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Emet m'Tsiyon

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Generous, Welcoming Spirit of the Arabs of Hebron

The Arabs of Hebron were notorious in the 19th century for their religious fanaticism, as indicated by our previous post on Hebron. Professor H E Dunning, who toured Israel around 1900, reports on his trip to the City of the Patriarchs:
The people of Hebron are not only Muslims, but they are bad-tempered Muslims. They do not welcome a stranger of another faith. The small boy is apt to curse him. As these imprecations fall harmlessly, he may have recourse to stone. The stranger objects and attempts to chastise [admonish]. Then the adult citizen protests. The Christian stranger must remember that he is accursed, a fit object for stones and bad language. [Dunning, p 61; Friedman, p 134].
Brritish Major Claude Conder, another 19th century visitor to Hebron, wrote:
Let the student of Islam [that is, the curious non-Muslim] run the gauntlet of the fanatical guards of those sanctuaries [in both Hebron and Sh'khem (= Nablus)], let him be stoned for a dog and denied a drink of water as a Kafir, and then acknowledge that the stern prejudices of the Middle Ages are not extinct. [Conder, p 232; Friedman, p 135].
These accounts go to show that the fanatical religious hatred of the 20th century Hebron Arabs, manifested in the 1929 pogrom and in post-1967 murders against Jews, was also alive in the 19th century, when the Hebron Jews lived the perfect life of dhimmis. Exploited, humiliated, often harassed, restricted in their places of residence, their activities and movements, including access to the Tomb of the Patriarchs (their patriarchs!), Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah, they knew their place in society. This place was in some ways better than that of South African Blacks under apartheid, and in some ways worse. But it was onerous, as shown in the reports of John Lloyd Stephens on Hebron which we quoted on this blog in July 2005.

The accounts by Major Conder and Professor Dunning that we quote above were taken from Professor Saul S Friedman's book: Land of Dust: Palestine at the Turn of the Century (Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1982). Friedman went over much of the very extensive literature left by Christian pilgrims and travelers to Israel in the 19th century and up to World War I, and extracted some very interesting and significant accounts.
Also see:
Dr H E Dunning, To-day in Palestine (New York: James Pott & Co., 1907)
Major Claude Conder, Palestine (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., n.d. ca. 1910)
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Coming: Professor Biger's Turkophilic fantasies, more on Hebron, more on Jews in Jerusalem, more on peace follies, etc.


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