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Emet m'Tsiyon

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Jews in Jerusalem in 1491, a Christian Pilgrim's View

Martin Kabatnik was a Czech [Bohemian] pilgrim who came to Jerusalem in 1491. His observations have often been quoted.

The Christians and Jews of Jerusalem lack all resources and find themselves in dire straits. There are but few Christians but there are many Jews. . . A Jew whose house collapses is not permitted to build a new one in its place, but must again buy the plot from its owner at a high price. Christians and Jews go about Jerusalem dressed as would beggars in our country; they are not permitted to wear good coats. But in spite of all the troubles and the oppression that they suffer at the hands of the non-Jews, the Jews refuse to leave the place.
[Martin Kabatnik, 1491]

This description fits that of Francesco Suriano written in the same period, the last years of Mamluk control in the Land of Israel before the Ottoman conquest. The difference is that Suriano, a Franciscan monk and for a few years the custos or chief of the Franciscans in the country, portrayed the Jews very specifically as the most oppressed people in Jerusalem, more so even than the Christian dhimmis. Kabatnik mentions this but only in a general manner, speaking of "all the troubles and the oppression that they suffer at the hands of the non-Jews." This implies that Christians too were harassing Jews in Jerusalem.

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Coming: More on the Jews in Jerusalem
More poems of Zion


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