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Emet m'Tsiyon

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Jerusalem Jews in 1843

Of the three religious groups in the Jerusalem, the Jews --who were not only a religion but the remnant of the nation that had given Jerusalem its meaning in world history, religion, and culture-- became the largest of the three in 1840. The Jews in that year became the plurality in the city, although not yet the absolute majority. The reasons were two-fold. On one hand, Jewish immigration --or aliyah-- to the city was increasing with the improvement of means of transportation, thus giving Jews throughout the world a better chance to fulfill the age-old dream of living in Jerusalem. On the other hand, an earthquake in Safed [Tsfat] in the Galilee in 1838 had killed 2,000 Jews. Many of the survivors had moved to Jerusalem. In short, the Jews outnumbered the Muslims in the city as of 1840. In fact, Muslims have been a minority in Jerusalem for at least 200 years, although they appear to have been a plurality up until 1840 when the plurality passed to the Jews.

Pilgrimage and travel to the country by both Jews and Christians was also increasing because of the improved respect for non-Muslims introduced and enforced by Muhammad Ali of Egypt, as well as the consequently improved security situation in the country. When the Ottoman Empire recovered the country from Muhammad Ali in 1840, they maintained much of the improvements in the way of respect for non-Muslims and internal security. Eli Shiller writes:
An improvement in security conditions and the abolition of various taxes and customs duties [often imposed unofficially or semi-officially by local strongmen, tribes, and villagers eager for gain in filthy lucre] on the pilgrims took place mainly in the period of Muhammad Ali (1832-40). His tolerant attitude toward members of other [i.e., non-Muslim] communities brought about an increased stream of Christian pilgrims to the country. After the Egyptian regime was suppressed and Turkish [i.e., Ottoman] rule returned, transit taxes [= tolls; explained above] were moderated and security conditions were enhanced.
[Eli Shiller, "In the Path of Pilgrims to the Holy Land," Qardom [special issue], III: 13-14 (January 1981; tashma'), p 24]

A Britisher, John Lothian, described the city in 1843. When referring to "Turks" he means Muslims in general, which was a very common usage for centuries:

What a painful change has passed over the circumstances and condition of the poor Jew that in his own city, and close by where his temple stood, he has to suffer oppression and persecution. In Jerusalem his case is a very hard one, for if he should have a little of this world's goods in his possessions, he is oppressed and robbed by the Turks in a most unmerciful manner. In short, for him there is neither law nor justice.
4 December 1843
[quoted in Martin Gilbert, Jerusalem: Illustrated History Atlas (Jerusalem: Steimatzky's Agency, 1977), p 37]

How times have changed!! British reporters today, especially of the BBC breed, can only speak hatefully of Jews. And their knowledge even of what Britishers said in the past, is virtually nil.
- - - - - - - - -
Coming: More poems of Zion
More on Jerusalem Jews in the 19th century and earlier


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