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Emet m'Tsiyon

Sunday, October 23, 2005


NeoPhytos continues his charming tale of the turmoil occasioned in the Land of Israel by the Greek Revolt, the freedom struggle of a dhimmi people. The Western powers eventually intervened in the war, thus ensuring that the Greeks would get independence in part of their homeland. However, Arab troops from Egypt, sent by Muhammad Ali, ruler of Egypt formally subordinate to the Ottoman sultan, put down the revolt on the island of Crete, which remained an Ottoman territory till the end of the 19th century. Arabs and other Muslims throughout the Empire cooperated with their government to prevent any further dhimmi revolt, particularly paying attention to the Greek Orthodox.

In the Jerusalem area, the notables and other leading Muslims accepted substantial payments from the Greek Orthodox to talk the local Muslim masses out of retaliating against the local Greek Orthodox [including Arab Christians] on account of the Greek Revolt.

By August 15th [1821] news had arrived of the daily slaughtering of Christians in Constantinople [capital of the Ottoman Empire, previously of the Byzantine Empire, now usually called Istanbul], and even in Cyprus where they massacred the Archbishop, and the Bishops and all the important Christians on the Island. The insatiable notables and especially the Mutesellim [local governor] with Musa Bey [his assistant] invented different terrors whereby they could take money and presents from us. We continued to give, until the Community treasury and the private purses of the Brethren [monks belonging to the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher] were empty. Not having more to meet their claims, with tears we began to collect from the Church, and from the other monasteries, the gold and silver ware, lamps, vases, chandeliers, belts, etc. These were broken up and smelted down into bars (gulche) which we sold at a low price for we were forced to find money immediately. The yearly tax of 60,000 piastres due to the Pasha of Damascus [governor of Damascus vilayet, which included Jerusalem] , was now raised to 100,000. Everywhere there was suffering; here from ailments, there from shock; "and there was neither medicine nor bandage to put on it."

The accursed Mutesellim, Suleiman Effendi, with the Tufekgi Bashi, was fully intent upon damaging us and persecuting us. As the days passed they captured Christians, and having flogged them, they left them in chains until money was found for their release. They also took the lime, which we had prepared for the repair of the monasteries and the shelters of the pilgrims, and used it for the repair of the Citadel [now called "Tower of David"] and the Praetorium [governor's HQ]. . . [p 16]
After the Sultan's letter had been read at the Law Courts [July 8], the Greek Orthodox paid off the local Muslim notables for a signed document.
We received from the local Notables a written testimony of our innocence, on payment of 1,125 piastres, that is 25 money bags. This testimony, with signatures and seal (arz-mahzar) was sent to Constantinople to the Patriarch Polycarpos, to be handed to the Porte in return for a firman [decree] granting us security. [p 16]
The events that transpired in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel as repercussions of the Greek Revolt --may we describe it as a freedom struggle-- form a classic case of the dhimmi experience in modern times.
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Coming: Inscription on the Arch of Titus in Rome


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