Non-Hierarchical Revolution: Grassroots Politics in the First Palestinian Intifada

Jack McGinn

This article seeks to outline the non-hierarchical characteristics of the first intifada, using as examples the decentralised healthcare networks, labour unions, and women’s movements which were formed in the years preceding the uprising and provided a structure and backbone to the resistance. Such a focus on three distinct, but interdependent, forces behind the intifada is informed by a belief that each operated primarily on a deliberately horizontal basis of organising, thus highlighting the common motivation that activists felt towards a model of democratised resistance. The article concludes with a discussion of the town of Beit Sahour, where pre-existing networks of solidarity helped to produce a resilient campaign of tax resistance, coordinated by popular committees.

Jack McGinn is a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics Department of Sociology and the Communications Coordinator at the LSE Middle East Centre. He received his MSc in Arab World Studies from the University of Edinburgh, and subsequently worked in Jordan and Palestine as a translator and editor. His doctoral research at LSE focuses on decentralised anti-hierarchical organising in the Syrian revolution.

Remembered One Hundred Years Later: Al-Salt, Transjordan, and the First World War

by Mathew Madain*

Abstract: On Easter Sunday, 1918, the townspeople of al-Salt in Transjordan, watched with horror as British forces retreated through their city: the Allied attempt to conquer Transjordan was repulsed by the Ottomans. Days earlier, they had welcomed the British as “liberators” and facilitated the invasion. Fearing retribution, six thousand civilians, preponderantly Christians, retreated with the British army to Palestine, an event recorded in military accounts. The present study elaborates on the wartime years, particularly the flight and its aftermath, from the vantage point of the Arab civilians whose lives were drastically affected during the Transjordan Raids of 1918. Drawing upon oral histories and poetry preserved by contemporary Saltis and local archives, the study characterises the wartime experience of Transjordan’s Christians as one of state-harassment and communal hardship. Through a micro-sociohistorical lens, it explores the particular experiences of the communities of al-Salt, while revealing that the region’s Muslim families—tribal allies and neighbours—demonstrated profound solidarities to local Christians, thereby mitigating the worst effects of harassment.


 

Memory of the First World War is alive in the Middle East. From 1914 to 1918, the region was an important battlefield and the site of immense human suffering.[1] At the centennial anniversary of the War, numerous works have emerged chronicling the tragic experiences of Ottoman minorities in Anatolia. Scholarly inquiry, to a lesser extent, has also examined the hardships of communities in Ottoman Syria. Investigating these events, also, is a crucial step towards developing a more coherent understanding of the experiences of civilians and minorities during the Great War, at the break-up of the Ottoman Empire.

Transjordan[2] was a battleground of the Arab Revolt and of three campaigns waged in 1918 by the British army against a joint Ottoman-German force. For locals of al-Salt,[3] the former administrative centre in Ottoman Transjordan, communal memory recalls the hardships of Sanat al-Hijra (c. 1918) — the ‘Year of the Exodus’ — when six thousand civilians, a vast majority of whom were Christian, fled the region in the aftermath the First Transjordan Raid (25 March – 1 April 1918). The townspeople of al-Salt had welcomed British entry, and upon British retreat, they feared violent retribution by the Ottomans. A majority of civilians retreated with the British army to Jerusalem. At the close of the War, the Christian refugees returned to al-Salt and found their homes and churches vandalised and pillaged. A century later, the ‘Exodus of 1918’ evokes painful memories for the region’s families.

The “Easter Sunday Flight of 1918”, as it has been remembered in scholarship, features in both military and social histories of the Great War, primarily through the diaries and correspondences of the British military and humanitarian personnel who witnessed the retreat to Palestine. This article builds upon earlier scholarship by incorporating Arabic sources gathered in Jordan in 2018. The memoirs and poems of the Salti townsmen who lived through the crisis have been preserved in family papers and local archives. Local newspapers and charity appeals attest to the physical destruction of homes, shops, and churches in 1918. Interviews with twenty-one Jordanian academics also influenced my work, as did visits to Great War collections in Amman at the Centre for Manuscripts and Archives, the National Library of Jordan, the Council for British Research in the Levant, the American Center for Oriental Research, and the Institut Français du Proche-Orient. Some of the most vivid accounts of this flight have been passed down orally. This work analyses over thirty oral history accounts related to me from May-August 2018 by the children and grandchildren of Salti Christians who fled in 1918, henceforth referred to as “elders”. Narratives from local Muslim “elders” are also included. Oral narratives are among the few local sources available that elaborate on the wartime experience from the point of view of the civilians who experienced its hardships. In agreement with Andrew Shryock (1997), author of an influential ethnography on the tribal communities of al-Balqa’, I recognise that the passage of time and socio-political concerns affect the presentation of tribal oral histories. Nonetheless, they are promulgations of a received historical tradition, exhibiting remarkable veracity and confluence with written documentation.[4]

The elders of al-Salt spoke not only of the hardships endured by their forebears under the repressive wartime administration of Ottoman governor Jemal Pasha, but also of resistance to the harsh wartime dictates. Lucid tales also illuminate how they affected the course of war during the Spring of 1918.

Further, these narratives provide insight into interreligious relations during the wartime years. Scholarship has recognized that Transjordan was once home to a culture of religious toleration, where relations between Muslims and Christians were relatively more comradely and peaceful than those found in other regions of Ottoman Syria. However, the advent of European missionaries in the late-nineteenth century precipitated a period of inter-confessional tension, which at times threatened to erupt into violence. By the end of the century, Transjordan is believed to have become a land divided by sectarian tensions. The sources examined in this article, however, testify to the presence of interreligious solidarities into the Great War period and more specifically during the turbulence of 1918. Muslims are remembered as having been the first to warn Christians of the changing military balance and that they should flee an approaching and vengeful Turkish army. Neighbours provided refuge to Christians who were unable to retreat with the British army to Palestine. Other tribesmen stewarded over the belongings of Christians in their exile. Further, poems relay the lamentation of Salti Muslim notables in the aftermath of the flight from the region and convey an ardent desire for their return.

Inspection of these accounts reveals an additional facet: The Muslims who warned and acted in solidarity with vulnerable Christians in 1918 were largely members of tribes with whom Christian clans had shared long-standing alliances. Oral histories relay that these alliances were formed in the centuries preceding direct Ottoman administration (c. 1867), when the region was an unincorporated frontier, an era dubbed the “Age of Shaykhs.[5] This article highlights that these alliances endured well into the later decades of Ottoman rule, even into the Great War Period. They were visible through the acts of solidarity by Muslim tribesmen towards the region’s Christian clans, the targets of an official policy of harassment during the wartime years.

Relations between the Muslim and Christian clans of al-Salt during, and in the aftermath, of the Great War could thus be characterised as one in which tribal and interreligious solidarities played a defining role. The region’s Christians indeed endured the hardships of a wartime ‘fifth column,’[6] an experience to be elaborated upon in this study. However, as I aim to show, the neighbourly solidarities of the region’s Muslim tribes mitigated some of the worst effects of government harassment.

To demonstrate this, the article begins with an overview of wartime conditions of communities across Ottoman Syria, with a focused summary of civilian experiences in Transjordan and the military background to the First Transjordan Raid. It then utilises oral history and memoir accounts to augment our understanding of socio-economic conditions in al-Salt and its neighbouring villages during the Great War. The Flight of 1918 is examined at length through preserved oral histories. The article then describes the wartime ravaging of al-Salt and the village of al-Fuhays, and chronicles the return of refugee communities to the region in early1919. Moreover, it engages in literary analysis of poetry exchanged by eminent Muslim and Christian shaykhs during 1918-19 to demonstrate the robustness of tribal solidarities. In concluding, the article discusses the complexities of commemoration of the flight in an era of heightened extremist threat.

Historiography

By the centennial anniversary of the Great War, scholars have made remarkable strides into narrating the wartime experiences of civilian communities. Historians of the Middle East have recently concentrated on the experiences of ethno-religious minority communities at the break-up of the Ottoman Empire. The Armenian Genocide, the largest civilian catastrophe of the Great War in the Middle East, has received renewed attention, alongside the mass atrocities against Greek and Assyrian minority communities in Asia Minor. Until recently, historiography on the Arabic-speaking provinces has largely presented military and diplomatic histories, rather than social histories. Historians have, of recent, produced social histories of the Great War, through Western and local archival sources and Arabic “popular sources” (including oral histories, diaries, memoirs, and poems). Salim Tamari’s Year of the Locust (2011) provides insight into the Ottoman Arab soldier experience, with commentary on the experiences of Jerusalemites.[7] Talha Çiçek’s War and State Formation in Syria (2016) provides an account of the wartime policies pursued by the provisional government of Djemal Pasha.[8] Leila Fawaz’s A Land of Aching Hearts (2014) details the experiences of soldiers and civilians throughout Syria, with a focus on the communities of Mount Lebanon.[9] Melanie Tanelian’s The Charity of War (2018) provides an insightful account of famine that affected the communities of Mount Lebanon and Beirut. [10] Collectively, these narratives describe a period of “Safarbarlik” (taken from the Ottoman Turkish Seferberlik, meaning ‘general mobilization’), in which the inhabitants of Ottoman Syria contributed to the war effort through both military and economic service (i.e. conscription, requisition, and rationing). The Safarbarlik period was also a time of widespread communal suffering — of famines, pestilence, and violence that decimated populations throughout Ottoman Syria.[11] Scholars have long recognized that the Christian communities of Ottoman Syria experienced additional pressures, as perceived sympathizers with the Allies and potential ‘enemies of the state.’[12]

Transjordan, though a critical battleground between Turkish-German and Arab-British forces and a site of communal tragedy, figures rather infrequently in Syrian Safarbarlik accounts. Nonetheless, Eugene Rogan’s acclaimed Frontiers of the State (1999) features an exceptional overview of socio-economic conditions in Transjordan during the War through analysis of Ottoman administrative records, British military correspondences, and European missionary histories. Rogan’s study, further, richly incorporates local narratives: The memoirs of ‘Awda Qussus (1877-1943), a Christian lawyer from Karak, and Salih Tall (1897-1949), a Muslim grain clerk of ‘Ajlun, highlight the particular experiences of communities in Karak, Madaba, and Irbid. It remains, twenty years later, the definite starting point for further inquiry into the wartime experience in Transjordan.

The Great War in Transjordan: Requisition, Rationing, and a ‘Christian Fifth Column’

The communities of Transjordan were largely subject to economic, rather than military service. In all but the northern ‘Ajlun district, conscription was not pursued. Economic service took the forms of rationing, to offset the impact of the 1915 French naval blockade of Ottoman Mediterranean ports, and requisitioning of grain, livestock, foodstuffs, and gold liras, in return for banknotes. The government maximized requisitioning from the Christians of Madaba, which reduced the town to a state of penury.[13]

The outbreak of the Arab Revolt on 5 June 1916 in the Hijaz sought to complement the British army’s designs to conquer Palestine from the Ottomans. Transjordan, the strategic buffer zone between Palestine, Damascus, and the Hijaz, took on new strategic importance to the Ottomans. Government officials went to great lengths to preserve the loyalties of Bedouin tribesmen and Muslim town notables through the award of honours and stipends. However, local Christians were singled out for their former reliance on European diplomatic protection. They were suspected for their sympathies to Russia, France, and Britain, and treated as a ‘fifth column’ for much of the war. Christian notables across Madaba and Karak were arrested, sent to detention centres in Damascus, and later exiled to Anatolia. The period also witnessed repression against Christian missionary churches and schools. Though some tribes did answer the call to revolt, on the whole, the Bedouins remained firmly in the Ottoman camp. In al-Balqa’, an armed Circassian regiment was tasked with gathering intelligence and arresting those suspected of aiding the Arab rebels or the Allies.[14]

Following the capture of ‘Aqaba by Amir Faysal ibn Husayn in July 1917, Transjordan became the main theatre of the Arab Revolt. General Edmund Allenby conceived of the Arab Army as the ‘eastern flank’ of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF), which by November 1917 had captured Jerusalem. By February 1918, Jericho was in Allied hands. Allenby then sought to secure the strategic Jericho–Amman axis, which would cut the Hijaz Railway supplying the Ottoman garrison in Medina, divide the Ottoman lines of communication, and unite forces with the Arab Army. The German Otto Liman von Sanders, commander of the Ottoman Fourth Army, was determined to prevent this.[15]

On 25 March 1918, the EEF entered al-Salt unopposed. Local townsmen welcomed British forces, fired on the retreating Ottoman forces, and proceeded to loot government offices. The EEF Cavalry then proceeded to Amman, where they conducted raids along the Hijaz Railway. Ottoman and German forces repulsed the EEF attack for three days from the strategic heights of the Amman Citadel. Ottoman reinforcements crossed over from Palestine, and German airplanes bombed the EEF supply depot. Both armies were at risk of collapse. Otto Liman von Sanders gave orders for “resistance to the last,” and with Ottoman soldiers rushing to the front, Allenby gave orders for withdrawal.[16]

The failure of the First Transjordan campaign endangered those who had facilitated British entry. Salti townspeople who had fired on retreating Ottoman soldiers, sacked government buildings, or voluntarily served with the EEF now feared certain retribution. Rogan narrates that the Christians of al-Salt felt particularly vulnerable and saw no choice but to retreat with the British Army on 31 March, 1918, which fell on Easter Sunday. British military accounts relay that 3,871 Christians and 278 Muslims fled Salt and were resettled in Jerusalem to sit out the rest of the war. Hundreds more sought refuge among relatives in Bethlehem and Hebron within the British-occupied zone. Approximately 1,600 Armenians also fled to Jerusalem. This would suggest that over 6,000 civilians fled al-Salt during the course of the First Transjordan campaign.[17]

The diaries of British military personnel describe the dire situation of the refugees of Salt during their flight:

“One young man is carrying his grandfather on his back… He carries him 13 miles!!! Women and men and children are bent nearly double under the tremendous bundles and they cap the lot with a saucepan or washing bowl…on their heads. Bullocks get in the way of armoured cars, camels stumble over over-loaded donkeys.”[18]

Beatrice Erskine’s 1924 recounting of the flight details that the refugees of al-Salt retreated largely on foot with the British army to Jericho, from where they were transported to Jerusalem by lorries and housed in tents until the Armistice of November 1918.[19] Such sources capture British vulnerability after a formidable Ottoman repulsion and convey the following: the security of al-Salt’s families was endangered due to the British army’s withdrawal, and in a zone of safety, namely British-occupied Palestine, the refugees were administered to by Allied humanitarians.

The pages that follow elaborate on the wartime years through narratives recounted in 2018 by Salti elders. None directly experienced the war years, but have preserved testimonies from their parents and grandparents who did, in fact, experience the hardships of the First World War. Further, the 1935 memoir of Khalil Samawi, a native of al-Fuhays, reflects on the author’s experience as a youth during the war. Contemporaneous poems by tribal shaykhs, preserved both orally and textually, vividly represent the pain of the wartime years and provide insight into friendships between Muslim and Christian allies during the turmoil.

The Great War Era: ‘Economic Safarbarlik’ and ‘Turkumān Oppression’

The oral histories collected for this project describe a regional persecution, largely at the hands of the local agents of Turkish administration, the migrant Circassian and Chechen communities who began settling al-Balqa’ in the 1880s.

Elders of al-Fuhays describe their advent as the start of a ghazwih (“a raiding war”), conceptually linking the presence of such migrants to communal memories of territorial dispossession of earlier centuries.[20] Fierce Bedouin raiding in the eighteenth century upon agricultural villages forced several communities, including the families of al-Fuhays, to migrate to al-Salt.[21] This migration lasted until the Ottomans administered the region, bringing territorial security. Yet, within one generation of resettling of al-Fuhays, Circassian communities settled on arable lands that local Saltis claimed as part of their tribal domains.[22] When the Circassians were armed and endowed with policing powers over the local Arabs through service in the Jandarma, the power imbalance gradually acquired the dynamic of ghazu, or raids, against the Arab villagers.

The numerous hardships experienced during the Great War – exile, requisitioning, and assaults on local churches – are often recalled with reference to such migrant communities — the “agents of Turkish oppression.”[23] Like in Madaba, Christian elders from al-Salt recall requisitioning of agricultural products and livestock. Elders of al-Fuhays speak of ghazawat (plural, raids) upon their grain fields. An elder from al-Rumaymin relates that homes were searched to enforce rationing. It is likely that government policies of agricultural requisitioning were more intensely directed towards the region’s Christian families who often stewarded over landed estates. While Muslim clans were, at times, exempted from paying taxes, demands on Christians remained throughout the war.[24] Elders recall this period as one which “unjustly” depleted their wealth in grain and livestock. Memories of wartime depletion abound: “You could never eat with satiety during Turkish times.” Some even recall intense hunger: “We, who were once well-fed, during the war were desperate, and used to search for grain in the dung for our bread.”[25]

Memories of sukhra (conscription) were frequently recounted by Christian elders. One form of conscripted labour was the gathering of locusts into pails to offset the 1915 Locust plague.[26] Another was the command to chop down the region’s treasured malūl oak trees to fuel trains running on the Hijaz railway. Such memories implicate the Ottomans with bringing environmental destruction upon al-Balqa’, a land imagined as once covered with malūl (though few trees remain today).[27]

Elders recall the repression inflicted upon the men of al-Salt and al-Fuhays whose loyalties to the Ottomans were suspected, especially following the outbreak of the Arab Revolt in June 1916.[28] These narratives, too, involve the migrant communities, who, after June 1916, patrolled al-Balqa for suspected collaborators with the Arab Rebels or the Allies. In narratives, armed militiamen were commonly referred to as “Turkuman.” As in Madaba, Salti Christian notables were exiled to Anatolia due to what is remembered as “pro-Arab activity.”[29] Elders from al-Fuhays recall that over a dozen of the town’s young men were imprisoned and exiled.[30] However, the late Dr Raouf Abujaber (b. 1925-2020), whose uncle, Sa’id, was arrested in 1917, relates that Mashar b. Fayiz, shaykh of the Bani Sakhir tribe, forcefully negotiated and demanded his release, threatening to join the Arab Revolt if his ally remained imprisoned: “If one hair of Sa’id is dropped, I will revolt from Mada’in Salih [in the Hijaz] to Bab Salih [Damascus].” The Ottoman commander sought to prevent an escalation of the ‘Arab Revolt’ and complied with his demands.[31] This instance suggests that Muslim tribesmen were able to harness their privileges vis-à-vis the Ottoman state to assist Christian notables suspected for collaborating with the Allies.

While some elders recalled the period as one of “regional persecution”[32] by Ottoman authorities, others recalled a virulent “Christian persecution,” due to “Turkish ‘fanaticism.’” Catholic churches were converted into stables and missionary schools were shut down. Orthodox churches were forbidden from holding services.[33]  

Narratives suggest also that “Turkuman” assault of local women was not uncommon. Yet, these are often remembered through heroic instances of resistance to the militias. A female elder from al-Fuhays relates:

“My grandmother was filling water at ‘Ayn al-Rahib (a well adjacent to the Catholic church of al-Fuhays). An armed Turkuman approached and was forcing himself upon her. She tied him up, threw him a few meters, killed him, and led his body to Rus al-Bayadir [the village’s central high point] for all the Fuhaysis to see.”[34]

Narratives relate the brutal treatment that militiamen inflicted upon several local families—“our men were always whipped.”[35] Elders recalled an infamous commander of the Circassian unit remembered as Muhammad Ghadhab (“Muhammad the Wrathful”), who tortured and killed many of the townsmen.[36] His “tyranny,” though, was eventually challenged by young men from al-Fuhays in early 1918. As related by an elder:

 “One day, my late uncle said: ‘Shall this man continue oppressing the Fuhaysiya? I will go to confront him!’ Muhammad Ghadab immediately sought to kill him. But my uncle was strong and ambitious. He hit the ‘Turkuman’ with a stone, which caused him to fall from his horse and there my uncle killed him. Of course, the Turks sought to avenge them.”[37]

Instances like these portray the bitter state of relations between the people of al-Salt and the Ottoman district militia during the War. The ‘Muhammad Ghadab Affair’ occurred days before the EEF journeyed across the Jordan River. The memoirs of Khalil Samawi recall that the zu’ama (eminent elders) of Muslim and Christian clans in Salt had met and dispatched a letter to General Allenby asking for “protection” in March 1918.[38] Soon enough, they were to receive sign of the British army’s arrival.

The British Transjordan Raid of March 1918 and the Flight to Jerusalem

The arrival of the EEF on 25 March 1918 signalled the end of Ottoman rule to many in al-Salt. Young men proceeded to raid centres of Ottoman power, including the government hall. Men from al-Fuhays joined in and raided the district militia outpost in al-Hummar, along the road that connects al-Salt to al-Fuhays, and proceeded to attack the Circassian settlement at Suwaylih. The Salti rebels inflicted sizeable casualties on militiamen, as well as on Caucasian civilians. The arrival of the British was for them an opportunity to settle old scores. Elders interviewed mentioned the desire to return ancestral lands to local tribal ownership, by ridding them of the settler communities, as the main motivation for launching these attacks.[39] These attacks were crucial in clearing the town of Ottoman defenders and enabling the EEF to proceed to Amman unopposed.

Days later, news of British retreat came with a terrifying jolt, prompting panic. Elders commonly related the fear that a massacre against the region’s Christians was imminent. Oral histories augment our understanding of how Salti families experienced the flight. Travel was largely on foot or on pack-animals.[40] Saltis carried numerous articles, like blankets, grain, pans, and foodstuffs, though a majority of household goods were not brought along. The flight was carried out in the dark of night by the people of Salt and in the morning by the villagers of al-Fuhays, who took hidden and dangerous routes to avoid being spotted by the Germans or the approaching Ottoman army. Some elderly members of the community were unable to make the journey and stayed behind.[41]

The flight is recalled with scenes of desperation, which convey the apocalyptic aura with which it is remembered. One such scene is the aerial bombardment of the fleeing refugees, which evidently led to casualties:

“German planes were shooting at those fleeing. Among them was a newlywed couple from al-Salt. The groom was riding his donkey when a small bomb hit him, and he perished. His bride stood there, paralyzed. Those near his wife said: ‘He’s gone, what can you do. Let’s keep walking.’ And they grabbed her by the hand.”[42]

Many of the elders interviewed in 2018 provided stories of their parents who were children during the flight of 1918, reflecting on particular challenges that children faced:

“My mother, Jamilah Salim al-Autallah was born in 1912. She was alive at the time of the Hijra (Exodus), she was six years old. When they fled, she and her cousin weren’t able to walk. My grandfather could not carry them both so he tucked them in saddle bags, each one in a corner for balance [of the donkey]. When they were to cross the River, it was very difficult for them.”[43]

Other parents, under these drastic circumstances, felt pressured to leave their children behind:

“My eldest uncle, Farhan, had five children. When they had reached Wadi Shu’aib, Farhan shouted to his wife, who was carrying their 40-day-old son, Salih: ‘I have enough kids – leave this one behind. Let someone else take him!’ She was afraid, so she wrapped the child and left him near the bushes.”[44]

Torrential rains made the journey through al-Balqa’s mountainous terrain even more difficult. Crossing the flooded banks of the Jordan River also proved challenging:

“The English had made portable bridges out of rubber (cowshuk) to help the people cross over. [My uncle] and was hovering over people as they crossed and said: ‘Oh Fuhaysis, beware! If your foot slips you shall surely perish.’”[45]

In this climate of anxiety, survival was not perceived as guaranteed, especially for children, the most vulnerable of those who fled:

 “I recall my grandmother […] who fled when she was eight years old. She was carrying her sister, a forty day-old infant. […] When they reached the Jordan River, all of them said: ‘Throw her! Throw her in the River. Do you really believe she’ll survive to reach Jerusalem?’ But she insisted – ‘I won’t throw my sister’ – and kept carrying her, walking barefoot, until they reached Jerusalem.”[46]

Besides the very elderly and the handicapped, the entire Christian population of al-Salt fled in 1918. Over two-hundred Muslims fled as well. It is estimated that over 6,000 civilians fled. Those who journeyed with the British army to Jericho were later resettled in Jerusalem.

Salti elders speak more prominently of “British protection” of Christians during the Transjordan campaign.[47] In this, it is suggested that Christians residing in al-Salt witnessed the army retreat through the town on 31 March, witnessing the drastically-altered military balance.[48] Elders of  al-Fuhays, a town separated from al-Salt by six kilometres, do not mention witnessing the British army retreat. Rather, they overwhelmingly convey that Muslims from al-Salt came to bring warning to their ancestors of the impending danger:

“Salti Muslims were the ones to warn the Christians that the Turks were returning – “flee!”. They sent one running in the middle of the night saying: ‘Flee, because they will come to kill you all.’” [49]

Elders identify the eminent Muhammad al-Hussein al-‘Awamlih (b. 1880-1941),  shaykh of the ‘Awamlih pact, as the first to give the warning.[50] Another source suggests that a leading tribesman of the ‘Adwan, encamped near the battlegrounds in Amman, witnessed the changing military dynamic and came to warn the Christians of al-Fuhays.[51]

The ‘Adwan and ‘Awamlih tribes had developed alliances with the clans of al-Fuhays in the centuries preceding direct Ottoman administration over Transjordan (c. 1867). Of these accords, the one with the ‘Adwan tribe is the oldest, dating to the mid-seventeenth century. The khuwa ila-al-abad (‘eternal alliance’) between the two communities was a result of a joint effort to overthrow Amir Al-Mahdawi, a local leader who was perceived as an oppressor and a transgressor of social norms. The ‘Mahdawi Affair’ ushered in ‘Adwan-hegemony over the Balqa’ which lasted until the 1860s.[52] The accord with the ‘Awamlih pact dates to the eighteenth century. Fierce raiding by desert Bedouins had reduced settlement in al-Balqa’ to the town of al-Salt.[53] The clans of al-Fuhays sought refuge in the ‘Awamlih quarter of al-Salt, providing valiant horsemen to its neighbourhood pact. Even upon the resettling of al-Fuhays in 1870, ‘Awamlih pact solidarity still united the two communities.[54] It was, as well, an interreligious solidarity. An elder from al-Fuhays commented, “I don’t say ‘Muslims’ and ‘Christians’, because the ‘Awamlih were Salti Muslims and Fuhaysi Christians—they were one tribe.[55]

These longstanding Muslim tribal allies sought to protect the families of al-Fuhays from violent retribution by the Ottoman Fourth Army. While revealing the steadfastness of tribal allies, these warnings further indicate that Muslims took personal responsibility for ensuring the security of the region’s Christians. The tribesmen’s warnings of the changing military situation were the first signal of the imminent threat of Ottoman vengeance, which would soon ensue.

The Memoir of Khalil Samawi describes the journey of a young man who hastily ran from al-Fuhays to al-Salt at dawn break and encountered an evacuated town. Yet, finding a British commander still in the city who told him his people should also flee, he ran back in haste and notified his community.[56] Sources further recall that the flight of villagers from al-Fuhays happened late-morning Easter Monday, what would appear a half-day later than the night-time flight of Salti families.[57]

Oral history narratives corroborate military diaries which record that 278 Salti Muslims also retreated with the British army.[58] Oral histories suggest that these were largely members of the ‘Awamlih pact, who took part in the looting of government buildings and attacked a military post and a Chechen settlement together with Christians. Christian elders recall that they fled “with them,” evoking the sense of unity that is believed to have characterised the relationship of their ancestors to the larger ‘Awamlih neighbourhood pact.[59]

Similarly, several narratives attest to the trust that the villagers of al-Fuhays had in the Muslim families of the neighbouring village of Mahis. It contained a shrine to al-Khadir (St George), which the Christians of al-Fuhays frequented for devotion. They developed amiable relations with the Muslims of Mahis who also used the shrine for worship.[60] En route to Jerusalem, dozens of Christians first passed by the homes of neighbours in Mahis and deposited valuable belongings there for safekeeping.[61]

Moreover, narratives suggest the Christians of al-Salt actively resisted the attempts of ‘foreigners’ to cast the flight in sectarian terms. A narrative relates that a missionary Catholic priest who served in al-Salt was preaching along the route of flight to console the wearied villagers. When the speech shifted to deriding the Turks and local Muslims, he was aggressively interrupted: “It’s not your time, Father! Shut up, shut up!”[62] Muslim tribal allies were active in mitigating danger to the region’s Christians. Al-Balqa’ during the war was not a “coexistent paradise,” but tribal alliances, neighbourly relations, and friendships were to prove durable and resilient during this turbulent period.

‘The Year of Exile’ 

“All along the way we passed the poor unfortunate refugees, trecking [sic], walking, dragging themselves along. Men, boys, girls, old men, babies, all sorts and ages. Poor beggars. Some got a lift in limbers. I took one or two of the kiddies on my saddle … Howard had one and many of the boys had kiddies on their camels.”[63]

Scholarship on the flight of al-Salt’s Christians communicates the notion of “retreat” with the British army to Palestine, portraying the Saltis as refugees and recipients of Allied humanitarian aid. Numerous elders recall that their ancestors resided in the hospices of the Russian Compound after their arrival to Jerusalem, where they were attended to by Allied humanitarian organizations.[64] While there is no doubt as to the prominence of British humanitarian care, oral histories allude to several alternative locations of refuge during the eight-month-long sojourn in Palestine.

Refuge was also provided by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, to which the majority of the Christians belonged. Elders of the Smairat clan recall that their forefathers visited the Patriarchate in early April 1918 seeking support. Families were settled in Jerusalem monasteries and were given food and clothing.[65] Refuge was also provided by the families of Jerusalem, who took-in several Salti women and children.

There were, in 1918, several men from al-Salt who were employed in Jerusalem and other parts of Palestine. These, too, took in family members.[66] In this poem, the young Salīm al-Smaīrat (b. 1880) welcomes the za’īm of his clan, Ya’qūb, enchanting him in a gesture of hospitality:

Delight has abounded on this day of your arrival.
Welcome to him, who the whole city enchants.
Welcome to him who departed from the pursuers.
A crisis brought upon your arrival,

But for us it is a reason for gladness.
Behold the house which normally receives wayfarers (Ibn al-Sabil)-
Never has the host closed its doors to a guest – a guest faring in distress.
Reside here delightfully, with the grace that your presence brings.
You, the most eminent shall surely, after sojourning, return
.[67]

It is also recalled that families sought refuge among Palestinian clans with whom they shared distant ancestry. Palestinian villages – al-‘Izariyeh, Bait Sahoūr, Bīrzeīt, and ‘Ayn ‘Arīq – received hundreds of Salti Christians.[68] Among those who sheltered Christians in Palestine were Muslim families. Members of al-Salt’s wealthy Christian merchant families were generously received in the homes of Muslim merchants of the ‘Eriqāt family in Abū Dīs.[69] The memory of receiving the hospitality of Palestinian families in 1918 played a role in solidifying ties with the families of al-Salt in later decades. One elder remarked: “We came to them as refugees in 1918—and we received them as refugees in 1948,”[70] suggesting that memories of the flight to Palestine may have indeed encouraged the families of al-Salt to respond to Palestinians fleeing the Nakba with open arms. A young man whose family settled in al-Fuhays after fleeing Palestine in 1948 conveyed that the Exodus of 1918 signifies to him a critical linkage of his family history—both past and present.[71]

Numerous Christians in al-Salt, however, were unable to make the journey to safety in British-occupied Palestine. Nonetheless, several found refuge in the Balqa’ region, in the homes of their Muslim neighbours and traditional allies. Salim Samawi, brother of the aforementioned memoirist, sought refuge in the encampments of the neighbouring (Muslim) Ziud tribe, as his mother was an elderly woman who could not make the journey to Palestine—and they were received warmly.[72] The Christian villagers of al-Rumaymin also sensed danger to their town in April 1918 and fled, but not to Jerusalem. Nearly half sought refuge in the encampments of the ‘Abbad tribe, and another half were sheltered by the ‘Adwan tribe.[73] Even the Muslim tribes surrounding Madaba, who once had antagonistic relations with Christians who settled the town in the 1880s, received several Christian and Muslim families from al-Salt in this hour of need. The poems of Zidan al-Suways speak with fondness of the bonds between the Muslim and Christian families that fled to Madaba in 1918.[74]

These instances nuance the notion of retreat with the British army. Though Allied assistance played a significant role in ministering to Christian Salti refugees, refuge was also a matter of kinship and tribal alliances. Christians received the hospitality of neighbouring Muslims, even after working to undermine Ottoman “Muslim” authority in the region.     

The endurance of interreligious solidarity is apparent in the responses of Muslim tribesmen to the absence of the Christians from the region. Some provided refuge to Christians seeking shelter, and others poetically lamented their absence. Narratives recall that, from time to time, the families of al-Salt would send out young men to secretly inspect their lands across the Jordan.[75] One “inspector” encountered Sulaiman al-Kayid of al-Salt, an eminent shaykh of the ‘Awamlih clan, who, in grief, recited this poem, dated to the summer of 1918:

Oh Spring of the ‘Alali, what has befallen you?
Your appearance has changed and your beauty has faded.
Your ruins are so many, why is this your state?
You were once flowing in jubilation.
By God, tell me what has befallen you?
Truth was the clear fire that lighted your lantern.

It answered me, saying:

‘My bosom friends have left me as exiles.
The times have changed on them.
They have left me and departed.
I have become after them a city of ghosts.
Wonders have I seen, and in perplexity am I.
Tears gush forth upon my cheek.

I clap the palms of my hands:[76]
Where are my protectors?
My defenders have left me,
And in my fear I scream:
Where are the Samawiyyah?
Bring unto me men of their liking.
Sulaiman and Issa, and ‘Awais al-Juhjahi;
Tu’aimah, abu-Sulaiman,
The valiant horseman.
So many times have their spears fought for me.

Oh God the worshipped, I implore you:
Oh God, unite them here to me, that in them I may rejoice’.[77],

In the context of Transjordan’s tribal culture, a water spring was understood as a metonym for the community that retrieved water from it. For centuries, ’Ayn al-‘Alali was the most prominent water spring that flowed in al-Fuhays. Metaphorically (and perhaps, literally), approaching the water spring to recount these mournful verses, Suleiman al-Kayed speaks unto the exiled community of al-Fuhays, lamenting both their absence and the pillaging against their town. In a personified reply, the water spring laments the loss of her protectors, the valiant men of al-Fuhays, specifically those of the Samawiyya clan, and implores God to return them. The qasida reveals an intimate and authentic solidarity shown to the exiled Christians of al-Fuhays by a member of their neighbourhood pact who longed for their return and restoration.

The return to al-Salt

 “When the Saltese had returned to their homes they found that the Turks and Germans had not only looted all their possessions, they had even taken away all the wood used in the houses, including the roofs, door-posts and window fittings. The town was in a desperate condition, thronged with idle men. The fields were laying fallow, but there were no ploughs or tools and the blacksmiths had no metal to make new ones.”[78]

On 21 September 1918, General Allenby led a third and final raid into al-Balqa’, and four days later Amman was firmly in Allied hands. The Ottoman Army retreated through Syria and Anatolia.[79] The exiled families of al-Salt returned to a distressing scene. Yet narratives affirm the stewardship of Muslim neighbours and the enduring forms of community that linked them to the tribes of al-Salt.

Narratives recall returning to vandalized and pillaged towns, the violent deaths of elders who were not able to flee, and the destruction of a local church. The homes of Christians were found to be looted of furniture, linens, planting and harvesting tools, kitchen items, foodstuffs, and jewellery.[80] Granaries and mills were vandalized. The families of al-Fuhays similarly returned to find physical destruction; narratives further recall the deaths of as many as fourteen elderly men and women who were unable to seek refuge outside of the town. They were found with desecrated corpses. The killings are remembered as the ‘Massacre of al-Fuhays,’ and some regard those who died as ‘martyrs.’[81] Several elders discussed the pillaging enacted upon the church of St George in al-Fuhays. A letter published by the Orthodox Benevolent Society of Madaba (1919) attests to the destruction, describing the looting of its icons, liturgical vessels, and furniture, burning of the internal sanctuary, and the wrecking of the external cross adorning the roof of the church. The letter laments the condition of al-Fuhays, al-balad al-mankuba (“the town befallen by catastrophe”). [82] Of all the scenes, the destruction of the church’s cross provides the greatest indication of anti-Christian intent in the pillaging. Though it has since been restored, an elder remarked that he wishes it was left in its damaged state, so that the community would not forget the “persecution” they endured.[83]

Beatrice Erskine explicitly inculpates the enemy Turks and Germans for this destruction, yet oral histories speculate as to who was responsible. While a majority suggest the Ottoman Fourth Army and the militiamen as culprits, others hint at desert Bedouins sharing a part.[84] Germans, fellow Christians, were not perceived as those who would have destroyed Christian property and lives. The pillaging and destruction were likely enacted by a combination of Ottoman soldiers, militiamen, and desert Bedouins – and at different times between April-September 1918.

Narratives assert, however, that tribal allies did not participate in the pillaging of Christian homes. In contrast, they acknowledge the role of Muslim neighbours who stewarded over the belongings of Christians. It was previously mentioned that several Christian families, who departed al-Fuhays in April 1918, deposited some of their belongings in homes of their trusted neighbours in Mahis. Narratives suggest, further, that after flight, men from Mahis took initiative to protect additional Christian property:

“As England was defeating Turkey, the ‘Urbān [desert nomads] raided al-Fuhays – even taking the doors of al-Fuhays – and stealing them. But Ahl-Mahis (the clans of Mahis) were protectors for the Fuhaysiya. They picked up the valuable belongings of the Fuhaysis and preserved them until they returned.”[85]

An elder from Mahis describes, “After the Fuhaysis had departed, we went to some homes to collect what had remained so that the Turks wouldn’t steal them.”[86] In his ethnography, Shryock discusses a similar narrative relayed by ‘Abbad tribesmen, who allegedly stewarded over the Bisharat estate in al-Salt against threatened raids by desert Bedouins.[87] That such instances are related by both Muslim and Christian elders lends credibility to the notion that some Muslim tribal allies and neighbours actively worked to mitigate the extent of plunder for Christian families.

Following months of war, the region was in a desperate state. The Damascus-based al-‘Asimah (the official newspaper of the Faysali Hashemite State) issued a column in early 1919 which discusses the relief and rebuilding efforts of the American Red Cross and the British government in al-Salt. These activities included distributing wood for rebuilding homes and shops, seeds for replanting fields, and livestock for reconstituting herds. The column also suggests that the Faysali government partnered in rebuilding al-Salt (though the scope of such aid was probably limited).[88] Within years, homes and shops were rebuilt, fields were again cultivated, and herds of livestock grew to their pre-war extent. Attempts were also underway to reconstruct the Orthodox church in al-Fuhays. The aforementioned appeal by the Madaba Society sought to solicit donations for rebuilding from “fellow Syrians in the homeland” and those working “abroad in the Americas.”[89] Exile, though traumatic, connected previously isolated villagers to urban communities across Palestine and, among them, migrants who journeyed abroad seeking better economic fortunes. The refugees’ time in Jerusalem is also credited with enhancing the cultural development of the town, exposing them to modern technologies and improved education. Some women are remembered as returning from Jerusalem “wearing berets.”[90] Further, this appeal is one indication of changing political identifications within al-Balqa’. The appeal is to “fellow Syrians,” al-Fuhays is described as among the Palestinian cities of Syria, and it references the “Arab fatherland.”[91]

The withdrawal of the Ottoman army signalled the dawn of a new era. Ottoman political administration and presence, which began in earnest only seven decades earlier, had been ousted by the British and Faysal’s forces. In the immediate aftermath of the Great War, that which would replace the Ottomans was uncertain. Transjordan entered an interregnum period of administration by regional governments.[92]

In this era of political uncertainty, the remarkable constancy of tribal alliances within al-Salt is evident. The following qasida composed by Jiries Sulaiman Samawi, a Christian of al-Fuhays, in mid-1919 replies explicitly to the earlier lamentation of Sulaiman al-Kayid al-‘Awamlih of al-Salt:

Tell Abu ‘Arif his word reached us.
Long live the message and he who sent it.

The Spring of the ‘Alali is today exceedingly radiant,
Like a young girl jubilant with blush.
This is our land, though we endured harshness for its sake.
We are for it defenders, in groups and in a multitude of fighters.
Victory from the hand of God unto men is given.

On this day al-Samawi[93] came back to fulfil her desire.
He is like an Arabian horse in battle.
His fathers before him, likewise, were victorious.
Shakir also, the generous host, returned with his men.

It [the water spring] rejoiced and shouted:
‘Welcome to all those who had departed!
Oh, how I longed for the ‘Sons of the Horse’[94],
Each of them brings solace to my soul.”

The shaykhs recall our actions,
Of the giving of bountiful feasts,
Of brave men who thwart the enemies’ plot.

The eminent of al-Salt declare:
‘Al-Fuhays is the jewel of our land and its splendour!’[95]

The poem speaks of an unwavering connection to the land and its defence. The author asserts ownership of the town: “This is our land, though we endured harshness for its sake.” He further exclaims joint-responsibility for defence of the clans of al-Fuhays and the ‘Awamlih of al-Salt when he says, “We are for it defenders, in groups and in a multitude of fighters.” Divine providence is acknowledged in returning Ahl al-Fuhays. The poem can further be considered a madh (panegyric) with its verses that unabashedly praise the nobility and valour of the author’s tribe. Other verses convey the acknowledgement of al-Fuhays’ nobility and generosity by the leading tribes of al-Salt and exclaim the eminent role of the town within the lands of al-Balqa’. One can also note the frequent allusions to unity of the tribes. Put together, it speaks of a tried and true friendship — of the sons of al-Fuhays and the ‘Awamlih tribe, an alliance enduring for nearly three hundred years.

Today, we may read this piece as an accolade of a Christian tribesman, extolling his Christian clan and asserting their rank among the Muslim clans of al-Salt. Yet, what is perhaps most remarkable about this piece is the absence of religious markers. In this post-War era, the Arab inhabitants of al-Salt continued to be identified through their tribal and village affiliation, and historical epithets for their communities (i.e. the ‘Sons of the Horse’). A land assumed to have been marred by sectarian divisions markedly lacked sectarian identifiers. The Christians of al-Salt, decades after the first missionaries entered the villages east of the Jordan, remained integral members of tribal alliances, which were cross-confessional and remarkably dependable.

Conclusion

Studies of society in Ottoman Transjordan have drawn attention to the shift in interreligious relations that occurred in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. During the centuries in which it was an unincorporated frontier, Transjordan was observed to be home to a culture of religious tolerance, marked by the absence of restrictions on Christians commonly observed in Syrian cities, the close intermingling of Muslims and Christians in public spaces, and joint-veneration of local saints at shared shrines.[96] It was also an era in which tribal alliances formed between different segments of the population, including members of the differing religious communities.  In the second-half of the nineteenth century, following the establishment of Ottoman administration and application of Tanzimat reforms for local representation, and the introduction of missionaries, which bestowed new Great Power protections on Christians, scholars recognize an improvement of social status of the region’s Christians vis-à-vis its Muslim tribes. During the 1870’s-80’s, as recorded in missionary histories, several instances of interconfessional strife arose, which at times threatened to erupt into violence. Missionaries, overall, are recognized as having transformed Transjordan into a land of sectarian discord.[97]

Yet, these oral and poetic sources suggest that interreligious solidarities endured well into the Ottoman period, surviving even the distress of the Great War. The Christians of al-Salt, suspected of their Allied-sympathies, endured the harshness of a wartime fifth column. Yet they found protectors, stewards, and intimate friends in their traditional Salti and Balgawi allies. These pacts and tribal accords, originating in an era of disconnect from the Ottoman state, outlived the entrance of Ottoman administrators and European missionaries alike. The culture of religious toleration found in Transjordan appears to be a factor of such formidable tribal bonds between the region’s Muslims and Christians. Where these tribal accords endured, religious toleration likewise survived. These tribal alliances apparently survived even into  the Mandate period. The Christian clans of al-Salt were among those who participated in the 1923 ‘Adwan Revolt, which challenged the authority of the newly-enthroned Amir Abdullah over Transjordan.

Epilogue: The Centennial Anniversary and the Politics of Commemoration

 On 2 April 2018, a solemn procession was held to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the 1918 Exodus of the families of al-Salt. It was attended by over four dozen notables from al-Salt, al-Fuhays, and Mahis. The procession recalled the path of flight taken by panicked villagers in 1918. It began at Rus al-Bayadir, the traditional city centre of al-Fuhays, passed through the gates of the city’s oldest church, St George’s, and ended at the town’s highest hill  overlooking al-Salt and Wadi Shu’aib, the valley crossed a century ago by British soldiers and Salti Christians en route to Jerusalem.

At the commemoration, the Mayor of al-Fuhays, Jamal Hattar, gave a speech where he spoke of the oppression his town endured under Ottoman rule and the ‘heroic assistance’ of the people of al-Salt and al-Fuhays to the ‘cause of the Great Arab Revolt.’[98] A communal and wartime tragedy has, in the course of time, taken on nationalistic meanings. Such framings often overlook the historical reality of the flight of Christians who, after welcoming an invading British force and sabotaging local Ottoman defence, saw no choice but to flee to avoid vengeance, the vast majority retreating with the British army to Palestine.

The town’s young scout troops led the procession with sorrowful bagpipe tunes and drum beats. Upon reaching the town’s highest hill, some recited poetry in passionate exclamations of the bravery of their ancestors. The scouts, who I interviewed in July 2018, conveyed an ardent desire to commemorate the Exodus annually. The events of 1918 carry for these youths a range of meanings, not least the sense of unity shared by the region’s Muslim and Christian families during the tragic events of 1918. One young girl reflected: “It means we are one. The sons and daughters of al-Salt and al-Fuhays were one in this tragedy and will be one forever.”[99]

The Exodus of 1918 is remembered by a majority of elders as a painful event, marking the climax of years of ‘Turkish oppression.’ Some regard the Exodus, and the pillaging which subsequently occurred, as a nakba (‘ultimate catastrophe’) in the history of al-Salt and its neighbouring villages.[100] Elders frequently expressed a desire to pass on the narratives they received of the flight to younger generations.

Yet, some criticize recent efforts to eulogize and publicly commemorate the Flight. The contrasting opinion of the current Mayor of al-Fuhays, who solemnly led the centennial procession, to that of its former mayor relays the controversial nature of commemoration:

“To celebrate something, it should engender a positive effect. What are the positive effects of ‘celebrating’ our Exodus? That we were weak and in peril? And that we sojourned in Palestine? We migrated out of weakness. […] We took refuge in ‘Protectors’ [Great Britain]. If it was up to me, I would not mention it at all.”[101]

Aversion to commemoration on the part of some is in no small part linked to contemporary security concerns. Elders have witnessed the growth of Islamic extremism in Jordan, and some of them fear for the future of Christians in the region. The oral histories and poems collected for this project convey not only scenes from the past, but also speak volumes on present-day relations between Muslims and Christians. In my view, many elders shared narratives that illustrated the vibrancy of historical interreligious bonds with nostalgia for these older and more tolerant forms of community. While Muslim-Christian solidarities certainly exist today, the forces that seek to disrupt these have increased drastically. Sharing these narratives of interreligious cohesion and solidarity from the not-too-distant past is a powerful tool for combatting extremism— and strengthening community —in contemporary Jordan.

Two days after completing this fieldwork, I was startled to hear of an attempted attack by Islamic State affiliates on the cities of al-Salt and al-Fuhays during an annual cultural festival. Tragedy was averted, though, because of a heroic defence by the security forces, who hailed from al-Salt’s traditional tribal families. Valiant gendarmes thwarted the terror plot as it was unfolding and were themselves the victims of extremism.[102] The security of Jordan’s Christians – both in 2018, from the threat of the Islamic State, and in 1918, from the vengeance of the Ottoman Fourth Army – owes much to the presence of these Muslim allies.

 

*Mathew Madain (Somerville College, Oxford) studied History, Near Eastern Studies, and Global Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, graduating with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 2019. In 2018, he received the Robert and Coleen Haas Scholarship to conduct fieldwork in Jordan. His research focuses on the social history of Late Ottoman communities in the Levant, broadly, with specific interest in intercommunal and interreligious relations. A recipient of the Qatar-Thatcher Scholarship, he currently reads for the MSc Modern Middle Eastern Studies and is supervised by Professor Eugene Rogan.


Notes:

[1] I wish to thank the Robert and Coleen Haas Scholarship Program, the Sultan Fellowship for Arab Studies, and the History Department at the University of California, Berkeley, for generously funding my research. I thank Professors Maria Mavroudi, Benjamin Porter, Christine Philliou, John Hayes, Haitham Salah, and Daniel Zoughbie for supervising my work, and two anonymous editors for their invaluable feedback. This article is written with immense gratitude to the elders and academics of Jordan who shared their stories, time, and wisdom.

[2] ‘Ottoman Transjordan’ is used throughout this paper to represent the districts of al-Salt, Jabal ‘Ajlun, Karak, and Ma’an which later became part of the Emirate of Transjordan in 1923.

[3] Al-Salt is a city located in central Jordan, 25 kilometres west of Amman.

[4] Andrew Shryock, Nationalism and the Genealogical Imagination (Los Angeles and Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 23.

[5] Shryock, Nationalism, 65.

[6] Eugene Rogan, Frontiers of the State in the Late Ottoman Empire: Transjordan, 1850-1923 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 219.

[7] Salim Tamari, Year of the Locust: A Soldier’s Diary and the Erasure of Palestine’s Ottoman Past (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2011).

[8] M. Talha Çiçek, War and State Formation in Syria: Cemal Pasha’s governorate during World War I, 1914-17 (London and New York: Routledge, 2014). View also: M. Talha Çiçek ed. Syria in World War I: Politics, Economy, and Society (Routledge, 2016).

[9] Leila Fawaz, A Land of Aching Hearts: The Middle East in the Great War (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2014).

[10] Melanie Tanelian, The Charity of War: Famine, Humanitarian Aid, and World War I in the Middle East (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2018). View also: Keith Watenpaugh, Bread from Stones: The Middle East and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism (Oakland: University of California Press, 2015), for a detailed account of Western intervention to the humanitarian crises of the War.

[11] Najwa al-Qattan, “Safarbarlik: Ottoman Syria and the Great War”, in T. Philipp and C. Schumann eds., From the Syrian Land to the States of Syria and Lebanon (Beirut: Orient-Institut, 2004), 163-69.

[12] Robert B. Betts, Christians in the Arab East: A Political Study (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1978).

[13] Eugene Rogan, Frontiers, 220-24.

[14] Ibid., 219, 222-24.

[15] Ibid., 232-234.

[16] Ibid., 228-236.

[17] Rogan, Frontiers, 236; View also: Matthew Hughes, Allenby and British Strategy (London and Portland: Frank Cass, 2002), 81-82.

[18] Calcutt Papers (Monday, 1 April 1918), In Rogan, Frontiers, 236-37.

[19] Beatrice Erskine, Transjordan (London: Ernst Benn Ltd., 1924), 35.

[20] Interview with Sakhir Smairat (Retired Lt. General and elder from al-Fuhays), Al-Fuhays, 25 June 2018.

[21] View: John Lewis Burchardt, Travels in Syria and the Holy Land, (London: John Murray, 1822; Reprint 1983), 349; and Eugene Rogan, “Bringing the State Back: The Limits of Ottoman Rule in Jordan, 1840-1910” in Village, Steppe and State: The Social Origins of Modern Jordan, eds. Eugene Rogan and Tariq Tell, (London: British Academic Press, 1994), 38.

[22] View: Rogan, Frontiers, 72-76; Eugene Rogan, “The Turkuman of al-Ruman: An Ottoman Settlement in South-Eastern Syria,” Arabic Historical Review for Ottoman Studies 1–2 (1990): 91–106; and Vladimir Hamed-Troyansky, “Circassian Refugees and the Making of Amman, 1878-1914.” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 49 (2017): 605-623.

[23] Interview with Salti Sayigh (Elder from al-Rumaymin), al-Rumaymin (Diwan al-Sayigh), 11 July 2018.

[24] Rogan, Frontiers, 227.

[25] Interviews with Salti Sayigh.

[26] View: Salim Tamari, Year of the Locust, 66.

[27] Interview with Adib ‘Adely (Elder from al-Fuhays), Al-Fuhays, 30 June 2018.

[28] Interview with Mun’im Suways (President of Fuhays Cultural Association), al-Fuhays, 17 June 2018.

[29] Interviews with Salti Sayigh; and Mamdouh Bisharat (‘Duke of Mukhaibeh’), Amman (Diwan al-Bisharat Museum), 12 July 2018.

[30] Interview with Sakhir Smairat.

[31] Interview with Dr Ra’ouf Abujaber (Historian of Late-Ottoman Transjordan, DPhil Oxon), Amman. 2 July 2018.

[32] Interviews with H. E. Jiries Samawi, (Former Minister of Culture, first interview), al-Fuhays, 13 June 2018; and Ra’id al-Nassir (Elder from al-Fuhays), Al Fuhays, 7 July 7 2018.

[33] Interviews with ‘Adib Adely; and Salti Sayigh.

[34] Interviews with Salti Sayigh; and Suhad ‘Akroush (Elder from al-Fuhays), Al-Fuhays. July 14, 2018.

[35] Interview with Hiyam Mada’in.

[36] Interview with Ra’id al-Nassir.

[37] Interview with Suhad ’Akroush.

[38] Hind Abu al-Sha’ar, ed. Mudhakirat Khalil Samawi, 1901-1935 (Amman: Jordan Press Foundation, 2011), 45-6.

[39] Interviews with Jiries Samawi (first), 13 June 2018; Ra’id Nassir; and Jamal Mada’in (Lt. General of Jordanian Army and former head of the Secret Intelligence Services), al-Fuhays, 7 July 2018.

[40] Interview with Mamduh Bisharat.

[41] Interview with Suhad ‘Akroush.

[42] Interview with Jiries Samawi (second), 7 July 2018.

[43] Interview with ‘Afaf Mada’in (City-council deputy), al-Fuhays, 30 June 2018.

[44]This story ends with a fortunate twist. The child was found by another fleeing relative who was brought safely to Jerusalem and reunited with his parents. Interview with Jiries Jraisat (Elder from al-Fuhays), Al-Fuhays, 9 July 2018.

[45] Interview with Jiries Samawi (second), 7 July 2018.

[46] Interviews with Jamil Mada’in (Elder from al-Fuhays), al-Fuhays, 11 June 2018; and Hiyam Mada’in (Female elder from al-Fuhays), al-Fuhays, 25 June 2018.

[47] Interview with Barham Mu’asher (Author of works on Arab Christian history, elder from al-Salt), Amman. June 28, 2018.

[48] Interviews with Mamduh Bisharat; and ‘Alia Qawar (Daughter of former Deputy of al-Salt, and widow of former Lt. Gen.), al-Fuhays, 16 July 2018.

[49] Interview with Jamil Mada’in.

[50] Interview with Jiries Jraisat.

[51] Interview with Adib Adely.

[52] Interviews with Sakhir Smairat; Adib ‘Adely; and Jiries Jraisat. For an account of the tale as told by elders of the ‘Adwan tribe, view: Shryock, Nationalism, 203-4.

[53] John Lewis Burchardt, Travels in Syria and the Holy Land (London: John Murray, 1822; Reprint 1983), 349; and Eugene Rogan, “Bringing the State Back,” 38.

[54] Interview with Dr Majida Dayyat (Academic), Sakher Smairat (Retired Lt. General, Airforce, and elder from al-Fuhays), and Anton Dayyat (Former Mayor of al-Fuhays), Al-Fuhays, 26 June 2018.

[55] Interview with Jamil Mada’in.

[56] Abu al-Shar, Mudhakirat Khalil Samawi, 36-39.

[57] Interview with Jiries Samawi (second), 7 July 2018.

[58] View: Rogan, Frontiers, 236.

[59] Interviews with Suhad Akrush; Adib ‘Adely; and Jiries Jraisat.

[60] The presence of shared sacred sites are shown to promote interreligious concord. View: Elazar Barkan and Karen Barkey, Choreographies of Shared Sacred Sites, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), 50 ; and Jens Kreinath, “Virtual encounters with Hizir and other Muslim saints”, In Anthropology of the Contemporary Middle East and Central Eurasia, 2015, 2(1): 25-66.

[61] Interview with Mun’im Suways.

[62] Interview with Jiries Samawi (third), 11 July 2018.

[63] Diary of Lieutenant-Coloniel A.J. Mills of the Imperial Camel Corps. “Mills papers, 1DRL/501, part 2, diary 1, 1 April 1918” In Matthew Hughes, Allenby and British Strategy, 82.

[64] The Russian Compound (“Muscofiyya”), was built to house Russian pilgrims to Jerusalem. Following the Communist Revolution and the British occupation of Jerusalem in November 1917, it became a station for the British army. It included a mission, hospital, and hostels. Adar Arnon, “The Quarters of Jerusalem in the Ottoman Period.” Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 28, no.1, (1992): 30-31.

[65] Interviews with Jamil Mada’in; and Adib ‘Adely.

[66] Interviews with Sakhir Smairat; and Mary Hattar Suways (Female activist and elder from al-Fuhays), al-Fuhays, 29 June 2018.

[67] “Qasīdat Salīm al-‘Autalah Smairat”, preserved by Sakhir Smairat, and recited in interview with author, al-Fuhays, 25 June 2018.

[68] Interviews with Ra’id Nassir; and Barham Mu’asher.

[69] Interviews with Mamdouh Bisharat; and Alia Qawar. Not coincidentally, the ‘Eriqat belonged to the Huwaytat tribe, from which ‘Auda Abu Tayeh, and other early supporters of the Great Arab Revolt emerged. View: Yoav Alon, The Making of Jordan: Tribes, Colonialism and the Modern State (I.B. Tauris, 2007), 162.

[70] Interview with Jamil Mada’in.

[71] Interview with Tony Hanania (Leader of St George Scout Troops), al-Fuhays. 22 July 2018.

[72] Interview with Jiries Samawi (third), 11 July 2018. .

[73] Interview with Salti Sayigh.

[74] Mun’im Zidan Suways, Zidan S’aifan Suways: Hiyatuhu wa Sh’aruhu (Amman: Al-Safir Press, 2012).

[75] Interview with Mary Hattar Suways.

[76] Certain forms of clapping in Semitic cultures are gestures of mourning and anguish.

[77] The qasida of Sulaiman al-Kayed, “Qult ya ‘Ayn al-‘Alali Malik”, recounted by Jeries Samawi, who heard it from his grandfather in the 1980s, interview with author. Amman. August 5, 2018. A version of this poem was published in Diwan ‘Asha’ir al-Salt (Amman, 1982).

[78] Erskine, Transjordan: Some Impressions, 35.

[79] View: Hughes, Allenby and British Strategy, 71-112; and Eugene Rogan, The Fall of the Ottomans (New York: Basic Books, 2016), 355-406.

[80] Interviews with Jamil Mada’in; Adib ‘Adely; and ‘Alia Qawar.

[81] Interview with Mary Hattar. But outside of al-Fuhays, this is not so. The elderly folks mentioned here are not regarded as part of those “martyred” during the Great Arab Revolt. The “honour” of national martyrdom is largely reserved for Muslims.

[82] Orthodox Benevolent Society, Madaba Chapter. “Appeal to the eminent Syrians abroad.”, 1919.

[83] Interview with Jiries Samawi (third), 11 July 2018.

[84] Interview with Jamily Mada’in.

[85] Interview with ‘Adely, Adib.

[86] Interview with Hussayn Shiyyab (Elder from Mahis), Mahis, 3 August 2018.

[87] Shryock, Nationalism, 171-3.

[88] “Akhbar Dakhiliya” in Al-‘Asimah, 17 February, 1919.

[89] “Appeal to the eminent Syrians abroad,” 1919.

[90] Interview with Mary Hattar.

[91] “Appeal to the eminent Syrians abroad,” 1919.

[92] Rogan, Frontiers, 241-52. View also: James Gelvin, Divided Loyalties: Nationalism and Mass Politics in Syria at the Close of Empire (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).

[93] Here, the author of the poem is speaking of himself and his clan.

[94] ‘The Sons of the Horse’, the traditional epithet of al-Fuhays within al-Balqa’s tribal communities is here invoked, conveying valour and strength.

[95] “Qasidat Jiries al-Samawi li-Abu ‘Arif”, as related by his grandson, Jiries Samawi (Former Minister of Culture), in fourth interview with author,  Amman, 5 August 2018. A version of this poem was published in Diwan ‘Asha’ir al-Salt (Amman, 1982).

[96] View: Rogan, Frontiers, 37; and James Silk Buckingham, Travels among the Arab Tribes, (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1825), 51.

[97] View: Paolo Maggiolini, “Religious communities and tribal culture in Ottoman Transjordan: the Overlap of two different cultural horizons”, Chronos Revue d’Histoire de l’Université de Balamand 26 (2012): 44; and Paolo Maggiolini, “Transjordan During the Nineteenth Century: Reconsidering the Relation Between Arab Tribes and Christian Religious Communities,” Digest of Middle East Studies 20, no. 1, (2011); Geraldine Chatelard, Briser la mosaïque: Les tribus Chrétiennes de Madaba, Jordanie, XIXe-XXe siècle, (Paris: CNRS Édition, 2004); and Rogan, Frontiers, 159.

 

 

 

[98] Jamal Hattar, “Speech given on the Centennial Anniversary of the Exodus of the Families of al-Salt and al-Fuhays.” April 2, 2018; Interview with Jamal Hattar (Mayor of al-Fuhays), al-Fuhays, 16 July 2018.

[99] Interview with St George Church Scouts (Youth organization), all-Fuhays, 22 July 2018.

[100] Interview with Mary Hattar. In fact, connotation of the Exodus as a “Nakba” predates the term’s later, and more widely-known, association with the 1948 Palestinian Nakba.

[101] Interview with Huwayshal ‘Akroush (Former Mayor), al-Fuhays. 5 August 2018.

[102] Suleiman Khalidi, “Four security personnel, at least three militants, killed in Jordan shoot-out”, Reuters, August 12, 2018.

Rehearsing Revolution : How Live Action Role Playing Contributes to the Palestinian Resistance Movement

by Johanna Svanelind

Since its introduction to Palestine in 2011, LARP (Live Action Role-Playing) has been subverted and adapted by local groups in order to create authentic Palestinian forms of LARP. This article explores how LARP can be used as a tool of resistance, in ways similar to that of Augusto Boal’s Forum Theatre or ‘Izz al-Din al-Madani’s recreation of Istirad through the art of drama. Continue reading