hotel Bombing of 1946.

Dov Yosef (Joseph), Governor of Jewish Jerusalem during the 1948 siege, Minister of Finance, longtime Labor MK.

Eliyahu Kaminetsky, Haganah and Hashomer fighter; father of Rafael Eitan.

Berl Katznelson, Zionist philosopher and activist.

Arieh Lubin, Israeli artist.

Abraham Melnikoff, Israeli sculptor.

Professor Gideon Mer, Physician, veteran of Zion Mule Corps, Jewish Legion and British Army in WWII. Served as medic in Israeli War of Independence.

Nehemiah Rabin, father of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Edwin Herbert Samuel, 2nd Viscount Samuel; CMG son of Herbert Samuel 1st Viscount Samuel.

Ze'ev Feinstein, later Shefer, high-ranking Haganah leader, Knesset Deputy Speaker.

Moshe Smilansky, Israeli journalist and author; great uncle of author S. Yizhar

Eliezer Sukenik, Israeli archaeologist; father of Yigael Yadin

David Tidhar, Israeli author.

Joseph Trumpeldor, later killed at Tel Hai.

Ami Isseroff

Synonyms and alternate spellings: Hagdud Ha'ivri G'dud Ha'ivri

Further Information: Significant Anniversaries: Jewish Legion, Colonel Patterson, 6-Day War

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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This work and individual entries are copyright 2005 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism and Israel Information Center and may not reproduced in any form without permission unless explicitly noted otherwise. Individual entries may be cited with credit to The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel

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