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Where worlds collide: A letter fromPalestine to Stephen T. Mather

In February 1929, Stephen Mather received a note on the letterhead of “Government of Palestine Deputy District Commissioner’s Offices, Jerusalem Division, Jerusalem.”  The sender was Edward Keith-Roach, the Deputy District Commissioner. In his letter, Keith-Roach writes…


“In these days of rush and turmoil it is a great achievement for the American nation to have had the services of so distinguished an administrator as yourself to undertake this duty for future generations yet unborn…You may remember I had the privilege of meeting you more than once with Mr. and Mrs. Adams during my never-forgotten visit to Washington.”


In a 2020 article, the Times of Israel reported that Edward Keith-Roach may have been at the heart of a Muslim-Zionist confrontation that evolved into the Hebron massacre of August 1929.


Responding to a complaint after some Jewish worshipers set up a screen at the Western Wall to separate men and women during prayer, “Keith-Roach warned the Jews to remove the screen by the next morning. When the Jews refused to do so, Keith-Roach ordered the British police to remove the screen by force…



The incident provoked an international outcry…The Zionists argued the mandatory government had violated Jewish prayer rights at the Wall by removing the screen. The Muslims alleged the screen violated the status quo and represented a Jewish effort to wrest ownership of the Wall from the Muslim Waqf.”


Events did escalate resulting in an explosion of violence in August of 1929.   After the event, the British High Commissioner of Palestine, Sir John Chancellor, wrote words that still have undeniable resonance: “under present conditions I know of no one who would be a good High Commissioner of Palestine except God.”


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