Posts Tagged ‘Jerusalem’

Introduction

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Behind the Arab-Israel conflict a yawning ideological dichotomy separates Zionists and Arab Palestinian nationalists, each adopting a divergent historical interpretation of the socio-political landscape in pre-1918 Palestine.

Zionists assert that prior to their immigration, Palestine was desolate and under-populated and that much of the arable land in the plains remained untilled while other areas were malarial swamp. With backbreaking labour and overcoming malarial disease they started to drain the swamps and convert abandoned land to being highly productive.

In contrast Arab Palestinian nationalists assert:

  • Palestine was not desolate and without population;
  • Indigenous Arabs occupied and worked the land from time immemorial;
  • Jewish immigration and land purchases pushed Arab fellahin off the land and forced them to move to the towns where they were compelled to change their lifestyles and find alternative employment if they were so able.

Neither scenario is devoid of some element of truth.

Geography, politics and demographics of the region all undoubtedly shaped the outcome of the struggle being played out between the opposing Jewish and Arab interests but other influences operating internationally influenced the local scene.

In addition, cultural differences between Jews and Arabs began to play a highly significant role in generating the animus and hostility which characterised the emerging political landscape.

To enable readers to weigh and evaluate the respective claims and counterclaims, a clearer understanding of the various factors which bear on their validity is an essential prerequisite, and they are here summarised:

Settled Population Affected by Topography and Marauders

The coastal plains being ipso facto vulnerable to marauding Bedouin tribes were more or less desolate and unproductive:

  • The Northern coastal plain  – was swamp-like and malaria-ridden as was the land around the Hula lake and the Lake of Galilee;
  • The Southern coastal plains – were inundated with sand dunes
  • To the extent that such land was capable of being cultivated, wild marauding Bedouin tribes present in the area discouraged any permanent rural settlement or agricultural development.

As a consequence:

  • Arab urban and rural settlements were to be found mainly in the hill country west of the Jordan River in Judea and Samaria and parts of the Galilee, avoiding the coastal plain.
  • Jews, prior to acquiring and developing the barren coastal plains, had a significant urban presence in and around Jerusalem, Tiberias, Safad and Jaffa and in other smaller towns.

This subject is examined in greater detail in Section 1 below

Aside from these conditions there were a number of other factors external to Palestine which also contributed to the complex dynamics of the region.

Egyptian Population Migrations into Palestine – increased the indigenous Arab population beyond its natural birth rate.

The migrants included:

  • those fleeing from compulsory military service 1839 – 1849 in the Egyptian army;
  • deserters from the Egyptian army following its the withdrawal from Palestine after a ten year military occupation; and
  • those seeking to avoid forced labour in the construction of the Suez Canal 1861-1871.

Section 2 below expands this point

Foreign Diplomatic Political and Economic Pressure on Ottoman Independence

The Ottoman government, (seated at the ‘Sublime Porte’ or entry to the Sultan’s Palace in Constantinople – now Istanbul) referred to by Europeans as the ‘Porte’, was subject to strong European pressure and influence. This was exerted through:

  • exploitation of the ‘Capitulations’ – provisions in international agreements between European states and the Ottoman government granting trade preferences and customs concessions – extended well beyond their originally intended scope. The term ‘Capitulations’ is derived from the Italian ‘capitula’ meaning a chapter or paragraph in the agreement

(see Section 3.a below); and

  • restructuring the financial loan arrangements for the repayment of the enormous Ottoman debts owed  to the Europeans incurred by the former in fighting the Crimean War and the suppressing of ethnic uprisings in the Empire. (Section 3.b)

European Political and Financial Pressure Induced Changes in Ottoman Internal Policy

These changes included

  • the opening of its domestic markets to foreign investment in general;
  • reform of its land ownership, registration and land taxation systems. (Section 3.c.ii); and
  • modernisation of its civilian administrative structure and military organisation (Section 3.d).

all of which caused changes in the loci centres of power of the Palestinian Arab elites’ and brought social and economic consequences in the welfare of the fellah (See Section 4. below)

Internal Changes within the Ottoman Empire  Created Further Opportunities for European Intrusion.

These changes resulted in Non-Ottoman citizens being permitted to acquire land freely without obtaining a special permit. This stimulated Christian religious institutions to acquire property in the Holy Land (see Section 5.a). Religious European and Yemenite Jews were also drawn to return to Eretz Yisrael by their ethnic, cultural and religious roots and their belief of an immanent messianic appearance (see Section 5.b).

However, the most powerful force leading to a Jewish return to Eretz Yisrael lay in European anti-Semitism. In Rumania and Russia, this was overtly violent (pogroms) and in Western Europe, notwithstanding the removal of legal obstacles to Jewish assimilation in France and Germany, was covert and discriminatory; in the Dreyfus affair there was even a conspiracy.

These latter events and Jewish attempts to convert them into a positive force supporting Jewish nationalism in the Zionist movement are examined in Chapter V.

1. General Topography and Population

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Several adverse characteristics prevailing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries shaped the economic and social conditions in the Eastern Mediterranean region: under-population, marauding Bedouin clans, poverty, malarial sickness and lack of investment in efficient and scientific land utilisation.

The many descriptions of the region provided by travellers and foreign consuls at the time were generally not grounded on hard data or academic research. They failed to take into consideration that conditions which prevailed in some parts of Palestine did not pertain in others. In examining its economic and political development, Palestine must be divided into

  • four longitudinal regions paralleling the Mediterranean Sea: (i) the coastal plain, (ii) the hilly region (the Negev and the south) (iii) Judea and Samaria in the central region and (iv) the Galilee in the north;
  • the Jordan Valley which lies to the east of the Galilee and includes the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee (Tiberias) which forms part of the Great Rift Valley;
  • the hills of Transjordan.

(see Y. Karmon, Israel: A Regional Geography, John Wiley & Sons London, 1981)

These regions differed from one another in respect of the ethnic origin, population growth and decline, agricultural development and economic vitality.

  • To the extent that land in the coastal and other plains was capable of being cultivated, wild marauding Bedouin tribes present in these areas discouraged any permanent rural settlement or agricultural development. Consequently the lower flat lying areas were more or less desolate and unproductive. In addition:
  • the Northern and central coastal plains were swamp-like and malaria-ridden as was the land around the Hula lake and the Lake of Galilee;
  • the Southern coastal plains were inundated with sand dunes;
  • Consequently, Arab urban and rural settlements tended to avoid the coastal plains and were to be found mainly in the hill country west of the Jordan River in Judea and Samaria and parts of the Galilee,
  • Jews, prior to acquiring and developing the barren coastal plains, had a significant urban presence in and around Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberias, Safad and Jaffa and in other smaller towns.

a.  The Land and Its Indigenous Rural Population

For many centuries, travellers to Palestine described it as sparsely populated, poorly cultivated and widely neglected – an expanse of eroded hills, sandy deserts and malarial marshes. European consuls located in Jerusalem and Cairo during the 18th and 19th centuries confirmed these opinions.

Mark Twain, who had visited the Holy land in 1867, described it as

“[a] desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds – a silent mournful expanse… Desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action… We never saw a human being on the whole route…there was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country” (Twain “Innocents Abroad” cited in Bard Myths and Facts AICE 2001, p. 30)

The Report of the 1937 Palestine Royal Commission quotes what it believed to be a truthful and unbiased description of the Maritime Plain as it existed in 1913:

”The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts…no orange groves, orchards or vineyards were to be seen until one reached [the Jewish village of] Yabna [Yavne]….Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen….The ploughs used were of wood….The yields were very poor….The sanitary conditions in the village were horrible. Schools did not exist….The western part, towards the sea, was almost a desert. . . . The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants”. (Cmd. 5479  p. 233)

The Report also drew on contemporary descriptions of the economic situation in Palestine, written in the 1830s and supplied to the Commission by Lewis French, the British Director of Development:

We found it inhabited by fellahin who lived in mud hovels and suffered severely from the prevalent malaria…. Large areas…were uncultivated… The fellahin, if not themselves cattle thieves, were always ready to harbour these and other criminals. The individual plots…changed hands annually. There was little public security, and the fellahin’s lot was an alternation of pillage and blackmail by their neighbours, the Bedouin”. (Cmd. 5479  pp. 259-260)

Meyer Levin, the American writer (1905 -1981) recounts in “My Search” that it was impossible to travel directly northwards from Tel Aviv to Netanya, some 25 km away without deviating a considerable distance inland because of the intervening marshland. The present-day route of the “old” Tel Aviv – Haifa road still reflects this.

Derived from the reports of foreign travellers and early settlers (Oliphant), cartographers (Van de Velde), and foreign exploratory expeditions (Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF)), Arie Avneri, in a detailed study provides a description of the topographical and demographic conditions prevailing in the various regions of Palestine immediately prior to Jewish settlement.

(Arie L. Avnieri, The Claim of Dispossession- Jewish Land-Settlement and the Arabs 1878-1948, Yad Tabenkin, Efal, Israel 1982 “Avnieri”)

For example, he notes the fertility of the soil but the sparseness of population and lack of agricultural development in the valleys of the Hula, Kinorot, and the Kishon, owing to their marshy and malarial conditions.

In the valleys of Beit-Shean, Jezreel, and Zevulun, located on the trade routes and where permanent human habitation was possible, Bedouin raids on the settlements – especially in drought years – discouraged any permanent Arab settlement.

Mount Carmel was also waste land. Development was ruined by foreign and local wars and its western slope was malaria ridden, all of which contributed to the abandonment of seventeen villages before Jewish settlers arrived in 1882
(Avnieri pp 49-50).

The coastal area of Samaria (Shomron) starting at the foot of Mount Carmel and stretching south to the Sharon Plain was in a state of desolation and completely ravaged after the military campaigns of Napoleon and Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt (see Section 2 below).

The coastal Sharon Plain was poorly cultivated owing to the sandy nature of the soil and marshlands created by the Alexandra River and further south by sand dunes. Those villages which did exist, described in 1874 by C.R.Condor, were miserable and half in ruins, the villagers downtrodden and browbeaten by money–thirsty absentee landlords (Avneiri p.53).

The Mountain Regions were varied in their population. Parts around Tulkarm were relatively well populated, providing a refuge from malaria and protection against Bedouin raiders. Nevertheless, internal feuds between village clans caused many villages to be destroyed, although their inhabitants tended to remain in the area. The lack of security, however, inhibited the fellahin from investing much effort in improving the soil conditions.

Villages lower down the mountain and closer to the sea, such as Auja, Sidna Ali, Ramadan, Kabani and Hadera, were scattered and thinly populated, because of the sandy soil, punctuated by swampy stretches.

Southern Judea and the Negev, although not plagued by malaria, were no better for agricultural use or permanent settlement. These regions lacked rain and were frequently drought ridden, and the soil was sandy, being often invaded by sand dunes.

By way of contrast, Gaza in 1886 was a town with a population of some 20,000 inhabitants (but see section 2 as to their place of origin). Its people were poor and lived mostly from trade with the Egyptians. In the narrow strip between the coastal sands and desert interior, some fellahin were found to be growing fruit, watermelons and vegetables.

b.  Lack of Security for Persons and Property

During the first three decades of the 19th century, Palestine, like the remainder of the Ottoman Empire, was in a general state of decline and stagnation. Despite the ten years of Egyptian military occupation of Palestine between 1831-1841 which brought in its wake significant Egyptian migration (see section 2 below), the total indigenous population of the area did not exceed 250,000.

Under Ottoman rule the Arab male fellahin were extremely insecure both in their person and economically, being eligible both for military conscription while at the same time suffering Egyptian and Bedouin incursions into their homesteads.

Bedouin terror prevented any significant permanent settlement in the principal plains of Palestine – the coastal plain and the Plain of Esdraelon – and compelled the Arab fellahin to retreat to the hill country of Judea and Samaria, which was more secure but less productive.

“According to Turkish registration books from 1596, it seems that the [coastal plain] served as home to Bedouins (Arab nomads) and Turkish and Kurdish nomads. In the eighteenth century, according to tradition, the amir (chief) of the Hawara Bedouins, who hailed from Bilad Hareth …in Eastern trans-Jordan, occupied part of the coastal plain by force. Hawara Bedouins did not cultivate the land; rather they occupied themselves with brigandage and inter-tribal wars. The outcome of their predatory activities was that Wadi Hawarith was described in the nineteenth century as abandoned, swampy, and malaria-ridden and that its passage was dangerous. The lands of the Wadi were described by the Ottoman governor of the Jerusalem region (1906-7) as abandoned lands that were sparsely inhabited by Bedouins”…

“Thus only a small part of the country was being used for agriculture.  The towns of Palestine at the beginning of the last [19th] century are best defined as large villages each built on a small area and possessing a limited economic base and a small population of up to 10,000”

(Ruth Kark, Changing Patterns of Land Ownership in Nineteenth-Century Palestine, (1984) 10 J of Historical Geography, 357, 374 ; ‘Landownership and Spatial Change in Nineteenth Century Palestine in Transition from Spontaneous to Regulated Spatial Organisation’ Inst. of Geography and Spatial Organisation, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, 1983 (“Kark 1983”) pp 185-187

Even by 1895, after the rural population had descended from part of the hilly areas and had begun to settle in plains, only ten per cent of the total area of Palestine was under cultivation, (Kark 1983 p. 189) notwithstanding that Arab urban entrepreneurs and absentee landlords had begun to assemble large tracts of land for resale, following the Ottoman land reform legislation (see section 3.c.ii. below).

c.    Fellah’s Economic Situation

Economically, the fellah was generally in a state of chronic poverty and indebtedness to his absentee landlord, seed suppliers and money lenders, owing to a number of interrelated causes: poor soil, lack of water, poor means of communication with the towns, unsuitable marketing arrangements, frequent crop season failures, and an antiquated land system. Even before the first modern Jewish settlement, established in 1855, Palestinian Arab society was already socially fragmented between the peasantry and landowning interests. This became exacerbated after the Ottoman land reform in 1858.

(Haim Gerber, The Social Origins of the Modern Middle East, Lynne Rienner, London, 1987, p.75  (‘Gerber).

Thus, while Palestine as a whole cannot be said to have been desolate and without population as claimed by the Zionists, its people were certainly not thriving. In the hilly areas, the Arab population, while not poverty stricken, was barely self-sustaining. In the plains and the valleys the travellers’ descriptions were a true reflection of the situation – vast desolate expanses devoid of permanent population, malaria infested and subject to the uncontrolled power of the nomadic Bedouin.

Aside from these environmental conditions there were a number of other factors that also contributed to the complex dynamics of the region.

4. Changes in the Loci of Arab Elite Power Bases: From the Land to the Towns and the Metropolis

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Traditionally internal power and patronage of the Arab elites was traditionally centred in the local village and relied upon land ownership. External factors – particularly the financial predicament in which the Porte’s found itself in the latter half of the nineteenth century were to change this.

To manage its heavy public debt burden more efficiently, the Porte attempted to centralise and assert greater administrative control over the population and territory under its jurisdiction. The Young Turks, after their revolution against the rule of Sultan Abdulhamit II in 1908, propelled this movement and tendency towards the centralisation of power with greater enthusiasm.

Prior to World War I The Ottoman administrative structure placed Palestine in the regional Wilayet (Wali) of Beirut and the independent Sajak of Jerusalem. The wilayet themselves were subdivided into administrative subunits- sanjaq – which were further subdivided into local qaza . The local qaza of Palestine consisted of Acre, Haifa, Nazareth, Sefad, Tiberius, Jenin, Tulkarm, Beersheba, Gaza, Hebron, Jaffa and Jerusalem. As will become apparent in Chapter V, the appellation of administrative wilayet within which Palestine lay became a central issue in the Hussein-McMahon correspondence over the alleged conflicting promises Britain gave to the Jews and to the Arabs over the disposition of Palestine following World War I.

Kenneth.W. Stein, The Land Question in Palestine 1917-1939, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1984, (hereinafter Stein) p 9

If the Ottomans were to extract themselves from their economic plight and dependency on external influences, their government re-organisation now demanded a more highly trained and centralised bureaucracy. However, since it was hard to recruit qualified candidates, the reforms which the Porte wanted to institute failed to be realised for the most part. Instead, the bureaucratic structure which they established created many new official positions. These presented elites with opportunities to serve on local councils, committees, boards and commissions, often holding more than one administrative position at the same time and over an extended period, as exemplified in sanjaqs of Acre and Nablus.

The administrative reorganisation coupled the exploitation of the land reform legislation – discussed earlier in Section 3.c.ii – permitted the elites to accumulate both property and power and enabled them to place their tribal kinsmen at pivotal points in the administrative structure. The qaza level of administration required numerous civil servants to support the local councils, tax and finance commissions, courts of first instance, agricultural and commercial committees, chambers of commerce, education committees, land registry, military transportation commissions, telegraph and postal services and the local police. The appointed incumbents of the official positions and their supportive staff, each in his own sphere and in the exercise of his authority, were thus enabled to generate considerable ‘emoluments,” and advancement in social status. (see Stein pp 7-8)

As a consequence, small town patrons who previously had wielded power and garnered their wealth based on land holdings, now saw the larger urban centres as the arenas in which to operate for their own advancement and that of their kinsmen. Accordingly, Arab elites migrated from the villages to the larger towns and from the latter to Istanbul, Damascus and Beirut directing their attentions and efforts to wider horizons.

This shift in the locus and system of patronage from that based on local land ownership left the fellah under the control of a lower status kinsman or at the mercy of an indifferent agent, and bereft of his traditional patron to whom he could turn in times of trouble. Consequently, when Jewish settlements began to appear, it naturally created tension between Jews and Arabs, as one group intentionally or otherwise interfered with the land resources claimed by the other. Cultural and language barriers between the two probably exacerbated the issues of contention.

Furthermore the middle-ranking official and bureaucratic supportive Arab staff employed at all levels of public administration later provided Arab-Palestinian nationalists with unexpected political and administrative leverage in their subsequent dealings with the local British military and civil governments in Palestine after 1919.
(see Donna Robinson Divine, Politics and Society in Ottoman Palestine: The Arab Struggle for Survival and Power, Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder, CO, 1994 http://www.questia.com/library/book/politics-and-society-in-ottoman-palestine-the-arab-struggle-for-survival-and-power-by-donna-robinson-divine.jsp)

5. External Responses to Ottoman Internal Changes

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

One of the most significant changes in Ottoman internal policy which impacted on foreign interests generally and sectarian concerns in particular (both Christian and Jewish), related to the acquisition of land in Eretz Yisrael- Palestine.

As explained earlier the sale of land to Christians and Jews under 1858 Ottoman land reformation legislation was generated not by a new liberalism per se. On the contrary, the internal economic exigencies associated with the costs of the Ottoman centralisation of its public administration and discharging its foreign indebtedness made the Porte more vulnerable to foreign influence, brought to bear by respective foreign consuls.

a.   Christian Land Acquisitions.

Events in Europe in the latter half of the nineteenth century and first two decades of the twentieth brought a degree of Christian interest in developing their holy sites. The objective of these acquisitions was to gain and maintain control over distinctive and separate Christian holy places in Palestine and to establish religious institutions.

For the Christians, these purchases were motivated by missionary, humanitarian, philanthropic, social and political objectives. Other, private, individual investors were also encouraged by the Ottoman government to acquire and develop land, especially if they surrendered their European citizenship and assumed that of the Ottomans.

France gave its support to the Roman Catholic acquisition in Nazareth (and to the Maronite Christians), Russia supported the Eastern Church in Jerusalem and Germany supported the Templar settlements in Jerusalem and Haifa. Britain extended its protection to the Anglicans and also to the Jews.

According to Professor Kark, the churches and the missions were the most active land purchasers among the Christians in the second half of the nineteenth century. Prominent among them were the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Roman Catholics, Armenians, Anglicans, German Evangelist Community and smaller churches, including Ethiopians, Copts, and Greek Catholics. In the aggregate, the Christian Churches acquired both directly and indirectly through Ottoman nominees extensive urban property interests in and around Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Haifa, Beit Jalla, Acre and large rural holdings in areas that were sparsely populated, such as the Coastal Plain, Jezreel Valley, Galilee, Beit Shaan, and Jordan Valley. This activity provided a purchasable (fluid) inventory of relatively empty and inexpensive lands. (Kark p. 362).

Kark also makes particular reference to The Temple Society founded in Germany during the mid-nineteenth century, whose members believed in the importance of settling in Palestine. It established centres in Haifa, Jaffa and Jerusalem, as well as a number of small villages. On the eve of World War I, the Society’s population in the cities amounted to some 1,400 persons, in addition to 624 persons in the villages (Kark p.365)

Initiatives by private investors in land development were also forthcoming from European entrepreneurs, amongst whom were Emil Bergheim, a banker who established a  farm near Tel Gezer managed on European principles and equipped with modern machinery, Swiss-born Johannes Frutinger – both of whom were German subjects, and British-born Lawrence Oliphant.

In addition to establishing their own religious institutions, a number of influential Christians writers, notably Alexander Keith of the Church of Scotland, writing in 1843, English social reformer, Lord Shaftsbury, in his 1853 correspondence with Foreign Minister, Lord Palmerston, and William Eugene Blackstone, an American Christian, writing in 1881 on his return to the United States after a visit to the area, saw for themselves the extent of human habitation in Palestine or, more accurately, the relative absence of it, and advocated the restoration of a Jewish population to Palestine as an essential part of their respective belief systems.

b.   Religious Jewish Land Acquisition

i.  Expansion of Existing Urban Settlement.

Religiously motivated Jewish migration from Europe (and also from Yemen) in anticipation of the coming of the messianic millennium succeeded in encouraging only a very limited Jewish migration to Palestine.

The faith of religious Jews in Palestine was sorely tested by political-sectarian violence and by natural and human disasters.

Politically, between 1831-1841, Muslim authorities and the local Arab population encouraged Arab fellahin to rebel against the rule of Egyptian Muhammed Ali’s son, Ibrahim Pasha, during his occupation of  Palestine. In the process, they rampaged against the Jews of Safed and other towns, looting their property; destroying their homes; desecrating their synagogues and study-houses; raping, beating and, in many cases, killing Jews.

In 1837 an earthquake killed more than two thousand Jews in the Galilee; the Messiah failed to appear in 1840, contrary to the predictions of the Kabalists; and plagues raged throughout the region.

Despite these setbacks, Jewish religiously motivated urban migration continued to grow but at a low rate. It must be borne in mind that the religious Jewish urban communities were not self-sustaining. Their male population did not engage in agriculture, manufacturing or commerce, but were, in the main, committed to the performance of religious precepts, the study of Jewish religious texts and the philosophic evolution of religious thought (including Kabbalah). It was the Jewish woman who, in addition to caring for their husbands and households, engaged in ‘trade’ and marketing. The communities relied upon the distribution (‘halukah’) of financial donations sent voluntarily by Jewish communities in the diaspora or collected by Jewish emissaries sent from Palestine for that purpose.

(see Andrew G. Bostom, Under Turkish Rule, FrontPage magazine July 27, 2007 (Part I) http://frontpagemagazine.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=68314118-6D77-4E06-B4D5-282AF4285BC9  and Part II August  3, 2007 http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=3CA6CAE4-04C9-4AC6-BA1C-08B047719A1A

In 1855, English missionary W.H. Bartlett records in his book, ‘Jerusalem Revisited,’ that the Jewish community in Jerusalem numbered over 11,000. James Finn, the second British consul in Jerusalem, confirms this fact in his book Stirring Times, published in 1878.  Other writers, notably, Mary Elisa, Andrew Bonar and W.F. Lynch, confirm in their respective books and reports during the 1840-1860’s an increased Jewish immigration and active Jewish communities and institutions in Haifa, Nablus and Jaffa, respectively. (see Behat)

Notwithstanding the danger to life and limb from Bedouin raids, pillage and general banditry in the region, Jewish residents of the Old City of Jerusalem were compelled, by reasons of overcrowding and insanitary conditions prevailing there, to seek the aid of Sir Moses Montefiore in establishing Jewish urban settlement outside the walls of the City.

Montefiore had already received a firman from the Sultan allowing for the reconstruction of a synagogue in the Old City. In the process he took the opportunity of purchasing a tract of land to the west of the city as the site for almshouses, Mishkenot Sha’ananim, for Jerusalem’s Jewish population overflow. In 1859, however, implementation of the project was suspended under orders of the local Ottoman authorities, who were no longer willing to classify it as a business or trade or even to consider it as philanthropy (which would have been permissible). It took a year of considerable effort to persuade Fuad Pasha, the Ottoman Foreign Minister, to grant Sir Moses an ‘exceptional permission’ to proceed with the construction of housing (which without the special permission would have been prohibited) for twenty families. The project was completed and dedicated in 1861. (Friedman, 1977, p. 36)

The continuing growth of the Jewish urban population in Eretz Yisrael put pressure on the community to create a second urban settlement outside Jerusalem’s walls. In 1880, Mea Shearim was established by a building society comprising 100 shareholders, who pooled their resources to acquire a tract of land a little farther away from Mishkenot Sha’ananim. Constructed by both Jewish and non-Jewish workers, 100 apartments were ready for occupancy by October 1880. Development continued, such that, by the turn of the century, the suburb had 300 houses, a flour mill and a bakery.

However, the existing Jewish population could barely sustain itself – let alone expand – being downtrodden, poverty stricken and lacking local resources. Support – financial, human and spiritual – had to come from the European Jewish Diaspora.  But even this was not achieved without difficulty.

  • Indeed one of the main fears lying in the hearts of the existing Jewish urban settlements was that the haluka on which they relied would be reduced if demands for other purposes were made on Jewish philanthropists in the Diaspora. It was this fear that led a number religious Jews to oppose the settlement in Eretz Yisrael of poverty stricken Jewish migrants fleeing from East-European anti-Semitism.
  • It must also be remembered that, in general, the Ottoman authorities were opposed to any settlement in Palestine by persons who claimed foreign consular protection. Even individual Jews who were born in the Empire and inherited property but claimed to be under foreign jurisdiction were told that unless they renounced their consular protection their title deeds would be invalidated.

ii. Early Attempts at Establishing Jewish Agricultural Settlement

During the second half of the nineteenth century, there were also attempts at establishing a Jewish agricultural settlement. In 1859 a Baghdadi Jew, Shaul Yehuda, with the aid of British Consul James Finn, purchased farmland on the outskirts of Jerusalem in Motza, from the nearby Arab village of Colonia, for agricultural and industrial purposes (a tile factory). Unfortunately, legal complications prevented the construction of the settlement for some considerable time, although a travellers’ inn was established at the site in 1871.

While rural settlement close to Jerusalem may have been blocked for the time being, as was earlier noted in Chapter  the Jewish messianic impetus to bring about a Jewish return to agricultural work still continued.(see Arie Morgenstern, Dispersion and Longing for Zion 1240-1840 in Azure,  2002, Winter  Issue, Shalem Center, Jerusalem, (hereinafter ‘Morgenstern’  http://www.azure.org.il/article.php?id=264 )

Although the Jewish migration to Palestine grew out of the messianic dream, it was an obscure orthodox Sephardi rabbi, Rabbi Judah Alkelai from Belgrade, who began to promote the necessity for establishing Jewish agricultural settlements in Palestine as a prelude to the Redemption.  By the 1870’s he succeeded in attracting only a small group of followers to settle together with him in Palestine, before his death in 1878, but his extensive writing stirred others to consider doing likewise.

Contemporaneously, other rabbinical figures in Poland with substantial followings, such as Rabbis Zvi Hirsh Kalischer and Eliyahu Guttmacher, believed that the Jewish people would be redeemed only after they first returned to the land of Israel, worked the land and observed the commandments relating to the land. Instead of waiting passively for the Messiah, redemption could be achieved by natural means – self help. Jews should purchase land in Palestine, establish agricultural settlements and send poor Jews from Europe to be farmers, so as to colonize Palestine without delay.

Only when many pious and learned Jews volunteered to live in Jerusalem, Kalischer explained, would the Creator hearken to their prayers and speed the Day of Redemption. Prayers would not suffice. Kalischer urged the formation of a society of rich Jews to undertake the colonization of Zion; settlement by Jews of all backgrounds on the soil of the Holy Land; the training of young Jews in self-defence; and the establishment of an agricultural school in the Land of Israel where Jews might learn farming and other practical subjects. Far from undermining the study of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), “the policy we propose will add dignity to the Torah …. ”
(Howard M. Sachar A History of Israel From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, Alfred A. Knopf, 2nd ed. New York 2003 (Sachar- History ) pp.7-8

To implement their ideas, Guttmacher and Kalischer made appeals to European Jewry to raise money for Jewish settlement in Palestine and participated in a conference in Thorn (Torun, Western Poland) in 1860. This laid the groundwork for the establishment of the Society for the Settlement of the Land of Israel.

However, Jewish religious efforts to return to Eretz Yisrael in significant numbers had to await the occurrence of East European (Rumanian and Russian) Anti-Semitic Violence and the failure of Western European secular ‘Haskala’ (Enlightenment) movements to eliminate Anti-Semitism in order to produce a combined Jewish religious and secular response expressed in practical, cultural and political Zionism.

Jewish ties

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

It is a common misconception that in 1948 the Jews suddenly returned to Palestine demanding their country back after having been forced into the Diaspora 1,800 years earlier by the Romans following the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D.  In reality, Jewish people have maintained ties to their historic homeland for more than 3,700 years, including a national language and a distinct civilization. Even after the destruction of the Temple and the beginning of the exile, Jewish life in Palestine continued and often flourished. As many historical sources, including Crusader records made contemporaneously with their military conquest of the Holy Land attest, Jewish life in the Land continued  and despite all, even often flourished.  (See Joseph Farah “The Jews took no one’s land (See Joseph Farah “The Jews took no one’s landwww.WorldNetDaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=27338 )


Without delving deeply into the history of the Byzantines, Mameluks, Mongol Hordes, and other temporary occupiers of the territory lying between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, it is worth while drawing the reader’s attention to some illustrations of the Jewish presence in this territory drawn from what might best be described as ‘Some Sound-Bites of History’ (Rona Hart, (ed) in preparation; see also Eliyahu Tal, Whose Jerusalem? International Forum for a United Jerusalem, Jerusalem, 1994 (hereinafter “Tal”) ; Dan Bahat (ed), 20 Centuries of Jewish Life in the Holy Land, The Forgotten Generations, The Israel Economist, 1976 (hereinafter “Bahat”)

2. Jewish Population of the Holy Land Under Early Islamic Conquest and Occupation

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Muslim rule over the Holy Land, began just four years after the death of the Prophet. Caliphs ruled first from Damascus, then from Baghdad and Egypt.

The Muslim conquest of the Holy Land in 638 CE was initially favourable to the Jews. They resumed settlement in Jerusalem and were appointed guardians of the Temple Mount in return for their aid to the conquering Arab army. In Hebron Jews and Muslims appeared to cooperate in the protection and development of the Holy Sites there.

    • “But when the Arabs who came to Hebron marvelled at the strength and beauty of the wall [that surrounded the Cave of Machpelah, [burial place of the Patriarchs] and at the fact there was no opening through which it was possible to enter, some Jews who had remained under the Greek rule approached them, saying, “Protect us so that we may live under like conditions amongst you and permit us to build a synagogue in front of the entrance to the cave, and we will then show you at what place you should install the gate and so it was done.”
    • (Canonici Hebronensis Tractatus de Inventione Sanctorum Partriacharum Abraham, Ysaac et Jacob.)
    Ummayads
    The rule of the Ummayads (661-750 C.E) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umayyad) was a peaceful time for the Jews in Palestine. Indeed the Holy Land became a place of Jewish inward migration. Jews who were expelled from various other Arab areas, journeyed across what is now Jordan and settled in Jericho.

    Abbasids
    The mid 8th century saw the Ummayads supplanted by the Abbasid Caliphite

    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbasid) who founded Baghdad, making it their capital.
    It was only during this period that Jerusalem started to became an important centre for Islam

  • Between 687-691, Caliph Abd al-Malik built the Dome of the Rock mosque to compete with the beautiful Christian churches (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abd_al-Malik#Art_and_Architecture) and to provide a centre of pilgrimage closer to Baghdad than Mecca, but subordinate to it. Shortly afterwards (715) yet a further Islamic shrine, Masjid al-Aqsa, was built on the site of the Temple Mount (Har Habyit in Jewish appellation)
  • During this period (8th and 9th centuries) various travellers and pilgrims make reference in their reports to a continuing Jewish presence in Palestine:

    • Michael the Syrian relates that 30 synagogues in Tiberias were destroyed in the earthquake of 748 CE. This event is verified by St Willibald, a pilgrim from Britain who visited all of the holy places, an account of which was written by his relative, a nun of Heidenheim.
    • During the 8th century Jews were among those who guarded the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount, in return for which they were absolved from paying the poll tax imposed on all non-Muslims.
  • However with the rise of the Abbasids, relations between Muslims and non-Muslims (both Jews and Christians) deteriorated.  Non-Muslims had to wear a special badge on their clothing.  Increasing discrimination – social and economic – against non-Muslims caused many Jews to move to Fustat, Egypt, to establish a new community there.
  • In 772 C.E., when Caliph al Mansur visited Jerusalem, he ordered a special mark should be stamped on the hands of the Christians and the Jews. Over-taxed and tortured by the tax collectors, the dhimmi villagers went into hiding or migrated into the towns. Many Christians fled to Byzantium in the face of the fiscal oppression which devastated both the Jewish and Christian peasantry.  Bat Ye’Or, quoting from a detailed chronicle completed in 774 by an eighth century monk, states:
    • The men scattered, they became wanderers everywhere; the fields were laid waste, the countryside pillaged; the people went from one land to another.
  • A mosaic synagogue floor from this period located in Sussiya, South Judea contains an inscription which attests to the continued Jewish presence in Palestine at this time. The inscription reads:
    • Should be remembered for good and blessing our Master, His Holiness, R(abbi) Issi the Cohen, the Respected, the son of Rabbi who has donated this mosaic and plastered and whitewashed its wall as he promised at the banquet of his son, R(abbi) Johanan the Cohen, the Scribe.  Peace be upon Israel.
  • During the 9th century a listing of Jewish communities shows over 40 towns and villages in Galilee and Golan, several in the Jordan valley, and a handful across the Jordan.  Other towns with Jewish communities  include Jerusalem, Jaffa, Kfar Kasem, Kfar Saba, Bnei Brak, Lod (Lydda), Emmaus, Ekron, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ein Gedi, Jericho, Shilo, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
    Fatimids
    The 10th Century brought further political upheaval in the Middle East. The Abbasids lost power to Fatimids (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatimid ) who founded a new capital for their empire at al-Q?hirat (Cairo) in 969. After conquering Egypt, they continued to conquer the surrounding areas and Egypt became the centre of an empire that included North Africa, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. While Egypt flourished under the Fatimids , they nevertheless persecuted and imposed heavy taxation on the Jews in Palestine compelling them to leave their rural communities and move to the towns.
  • Arab geographer, Al Muqaddasi, writing in 985 CE complains in his “Knowledge of Climes”, that in Jerusalem
    • “…Learned men are few and the Christians numerous, and the same are unmannerly in public places… Everywhere the Christians and the Jews have the upper hand, and the mosque is void of either congregation or assembly of learned men.”
    He also notes that the Jews were employed as official money-changers, dyers and tanners.  Those who lived near Lake Hula, in the north, wove mats and ropes.  In Tiberias, the Jews specialised in the traditional manner of reciting, cantillating and interpreting the Scriptures.
    These were not the only activities in that city. Al MuQadassi also reported the residents of the town “led a life of decadence — dancing, feasting, playing the flute, running around naked, and swatting flies.”
  • At this time there was a continuous flow to Jerusalem of Jews from various countries, seeking shelter. A letter sent at the end of the 10th century from the Karaite Sahal ben Mazzli’ah to the Egyptian Diaspora, states:
    • “And know that Jerusalem at this time is a sanctuary to all who seek shelter, and gives rest to all who mourn, and comforts all who are poor and in want, and all the servants of the Lord come into her from every family and from every city, and amongst them women weeping and wailing in the holy tongue and in the Persian tongue and in the tongue of Ishmael.  Men and women dressed in sack-cloth and ashes… and they go up to the Mount of Olives all who are heavy of heart and in pain.”
    Unfortunately, Jerusalem did not remain a haven for Jewish refugees for long. Fatimid ruler, Caliph Al-Hakim (996-1021) destroyed both synagogues and churches, banished Christian priests and emptied Jerusalem of Jews. Although he eventually rescinded some of these restrictions, nevertheless the Jewish academy of Jerusalem had to move to Ramla. However in 1033 earthquake in the region forced the Jews to abandon the town temporarily. They returned some later.

4. The current status

Friday, September 12th, 2008

It is difficult to find a logical historical starting point in an examination of the legal and political issues arising from this long-standing conflict.

Since much of the Palestinian argument settles around the “illegality” of Israeli action and Israeli “legitimacy” as a sovereign Jewish state, the material contained in this resource book will centre on these issues. They must, however, be examined against the backdrop of the political, social and economic components of the situation to which they gave rise.

  • At the local level most of the conflict revolves around Israel’s purported expulsion of Arabs who claim to have held land in Palestine from “time immemorial.”
  • Regionally, especially after 1967, Israel’s presence in the Middle East is viewed as a destabilising factor. Its democratic government and society – with the freedom of expression and religion- is very different to that of its neighbours and presents a threat to the more or less autocratic secular and theocratic Arab governments in the Middle East which are still tribally constituted.
  • Globally, both from a secular and religious perspective, which is now beginning to express itself far beyond the confines of the Middle East,
    • the  commercial demands by Western states, particularly America, for a politically free and stable access to Middle Eastern controlled oil must be ensured; and
    • expansionist Islam is unable to accept the existence of a Jewish state asserting sovereignty over territory considered as part of Islam’s hegemony and the fact that some of its religious adherents are placed under the “domination” of a dhimmi people (inferior “protected”) is anathema.

The Revd. Dr. James Parkes (1896-1981), one of the most remarkable figures in British Christianity in the twentieth century ( http://www.soton.ac.uk/parkes/about/jamesparkes.html ) has taken a different view from that described above and looks at the centrality of  Palestine – the Land of Israel – from the religious perspectives of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. He concludes that the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel lies at the core of Judaism, whereas in Christianity and Islam it is more peripheral. (James Parkes, A History of Palestine from 135 A.D. to Modern Times, Victor, Gollancz, London, 1949; also  Whose Land? A History of the Peoples of Palestine, Penguin Books,  Harmondsworth, Mddx,1970)

In Parkes’ opinion, Palestine owes its unique position in the international political arena because the members of three world religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – are concerned in its destiny despite the fact that most of their respective adherents do not dwell in the country. Nevertheless, Palestine (the historical Roman name applied to the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean coast) has an unequalled prominence in Judaism which placed, and still continues to place, an emphasis on its physical occupation different from that expressed in Christianity and Islam:

  • For Muslims, the issue is not Palestine as a Holy Land, but Jerusalem as a Holy City – third holiest shrine in Islam – where according to Muslim belief, it was to and from “the furthest mosque” that Muhammad was miraculously transported in order to make his ascent into heaven.
    • ”Glory to He who took His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque to the furthest mosque”. (Subhana allathina asra bi-‘abdihi laylatan min al-masjidi al-harami ila al-masjidi al-aqsa.)
    However, the Koran makes no specific reference to Jerusalem. Only some considerable time after Mohammad’s death, and for political reasons, did Islam link the “furthest mosque” to Jerusalem.

    In contrast, Jerusalem (and its synonym, Zion) appears 823 times in the Jewish Bible and in the Christian New Testament, Jerusalem is mentioned 154 times and Zion 7 times.

    (Daniel Pipes, The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem, Middle East September 2001 http://www.danielpipes.org/article/84#Aqsa )

    In Islam, the central emphasis of religious practice is on the submission of the individual to the will of Allah. The Koran is not the history of the Arab people; all Muslims are equal, whatever their colour, nationality or country.

  • For Christians, Palestine is the Holy Land in which Jesus Christ lived his earthly life. In this sense it is unique and has no rival. But Christianity is neither tied to any particular geographical area nor to any particular people. Its central religious emphasis is on personal salvation and on the “second coming” of the Messiah –Jesus – marking the end of the world and the final judgment. Apart from pilgrimage, Christianity is disconnected with the Land; there is no religious obligation to settle there as there is in Judaism.
    The New Testament contains the history of no country; it passes freely from the Palestinian landscape of the Gospels to the Hellenistic and Roman landscape of the later books and in both it records the story of a group of individuals within a larger environment.” ( Parkes, p.172)
  • For Jews, Palestine is a Holy Land in the sense of being a Promised Land where the destiny of and self-determination for the Jews is integral. They have an intense relationship with the Land going beyond that of either of the other two religions. Throughout the centuries Judaism has espoused the idea of settlement and repatriation of its adherents and possesses an all-pervading religious centrality possessed by no other land. The essential objective of the Jewish Messiah is seen in the restoration of the Jewish people from all the lands of its dispersion to the Holy Land-Palestine-Israel.The central emphasis in Judaism, however, was and is the divine revelation of a way of life to be lived by men in community in this world. It relates to the whole life of a people on earth – domestically, socially, commercially, and its relations with other peoples (pre-modern ‘international’ relations) – as much as with its religion and its relations with its God.Jewish laws and customs are based on the land and climate of Palestine; its agricultural festivals of  Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost or Feast of Weeks) and Sukkoth (Tabernacles), follow the Palestinian seasons. Its post-biblical historical festivals are linked to events in Palestinian history, such as the joyful rededication of the Temple at the feast of Hanukkah and the mourning for its destruction on the ninth day of the month of Av in the Jewish calendar.

    Unlike Christianity and Islam, Judaism places much less emphasis on life hereafter than do Christianity and Islam and retains its central spiritual, physical and political existence in the geographical actuality of Palestine –Israel.

During the period of the exile from Palestine and its dispersion from the second to the eighteenth century, the Jewish people were recognised as both as a religion and as a nation.  As a religious group, they were compared to Christians and Muslims and as a Nation, they could be compared to Turks or Frenchmen. However civic unity in Christianity and in Islam especially, was based on uniformity of belief, within neither of which could Jewish destiny be fulfilled. This made it absolutely impossible for a Jewish group to be other than second-class subjects.

In their dispersion Jews built up a double religious life:

  • their loyalty in the lands of their sojourn was governed by the general principle that ‘the law of the land is law’;
  • Although religious observance in each community had to adjust Biblical and Talmudic law to the actualities of life under different rulers, nevertheless a continuous correspondence between communities and outstanding rabbis of the day ensured the continuity of traditional Jewish customs and ordinances as far as circumstances allowed.
    But behind these local adjustments, Jewish religious interest still centred on the Bible, on the Mishnaic code and on Talmud whose integral fulfilment could only take place in the Land of Israel. (Parkes p.173)


For other more secular observers of the Middle East, the resolution to the conflict was to be found in the return of land to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. However some have concluded that this is merely an interim stage in a longer process. The real conflict is still one of Islamic fundamentalist ascendancy.

Professor Benny Morris views the conflict thus:

    “It has become clear to me that from its start the struggle against the Zionist enterprise wasn’t merely a national conflict between two peoples over a piece of territory but also a religious crusade against an infidel usurper. As early as Dec. 2, 1947, four days after the passage of the partition resolution, the scholars of Al Azhar University proclaimed a “worldwide jihad in defense of Arab Palestine” and declared that it was the duty of every Muslim to take part.
    …Those currently riding high in the region-figures like Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal, Hizbullah’s Hassan Nasrallah and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad-are true believers who are convinced it is Allah’s command and every Muslim’s duty to extirpate the “Zionist entity” from the sacred soil of the Middle East.
    For all its economic, political, scientific and cultural achievements and military prowess, Israel, at 60, remains profoundly insecure — for there can be no real security for the Jewish state, surrounded by a surging sea of Muslims, in the absence of peace.”

(Benny Morris, From Dove to Hawk, Newsweek, May 8, 2008, http://www.newsweek.com/id/136085)

3. Jewish “Aliyah” Attempts to Return to Palestine – Frustrated by Christian Millenium Crusades (Phase I )

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

The  9th -11th centuries, saw the a rise in a Jewish movement to Palestine which believed that “aliyah” – “ascent” to the Land of Israel, would hasten the resurrection of Israel.

Jewish communities along the coast, such as those as Rafah, Gaza, Ashkelon, Jaffa and Caesarea flourished at this time and maintained cultural relations with Egypt.

  • A man from Rafa, living in Egypt, wrote a letter (discovered in the Cairo Genizeh) to the Rafah Jewish community in 1015.  It begins:

“To our beloved Rabbi Solomon, the Judge, may his soul rest in peace, and the elders and the rest of the holy community who dwell in Rafah, may God preserve them.”

  • In 1047 the Persian traveller, Nasir-i-Khusraw, wrote:

From Byzantium many Christians and Jews come to Jerusalem in order to visit the church and the synagogue there.”

However Jewish “aliya” movement to return to the Holy Land however was affected by the millennium of the 11th century.

Many people feared (or hoped) the world was coming to an end. Plagues, volcanic eruptions, crime and sin are fulsomely described by contemporary chroniclers. Barbara Tuchman in her seminal The Bible and the Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour (Ballantine Books, New York, 1988) describes the period as one of religious hysteria, in which the year 1000 was expected to bring the end of the world. It afflicted all of Western Europe like an epidemic. Hastening to the scene of man’s Redemption before the final awful moment of reckoning, “hordes”, according to some chroniclers, poured into the Holy Land, of whom a large proportion never returned.  Some died of want; some of plague; some were killed by marauding Arabs; some were lost at sea by storms or shipwreck or pirates.  Only the lucky or the well provided came back alive.

For the Jews the year 1070, the millennium since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, also brought reality to their fears of future events:

    Seljuks

  • In 1071 Seljuks (http://www.themiddleages.net/people/seljuks.html ) conquered Jerusalem from the Abbasids whose power had been on the wane for some time. The Seljuk Empire was very extensive, stretching from Anatolia to Punjab.Because that empire also included the Holy Land, it became the target of the First Christian Crusade to free Jerusalem from the control of the “Saracens” a term used initially in the Middle Ages for Fatimids and subsequently for all who professed the religion of Islam. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saracen)In the eyes of the Crusaders, both Jews and Muslims were viewed as “pagans. They therefore made no distinction between them: all were either put to the sword or burnt. In consequence upon a Crusader approach many Jerusalem Jews (and presumably others) fled south-eastwards to Ashkelon, which was fortified.

    Crusaders
  • For the Crusaders, the Jews were viewed as the source of all the trouble in the Holy Land, especially for the destruction of the Holy Sepulchre by the Fatimids in 1009 (http://www.christusrex.org/www1/jhs/TSspdest.html.)One of the chroniclers of the time, Ralph Glaber, in his Miracles de Saint-Benoit (from Migne, PL 142:655ff)(http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/glaber-1000.html) expressed his deep concern for the future and like many others he, too, expected the end of the world at the time of the Millennium.  As regards the Holy Land in general and Jerusalem in particular, Ralph was aware that “the prince of Babylon” was in command of Jerusalem, but placed the blame on the local Jewish communities in the Holy Land for all the mishaps that occurred to the Christians there:

At that time, moreover, that is in the ninth year after the aforesaid thousandth anniversary, the church at Jerusalem which contained the sepulchre of our Lord and Saviour was utterly overthrown at the command of the prince of Babylon.. . . After that it had been overthrown, as we have said, then within a brief space it became full evident that this great iniquity had been done by the wickedness of the Jews. When therefore this was spread abroad through the whole world, it was decreed by the common consent of Christian folk that all Jews should utterly driven forth from their lands or cities. Thus they were held up to universal hatred and driven forth from the cities; some were Slain with the sword or cut off by manifold kinds of death, and some even slew themselves in divers fashions; so that, after this well-deserved vengeance had been wreaked, scarce any were found in the Roman world. Then also the bishops published decrees forbidding all Christians to associate themselves with Jews in an matter whatsoever; and ordaining that, whosoever would be converted to baptismal grace and utterly eschew the Customs or manners of the Jews, he alone should be received. Which indeed was done by very many of them for love of this present life, and impelled rather by fear of death than by the joys of the life everlasting; for all such of them as simulated this conversion returned impudently within a brief while to their former way of life..[gma emphasis] . .

Jerusalem

  • The Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem

Dating from the time of `Umar, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umar) the Quarter was located in the southern part of the city, near the gates of the Temple Mount and the pool of Siloam. An 11th century document briefly mentioned it as being located opposite the Temple and adjacent to ‘the Gate of the Priest’

In the eleventh century the southern wall line was abandoned, and the Jewish quarter, now without sufficient defence, moved to the northern part of the city.

A midrashic commentary, probably from an earlier period – the Song of Songs Rabba – cites that the phrase “There he stands behind our wall” (Song of Songs 2:9) is

a reference to the Western Wall of the Temple, since the Holy One Blessed Be His Name has sworn that this wall will never be destroyed; the Gate of the Priest and Hulda’s Gate have never been destroyed”. It seems …  that the Gate of the Priest was located in the Western Wall, and that the Jewish quarter extended from the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount southward toward the Zion and Siloam Gates.

The commentary states:

the kings of Ishmael treat us well and have allowed Israel to come to the Temple and build there a place of worship and study. All the Israelites in exile that live near the Temple make pilgrimage there on holidays and festivals and pray in it. (Rabbi Avraham Bar-Hiya, 1065-1135).

  • The Crusader Siege of Jerusalem

On 7 June the crusader army camped outside Jerusalem, described in “Chronicles of the Crusades” as “one of the strongest cities in the world.”

An attempt to storm the walls on June 13 failed, and the army settled in (in the baking heat) for a siege.
Fulcher of Chartres wrote:

During the siege we were so oppressed by thirst that we sewed together the hides of oxen and buffalo, which we used to carry water of a distance of about six miles… we were in daily distress and affliction for the Saracens used to lie in wait around the springs and water sources, and would ambush our men, kill them and cut them to pieces…”

After an all out attack, the Crusaders took Jerusalem on 15 July 1099.  The Gesta Francorum (The Deeds of the Franks), written circa 1100-1101, by an anonymous writer connected with Bohemund of Antioch  (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/gesta-cde.html) famously describes the scene:

Before we attacked Jerusalem, the bishops and priests preached to us, telling us to go in a procession in God’s honour around Jerusalem, and pray and give alms and fast…

…all the defenders of the city fled along the walls and through the city, and our men, following Lethold, chased after them, killing them and dismembering them as far as the Temple of Solomon.  And in that place there was such slaughter that we were up to our ankles in their blood.

At last the pagans were overcome and our men captured a good number of men and women in the Temple; they killed whomsoever they wished, and chose to keep others alive…  All our men came rejoicing and weeping for joy to worship at the church of the Holy Sepulchre

Haifa

  • Nor was Jerusalem the only city besieged.  Albert of Aachen in his Book of Travels, refers to the conquest of Haifa by the Crusaders:

“And the city of Haifa… which the Jews defended with great courage, to the shame and embarrassment of the Christians.”

A later writer, Marcel Ladoire, a French priest (also an historian) who visited in 1719 wrote:

“And Haifa, although moderate in size, was strongly fortified, and perhaps because of this, for a long time it withstood the mighty onslaught of the Prince Tancred, who attacked it from the sea and also from the land, with the help of the Venetians.  Although the Jews fought with courage, they were overcome by the might of the invaders.”

Thus, a full thousand years after the fall of the Jewish state, there were still Jewish communities throughout the Holy Land, fifty of which are known including Jerusalem, Tiberias, Ramleh, Ashkelon, Caesarea and Gaza.

4. Effect of Crusader Control of Holy Land (Phase II) on Jewish Settlement

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

In the second phase the Crusaders gained a hold over certain towns and regions by means of treaties and agreements in which the Jews participated.  The destruction of entire communities ceased as the Crusaders were more interested in possessing living cities than in occupying desolate wastes.

Jews, however, sought refuge in Ashkelon, Rafah and El Arish ahead of the advancing Crusaders.  In more remote areas such as Galilee, the invasion was felt less.  Everywhere the Jews were treated by the Crusaders as were other non-Christian communities, except that they were not allowed to live in Jerusalem.

Travel between the Holy Land and Europe became easier and the number of Jews immigrating from France, England and North Africa increased as did the number of Jewish pilgrims to Jerusalem; Yehuda Halevi in 1141, Maimonides in 1165 and Benjamin of Tudela, visiting between 1167 and 1169.

The renowned rabbi Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, 1135-1204) in the Preface to his Commentary on Tractate Rosh Hashana, written in 1165 notes:

    On the 4th day of Cheshvan (October-November) we departed from Acre to go up to Jerusalem at grave risk.  I entered the great and holy place (the synagogue on Temple Mount) and prayed there… and I departed from Jerusalem for Hebron to embrace the tombs of my forebears in the Cave and prayed there that day and gave thanksgiving to God for everything… And these two days I made an oath to celebrate for me and my descendants forever, may the Lord help me fulfil my pledges.

    And just as I was privileged to pray in the Land in its desolation, may I and all Israel live to see its speedy restoration.[gma emphasis] (Tal, p. 101)

Benjamin of Tudela found Jews living near David’s Tower in Jerusalem, despite the Crusader ban.  He noted the existence of Jewish communities in Acre, Tiberias, Caesarea, Jaffa, Ramla, Ashkelon and Hebron, as well as in the rural areas, mainly in Galilee:

    I saw in Jerusalem a numerous population composed of Jacobites, Armenians, Greeks, Georgians, Franks, and in fact of all tongues.  There’s a dyeing house rented yearly by the Jews, exclusively.  Two hundred of those Jews dwell in one corner of the city, under the Tower of David. (cited in Tal, p.102)

Benamin left a record of the number of Jewish inhabitants in towns and villages across the country. The relatively small numbers reflect the outcome of the destruction of entire communities by the First Crusade, half a century earlier.
Although the Crusaders massacred many Jews during the 12th century, the Jewish community rebounded in the next two centuries as large numbers of rabbis and Jewish pilgrims immigrated to Jerusalem and the Galilee. Prominent rabbis established communities in Safed, Jerusalem, and elsewhere during the next 300 years.

6. Jewish Presence in Palestine Under the Ottomans

Monday, September 8th, 2008

The early sixteenth century saw the Ottoman capture of Palestine by Sultan Selim. The Ottoman regime was to last 400 years until its defeat at the hands of the British at the end of World War I in 1918. Throughout this period, Jewish life was maintained in four main urban centres: Jerusalem, Safad, Tiberias and Hebron. Bahat notes:

    The largest community, numbering about 10,000 Jews was situated in and around Safad,; most of them were refugees from Spain, from which they were expelled in 1492. The Jews of Safad were reported as trading in spices, cheese oils, vegetables and fruits. Many Jews Jews were engaged in weaving.  Amongst the prominent leaders of the community in the 16th century was…R. Joseph Karo, compiler of the ‘Shulhan Arukh’  [and] the Cabbalist R. Isaac Luria.  During this century Safad was the centre of Jewish mysticism” (p.50)

According to official censuses, in the second quarter of the 16th century the number of Jews in Jerusalem varied between 1,000 and 1,500, living in three quarters coextensive with the present Jewish Quarter of the city, while William Biddulph, an English priest who visited Palestine in 1600 commented in his book “The Travels of Four Englishmen and a Preacher ” that Tiberias is entirely occupied by Jews.

In 1631, the Christian writer Eugene Roger records that there were approximately 15,000 Jews were living in various parts of the country, including Jerusalem, Hebron, Gaza, Haifa, Ramla, Nablus, Safad, Acre and Sidon.

They were subject to the whims of the local rulers who in many cases had purchased their posts at great cost [from the Ottoman Government] and attempted to recoup this money during their period of rule. (Bahat p.54)

Bahat’s research provides information regarding the visit of George Sandys, son of the Archbishop of York who visited the Holy Land in 1611. He states in his Travailes,

    “And in their Land they (the Jews)live as strangers, hated by those amongst whom they dwell, open to all oppression and deprivation, which they bear with patience beyond all belief, despised and beaten. In spite of all this, I never saw a Jew with an angry face.”

The writings of a Dutch scholar, Olf Dapper who collected data mostly from travellers to the Holy Land in this period summed up his findings in 1677 with the statement:

    “There are Jews all over Syria and the Holy Land, especially in Acre, Sidon, Damascus, Jerusalem, Hebron and Gaza. No transactions take place without the knowledge of the Jews and even the smallest dealings pass through their hands.”  (Bahat p.54)

Despite the economic and cultural decay of the Ottoman Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries, Jewish immigration to the Land continued even though life became increasingly difficult. Jewish communities began to organise themselves and agricultural settlements such as Kfar Yasif were established in the Galilee. On the other hand, with the increasing impoverishment of the Ottoman Empire, the non-muslim inhabitants of Palestine bore an increasing burden of taxation. Such were the human and natural disasters that it is estimated that during the first half of the 19th century the total population of the country did not exceed 250,000. In Jerusalem, however, travellers Richardson, Carne and Scholte reported in 1820-21 that Jews constituted the largest religious group in the city. This is confirmed by the first official census for Jerusalem held in 1844, which showed the population to be composed of: 7120 Jews, 5760 Muslims and 3390 Christians

By 1874, the American consul in Jerusalem, de Haas, reported that the city’s population numbered 30,000 of whom, 20,000 (two thirds) were Jews. (Eliyahu Tal, Whose Jerusalem? p.274)

In concluding this brief survey of the evidence of the uninterrupted presence of Jews in the Holy Land from the year 70 C.E. it is worth while presenting Behat’s extensive references to the official and institutional reports. These attest to the increasing significance of the Jews in the urban centres of Palestine, particularly in Jerusalem, as well as the first Jewish agricultural institutions and settlements, culminating in the waves of European immigrants who arrived on the shores of the Holy Land at the turn of the 20th Century.

“During the 19th century, immigration increased, as the English missionary, W.H. Bartlett, records in his book, Jerusalem Revisited, London 1855, that the Jewish community in Jerusalem numbered over 11,000. This is confirmed by the second British consul in Jerusalem, James Finn, in his book Stirring Times, London 1878. Mary Elisa Rogers writes in her book, Domestic Life in Palestine, London 1862, that there was an active Jewish community in Haifa. She lived there with her brother, the British vice-consul, from 1850 to 1859. The English missionary, Andrew Bonar, who visited the Holy Land in 1839, mentioned the synagogue of the Jews in Nablus besides that of the Samaritans (Narrative of a Mission of Enquiry to the Jews … Edinburgh 1846). The American officer W.F. Lynch who arrived in the country in 1848 describes the Jewish community in Jaffa in his Narrative of the U.S.’s expedition to the River Jordan and the Dead Sea, London 1852. All these communities were urban in nature and attempts by Jewish philanthropists abroad to establish rural villages

In 1870, the Mikveh Israel Agricultural School was founded near Jaffa. This was followed almost immediately by the establishment of villages in Motza (Jerusalem) and, in 1878, in Petah Tikvah.

The rise of nationalism in Europe and the Russian pogroms of the 1880′s led to a new wave of immigration. The names given by these immigrants to the villages which they founded reflect the vision and ideals represented by them – Rishon LeZion (the First in Zion), Nes Ziona (the Banner of Zion), Yesud HaMa’ala (the Start of the Ascent) and Rosh Pina (Cornerstone). The deterioration in economic conditions in the Land of Israel adversely affected settlement and threatened the total collapse of agricultural enterprises! The Jews of the Diaspora and the Jewish philanthropists, particularly Baron Edmond de Rothschild, came to the rescue.

In 1904, the second great wave of immigration, known as the Second Aliyah, began. This, too, was ideologically motivated, being based on the principles of Jewish labour, independent agricultural settlement and the brotherhood and equality of men. Subsequently the revolutionary forms of settlement we know today – the kibbutz (collective settlement) and the moshav (cooperative small-holders’ village) – were established. The Hebrew language, long relegated to liturgical or literary usage, was revived as a spoken tongue.

The World Zionist Organisation began to create the necessary tools for consolidating Jewish settlement, such as the Workers’ Bank, the Jewish National Fund, whose task was to purchase land for the nation, and many other institutions dedicated to the mission of national revival.

As will be discussed later, the Balfour Declaration, issued by the British in 1917 recognising the right of the Jews to a national home in Palestine, and the subsequent Mandate for Palestine, in which the League of Nations incorporated this aim, served as the international recognition of what was to become the State of Israel in 1948.” (Behat pp 64-65)

One must also bear in mind that Zionism is not a modern phenomenon imitating other nationalistic movements prevalent in the 19th century. While a spiritual longing to return to Zion has long existed ever since Jewish expulsion by the Romans in the first century, there has been a constant physical Jewish aliya -“going up” – or return to Israel driven by the age old messianic dream of medieval times which started well before the early Zionist aliyot (plural  of aliya) in the 1880’s. The relationship between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel is a basic element in Jewish consciousness. For some historians, notably Benzion Dinur, Israel’s Minister of Education from 1951-1955, the driving force behind the aliyot of the medieval and early modern periods was the “Messianic ferment” that cropped up in Jewish communities which, together with the appearance of charismatic leaders heralding the end of days, precipitated the organisation of groups to return to Israel in order to hasten the Redemption.

(see Arie Morgenstern, Dispersion and the Longing for Zion 1240-1840, Vol 12 Azure, Winter 2002; Joseph Farah “The Jews took no one’s land” www.WorldNetDaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=27338 )

“First Photographs of the Holy Land” http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~dhershkowitz/index2.html ; also Photographs of Early Zionist  in Palestine http://www.zionism-israel.com/photos/Historicphotos1.htm ;

The purpose of this Section has been to refute any argument that the Jewish connection with Palestine is one of relatively recent origin. It also serves to bring to the readers’ attention the factual basis upon which the Palestine Mandate document was able to declare in no uncertain terms in the third paragraph of its Preamble as follows:


“Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country”