The Zionists at Gallipoli
As Turkey debates the implications of U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, columnist and historian Murat Bardakçı wrote for Habertürk about “the first Jewish army to be established in around 2,000 years” – a volunteer mule transport corps that served with the British Army at Gallipoli.
The unit was founded by Joseph Trumpeldor, a Zionist emigré from Russia who had offered to help fight the Ottomans in an attempt to carve out a Jewish homeland, Bardakçı said, but the British army refused to take non-nationals as fighters, so his men ended up behind the lines transporting goods to the front.
“In the unit, there were 735 Jews from different homelands across the world,” Bardakçı said.
“On the other side, the Turkish side, there were also Jewish Ottoman-citizen soldiers, even if few in number.”
Later, in August 1917, an official Jewish legion was formed in the British army, to be used to fight directly for control of Palestine.
Trumpeldor, who died in combat, is today remembered as a national hero in Israel, Bardakçı said.