The American Colony in Jerusalem

A cavalry charge by the Ottoman army in the Sinai, ca. 1916 (30)

When the Ottoman Empire entered World War I as an ally of Germany in November 1914, Jerusalem and Palestine became a battleground between the Allied and the Central powers. The Allied forces from Egypt, under the leadership of the British, engaged the German, Austrian and Turkish forces in fierce battles for control of Palestine. During this time the American Colony assumed a more crucial role in supporting the local populace through the deprivations and hardships of the war. Because the Turkish military commanders governing Jerusalem trusted the Colony, they asked its photographers to record the course of the war in Palestine.

The Colony was permitted to continue its relief efforts even after the United States entered the war on the side of the Allies in the spring of 1917. As the German and Turkish armies retreated before the advancing Allied forces, the American Colony took charge of the overcrowded Turkish military hospitals, which were inundated by the wounded.

World War I Photographs

The American Colony photographers produced two albums documenting the war in Palestine. As this album demonstrates, Colony members photographed close to the front lines (left page) and recorded official occasions such as the visit of Enver Pasha, Turkish Minister of War, to Palestine and the Sinai Front in 1916 (right page). As a new addition to the Library's collections, this photographic album, like many items in the American Colony-Vester Collection, will receive conservation attention to preserve it for posterity.

American Colony. World War I photographic album, 1916–1918. Photograph 1. Photograph 2. Photograph 3. Photograph 4. Photograph 5. Photograph 6. Photograph 7. Photograph 8. Photograph 9. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (30)

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“A Little America Close by Jerusalem's Wall”

This scrapbook is open to an article that appeared in the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune on July 4, 1920, which chronicles the history and survival of the American Colony. The author characterized the Colony as a “noble band of American men and women [who] have been holding for nearly 40 years a lonely outpost of American civilization in a strange far-off land, overcoming persecutions, poverty, and the hardship of the World War by following the Golden Rule in living a life of Christian charity.” As a new Library acquisition, this scrapbook, like many items in the American Colony-Vester Collection, will receive conservation attention to preserve it for posterity.

James Morgan. “A Little America Close by Jerusalem's Wall,” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune (July 4, 1920) in scrapbook assembled by Mrs. Koster. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (12)

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The Occupying Turkish Government

As the occupying force during World War I, the Turks imposed a strict system of wasikas, or travel permits, for movement within Palestine during the war. This travel permit gives a Colony member permission to travel. The paper currency, like the sample on view, issued by the Turkish government during the war quickly became worthless. Gold coins were necessary to purchase goods or secure favors from government officials.

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British Travel Pass

After they assumed control of Jerusalem on December 11, 1917, the British military command appointed John Whiting of the American Colony as Deputy Chief of Intelligence. This pass authorized him to travel from Nablus via Jaffa on December 25, 1916.

Movement order for Mr. John Whiting, Attached G.H.Q. Intelligence-West. Issued November 8, 1918. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (33c)

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The American Colony Nurses

In April 1917 , the American Colony volunteered to administer six Turkish military hospitals in Jerusalem. This offer helped to save the Colony's members from being deported after the United States joined the Allies. Izzet Pasha, the last Turkish military governor of Jerusalem, provided the nursing corps with all necessary assistance, including night passes, such as this one issued to John Whiting (then serving as a Colony nurse), to move freely throughout the city.

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