One-hundred years ago last week, Herbert Samuel—the Anglo-Jewish politician who had just been appointed high commissioner for Palestine—T.E. Lawrence (a/k/a Lawrence of Arabia), and Winston Churchill arrived in the Holy Land by train from Egypt. Churchill, himself recently made the secretary of state for the colonies, remained in Palestine for eight days. Lee Pollock describes the visit:
Churchill’s experiences during that visit served to solidify both his admiration for the Jewish people and his support of Zionism. He set himself up in Government House in Jerusalem, meeting with both Arab and Jewish delegations. A talented amateur painter, he also found time to create a beautiful landscape of sunset over the city, a work still owned by his descendants.
On March 27, he dedicated the new British Military Cemetery on the Mount of Olives and the following day met with Emir Abdullah, the newly designated king of Trans-Jordan, to assuage his anxiety about the pace of Jewish immigration into the area. While Abdullah was not wholly mollified, Churchill agreed that Jewish settlement east of the River Jordan would be proscribed.
Two days later, he planted a tree at the site on Mount Scopus of the future Hebrew University, telling the assembled dignitaries, “My heart is full of sympathy for Zionism. The establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine will be a blessing to the whole world.”
Before returning to Cairo the evening of March 30, Churchill visited the then-twelve-year-old Jewish town of Tel Aviv, meeting with its Mayor Meir Dizengoff, and the agricultural settlement in Rishon LeZion. On his return to London, he told the House of Commons: “Anyone who has seen the work of the Jewish colonies will be struck by the enormous productive results which they have achieved from the most inhospitable soil.”