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Emet m'Tsiyon

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Muslims/Arabs Exploiting Jews in Jerusalem before the Crusades

The dhimmi communities or peoples were caught up in a constant cycle of regular taxes and special exactions, forced bribes, etc. Moshe Gil writes that in this respect the Jews of Jerusalem may have been more fortunate than dhimmis elsewhere:
"It appears that the tax system in Jerusalem . . . was more lenient than elsewhere"
This was because the tax system for this city had been determined in the early days of Islam "immediately after the conquest of the city by the Muslims" [638 CE], when special conditions may have been offered in order to obtain surrender and to pacify local populations. Nevertheless, Gil also quotes from a letter written about 1025 by Solomon haKohen ben Yehosef in regard to an exaction:
. . . and the living was made a guarantor for the dead, and he who stayed -- for the one who ran away; afterwards they had to pay an additional tax. And if you saw who paid all those moneys you would have been surprised, and lamented over them and say of them: could such a large `onesh [punishment, irregular tax, exaction] have come from those poor people? [Gil, "The Authorities and the Local Population," (see prior post), p 106]

Gil points out that the yearly payment of the Jerusalem Jews also "purchased" the right of Jewish pilgrims to come to the city [in many places, dhimmis were taxed for the privilege of entering a city]; and further exempted these pilgrims from having to show a receipt [bara'a] for having paid the jizya. This was no small privilege in oppressive Arab-Muslim society. A local Jewish leader, Solomon ben Judah, explained that the lump sum payment also gave the local Jews and Jewish pilgrims the right to parade around the Temple Mount, stopping at its gates, praying near them, and to go up on the Mount of Olives on the Hosh`ana Rabba holiday and pray there --"even out loud!"

So the Jewish dhimmis could have a comfortable life under Islam, if they could pay all the taxes, fines, exactions, enforced bribes, etc. That is, everything would be OK if you had enough money to keep paying.
- - - - - - - - -
Coming soon: Hebrew poets of medieval Spain and their feelings on Arab rule
Extortion of money from Jews in Jerusalem in the late 19th century, before Napoleon came to the Land


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    Yisrael Medad


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