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Emet m'Tsiyon

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

THE JEWISH MAJORITY IN JERUSALEM in the 19th Century (cont'd)

Numerous historians, as well as travelers, churchmen, foreign residents, foreign diplomats, and even an Arab writer, attest to a Jewish majority in Jerusalem in the second half of the 19th century. Tudor Parfitt, a 20th century British historian, writes:

So it can be seen that there were good reasons for the Jews not having flocked to the city in large numbers.

But in the course of the nineteenth century a remarkable change took place. Between 1800 and 1882 when the first Zionist settlers arrived in Jaffa -- the Jewish community in Jerusalem grew from 2,000 to about 18,000 (out of a total population of 35,000). From the 1830s the Jews constituted the largest single community and from the late 1850s the Jews constituted an overall majority in the city. This it must be stressed was before the immigration inspired by political Zionism. Moreover, these figures do not really give a full idea of the scope of the immigration because the mortality was so high at any given point that very considerable immigration was needed just for the size of the community to stand still. It should also be noted that during this period the immigration of old people still took place -- but there was also a very substantial immigration of young people. Between 1845 and 1866 only 32.1 per cent of Jewish heads of house were over 45 while 37.9 per cent of the Jewish population consisted of children. [Tudor Parfitt, "The Jewish Presence in Jerusalem 1800-1881" in P. Schneider and G. Wigoder, Jerusalem Perspectives (Arundel, West Sussex: London Rainbow Group, 1976), p 7]
In other words, Jews were the majority in Jerusalem before Theodor Herzl was even born, long before there was a Political Zionist movement.
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More from Parfitt on 19th century Jerusalem coming soon


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