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Emet m'Tsiyon

Friday, April 28, 2006

A Turk Calls Israel "Israel"---recognizes the Land's Jewish/Israelite Past -- Part Two

The British role in the Holocaust is a heavy topic, as we used to say. That goes too for the BBC's role --as a British government agency-- in the Holocaust. In a desire for some lightness, we will come back to the BBC during the Holocaust after continuing with Evliya Chelebi's description of the Land of Israel while under Ottoman dominion in the 17th century.

Chelebi [Celebi, with a cedilla under the C] was a wealthy, educated Turk who traveled through his empire, his mind stuffed with all sorts of Muslim traditional geographical lore. The traditional Muslim lore was often confused --the Quran confuses Miriam sister of Moses with Mary, the New Testamant's mother of Jesus. But the traditional Muslim history and lore are much preferable to the blatant, extreme lies that Arab spokesmen make up today to undermine Israel. So Chelebi recognized the Land of Israel as the homeland of the Jews, of Israel.

In the city of Safed in Galilee, he recognizes the castle as Jewish [p12]:
. . . this castle was built by the Children of Israel
He goes on to describe Safed:
Asqalan, Beisan, Filistin, Tabaristan, and Jerusalem were not so prosperous as this city of Safed
So Safed with its largely Jewish population at that time, was more prosperous than other cities in the country. His mention of "Filistin" is interesting yet bewildering. Asqalan [Ashqelon], Beisan [Beyt Sh'an], and Jerusalem are cities of course. Tabaristan seems to indicate --to me-- the area around Tiberias [Tabariya in Arabic], although it may refer to the city of Tiberias alone. In either case, when he writes "Filistin," is he referring to a city --whereas there is no known city by that name-- or to a district? Now, the Jund Filastin --Filastin military district-- set up by the early Arab conquerors before the Crusades was the southern part of Israel, what the Byzantine empire had called Palaestina Prima, one of three parts of "Palaestina" on both sides of the Jordan. Like Palaestina Prima, Filastin included southern Samaria, the southern coastal plain, and the area of the former kingdom of Judah. Hence, Jund Filastin included Jerusalem and Ashqelon. So it is unclear what Chelebi meant by Filistin. Now back to Safed. Safed, he writes, is
a sanjaq [Ottoman administrative district] in the province (eyalet) of Saida [=Sidon]. . . Previously it belonged to the province of Damascus [= al-Sham].[pp 18-19]
Chelebi's accuracy for the situation in his own time is reliable. Here he demonstrates that the Land of Israel, what the West called "Palestine," was divided into several districts governed from outside the country and was not a single geographic entity for administrative purposes. Hence, there was no "Palestine" for the Ottoman Empire or for the Arabs, for that matter, in his time.
Safed is described as prosperous,
Yet, because of oppression, the inhabitants of the city are poor. The Jews are more numerous than the Mohammedans. The capitation tax [jizya] from all the seven Jewish quarters is paid for 9,000 [male persons]. With previously 70,000 Jews living here, this was a magnificent city. Now. . . there is no outstanding person amongst them. All have moved off to the city of Saloniki. . . The reason for the large number of Jewish inhabitants is this, that it was the original home of the Children of Israel. . . Above the Jewish quarter are two Kurdish quarters" [p 24]
Here Chelebi points to a Jewish majority in the town when he visited it, 1648-1650, most likely getting some of his information from the local Ottoman officials, who may have been Turks, Arabs, or other Muslims. Further, part or most of the Muslim population in the town was not Arab but was rather Kurdish. Are we allowed to say that these Kurds were not "Palestinians"? Chelebi also states that this was "the original home of the Children of Israel." By the way, the Quran too refers several times to the Children of Israel. It is curious how Arabs today "forget" or overlook what is written in their own holy book. For more on the Quran and Israel as a Jewish land, see here.
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Coming: BBC & the Holocaust, Assyrians enjoy Iraqi tolerance in the 1930s, Jews in Jerusalem, etc.


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