The 1929 Arab Terror Attack: When Hebron Became Occupied Territory

Hebron was the first piece of land ever purchased by a Jew in Israel. Approximately 38 centuries ago, the patriarch Abraham purchased a cave in Hebron to bury his beloved wife Sarah. Jews have owned land in Hebron from then until the early part of the 20th century.

On Friday, August 23, 1929, that changed. Things began to stir as the Jewish community was preparing for the Sabbath:

At about half past two on Friday we saw a young Arab arrive by motorcycle from Jerusalem. He alarmed the Arab inhabitants of Hebron, saying that the blood of thousands of Moslems in Jerusalem was being shed like water. He called to the Arabs to avenge this blood. The unrest among the Arabs of Hebron was very strong, particularly after the motor cars began to arrive from Jerusalem with news of disturbances.

Similar charges are used by the Palestinians today to incite violence against Israel. Both the first and second intifada began with false charges of Israeli actions against Muslims and their holy places in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Ya'acov Slonim, head of the Sephardic (Jews from the Middle East and Iberian Peninsula) Jewish community, and Rabbi Frank, head of the Ashkenazic (Jews from Eastern Europe) community, turned to the Arab governor of Hebron, Abdullah Kardos. The governor calmed us and said: "There is no fear of anything happening. The British Government knows what it has to do. In the place where two soldiers are needed, it sends six." And he added: "I tell you in confidence that they have many soldiers in the streets, in civilian clothes; these soldiers circulate among the crowds, and in the hour of need they will fulfill their duty."


If that sounds familiar, it should. Just like today, when the world community promises to use their influence or might to prevent Arab terrorism, the promises of protection in August 1929 were not backed up with action:

That night, Rabbi Ya’acov Slonim’s son invited any fearful Jews to stay in his house. The rabbi was highly regarded in the community and besides, he had a gun. Many Jews took him up on this offer, and many Jews were eventually murdered there.

On Saturday morning, before the slaughter began, the rabbis again appealed to the governor for help. Again they received the same astounding assurances. Bewildered, they turned to Mr. Cafferata, the British officer in charge of the police. From him, too, they received assurances of safety.

As early as 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, Arab crowds began to gather. They came in mobs, armed with clubs, knives, and axes. The Arab women and children threw stones, the men ransacked Jewish houses and destroyed Jewish property. With only that single police officer in Hebron (Mr. Cafferata), the Arabs entered Jewish courtyards with no opposition.

Rabbi Slonim, who had tried to shelter much of the Jewish population in his own home, was approached by the rioters and offered a deal. If all the Ashkenazi yeshiva students were given over to the Arabs, the rioters would spare the lives of the Sephardi community. Rabbi Slonim refused to turn over any of the students and was killed on the spot, along with his wife and young child. In the end, 12 Sephardi Jews and 55 Ashkenazi Jews were murdered.