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“Our Holy City”

June 15, 2011

During the first months of 1948, as the Jewish Yishuv and the Palestinians fought the first part of the war which Israelis call their War of Independence and the Palestinians call the Naqba, and as the British were winding down their Mandate, Henry Kendall, an architect and city planner working for the British administration, wrote a book titled Jerusalem, The City Plan; Preservation and Development During the British Mandate 1918-1948. It was published later that year in London, by His Majesty’s Stationary Office, and was 123 pages long, including many photographs, maps and diagrams.

General Sir Alan Gordon Cunningham, K.C.B., D.S.O., M.C. (who was the last High Commissioner for Palestine) wrote a short Forward to the book:

I write these lines under the shadow of the British withdrawal from Palestine and therefore welcome the opportunity given me to remark on one feature of the administration here which has been persistently pursued, without regard to politics or schism, by the selfless devotion of individuals of all races and creeds.

The City of Jerusalem, precious as an emblem of several faiths, a site of spiritual beauty lovingly preserved over the ages by many men’s hands, has been in our care as a sacred trust for 30 years. In these pages will be found an important part of the story of the discharge of that trust, of the efforts made to conserve the old while adding the new in keeping with it, of the process of marrying modern progress with treasured antiquity.

Let old Jerusalem stand firm, and new Jerusalem grow in Grace! To this fervent prayer I add the hope that the accomplishments and labours of the years covered in this book may be considered worthy to act s an inspiration and an example to the future generations in whose care our Holy City must rest.

The copy of the book which resides in the Yad Ben Zvi library in Rehavia has a handwritten Hebrew dedication:

לרחל בן צבי, מאת דב יוסף, בידידות. תשרי תש”ט

To Rachel Ben Zvi [a legendary figure of early Zionism and the wife of Yitzchak Ben Zvi who would be Israel’s 2nd president] from Dov Yosef [one of the powerful leaders of Mapai, the ruling party in Israel at the time] in friendship, September 1948.

I have no idea how Dov Yosef came to posses the book; he clearly didn’t see any need to keep it himself, since he presented it to Ben Zvi within months of its coming off the printing press.

One could write an entire article about Cunningham’s forward, but not today. For the time being, it’s enough to savor the multi-layered statement in its own words.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Avi in Jerusalem permalink
    June 15, 2011 5:13 pm

    As a Jew living in Jerusalem having been born and brought up in the UK, I would look at the introduction in both the long and short term perspectives. In the long term, 30 years is nothing in the history of Jerusalem. I have lived here for that long. On the other hand, the damage that the English rulers managed to cause in that short period of time has been massive.

  2. Nycerbarb permalink
    June 16, 2011 1:23 am

    Wow! What a find!


  3. T34 permalink
    June 16, 2011 12:48 pm

    That’s the second time I’ve seen Ben Zvi and his institute mentioned recently, they’re referenced in Martin Gilbert’s “Ishmael’s House”, in a section on Shabazi. A pity more of the Institute’s website isn’t available in English, there are some interesting photographs online, especially from North Africa. There’s even an online catalogue for the library, but all the search options are in Hebrew only, although the engine itself will take Latin letters.

    Btw, Cunningham seems a rather odd choice to have been appointed High Commissioner.

  4. Joe in Australia permalink
    June 16, 2011 3:10 pm

    The “future generations” he’s talking about were presumably the Jordanians.

    • June 16, 2011 4:00 pm

      Actually, he was likely thinking of the UN, whoever they might be. There’s no reason to think he had the Israelis in mind, in any case, so it’s nice to note that we’ve been in town for 63 or 44 years, respectively, and in any case longer than the Brits. Still going strong, too.

      • June 17, 2011 2:02 am

        The context was that he’d been praying, and by his “grow in Grace” expression, he appears to be a Christian and so given his use of “must rest,” to me thru my Christian lens, he seems to have meant the future generations of humanity during the Times of the Gentiles that the Bible says “must” happen before Messiah reigns from Jerusalem. I’m intrigued (and disturbed) by his use of “*our* Holy City,” but perhaps like many Brits during that time, he subscribed to British-Israelism theology.

  5. Barry Meislin permalink
    June 16, 2011 6:34 pm

    During the first months of 1948, as the Jewish Yishuv and the Palestinians fought…

    Not an entirely accurate formulation, since both the Jews of the Yishuv and the Arabs of the Palestinian Mandate were considered “Palestinians” (at least, officially—hence the designation of Mandatory Palestine as “Palestine-Eretz Israel” or “Palestine E.I.” on the postage stamps and other documents of the period).

    The Palestinian Arabs of the Mandate period, and in fact, up until just before the Six-Day War refused, ironically, to be categorized as “Palestinians,” considering themselves instead as part of the larger Arab ummah.

    (Needless, to say, attitudes have changed since then, though whether this is due to genuine identity or strategic posturing is open to debate.)

    In any event, it would be more accurate to say something like:

    During the first months of 1948, as the Jewish Yishuv and the Palestinian Arabs and their supporters fought…


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