Al mashriq - The Levant

A. J. Sherman

Mandate Days; British Lives in Palestine 1918-1948

Thames and Hudson, 1997
ISBN 0-500-25116-9

Oron (Orushkes) Collection, Central Zionist Archives (CZA), Jerusalem

Scots regimental band playing at opening of Scottish Church bazaar, Jerusalem, 1937.

From page 93:

Even a first-time visitor to Palestine, a newly-arrived officer previously posted in Nigeria, felt the atmosphere of fear, hatred and increasing tension:

    You see here we were in a more or less temperate climate, lovely stone villas perched in the olive groves, with the religious buildings all round of the various faiths... and over all there was a sort of atmosphere of sanctity and veneration which was extraordinarily satisfying. But the next thing that I found was with all this apparent charm, underneath there was a terrible bitterness.... the Arab that I met bore little relation to what I'd expected to find. He didn't sit on a camel eating dates with flowing robes or anything like that at all. He seemed to be a rather carefully dressed Frenchman living in a prim little villa and with impeccable manners but with absolute feelings of desperation about what the future held for him if more and more Jews were going to come into the country.

From the dust jacket:

The strife-torn three decades of British rule over Palestine, known as the Mandate, remain one of the great dramas in British imperial history, passionately controversial even now, almost fifty years after the last British High Commissioner left Jerusalem. British policies, promises, the mere presence of Britain in the Holy Land, are all still argued, deplored, or - less frequently - admired. The thousands of British citizens who actually lived and worked in Palestine have, however, been overlooked; whatever their roles, most experienced the Mandate as an extraordinary, often transforming adventure.

Here for the first time is their often poignant story, written largely in their own words, with honesty, humour and occasional bitterness, against a background of tragic and violent events. Their letters home, diaries, and memoirs vividly describe cultural affinities and misunderstandings, feelings for Arabs or Jews, accomplishments and mishaps, and reveal a strong sense of imperial mission coupled with a rueful awareness of human limitations. A notable chapter in British colonial history is brought to life in this powerful account of individual human lives in an unquiet land.

A.J. Sherman, born in Jerusalem under the Mandate, lives in Vermont, USA, where he teaches History at Middlebury College. He is also an Associate Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford, where he was for some years Research Fellow.