Thursday, October 31, 2013

Haifa port is opened, 80 years ago today

On October 31, 1933, the new port of Haifa, the first modern port in Palestine, was opened. The Mandatory government chose this site because of its natural harbor and its proximity to important shipping lanes, to rail transport to the rest of Palestine and Egypt, and to the Hejaz railway to Jordan and Syria. Haifa was also the administrative center of the north.


To mark the anniversary, we present here a selection of official documents from our holdings on the project, which began in 1927. They deal with the building methods, the demands of the Zionist organization that Jewish workers as well as Arabs should be employed in building the port, and the sensitive question of the differential in wages between Jewish and Arab workers. As usual, the costs of the actual building overran the estimate.


A grand opening ceremony was planned (see the programme) but four days before it, riots broke out among the Arabs against the first wave of Jewish immigration from Nazi Germany. A modest ceremony without an audience was held instead.

Haifa port today

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Israel's Foreign Policy Documents at Geneva, October 2013

At the beginning of October 2013, the 12th International Conference of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was held in Geneva, Switzerland. Israel was represented there by the ISA, which publishes a series of books and online publications on Israel's foreign policy. In 2011, the 11th conference took place in Jerusalem. It was the first time the ISA had ever held an international conference, and we enjoyed showing the city to people, most of whom had not visited Israel before.


The 12th conference was held at the Palais dès Nations, the U.N. building at Geneva, a magnificent site which previously housed the League of Nations. One of the themes of the conference was the history of the idea of global governance and of international organizations, many of them based in Switzerland. We also talked a great deal about the future of our publications in a digital age and the need to use social media, forums and blogs like this one to tell the public about our work. The ISA's representative made a presentation on the translation of our Hebrew publications into English and its pitfalls.


The participants also enjoyed good food and wine (France is next door to Geneva) and a boat ride on the lake, which did much for the atmosphere of international friendship and cooperation!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Charles Tegart's Police Forts in Israel

Here is an article from the BBC about Sir Charles Tegart, the founder of the "Tegart forts" in Israel. The "Tegart forts" were built in British Mandate Palestine from 1936-39 (and some afterwards) as part of the war against Arab terror. The initiator of the project was Sir Charles Tegart, a former commissioner of the Indian Police. Tegart fought terror in Bengal in the 1920s and was invited by the Mandatory government to advise them about fighting Arab terror in Palestine. Tegart recommended building a series of police forts across the country, to serve as well-defended positions and bases for suppressing revolt, and to prevent the infiltration of armed Arab guerrillas from Syria and Lebanon. The forts were also to be used as government offices in areas that were regarded as unsafe.

Tegart strengthened the Criminal Investigation Department (about which see this post), imported Doberman dogs for police work, and suggested forming horse-mounted police units, comprised of British and Arab policemen. Tegart also introduced interrogation methods he used in India, which included torture. (Here are links to the Tegart papers in St Antony's College, Oxford University and the British Library, Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections.)

Some Tegart forts were the focus of intense fighting during the War of Independence. The most well-known of these were the battles for the fortress of Nabi Yosha (or the Koach Fort – named after the 28 IDF soldiers who died trying to conquer it; Koach is numerically 28 in Hebrew letters), the Latrun Fortress, and the Iraq–Suidaan fort (now the Yoav Fortress) a.k.a. "the Monster," which was occupied after 8 attempts.
Nabi Yosha fort today (Wikicommons)
Iraq-Suidaan fort after been taken by the IDF, November 1948 (Wikicommons)
Tegart fort in Sasa (Wikicommon)
Latrun fort and the Armor Museum and memorial for the fallen (Wikicommons)

Yoav fortress (Wikicommons)
Some of the fortresses today are memorials (Yoav Fortress - a memorial to the Givati ​​infantry brigade; Latrun - Museum of Armor and the memorial site of the Armored Corps), prisons (Megiddo prison - where Adolf Eichmann was held) and various police precincts. Some of the forts were abandoned. One of the Tegart police forts which passed to the Palestinian Authority became the famous "Mukataa" in Ramallah. Other police buildings became major Palestinian government installations. During Operation Defensive Shield in May 2002, the Tegart fortress used by the Hebron police was destroyed by the IDF.

Another fact about Tegart, less known, is that he was the architect of the dormitory of the Jewish Institute for the Blind in Jerusalem. According to architectural historian David Kroyanker, the design was very conservative but crafted with a deep understanding of the needs of the blind. (It is not clear when Tegart planned the building, since it was built when Tegart was a member of the Secretary of State's Council in India. Maybe one of the readers of this blog can enlighten us on this subject.)
Front of the Jewish Institute for the Blind in Jerusalem during visit of High Commissioner Wauchope in 1935