Jerusalem, December 1917. The atmosphere was electric as General Allenby dismounted his horse in humility, removed his hat in reverence, and entered the walls of the Old City through the Jaffa Gate, which hadn’t been in use for many years. 973 years of Muslim rule were over. Iconic footage shows Jewish people welcoming him as if he was some kind of messiah, and the Land was never the same again. As time went on, Britain’s involvement would not always be so positive, but the story of how this particular moment came about is one of breathtaking wonder.
The time had come
After other Muslim conquests had come and gone, the Turkish Ottomans conquered and ruled over Jerusalem and what was then Palestine for 400 years. In the Bible, 400 years seems to be a bit of a byword for slavery and oppression – 400 years of Canaanite sin stored up for wrath, 400 years of slavery in Egypt… and here we have 400 years of Ottoman rule. The building of churches and synagogues was outlawed, church bells were forbidden, non-Muslims (dhimmis) did not have equal rights for the vast majority of that time and had to pay the additional ‘jizya’ tax. But most catastrophically of all, in 1915 the call had gone out to get rid of every Christian in the Empire. The Armenian Genocide included not only Armenians but also Catholics and Greek Orthodox Christians. One and a half million were murdered, and many more suffered horrifically before making their escape. Perhaps God had decided that enough was enough.
The moment foretold and the strategy given in Isaiah 31
As the Turks were allied with Germany in the First World War, the British found themselves fighting against the fading Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. General Allenby was charged with liberating Jerusalem and had expressed concern to his superiors about the magnitude and sensitivity of the task before him. He had been ordered to take the city without firing on the people or the city . How on earth was it to be done? “Pray”, the answer came from above, which perhaps did not seem to be very helpful at the time. But Allenby did pray.
He came across the work of Bible scholar, Dr H. Aldersmith, who had been studying the prophecies regarding Israel. Aldersmith explained in his book from 1898, The Fullness of the Nations, that he believed Jerusalem would be delivered by Great Britain in 1917 . He had become convinced from Isaiah 31:4-5 that the UK would have a part to play in the restoration of Jerusalem, and that it would be accomplished by some kind of flying machine . Aldersmith had arrived at this idea even before the Wright brothers took their first flight in 1903 – air planes had not even been invented, but of course that is precisely what ended up happening. Fourteen years later in 1917 airplanes were used but not commonly, and most people had never seen one. This man’s conviction about Isaiah 31 was Allenby’s inspiration. He would fly planes over Jerusalem, and drop notes written in Arabic saying, “Surrender the city! Allenby”.
There was an Arab saying that, “The Turks will not leave Jerusalem until the river Nile flows in Palestine and the prophet expels them from the city”.
Remarkably enough, events conspired to bring these two highly unlikely things to pass.
British troops were stationed in Egypt in the years leading up to these events, and Lieutenant General Sir Archibald Murray gained authorisation to build a pipeline to pump fresh Nile water and a railway to supply their troops. By 1917, the water had arrived, along with the troops, in Palestine. The River Nile was, bizarrely, flowing in Palestine.
Secondly Allenby’s airdropped note when written in Arabic looks like: “Surrender the city! Al Nabi”, which means “The Prophet”. Many of the Turks left at that time, after the mysterious flying objects sent messages from “Al Nabi”. From the evening of December 8, 1917 and all through the night, Turkish troops were leaving Jerusalem. By early the following morning all had gone, and the Mayor of Jerusalem with a small party came under a white flag to surrender the keys of the city. That white flag along with the keys are on display in the Tower of David Museum today. The formal surrender was accepted by General O’Shea, on behalf of the Commander-in-Chief, who himself took the official ceremonial surrender two days later. Jerusalem was delivered and not a shot was fired. Rather remarkably, the motto on the airplanes used in Allenby’s operation to deliver Jerusalem was a quote from the Quran which said, “I spread my wings and keep my promise”.
General Allenby officially accepted the surrender at David’s Tower by the Jaffa Gate, and a proclamation was read in seven languages, telling the people they could go quietly and undisturbed about their ordinary business, and all their holy places would be respected.
Pay careful attention to this date…
So the evening of December 8th through to the day of December 9th was a critical and historical time. In the Jewish calendar, from sunset December 8th through to sunset December 9th that year fell on the 24th of the Jewish month of Kislev. What is so special about the 24th Kislev?
To find the answer, we need to go back many hundreds of years to the prophet Haggai. Kislev is the ninth month of the Jewish calendar, and if we read the second chapter of Haggai, a prophet who was ministering during the building of the second temple, we notice that he highlights that very date three times.
Haggai is receiving the word from the Lord on that date, 24th Kislev, and tells us to “consider” that date, or to pay careful attention to it in verse 10, 18 and again in verse 20.
The context of the chapter is mainly surrounding the issue of the temple, of holiness and defilement, and of blessing for his people. God reminds us of his power over all the nations, and his total sovereignty. He can shake the nations whenever he chooses. He promises blessing for the people of Israel and draws our attention quite pointedly to that particular date – the 24th Kislev. “But from this day on”, writes Haggai, “I will bless you”.
Some believe that the Feast of Dedication, Hanukkah, has its roots in this chapter, since surrounds the issue of rededicating the temple. Perhaps this date was significant to the Jewish people even before the Maccabees overthrew the Greeks and turfed out their idols from the temple in 167 BC? Either way, the idea of removing that which is against the God of Israel from his holy place resonates throughout the ages at this very time in the Jewish calendar.
Is it a coincidence that Allenby walked through that gate on 24th Kislev, at Hanukkah – the Feast of Dedication, signalling the end of Muslim rule over Jerusalem?
Moreover, even further back than Haggai, Daniel 12:12 also prophesied that there would be blessing for Jerusalem after “1335 days”. As one of the British officers was amazed to realise, the Islamic year in 1917 was 1335, since the Muslim calendar started in 622 [see note 2]. Keen observers of prophecy such as Dr H. Aldersmith had already put the pieces together, and were expecting redemption and blessing for Jerusalem in 1917. By December 8th the Islamic year had just changed to 1336. The 1335 years were up. “Blessed is he”, writes Daniel, “who waits and arrives at the 1,335 days”.
After 1335 years of Islam, the city of Jerusalem was delivered by the British using airplanes that “hovered like birds” on 24th Kislev, 1917. And remarkably, in the standard English Book of Prayer for that day, December 8, the reading just happened to be Isaiah 31.
 W. T. Massey, How Jerusalem Was Won? records General Allenby’s instructions to General Sir Philip Chetwode on November 26, 1917: “‘I place no restrictions upon you in respect of any operation which you may consider necessary against Lifta, or the enemy’s lines to the south of it, except that on no account is any risk to be run of bringing the City of Jerusalem or its immediate environs within the area of operations.”
 Based on Daniel 12:7,11 – Commencing with the rise of Islam (622 CE) and using the lunar year measure, the complete result was as follows: v.7: time, times and a half (i.e. 1260 days) = 1844 CE, v.11: 1290 days = 1873 CE, v.12: 1335 days = 1917 CE
 Lord Wavell’s book, ‘The Palestine Campaigns’ (London: Constable, 1928)
 Other accounts record “Allah Nabi” which means the prophet of God – I.B.Tauris, Palestine and Egypt Under the Ottomans: Paintings, Books, Photographs, Maps and Manuscripts Hisham Khatib 23 May 2003