[ILLUSTRATION: IN A NATIVE CAFE, SAFFED/A LEMONADE-SELLER OF DAMASCUS]
THE SUEZ CAMPAIGN
I have already spoken of the so-called “requisitioning” that took place among our people while I was working at Saffed. This, of course, really amounted to wholesale pillage. The hand of the Turkish looters had fallen particularly heavy on carts and draught animals. As the Arabs know little or nothing of carting, hauling, or the management of horses and mules, the Turks, simply enough, had “requisitioned” many of the owners—middle-aged or elderly men—and forced them to go south to help along with the tremendous preparations that were being made for the attack on Suez. Among these were a number of men from our village. In the course of time their families began to get the most harrowing messages from them. They were absolutely destitute, no wages being paid them by the Turks; their clothes were dropping off them in rags; many were sick. After much excited planning, it was decided to send another man and myself down south on a sort of relief expedition, with a substantial sum of money that had been raised with great difficulty by our people. Through the influence of my brother at the Agricultural Experiment Station, I got permission from the mouchtar to leave Zicron-Jacob, and about the middle of January, 1915, I set out for Jerusalem.
To Western minds, the idea of the Holy City serving as a base for modern military operations must be full of incongruities. And, as a matter of fact, it was an amazing sight to see the streets packed with khaki-clad soldiers and hear the brooding silence of ancient walls shattered by the crash of steel-shod army boots. Here, for the first time, I saw the German officers—quantities of them. Strangely out of place they looked, with their pink-and-whiteness that no amount of hot sunshine could quite burn off. They wore the regular German officer’s uniform, except that the Pickelhaube was replaced by a khaki sun-helmet. I was struck by the youthfulness of them; many were nothing but boys, and there were weak, dissolute faces in plenty—a fact that was later explained when I heard that Palestine had been the dumping-ground for young men of high family whose parents were anxious to have them as far removed as possible from the danger zone. Fast’s Hotel was the great meeting-place in Jerusalem for these young bloods. Every evening thirty or forty would foregather there to drink and talk women and strategy. I well remember the evening when one of them—a slender young Prussian with no back to his head, braceleted and monocled—rose and announced, in the decisive tones that go with a certain stage of intoxication: “What we ought to do is to hand over the organization of this campaign to Thomas Cook & Sons!”