...We set several objectives in writing this paper:
• To present a longitudinal narrative overview of the Jews of Eretz-Israel/Palestine (the Yishuv) during the late Ottoman and the Mandate periods.
• To consider the Jews of Palestine within the context of external political systems and the Jewish diaspora on one hand, and the local host society on the other.
• To provide a generalized dynamic typology of the demographic, political, social, cultural, spatial, and economic components over time.
• To refine the existing categorization of “old” and “New” Yishuv.
• To further examine the contribution of Sephardi and Oriental versus Ashkenazi Jews to the growth and development of the Yishuv, which in our opinion has been underestimated.
...Under Ottoman rule (1517-1917) there was no political entity actually known as Palestine but a term preserved by the Christian world referring to the “Holy Land” or “Judea”. The name taken from the Hebrew word Pleshet was used by Emperor Hadrian in an attempt to eradicate any trace of Judaism in the land. By the 425, the Byzantine heirs to the eastern part of the Roman Empire delineated three provinces: Palaestina Prima, which included the coastal towns, the Judean Hills and the Jewish section of the Jordan Rift; Palaestina Secunda, which comprised the Jezreel Valley, the Galilee, and the Golan; and Palaestina Tertia, which consisted of the Negev, Ammon, Moab and Edom. After the Arab conquest in 638, Palaestina Prima was named Jund Filistin. Under the Mamluke (1267-1517) and Ottoman rule, the use of the term Filistin was not resumed. Instead, Ottoman jurisdiction divided the territory between the provinces (vilayets) of Sidon (later Beirut) and Damascus. The latter controlled the northern sections of the area east of the Jordan River. Under the 1864 Law of Vilayets the districts (sanjaks) of Jerusalem, Nablus, and Gaza became a separate administrative unit, called the mutasariflik of Jerusalem. In 1873 its rule was transferred directly to Istanbul. In 1906 an administrative boundary was drawn between Sinai and the Ottoman Empire along the Rafah-Taba line. In 1908 the Negev was placed under the Governor of the Damascus province...
...The area of Mandatory Western Palestine was 27,009 square kilometers (10,429 square miles) including 704 square kilometers (272 square miles) of inland water. The events of the 1948 war between the Jews and the Arabs divided Palestine with the newly founded State of Israel occupying 20,700 square kilometers (7,993 square miles). The Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan annexed the West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip.
...Ottoman rule could be divided into four political sub-periods: 1) the period of Pashas - strong local rulers (1799-1831), i.e. a continuation of the eighteen century and the forms of government common then; 2) the conquest of Syria and Palestine by Egyptian ruler Muhammed Ali via his son, Ibrahim Pasha (1831-1840); in many respects this was a turning point, for despite the brevity of this period, the changes in government and other spheres were many; 3) the period of reforms (1841-1876), when Ottomans returned to power and tried to institute new patterns of government; 4) the end of the Ottoman period (1877-1917). The first and larger half of this period was marked by centralized rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid II; then came the rise of the Young Turks, who staged a revolution in 1908 and remained in power until the British occupation of Palestine in 1917-1918. The awakening of Palestinian nationalist sentiments began during the years preceding the war.
...In 1800, the population stood at an estimated of 250,000-300,000 (including about 5,500 Jews). Researcher Ben-Arieh basing his estimate on Western sources placed the total population at approximately 350,000 in 700 settlements in the early 1870s including 18,000 Jews (27,000 in 1880). To this we have to add about 25,000 Bedouins. According to Scholch’s estimate Palestine had some 470,000 inhabitants in 1882 (24,000 Jews). On the eve of World War I, the population stood according to Schmelz’s new demographic study around 800,000 (and not 689,000) of which 85,000 were Jews (60,000 according to McCarthy).
...Regarding the spatial distribution of the population of Palestine in 1800, it was predominately rural, about one-sixth of the population (54,000) resided in the twelve large towns. (Jerusalem 9,000, Acre 8,000, Gaza 8,000, Nablus 7,500, Safed 5,500). This urban population increased to some 120,000 at the end of the 1870s (Jerusalem 30,000, Gaza 19,000, Nablus 12,500, Hebron and Jaffa 10,000). By 1922 the population of these towns had reached 228,600 or approximately one third of the population. There was also a significant nomadic population...
And this, too:
...in Palestine Arab nationalism is inextricably interwovern with antagonism to the Jews. Yet by so perverse a rationale was a movement of enmity dignified and the legend of Palestinian nationalism initiated. For example, in 1848 about four thousand armed peasants and "numerous Bedouin allies acted as gangs or "two great chiefs," and lawlessness spread. Hebron's local governor was overthrown by an imppressive thief whose brutal tactics earned him the admiration of Jerusalem Is Pasha and the award of the "robe of honour." In Hebron, one of the holy Jewish cities, Jews were still "helpless" and "plundered" and the new ruler managed to confiscate booty of those trying to flee by sending agents to rob travellers on the road."
In the following few decades (1848-1878) scores of incidents involving anti-Jewish violence, persecution, and extortions filled page after page of documented reports from the British Consulate in Jerusalem. A chronology would be over-whelming, but perhaps a few extracts from those complaints will show the pattern of terror that continued right into the period of the major Jewish immigration beginning about 1878.
May, 1848. I have the honor to report that after the disturbance in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre Easter Eve, in beating the Jew who had imprudently entered there -- The Prussian Acting Consul here, informed me that he had been told by the Pasha, and also by the Greek Patriarch, that a Firman exists, which allows Christians to beat Jews if found within that Church, or even if passing along the street in front of it -- and which declares that in case of a Jew being killed under such an infliction, the price of blood should be rated at only ten paras -- value about three farthings.
March, 1849: Reporting the complaint of a Jew ... of being assaulted and stabbed by a soldier, while his house was searched and his females beaten ....
September, 1850. Last month I visited Hebron to do what I could for the protection of the Jews.... Abderahhman [a "brigand chief"] vexes them with
irregular extortions, but in return he keeps them in security from other oppressors, however He has had himself enrolled on the books of the Jewish
Treasury, as a pensioner for 100 piastres a month, and always sends for his pension two days before the day of due.
During my last visit there I had a Moslem summarily bastinadoed in the open street, for pulling a Jew's beard -- the Mutesellim in his eagerness to satisfy me, inflicted the punishment with his own hands, to my great astonishment. Abderrahhman was absent at Dura but one of his sons was present at the scene. This. forms a strange contrast to the fact of the Austrian Jewish Agent being frequently beaten in the streets there...
July, 1851: It is my duty to report to Your Excellency that the Jews in Hebron have been greatly alarmed by threats of the Moslems there at the
commencement of Ramadan -- For several days my Cancelliere staid there with two Kawasses and obtained from the Governor Abderrahhman the punishment of some offenders: but others were released from prison on the self-same night of their condemnation. The Cancelliere reports that the old feuds between the partisans of Abderrahhman and his brothers still exist -- that the partisans of the latter steal cattle by force of arms during the night from Hebron itself, and that they did so close to his tent -- also that in one day the vines were cut down from twenty feddans of vineyard -- but that such proceedings are sure to cease instantly on every approach of Abderrahhman himself, which however is not frequent. The Jews having complained that a freed slave named Saad Allah was more obnoxious to them than any other person in Hebron, -- and that Abderrahhman had released him almost immediately after sentencing him to imprisonment....
... the enormous avarice of Abderrahhman is peculiarly oppressive to them."
December, 1851: ... the murder of a Jew named Gershon ben Abraham, under English Protection, in Jerusalem...the victim was extricated from the well ... he was found to be stabbed in the throat, heart and ribs, besides injured in a horrible manner for the mere purpose of torture...A Moslem (he whose house I had examined in the morning) named Mohammed Damiatti, was immediately arrested on suspicion of having perpetrated the murder.... The distress of the bereaved family is very great -- it is not too much to expect that Moslems will prefer claims and swear falsely in matters of debt and credit, as the poor man carried his ledger about with him, and this has not been found -- and it is remarkable that his father was some years ago murdered in a Moslem house in Saloniki, and his only brother killed in Jerusalem two years ago by a fall house in Saloniki, and his only brother killed in Jerusalem two years ago by a fall from a scaffold.
December, 1851: the Samaritans of Nablus ... consist of about thirty-five taxable men, with a synagogue and sacred books .... They have probably for many generations, and especially within the last century, been exposed to cruel persecutions from the dominant Moslems-and Nablus is always noted as an especially fanatic town.... They generally contrive to have the cleverest man belonging to them employed as government Secretary for the district, by which means they have warded off much of fiscal oppression, just as Jews do in other countries, and Copts in Egypt -- but even this has not been able to protect them from violence, murder and spoliation in their houses or streets in past times.... I am informed by a Christian in Nablus that there is too much reason to fear evil consequences from the loss of their Secretary, as the Moslems are reviling them in the streets with menaces for the future.
May, 1852. I proceeded to Hebron and lodged there in a Jewish house. The Jews were all so alarmed ... that they would tell me nothing of news: they protested that Abderrahhman had done no harm to any one, no houses had been rifled &c. and one of the leading Rabbis implored me not to inform Abderrahhman if he should visit me, that I had come to protect the Jews, as he would inevitably punish them the more for it after my departure...As for the accusations preferred by Abderrahhman against the Effendis here - I cannot tell how true they are - but I know that these personages are constantly taking bribes in other cases, the sums however which are laid against each seem incredibly large. I should rather imagine that much of the bribery money was spent in Damascus and Beyroot.
November, 1852. - Having learned that the peasantry levy of 4000 men from the Nablus district had committed excesses in the houses of British protected Jews in Tiberias I repaired thither, to induce the commander to keep better order...Remonstrance was made against petty thefts "and of their having brought their horses and asses during the rain into the Jewish Synagogues."
July, 1853. . . . The Christians and Jews of Jerusalem were in a state of absolute terror, and especially on the preceeding day had been announcing to each other house to house that the Moslems were to massacre them after the prayers at noon. Persons shut themselves up in their houses, and shops were closed, and some persons are still ill in bed from the effect of that day's fear.
October, 1853. The Jews in their Quarter of the city have had to suffer many insults of late from town's people of which I only hear some time after their occurence, as the subjects of the violence are afraid to acquaint me with the circumstances, lest they should draw upon themselves greater injuries by way of revenge after the Consul has obtained redress.
December, 1853: [Regarding] the Algerine Jews of Caiffa [Haifa] ... I beg to represent to Your Lordship that the blessing of British Protection is a boon of inestimable valul, -- to these people. It would be a blessing to be exempted from Turkish oppression at any time, and peculiarly so at the present period, when fanaticism is liable at any minute to break out into violence and when the local governors are endevouring to extort money by every possible means. And these people fear that if left to Turkish rule they will be required to pay arrears of taxes for all the past years of their residence in this country....
July, 1858: I have the honour to report that in consequence of a series of disgusting insults offered to Jews and Jewesses in Hebron, I obtained such Orders as I could from the Pasha's Agent in this city, during His Excellency's absence -- which I sent by my Dragoman Rosenthal and a Kawass.... The streets of the town were paraded by fanatic Durweeshes -- and during my stay there a Jewish house was forcibly entered by night, iron bars of the window broken, and heavy stones thrown from invisible hands at every person approaching the place to afford help. One of the Members of the Council affirmed that they were not obliged to obey Orders f rom the Pasha's Deputy -- and another declared his right derived from time immemorial in hisfamily, to enterJewish houses, and take toll or contributions at any time without giving account. When others present in the Council exclaimed against this he said -- "Well then I will forbear from taking it myself, but things will happen which will compel the Jews to come and kiss my feet to induce me to take their money."
November, 1858: . . . although the thief had previously confessed to the robbery in presence of Jews, the Kadi would not proceed without the testimony of two Moslems -- when the Jewish witnesses were offered, he refused to accept their testimony -- and the offensive term adopted towards Jews in former times (more offensive than Giaour for Christians) was used by the Kadi's servants. I have no doubt of being able to set all this to rights (except perhaps the matter of Jewish testimony in that Court) but such circumstances exhibit the working of the present Turkish government in Jerusalem.
May, 1863: . .. Galilee, comprising the modern towns of Nazareth, Safed and Tiberias, in which two latter places there are living upwards of 600 Jews in the enjoyment of British protection. The existence of so many protected subjects in these retired spots, residing as they do in the midst of a Moslem population, naturally gives rise to numerous questions with the local Governors who are prone to oppress them unless their interests are constantly cared for. My predecessor was required to make an Annual tour to those towns, in order that his appearance from time to time amongst our protected subjects there might keep within proper bounds the ill -concealed aversion which their presence never fails to excite amongst their Moslem neighbors...
March, 1864: . . . the circumstances attending the death of the British subject
Peter Meshullam, and to try Abdalla Abu Kakoora, the individual charged with his murder.... they declare, as the result of their enquiry, that P. Meshullam died in consequence of the fall from his mare, and, consequently that Abdalla is innocent of charges preferred against him. I confess I was hardly prepared for such a finding and verdict.... I addressed to His Excellency a reply conveying my entire dissent from the decision of the
June, 1864: . .. Her Majesty's Gobernment have little doubt that Mr. MashulIan's death was caused by violence and not by a fall from his horse...