The Jewish Legion

The episode of the Jewish Legion in World War I, operating within the framework of the British Army, is a milestone in the history of Zionism. For the first time, a military unit was created with Jewish soldiers - Jewish volunteer youth from the Diaspora (mainly from England, the USA and Canada) and the Land of Israel. They were all guided by a common goal: liberating the country from the Turkish rule and secure it for the Jewish people.

The movement started with the creation of the "Zion Mule Corps" in Alexandria, Egypt, which was initiated by Ze'ev Jabotinsky (later the head of the revisionist party and the first leader of the militant Zionist underground organization Etzel) and Yosef Trumpeldor (an iconic pioneer, died defending Tel Hai in 1920) and manned by volunteers who had been expelled from the Land of Israel by the Turks. The battalion took part in the war on the Gallipoli front in 1915 and was disbanded after the British evacuation from there.

In 1917, the British Government agreed to establish Jewish units which would fight on the Land of Israel front. The 38th Battalion Royal Fusiliers and 39th Battalion were created with volunteers from England, USA and Canada. Serving in them were David Ben-Gurion and Itzhak Ben Zvi (later the 2nd President of Israel). The battalions were trained in England and Egypt and managed to participate in the final attack of the British army against the Turks. The 40th Battalion was set up with volunteers from the small Jewish population in the Land of Israel and included E. Golomb and D. Hoz (later prominent leaders of the Hagana).

In 1919, the Legion soldiers who remained after the liberation were organized into one battalion which was given the name the "First Judeans". In 1921, they took an active part in the defence of Tel Aviv against Arab rioters, without any official authorization. The battalion was then disbanded. The Jewish Legion members, with and without uniform, took an active part in the defence of the Jewish population. They later served in key posts in the underground Jewish force, the Hagana which became the Israel Defence Forces after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

The stamp was issued in 1988. Designer: Z. Narkiss.