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Emet m'Tsiyon

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


John Lloyd Stephens visited Hebron in 1836 and was lodged with local Jews by decision of the governor. Returning to New York, he wrote an account of his travels which was favorably reviewed by no less a literary lion than Edgar Allan Poe. This is Part 6 of Stephens' account of Hebron:

"I had spent a long evening with my Jewish friends. The old rabbi talked to me of their prospects and condition, and told me how he had left his country in Europe many years before, and come with his wife and children to lay their bones in the Holy Land. He was now eighty years old; and for thirty years, he said, he had lived with the sword suspended over his head; had been reviled, buffeted, and spit upon; and, though sometimes enjoying a respite from persecution, he never knew at what moment the bloodhounds might not be let loose upon him; that, since the country had been wrested from the sultan by the Pasha of Egypt [=Muhammud Ali], they had been comparatively safe and tranquil; though some idea may be formed of this comparative security from the fact that during the revolution two years before [1834], when Ibrahim Pasha [son and general of Muhammud Ali], after having been pent up several months in Jerusalem, burst out like a roaring lion, the first place upon which his wrath descended was the unhappy Hebron; and while their guilty brethren [the fellow Arabs of Ibrahim's troops, who had revolted] were sometimes spared, the unhappy Jews, never offending but always suffering, received the full weight of Arab vengeance. Their houses were ransacked and plundered; their gold and silver, and all things valuable, carried away; and their wives and daughters violated before their eyes by a brutal soldiery." [pp 320-321; see Part I for more data on book]

NOTES: Before Muhammud Ali, who was under European influence and was considered a "modernizer," took over the country, the situation of the Jews was much worse than during Stephens' visit, when Muhammud Ali was in charge. The oppression, humiliation, and exploitation of Jews under the previous system of loose Ottoman central control had been much worse. Anti-Jewish abuses were perpetrated not only by Ottoman officials but by local notables, strong men, thugs, etc. On this kind of situation in Jerusalem of the late 18th century, see Elliott A Green's article citing an earlier scholarly work by Jacob Barnai cited in an earlier blog entry on this site. The Jews continued to live in a ghetto under Muhammud Ali. Paradoxically, perhaps, the minions of this same Muhammud Ali persecuted Jews in Damascus in 1840 in connection with a blood libel, and the local governor there was influenced by the French, British, and Austrian consuls to persecute the Jews, with the French consul being the most adamant and taking personal part in torturing Jews.


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