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A First World War Soldier

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There was one hope left. Djemal Pasha had boasted that he had introduced law and order; the country was under military rule; it remained to see what he would say and do when the crimes of Fewzi Bey were brought to his notice. Accordingly, armed with my boyouroulton, or passport, of a locust-inspector, I rode to Jerusalem, where I procured, through my brother, who was then in favor, an interview with Djemal Pasha. He received me on the very day of my arrival, and listened attentively while for a whole hour I poured out the story of Fewzi Bey's outrages. I put my whole heart into the plea and wound up by asking if it was to the credit of the progressive Young Turks to shelter feudal abuses of a bygone age. Djemal seemed to be impressed. He sprang from his chair, began walking up and down the room; then with a great dramatic gesture he exclaimed, "Justice shall be rendered!" and assured me that a commission of army officers would be sent at once to start an investigation. I returned to Zicron-Jacob with high hopes.

Sure enough, a few days later Fewzi Bey was summoned to Jerusalem; at the same time the "commission," which had dwindled to one single officer on secret mission, put in an appearance and began to make inquiries among the natives. He got little satisfaction at first, for they lived in mortal terror of the outlaw; they grew bolder, however, when they learned his purpose. Complaints and testimonies came pouring in, and in four days the officer had the names of hundreds of witnesses, establishing no less than fifty-two crimes of the most serious nature. Fewzi's friends and relatives, in the mean while, were doing their utmost to stem the tide of accusations. The Kaimakam (lieutenant- governor) of Haifa came in person to our village and threatened the elders with all sorts of severities if they did not retract the charges they had made. But they stood firm. Had not Djemal Pasha, commander-in- chief of the armies in Palestine, given his word of honor that we should have redress?

We were soon shown the depth of our naïveté in fancying that justice could be done in Turkey by a Turk. Fewzi Bey came back from Jerusalem, not in convict's clothes, but in the uniform of a Turkish officer! Djemal Pasha had commissioned him commandant of the Moujahaddeen (religious militia) of the entire region! It was bad enough to stand him as an outlaw; now we had to submit to him as an officer. He came riding into our village daily, ordering everybody about and picking me out for distinguished spitefulness.

My position soon became unbearable. I was, of course, known as the organizer of the young men's union which for so long had put up a spirited resistance to Fewzi; I was still looked upon as a leader of the younger spirits, and I knew that sooner or later Fewzi would try to make good his threat, often repeated, that he would "shoot me like a dog." It was hardly likely that an open attempt on my life would be made. When Ambassador Morgenthau visited Palestine, he had stayed in our village and given my family the evidence of his sincere friendship. These things count in the East, and I soon got the reputation of having influential friends. However, there were other ways of disposing of me. One evening, about sunset, while I was riding through a valley near our village, my horse shied violently in passing a clump of bushes. I gave him the spur and turned and rode toward the bushes just in time to see a horseman dash out wildly with a rifle across his saddle. I kept the incident to myself, but I was more cautious and kept my eyes open wherever I went. One afternoon, a fortnight later, as I was riding to Hedera, another Jewish village, two hours' ride away, a shot was fired from behind a sand-dune. The bullet burned a hole in the lapel of my coat.

That night I had a long talk with my brother. There was no doubt whatever in his mind that I should try to leave the country, while I, on the contrary, could not bear to think of deserting my people at the crisis of their fortunes. It was a beautiful night, such a night, I think, as only Palestine can show, a white, serene, moon-bathed night. The roar of the Mediterranean came out of the stillness as if to remind us that help and salvation could come only from the sea, the sea upon which scores of the warships of the Allies were sailing back and forth. We had argued into the small hours before I yielded to his persuasion.

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