CHAPTER II

JEWISH CONTINUOUS LINK WITH “ERETZ YISRAEL”

1.   Jewish Population in Palestine from Roman Conquest | 2.   Jewish Population of the Holy Land Under Early Islamic Conquest and Occupation | 3.  Jewish "Aliyah"  Attempts to Return to Palestine - Frustrated by Christian Millenium Crusades (Phase I ) | 4.  Effect of Crusader Control of Holy Land (Phase II) on Jewish Settlement | 5.  Islamic Control Reasserted Over the Holy Land | 6.  Jewish Presence in Palestine Under the Ottomans | 7.  Jerusalem : Its Centrality to Judaism and to Jewish Culture

 


Somewhat arbitrarily, this Handbook begins its examination of the Israeli Arab conflict prior to the establishment of the British Civil Administration of Palestine under the Mandate and considers the main ingredients of this cauldron: (i) the Jewish Population and its continuous link with Eretz Yisrael- the Holy Land - Palestine (this Chapter II) and (ii)  Palestinian Arab Culture and Identity (Chapter III). 

 

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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”)

 

1.   Jewish Population in Palestine from Roman Conquest

 

After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE and the removal by the Romans to Rome of many Jews as slaves, there was still a Jewish population in the land significant in number to establish a Jewish army. Led by Bar-Kochba, the Jews revolted against Roman domination in the 130's CE. Although they were ultimately defeated, contemporary Roman reports noted that Julius Severus was deterred from engaging Bar-Kochba's forces in face-to-face combat, as their numbers were so large.  (Dio Cassius, Dio's Roman History)


*         Between 132-135 Hadrian crushed Bar Kokhba's revolt, re-established Jerusalem as the Roman pagan polis Aelia Capitolina, and forbade a Jewish presence in the city.

*         While Jerusalem may have been without Jews for a time, many other urban areas maintained a strong Jewish population. Thus in 260-339 CE, Eusebius reported:

“in the Holy Land there is a large town with a considerable population consisting only of Jews, called in Aramaic, Lod, and in Greek, Diocaesarea (History of the Martyrs of Palestine, London  1861);

 

o        Although in 324 Jerusalem became part of the Byzantine Empire, and notwithstanding Bar Kochba’s defeat, the Jews in the Holy Land continued to resist the Roman occupation.  In the year 351, a Jewish military night-attack totally destroyed a Roman garrison. In response, Gallus retaliated by slaughtering thousands of people including infants, and destroyed the towns of Caesarea, Tiberias and Lydda and setting fire to many others.  ( St Jerome Hieronymus)


o        Tolerant of other faiths, pagan Emperor Julian the Apostate announced between 361-363 that the Jews be permitted to return to "holy Jerusalem which you have for many years longed to see rebuilt".


o        Such toleration of Jews in the Holy Land did not continue for long. From the reign of Theodosius II (408-450) Jews were deprived of their relative autonomy and of their right to hold public positions. They were also forbidden to enter Jerusalem except on one day a year to mourn the Destruction of the Temple


o        Even though Jewish political independence was lost, its literary and religious activity continued in the Holy Land as evidenced by the compilation in the 6th century of the Midrash Rabbah "Great Midrash". This is an encyclopaedial body of biblical interpretations and commentary which is still used today as a reference in Judaic Studies.


Considerable anecdotal evidence attesting to the continued Jewish presence in the Holy Land in the 6th century can be derived from the reports of Christian pilgrims such as Antoninus the Martyr, who during his visit to Palestine at the end of the century, declared:


Nazareth ! So great is the beauty of the Jewish women in the town that you will not find more beautiful women amongst the Jews in the length and breadth of this Land.”


*         In 614 CE, led by General Shahrbaraz, the Persians conquered the territory west of the Jordan and with it Jerusalem was subjected to foreign rule. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was burned and the True Cross was captured. Hoping for freedom of worship, the Jews gave the invaders their support, only to be disappointed by the Persian response. However Karen Armstrong, an authoritative British historian on comparative religion notes that  "ever since the Persian occupation, ... the Jews had resumed worship on the ( Temple Mount ) platform ..." (Karen Armstrong, Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths, 1997, Ballantine Books: New York, p. 229)

*         In any case, Persian rule was short lived, ending in March 629, when Heraclius, the Byzantine Emperor, gained control of Jerusalem.  Again Jews made pleas for religious tolerance and some degree of political independence. Visiting Tiberias in 629, the Emperor was welcomed by all the Jews dwelling in the Galilee hills and Nazareth. All the small Galilean villages showered him with gifts and blessings and begged his protection.  Heraclius responded favourably and signed a treaty with the Jews, guaranteeing to protect them... but under pressure from Christian priests in Jerusalem reneged on his agreement. (Euthychius, Patriarch of Alexandria, 939)


The Muslim historian Baladhuri (d. 892 C .E.) maintained that just prior to the Arab Muslim conquest ( 638 C .E), some 30,000 Samaritans and 20,000 Jews lived in Caesarea alone.  Archaeological data confirms the lasting devastation wrought by these initial jihad conquests, particularly the widespread destruction of synagogues and churches.

Jewish industrial and agricultural undertakings also suffered from the jihad; Jews involved in the traditional occupations of glass-making and producing wicks for oil lamps were disrupted in their work and the agricultural uprooting during this period caused massive soil erosion to the western slopes of the Judaean mountains.The papyri of Nessana were completely discontinued after the year 700, reflecting the destruction the Jewish agricultural life of the Negev and the desertion of its villages.


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



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 Moslem 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 Moslems 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 :


o        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.

o        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 mosiac 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-Qāhirat ( 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.

 

3.  Jewish "Aliyah"  Attempts to Return to Palestine - Frustrated by Christian Millenium Crusades (Phase I )
 

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."

 

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

o        A man from Rafa, then living in Egypt, wrote a letter (discovered in the Cairo Genizah) 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."

 

o        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] . .


o        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.
 

o        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



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.


5.  Islamic Control Reasserted Over the Holy Land


Ayyubids

Christian attempts to maintain their hold the Holy Land against the Islamic Ayyubid dynasty failed. Its founder, Salah al-Din al-Ayubbi, a Kurdish warrior, born in 1138 in Tikrit, ultimately became the Sultan of Egypt and a known champion of Islam. In 1174, he conquered Damascus , Alleppo, and Iraq and preached Jihad to 
the Muslim world in a counter crusade against the Christians. Gathering a large force of Muslims of various groups, Saladin attacked the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187 and defeated the Crusaders in the Battle of 
the Horns of Hittin near the Lake of Galilee . After a further three months of fighting, Saladin gained control 
of Jerusalem. The Christian attempt at retaliation with the third crusade led by the English King Richard the “Lionheart in 1189 failed to recover Jerusalem . Richard conceded defeat and settled for a peace treaty - Peace of Ramla- that guaranteed Christian pilgrims access to the Holy Places and a Christian presence on the Mediterranean coast. In their fight against Islam, the Christians neither regained control of interior of the Holy Land nor of Jerusalem .

(Saladin, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Saladin.html)


Under Salah al Din (aka Saladdin) and his successors, Jews again enjoyed a certain measure of freedom were permitted to resettle in Jerusalem . Many who had fled earlier to Ashkelon returned and in 1211, some three hundred rabbis from England and France immigrated in a group, some settling in Acre and others in Jerusalem .

Mamluks

The 13th century saw the Mamluks (originally slave soldiers in Egypt who rebelled against the former Ayyubid sultans) gain power in Egypt and Syria in 1250. This notwithstanding, Jews continued to immigrate to the Holy Land, particularly from France , and settled in Haifa , Caesarea, Tyre and Acre.  

*         In 1257 Rabbi Yehiel of Paris settled in Acre and established the Yeshiva (Religious Seminary) of Paris ;

*         Nahmanides, a famous Jewish physician and talmudic scholar (1194-1270) migrated from Spain and after settling initially in Jerusalem he later moved to Acre . There, in the growing Jewish community, he became involved in local religious education.


Unfortunately the Jewish communities in Acre and the other towns along the Mediterranean coast - Tyre ,
Haifa
, and Caesarea - did not survive for very long. The Mameluk Sultan, Al Ashraf Khalil, employed a scorched earth policy along the coast to prevent the possibility of a new Christian invasion. He attacked and destroyed Acre in 1291 in an effort to dislodge the remaining Crusaders who had holed up there in retreat. The Jews 
were therefore forced to abandon their coastal settlements and move inland. (Bahat pp.41-43)

 

Thus by the end of the 13th century, although Islam succeeded in regaining control of the Holy Land, many 
Jews who had tried to settle there were killed in the course of Islamic confrontations with Christians.

 

Although the Mamluk rule brought stability to the Holy Land in the early 14th century and permitted the revival 
of Jewish settlement, which augmented the existing Jewish communities in Safad, Ramla and Gaza
nevertheless a Jewish renaissance was retarded by natural disasters such as epidemics and earthquakes. This notwithstanding, during the middle and through to the end of the century, travellers such as Jacques of Verona, and Ogier D’Anglure reporting on their visits to Jerusalem in 1335 and 1395 respectively, refer to the existence there of Jewish communities, as did Giorgio Gucci in 1350 who described the Jews coming to pray in Hebron at the shrine of the Jewish forefathers. (Bahat pp.44-45)


The writings of the visiting Dominican priest, Felix Fabri, towards the end of the fifteenth century (1482) also disclose a reference to the presence of Jews in Jerusalem at the time. He described the city as "a collection of all manner of abominations" amongst whom were the Jews whom he referred to “as the most cursed of all." 
On the other hand, a Christian pilgrim from Bohemia visiting Jerusalem in 1491 – 1492 wrote in his book ‘
Journey to Jerusalem


"Christians and Jews alike in Jerusalem lived in great poverty and in conditions of great deprivation, there are not many Christians but there are many Jews, and these the Moslems persecute in various ways. Christians and Jews go about in Jerusalem in clothes considered fit only for wandering beggars. The Moslems know that the Jews think and even say that this is the Holy Land which has been promised to 
them and that those Jews who dwell there are regarded as holy by Jews elsewhere, because, in spite of all the troubles and sorrows inflicted on them by the Moslems, they refuse to leave the Land." (cited in Bahat, p.49)


Shortly afterwards, Palestine was to experience a further influx of Jews following their expulsion from Spain in 1492 by Ferdinand and Isabella.

 

 

6.  Jewish Presence in Palestine Under the Ottomans

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 art 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)

 

7.  Jerusalem : Its Centrality to Judaism and to Jewish Culture

The myth of al-Aqsa

Holiness of Jerusalem to Islam has always been politically motivated

Mordechai Kedar Published in YNET : 09.15.08, 00:47 / Israel Opinion

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3596681,00.html

 

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 continuous connection binding the Jewish people to the Land of Israel has been concisely summed up by Christian historian and theologian, Revd. James Parkes, grounded in five main roots: Judaism; the messianic hope 
of return and redemption; Jewish history; continuous Jewish life in Israel and the Middle East and Palestinian Jewry’s commitment to the Land. (James Parkes, “Five Roots of Israel”  Vallentine-Mitchell & Co. Ltd., London , 1964).

 

These points link to an important differentiation which needs to be made between Jewish colonisation and 
imperial colonialism. As will be explained in Chapter IV, the motivation behind the nineteenth and twentieth 
century Zionist Movement in establishing Jewish colonies in Palestine was grounded not only in the five roots enumerated above, but also in the secular drive for self-determination. This should be contrasted with imperial colonialism. British Middle Eastern objectives following World War I, which were to be advanced by encouraging the establishment of Jewish colonies - were motivated to support and expand the interests of the “mother” [trustee] country – the expansion of British hegemony and markets for British manufactured goods, containing the interests of competing imperial aspirations of France and Russia, establishing and maintaining secure access to, if not 
control over, petroleum resources in the Persian Gulf and finally ensuring a land bridge from Europe to India and the Far East in the event of control of the Suez Canal falling into alien hands.


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”

 

 

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