Ben Yehuda Strasse


Signs of recovery in the Jewish community combined with internal struggles within the Arab sparked an outbreak of anti-Jewish and anti-British violence in 1929. The riot of 1929 claimed the lives of 133 Jews and left 339 wounded. British efforts to appease the Arab population included a drastic reduction in the number of certificates allowing Jews to enter the land, which caused a wave of protest throughout the Jewish world.

As the riots continued Britain sent Sir John Hope-Simpson to Palestine to investigate and write a report. A former member of parliament following his defeat in the 1924 elections, he assumed a number of posts in the League of Nations, as an expert on the question of refugees.  He was posted first to Greece e to monitor the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey. Hope-Simpson had very definite feeling about the Zionist attempt to settle in Palestine.  His biographer, Charles Anderson, wrote that he was persuaded that Arab population was “economically powerless against such a strong movement” and thus needed protection, and was “wary of the gulf between Zionist rhetoric and practice, observing that ‘The most lofty sentiments are ventilated in public meetings and in Zionist propaganda’ but that the Jewish National Fund and other organs of the movement did not uphold or embody a vision of cooperation or mutual benefit with the Arabs”

The Hope-Simpson report was a devastating defeat for Zionist aspirations. The report concluded that Palestine lacked the resources that would support additional residents. In October 1930, in the wake of his recommendations, the British published a white paper that restricted Jewish immigration. The new regulations were seen as Britain backtracking from the Balfour Declaration and the principles of the mandate. Reactions throughout the mandate and the Jewish world were severe. In February 1931, the British lifted their ban on Jewish immigration.

As the 1930s began, the mood in the Jewish community lifted. The economic crisis of 1929 did not hurt the local economy and a small wave of Jews with capital and helped revive the economy. In 1930, 175,000 Jews lived in Palestine, comprising some 17 percent of the population. In 1932, the new British High Commissioner of Palestine Arthur Wauchope arrived and demonstrated his sympathy for the Jewish community. That same year, the first Maccabiah took place, with hundreds of Jewish guests and athletes coming to the games. Some of them remained in the country.

A year later the Nazis came to power in Germany and enacted harsh restrictions against the Jews. The Nazis’ rise further encouraged the growing anti-Semitism in Poland and Lithuania, which were home to three million Jews. The possibility of migrating to other countries in those years was almost nonexistent. The US agreed to accept 5,000 Jews per year, Argentina 3,000, and Canada less than 1,000. The only remaining possibility was to immigrate to the Land of Israel with a certificate for capital holders.

A wave of aliyah that was unprecedented in scope began in 1933. During the three years of 1933, 1934, and 1935, 150,000 Jews immigrated to Palestine, almost doubling its Jewish population. By the time World War II began on September 1, 1939, a quarter of a million Jews had made aliyah. In less than seven years, the Jewish community in Palestine had almost tripled in size to number almost half a million individuals. Some 60,000 Jews arrived from Germany itself and several thousand more from German-speaking countries. Some 100,000 of the immigrants of the fifth aliyah hailed from Poland, 15,000 from Romania, 7,500 from Yemen, with similar numbers coming from Salonika and Lithuania. About 6,000 immigrants arrived from the US.

Even though they made up only one quarter of the immigrant of the fifth aliyah, this aliyah was identified mainly with the Germans. The Yekkes, as they were known, set the tone for the entire aliyah. Unlike the immigrants of previous waves, they did not assimilate into the surrounding society. They continued to speak German among themselves, published newspapers in German, organized cultural activities, and even established their own political party, New Aliyah. In the elections for the general representatives of the Jewish community in the mandate in 1944, the party won 10% of the votes.

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