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Emet m'Tsiyon

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Jerusalem Population in the 19th Century -- Part 3

Jews became an absolute majority of the Jerusalem population over the course of the 19th century. This is known from various sources. However, in publications appearing since the PLO became the darling of both Communists and Western great powers in the late 1960s and the 1970s, this fact has been deliberately disregarded. Nevertheless, the fact popped up not long ago in a most unexpected place. This was a very expensive, large format, two-volume book on Ottoman Jerusalem, apparently published for members of the British aristocracy and their friends, the rich Arab sheiks who own pieds-à-terre and summer homes in Britain. The cover of each volume bears a large calligraphic, monogram-like gilt inscription in Arabic script. The book was published under the patronage of no less an eminence than His Royal Highness {OK, he is taller than me} Charles Prince of Wales {the guy with the big ears, you know him}. The book contains a number of articles on various aspects of life in the city during the Ottoman period, and includes a survey of Jerusalem's political history in the period under survey, written by an Arab, Abdul-Karim Rafeq.

Here are population counts and estimates from the 19th century that he cites:

1) F Bovet was a French Protestant minister. He was in the Holy City in 1858 and was given demographic figures by the Prussian consul:

_7,000 _ Jews
_5,000 _ Muslims
_3,400 _ Christians
15,400 total

2) Baron M de Vogüé, an inquisitive French traveler who spent considerable time in Jerusalem, gave these estimates/counts for the Holy City's population as of 1872:

_14,000 _ Jews
4-5,000 _ Muslims
7-8,000 _ Christians
26,000 total

3) Nu`aman al-Qasatli was an Arab from Damascus ("a Damascene traveller and member of the Palestine Exploration Fund's expedition" to Israel). He gave estimates for Jerusalem's population as of 1874:

22,000 __ Jews
_6,000 __ Muslims
12,000 __ Christians
40,000 total

Source: Abdul-Karim Rafeq, "Political History of Ottoman Jerusalem," in Ottoman Jerusalem, eds. S. Auld & R. Hillenbrand, Part I (London 2000), p 35.

The provenance of this book is of great interest. It was published under the patronage of HRH Charles, Prince of Wales. The publisher was the Altajir World of Islam Trust (Director, Alistair Charteris Duncan). The tome fairly reeks of a musty, ever so British, upper crusty scent of gothic attics, stale scones, and fox blood, combined with the aroma of attar of roses, camel saddles, and falcon feathers. Its production was a joining of forces and financing on the part of British aristocrats and well-fed Arab shaykhs. The book was published on behalf of the British School of Archeology in Jerusalem in co-operation with the Administration of Auqaf and Islamic Affairs, Jerusalem [usually called the Waqf], by this Altajir outfit. Among the contributors of financing to make it possible were the Arab Bank [recently fined in the USA for facilitating fund transfers to terrorists], the Barakat Trust, Dar al-Handassa [this may be an engineers society], "His Excellency Rafik Hariri" [the late billionaire prime minister of Lebanon, sent to the next world by Syrian Ba`athist intrigue and terrorism], and "Anonymous Donors."

Bonnie Prince Charley's background in this regard is of quite a bit of interest. His zeydeh or jid [Yiddish and Arabic for grandfather, respectively], King George VI, was warmly fond of Arabs. So much so that in about 1939 he sent a note to His Majesty's Government [probably to the Colonial Secretary] asking for reassurance that Jewish refugees from Poland would not be allowed into the Land of Israel, then governed by the UK as the "Palestine mandate." As we recall, Jews from Poland who could not get to another country were likely caught up in the Holocaust, as one politely describes their fate. This info appears in William Perl's book, Holocaust Conspiracy. As for Charley's son, Harry, he has this strange penchant for dressing up in Nazi costumes. Most unbecoming. Whether Charley is really bonnie is a sticky question. One of my Irish friends pointed out his big ears to me. If my Irish readers or any others would like to call him Big Ears, I suppose I wouldn't object. Anyhow, like a good grandson he follows in the footsteps of his jid -- in his fondness for Arabs of the upper and ethereal spheres.

Note that de Vogüé's estimates for 1872 and al-Qasatli's estimate for 1874 both show a Jewish majority. This supports my argument in the previous entry that the parity achieved by Jews with the rest of the population in 1870 [according to Ben-Arieh] meant that the Jews became a majority that same year. Al-Qasatli's figures are closer to Ben-Arieh's than are de Vogüé's. Rafeq notes that the Jews were undercounted in official documents, since many of them were not Ottoman subjects and many had arrived in the country without official authorization or had overstayed a visa, etc.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
We will go back to Francesco Suriano's account of intergroup relations in Jerusalem in the late Mamluk period; this time Muslim relations with Western Christian churchmen. We will also supply some more accounts of life in Israel in the 19th century, including some by famous writers.
Watch for a charming vignette on how American tax laws were used to make the Saudi royal family super rich. Coming soon.


  • Thank you for this interesting piece! Can you tell me in which book of De Vogüé he publicized his estimates?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:14 PM  

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