The British in Palestine and their Burdensome Stone

There are several reminders in Israel of Britain’s occupation of that land between December 1917 and May 1948. Although ours was one of the briefest occupations, Israeli tourist information boards include it in their timelines, starting with the Canaanites, going through the Babylonians, Philistines, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Mamelukes and Turks et al. There is a number of our trade mark red post boxes and the occasional military pill box painted with red guardsmen by tongue-in-cheek Israeli artists. During our mandate, the area developed economically and culturally; the Jewish National Council and the Histadrut labour federation were founded as well as the Technion university in 1924, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1925.

On the other hand, the British mandate saw the development of two major nationalist movements, one among the Jews and the other among the Arabs. This competition between Arab and Jewish populations of Palestine against each other and against the governing British authorities matured into the Arab Revolt of 1936–1939 and the Jewish insurgency in Palestine before culminating in the Civil War of 1947–1948.

The British meant well, generally. Of all empires that attempted to rule the Beautiful Land, ours was perhaps the most benevolent. But it ended in bloodshed. The post-war Labour government was only too pleased to hand it back. Jerusalem was not theirs to keep:

Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. 3 And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.

Zechariah 2.