Sunday, September 14, 2014

Horse Racing in Palestine

     With the start of their Mandate on Palestine, the British brought several kinds of sports such as rugby, cricket, polo, biking, tennis, horse racing and others. There is no evidence that the British authorities tried to impose any sport on the population, however, they imposed their mandate on Palestine which was a main supporter of the Zionist ambitions.


   In April 1923,  Filastin published news about a horse race which was to be held in Salamah [near Jaffa]on April 11th at 2 pm. The news included the six rounds: time, awards, fees and distances. The end of the news stated that "every one wishing to be a member in the racing committee has to send his membership (100 piaster) to the honor secretary. This membership will authorize him the right to freely enter the racing track. He has to carry a button (on the sleeve) of the racing committee. The rounds 2, 3, 4, 5, the racers will wear colored clothes; they will announce about it before entering. They also have to mention their weights and be ready at the exact time."[i]



In early 1920s, the British established the first horse racing club in Palestine called  Gymkhana. Police and Jandarma (soldiers) were its main members. In April 1928, its name was changed to Nadi al-Sibaq al-Yafi Jaffa Racing Club, it included Arab members who took part in its administration. Later, this club became known as Nadi al-Ittihad al-Yafi. [ii] At the same time, many competitions in horse sports were held at al-Bassa field and Circle Sportive Club field in Jaffa including horse high, long jump and horse racing. 



    In 1926, Nadi Tashji’ al-Riyada Club of Sports' Promoting was established in Acre. Immediately, it organized competitions in horses, bicycles, running, tug of war and jumping. As documents show that this club later became a center for bets on horse racing.  In late 1920’s and early 1930’s, few articles were published about ‘tragedies in gambling bets in horse racing’ by Asma Touba from Acre, and the Lebanese writer Mustafa al-Aris and Filastin’s editor. In August 1931, an article was published in Filastin that reflected the feelings of resentment from Nadi Tashjii al-Riyada:


We would thank this distinguish club if it had actually sought to promote sports, especially horse racing. However, apparently, from behind it, it  wants to make benefits from this business, and  fill its pockets. Who will fill its pockets dear reader? I think, it could pay attention and make considerations to the writings about the “Tragedies of Horse Racing” by canceling the betting and invited people only to its racings. This if the only purpose of this club was to promote sports. It is strange that it announced in its “eighth” race that the value of the prizes will be fifty Palestinian pound. How does this club could pay this 50 PP? Is it going to descend on him from the sky? Or he will pick it up from the ground? Or it will be thrown on him from the sea? [iii]


    In November 1931, Filastin published this news under the title (Nadi al-Sibaq al-Yaffi his sixteenth race in Sarafand), "it was attended by his honor high commissioner and Mr. Spicer and Mr. Quickly head of the investigation and criminal department. The race consisted of six rounds: the first and sixth for public, while the rest was for the Bedouins of Gaza, Beersheba and the south. Horsemen from Palestine and Syria and a number of officers and members of the police took part in the sixth round to win the prize of Palestine.” [iv]


  At the end of 1920’s, a club by the name Nadi al-Sabaq Club of Racing was established in Sarafand (a village 7 km north west of Ramla), but was dissolved in early 1930’s due to the loss of the owners' land. In November 1934, Nadi al-Sabaq al-Yafi near Salamah was established. Later, these two clubs were emerged under Nadi al-Sibaq al-Filastini at the urgency of the youth.  The racetrack became located in Nadi al-Sibaq al-Yaffi.[v] Later, in November 1935, this club formed a joint stock company with a capital of 2500 Palestinian Pound, divided into 2500 share, each share 1 PP.[vi]


In May 1943, Filastin published a news about a track for racing in Yazur [near Jaffa], "its board of directors was combined of members including one Arab. But the people responsible for this project decided to have two Arabs and two non-Arabs. The director is an Arab and the sponsor is a wealthy man who worked previously in horse racing in Greece and Romania. It was decided that the track will be opened in the end of June. The race will be held two times a week, and half of its employees will be from the Arabs. It will be allowed for every horse owner to participate according to the statutes of the track. It is worth mentioning, that the land on which the track will be constructed is close to the main street."

Analyzing Palestine Sports Federation’s (established in 1931 and re-established in 1944)documents, no information was found about horse racing. It is understood that the PSF did not include horse racing in its agenda, neither maintained any connection with horse racing dealers. However, Filastin and Difa continued published news about horse racing. Filastin mentioned that “it received an information from Ahmed Rashid al-Alami stating that due to the late arrangement of horse racing, it was decided to postpone it until next spring. Al-Alami is the initiator of the charity project (racing for the benefits of the inflicted of the incident of King David Hotel.”[vii]

[i] Filastin March 21, 1923
[ii]Filastin April 20, 1928
[iii]Filastin September 22, 1931. Asma Touba was a journalist and a broadcaster at Palestine Radio.
[iv] Filastin November 6, 1931
[v]Difa November 22, 1934
[vi]Difa July 6 1935
[vii] Filastin November 25, 1946.
The King David Hotel bombing was an attack carried out on Monday July 22, 1946 by the militant right-wing Zionist underground organization, the Irgun, on the British administrative headquarters for Palestine, which was housed in the southern wing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. 91 people of various nationalities were killed and 46 were injured.

1 comment: