1920 British Mandate Laissez-Passer
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  • British Palestine laissez passer
  • 1920 British Mandate Laissez-Passer
  • British Palestine laissez passer
  • British Palestine laissez passer
  • 5

1920 British Mandate Laissez-Passer




From military authority to civilian administration.


1920 was the last year of the British Military Authority in Palestine. During the second half of that year, the governing system changed into a civilian run administration, and the short lived military issued travel documents were stopped being issued to the public.


Prior to the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, this was part of the British Empire, another colony; it was the Mandate, allocated to the United Kingdom after the end of World War One. The British took over the territory from the Ottoman Turks, who have been occupying it for nearly 400 years. The governing period in the Mandate can be divided into two: Military authority and civil administration, the first from 1918 to 1920 and the later from 1920 to 1948.


Following the entry of the British armed forces, between 1917-1918, into Palestine, the military ruled and administrated the territory, thus all forms, papers and documents relating to that time can be connected to the military authority in Occupied Enemy Territory Administration (OET refers to the division of former Ottoman territory into “occupied enemy territories” with the Middle East into 3 parts, with occupied enemy territory South referring to Palestine). The army that entered from Egypt from the west was named the EEF (Egyptian Expeditionary Forces), thus the following sampled document here was issued by them and bears the same heading as well.


The laissez-passer was issued to Mordechai Lipkin, a Jew, born in Jerusalem in 1900. During the Great War he was drafted into army construction work, and sent to aid the German Imperial forces in Aleppo, now days Syria. The document was issued to him in Jerusalem on July 15th 1920, and was intended to travel to the United States for studying purposes. He obtained the right visa from the US consulate in Jerusalem on August 6th, together issued with a “Declaration of Alien about to depart for the United States” form by acting vice-consul in charge Marc Smith. Other visas are for Spain, Italy, and France, and were issued to him from various consulates in Palestine.


The second document is a civilian type of travel document, issued by the British consulate in Czechoslovakia, the same year, at the city of Bratislava, on August 31st.


These consulate-types of Palestinian related travel documents, from the early 1920’s prior to the Nationalization act of 1925, are among the rarest that can be found. They are exceptionally attractive due to the special clause added inside relating to nationality: “…intends to opt for Palestinian Nationality as soon as a Nationality Law has been brought into force in that country”. A better understanding of the difference between the Mandate of Palestine and the modern State of Palestine can be understood from the links bellow.


These consulate issued travel documents were intended for the strict purposes of only immigrating to Palestine, and not be used afterwards. They are exceptionally rare if they have the short lived I&T applied consular stamps in them, issued by the Immigration & Travel office (I&T). Please see added sample as well. They were continued to be issued right to about 1925, when the Nationality Law took effect and proper British passports for Palestine where prepared to be printed in the UK (They were all printed in 1925 and the earliest examples began to be issued towards the end of 1926).


To summarize this short article, I can add that for the first 2 years in the Mandate various forms of official and private laissez-passers were issued in and outside of Palestine, and the first travel documents where put into use around 1921, large folding travel documents with brown leather covers. These type of regular and emergency laissez-passer were the only form of documents issued by the British authorities until the regular brown covered passports appeared. From 1926 to around 1930 2 types were printed and then the third and last types of brown-jacket passports were used until the end of the British rule on May of 1948.



Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.



Neil Kaplan
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