Israel's History in Pictures: Women for the State

Library of Congress Archive: 1939 Jewish Demonstration against the British White Paper -- Led by the Grandes Dames of Jerusalem.

By Arutz Sheva Staff

First Publish: 5/17/2013, 8:20 AM


1939 Jewish Demonstration against the British White Paper -- Led by the Grandes Dames of Jerusalem

The British Mandatory forces brutally crushed the Arab Revolt in Palestine (1936-1939). Despite their heavy losses, however, the Arabs succeeded politically in forcing the British government to severely limit Jewish immigration and land purchases in Palestine.

In 1939, the British government headed by Neville Chamberlain issued the "MacDonald White Paper," a policy paper which called for the establishment of a single Palestine state governed by Arabs and Jews based on their respective populations and basically ending Jewish immigration to Israel. The White Paper was approved by the British Parliament in May 1939, thus signing the death sentences of millions of Jews precisely when the Nazi tide was threatening to engulf Europe.

Palestine's Jews demonstrated in Jerusalem against the White Paper on May 18, 1939. The American Colony photographers returned four days later to film the protest of the women of the Yishuv, led by some of the leading women figures in Jerusalem at the time: Ita Yellin, Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi, and Sarah Herzog.

The women protestors were led by (right to left) those featured in the picture that can be seen on Arutz Sheva's main page: Rachel Yanai Ben-Zvi, Rabbanit Sarah Herzog and Ita Yellin protesting the British White Paper (May 22, 1939). Library of Congress caption: "The procession of young women raising their right hands in attestation to their claim."

The women heard speakers on Jaffa Rd and marched on King George St. One of the signs they carried translates roughly to "There is no betrayal for the Eternal of Israel", alluding to G-d's promises to the Jewish people

Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi arrived in the Land of Israel from the Ukraine in 1908, and she emerged as a leading figure in political Zionist organizations and the early Labor Party. She married Yitzchak Ben-Zvi who succeeded Chaim Weizmann as Israel's second president.

Ita Yellin made aliya to Palestine as a 12-year-old in 1880. Her father, Yehiel Michal Pines, was a well-known rabbi in what is known today as Belarus and a leader of the religious Zionist movement.

Ita Yellin headed the Ezrat Nashim charitable organization in Jerusalem, later known as the Hospital for the Chronically and Mentally Ill. She was married to Prof. David Yellin, a prominent educator, Zionist leader and Hebraist.

Sarah Herzog, known as the "Rabbanit," was married to the Chief Rabbi of Ireland, Yitzchak Isaac Herzog. They moved to Eretz Yisrael in 1936 when he succeeded the Chief Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook .

Mrs. Herzog succeeded Ita Yellin as volunteer head of Ezrat Nashim Hospital, displaying tremendous energy and tenacity to gather support for the hospital which is today named the Sarah Herzog Hospital in her honor. She founded the still-flourishing World Emunah Religious Zionist Women's Movement.

In the picture above, the women protesters against the British White Paper are stopped near the King David Hotel by a cordon of British police.


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