Culture in Jerusalem during the British Mandate Period


Culture in Jerusalem during the British Mandate Period | Muki Tzur The church bells rang throughout England at the beginning of December 1917 : Jerusalem had been conquered by Allenby’s army , after 400 years of Ottoman rule , and thirty years of British control of the city had begun . For Jerusalemites ( about 28 , 000 Jews and 22 , 000 Arabs ) , this was the end of a nightmarish period : food , order , the return of those who had been expelled . A cultural and political revolution was at hand . The Balfour Declaration had been issued a few weeks before the conquest , the great revolution had erupted in Russia . What could Jerusalem expect in the new world ? Eliezer Ben-Yehuda , who a few years earlier had attempted to institute a new calendar that began with the destruction of the Temple , lost no time in proclaiming ( from the United States , his temporary domicile ) that , with the city’s liberation from Turkish rule , a new era had begun . Jerusalem musicologist Abraham Zvi Idelsohn dug through his archives , extracted a Hasidic melody , joined it with a new song in honor of the redemption , and Havah Nagilah set out on its triumphant way . The End of the Ottoman Period Beginning in the late nineteenth century , Jerusalem had been an arena of both confrontations , on the one hand , and alliances , on the other . The interests of European countries and churches all stirred the pot in the city . Each sought a foothold in the holy city . Within the Jewish community , the differences between the “ Old Yishuv ” and the “ New Yishuv ” intensified , although many of those who laid the foundations for the “ New ” were the offspring of the “ Old . ” Orthodox Jews who opposed the Halukah system and sought to modernize education were targeted by members of the old order , who went so far as to place these “ breachers of the walls ” under a ban . In the late nineteenth century , most of the maskilim in Jerusalem belonged to the religious community . Up to that time , very few secular Jews had come to the city , and some left after a short stay . The secular community in Jerusalem only began to coalesce during the early decades of the twentieth century , and it included graduates of the relatively modern educational system that had been established in the last third of the nineteenth century . The secular minority , supported by the religious maskilim , stood in opposition to the religious zealots of the Old Yishuv . The first decade of the twentieth century was marked by the rising tide of the new culture : despite the opposition of the rabbis , the first Hebrew kindergarten in the city was opened by Hasya Sukenik in 1902 ; the Hebrew Teachers Association established its center in the city ( 1903 ); Ezra opened its teacher’s seminary in the city ( 1904 ); the Zionist Congress decided that the library , established in Jerusalem by Ben-Yehuda , Yoseph Chazanovich , and others , would have the status of a national library , despite demands by many to locate it in Jaffa ( 1905 ); Boris Schatz and others founded the Bezalel School of Art ( 1907 ); the first issue of Ha-Poel ha-Tza’ir ( the Young Worker ) appeared ( 1907 ); Yehudah Leib Metman-Cohen and Solomon Schiller founded the Hebrew Gymnasium

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