Michal Ben Ya’akov


Starvation and Devastation: How Jewish Women Coped in War-time Palestine


The over-all population of Palestine suffered greatly during World War I, however those on the economic and social fringes of civilian society, especially women, bore the brunt of daily survival. This paper will examine the implications of World War I for Jewish women in the traditional, urban centers of Palestine, and focus on those women living alone: the widowed, divorced and those whose husbands who had been drafted into the Ottoman army or exiled from the country because of their foreign citizenship.

These women did not have the economic or social resources available to male leadership in the various cities, nor did they participate in the deliberations regarding communal decisions on the allocation of funds.  They did, however, constitute a majority of the Jewish population and it is these women who battled daily on the home front for daily survival. Through social networking and individual initiatives many women developed unique strategies for coping with the dire circumstances and emotional stress of the continued crisis.

Based on an extensive analysis of census reports, charity lists, newspaper reports and memoirs, the female experience of the devastation may add to our understanding of the war at a most individual and personal level