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Emet m'Tsiyon

Friday, February 03, 2006

Jewish Population in 19th Century Jerusalem

British historian Tudor Parfitt reports a Jewish majority in Jerusalem by the late 1850s.

". . . by the 1850s the Jews were the majority in the city. . . "

"But in the course of the nineteenth century a remarkable change took place. Between 1800 and 1882 when the first Zionist settlers arrived in Jaffa -- the Jewish community in Jerusalem grew from 2,000 to about 18,000 (out of a total population of 35,000). From the 1830s the Jews constituted the largest single community and from the late 1850s the Jews constituted an overall majority in the city. This, it must be stressed, was before the immigration inspired by modern political Zionism. Moreover, these figures do not really give a full idea of the scope of the immigration because the mortality was so high at any given point that very considerable immigration was needed just for the size of the community to stand still. "

On account of the Tanzimat reforms pressed upon the Ottoman Empire by the Western powers [including Russia], by the late 19th century conditions had improved for the subject or dhimmi peoples in the Empire. For instance, the jizya [head tax on dhimmis] was abolished by the end of the century.

"Under these new circumstances the Jewish presence in the city became more and more pronounced. New synagogues, 'yeshivot,' schools, colleges, as many as seven or eight hospitals and many poor houses were erected in the Jewish quarter and soon the Jews became too numerous for the walled city and spread into the surrounding countryside thus founding what is today the Israeli city of Jerusalem. In the early 1870s Charles Tyrwhitt Drake wrote: "The number of Jews in Jerusalem is increasing by 1,200 to 1,500 p.a. [= per annum]-- now they are spreading all over the town and outside the walls. Now there are 130 houses outside the walls where four years ago not more than 20 would have been found. . . the Moslem quarter Bab Hutta [north of the Temple Mount and southeast of the Damascus Gate] and the part near Bab el-`Amud [Arabic name of Damascus Gate] are now inhabited by many Jews, though only four or five years ago not one was to be found there. Some of the Jews even share houses with Muslims. They have the greater part of the town and are buying land wherever they can find it.'"

In other ways too the Jewish presence was making itself felt. . . the languages that were heard in the streets included the languages used by the Jews, viz., Ladino, Yiddish, and Hebrew. . . A traveler walking casually around the streets of the Old City a hundred years ago would have been struck most by the overwhelming Jewish presence in the city.
[Tudor Parfitt, "The Jewish Presence in Jerusalem: 1800-1881-Jerusalem before Zionism," in Peter Schneider and Geoffrey Wigoder, eds., Jerusalem Perspectives: A Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Outline of the Holy City (Arundel, West Sussex: The London Rainbow Group, 1976), pp 7, 9]

Previous posts on the 19th century Jewish majority are here, aqui, ici, and qui.
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Coming soon: More on Jews in Jerusalem, poems of Zion
Also coming: the Jewish exodus from Arab states


  • Great blog - I think we are on the same wavelength.Looking forward to 'exodus of Jews from Arab countries', the subject of my blog: 'Point of no return' www.jewishrefugees.blogspot.com

    By Blogger bataween, at 6:40 PM  

  • Thanks a lot. Todah rabah.

    By Blogger Eliyahu m'Tsiyon, at 12:56 AM  

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