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Emet m'Tsiyon

Sunday, June 26, 2005

CHATEAUBRIAND on the Oppression of Jews at Jerusalem

François-René de Chateaubriand is one of the great French writers of all time. He visited Jerusalem in 1806. His account of Jerusalem and of the Land of Israel [Terre Sainte, in his words, that is, the Holy Land] resembles Marx's report in more than one way. Among other things, both accounts belie the usual pro-Arab propaganda of today about how nicely the Arabs treated the Jews before Zionism came into the world. They also refute the even more insidious big lie which has been spread since the Six Day War which claims explicitly or implicitly that Jews were not found in Israel before the 1948 or before the British mandate or before Herzl.

Chateaubriand described the situation of the Jews in Jerusalem in 1806 as follows:

Special target of all contempt [i.e., of Christians too], they lower their heads without complaint; they suffer all insults without demanding justice; they let themselves be crushed by blows... Penetrate the dwellings of these people, you will find them in frightful poverty...
Nothing can prevent them from turning their gaze towards Zion. When one sees the Jews dispersed throughout the world,... one is probably surprised, but, to be struck by supernatural astonishment, it is necessary to find them in Jerusalem. It is necessary to see these legitimate owners of Judea, slaves and strangers in their own land. It is necessary to see them under all oppressions, awaiting a king who is to redeem them.
Objet particulier de tous les mépris, il baisse la tête sans se plaindre; il souffre toutes les avanies sans demander justice; il se laisse accabler de coups ... Pénétrez dans la demeure de ce peuple, vous le trouverez dans une affreuse misère...
... rien ne peut l'empêcher de tourner ses regards vers Sion. Quand on voit les Juifs dispersés sur la terre, selon la parole de Dieu, on est surpris, sans doute; mais, pour être frappé d'un étonnement surnaturel, il faut les retrouver a Jérusalem; il faut voir ces légitimes maîtres de la Judée esclaves et étrangers dans leur propre pays: il faut les voir attendant, sous toutes les oppressions, un roi qui doit les délivrer.

Chateaubriand was in Jerusalem in 1806 and published his book, Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem, a few years later. An English translation [not used here] was published in 1811.
In 1806, the Jews made up between a quarter and a fifth of the population. The Christians were somewhat more than a quarter and the Muslims were close to but less than half [according to figures compiled by Prof. Yehoshu`a ben Arieh, Jerusalem in the Nineteenth Century: The Old City]. Muslims were a numerical minority throughout the 19th century, and probably long before 1800. Yet they were the rulers until Allenby's conquest, lording it over the Jewish majority and the Christian population in the city.
Many Jews migrated to Jerusalem about 1839-1840 from Safed after the earthquake there. This reinforcement made Jews the largest single religio-ethnic group in the Holy City by 1840. According to Marx, to his contemporary, Gerardy Santine, and to 20th century historian Tudor Parfitt, Jews were a majority in Jerusalem in the 1850s. Jews have been a majority ever since and now enjoy a more dignified status than in the 19th century, although several Arab, local and international factors would like to reverse the clock -- or throw out the Jews altogether.
According to Marx, the Muslims, although only a fourth of the population, were the masters in every respect.
Marx might not be considered politically correct by many of today's "socialists" and "leftists" who are often eager to deny a historic Jewish presence in Jerusalem and, meanwhile, to claim that the Arabs always treated the Jews well. Likewise, from the viewpoint of many of our contemporary "Leftists," Chateaubriand's eyewitness observations may not be politically correct and he apparently was not properly instructed by an image shaper as to what he was to see in Jerusalem before he came.

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Coming soon. How Jews were treated in Jerusalem, Hebron, and elsewhere in Israel by Muslims, as seen by 19th century travelers, Félix Bovet, Stephens, Pierre Loti, etc.


  • This site is a very good one.
    Thank you so much for all the information.

    By Anonymous La Chacha, at 8:07 AM  

  • You're welcome. In Hebrew we say, B'vaqashah

    By Blogger Eliyahu m'Tsiyon, at 10:30 PM  

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