|Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of
By Rabbi Joseph Schwarz
From the Reign of Sultan Seliman to the Present Time.
Sultan Seliman the Great, the son of Selim I., ascended the throne in 5280 (1520). He is also called Seliman Abu Alim; and he was the greatest and most distinguished regent of the whole Ottman family. His empire extended from the far east, and the far south, to far in the west, as far as the town of Weissenburg in Hungary, and he penetrated even, in one of his expeditions, up to the city of Ratisbonne (Regensburg), 8 miles south of my birth-place, Floss, in Bavaria. In the year 5297 (1537), he caused Jerusalem to be enclosed with strong walls, after they had been broken down and ruined for a space of 318 years, since 4979, as related above.
He also caused the aqueduct of En Etam to be built, which fact also was stated above in its proper place; as also the southern pool in the Wady Djurad (see above in the description of the pools). He also built, in 5300 (1540), the walls of the town of Tiberias. He was likewise a very great friend of the Jews, and gave them all the privileges they required, and conferred on them several public employments and offices; and one of them was made commander of one of the city gates near Zion, in 5283 (1523). He was no less the friend and encourager of science, and he gave to his learned personal and court physician, Rabbi Mosheh Hamon, son of the Rabbi Joseph Hamon, who had been physician to Selim, the order to translate for him the whole of the Scriptures and the Jewish prayers into the Arabic tongue; and the prayers especially obtained great approbation from him. The learned Rabbi Tham, son of Rabbi David Abn Jechia, who was court physician, was his favourite, and stood in high esteem at court. Seliman reigned 46 years. After his death, the Ottoman empire began gradually to decline, and could never again attain to the same extent which it had acquired under him. His successors were but little distinguished for their deeds, so that there is but little to be told of them, and I therefore will only enumerate them in succession.
In 5326 (1566), Salim I., the son of Seliman the Great, ascended the throne. In 5334 (1574), Amurad III.; about 5350 (1590), Mustapha I., who was declared, in 5378 (1618), to have forfeited the throne, and in his place Osman II. assumed the government, in 5378; he was murdered in 5382 (1622), when Mustapha I. again obtained the government, but for one year only; and in 5383 (1623), Sultan Amurad (IV.) ascended the throne. He was engaged in a war with the king of Persia in 5392 (1632). As his army took its march through Syria, his general sent a written mandate to the cities of Aleppo, Damascus, Zidon, Zafed, Akko, &c., that they should give free quarters to his men, and supply them with everything necessary through the three months of November, December, and January (Kislev, Tebeth, and Shebat). This order bore, as might naturally be expected, especially hard upon the Jews, since the preference is always shown to them on all such occasions, and they are oppressed and plundered more than other classes of the inhabitants. It happened, unfortunately, that there was a great dearth in the country, since the harvest had been very scanty, and every one was in the greatest distress. The Pacha of Akko, who was a great friend to the Jews, received an order to provide quarters for 2000 horsemen in Zafed, Zidon, and their environs; but he replied, that not one of the army should dare to come within his territory, since, with the great distress already existing, the country could not possibly be troubled with such guests: and that, in case of persistence, he would be compelled to employ force to repel the invasion of the country under his charge. He actually called together an army of 40,000 Bedouins and Arabs, and placed them on the frontiers; he also sent 2000 men to cover Zafed, and prohibited every one to go near the houses of the Jews, or to harm the least of their property, or to demand anything from them. All the troops could not find convenient quarters in the town; and as it was the rainy season, they could not camp out, they were even quartered in the mosques, whilst all the dwellings of the Jews and the thirteen roomy Synagogues were spared. The general, who had taken up his winter quarters at Damascus, did not think it prudent to employ force to obtain his demands, and sent, therefore, none of his troops to be quartered in Palestine; and the whole country was spared the presence of those troublesome and terrible guests, through the favour of the Pacha for the Jews, whilst they carried out their full measure of oppression and tyranny in Damascus and Aleppo.
In 5408 (1648), Abraim ascended the throne, but was murdered the year following; and in 5409 (1649), his son, Mahmed IV., ruled in his place. Mahmed had to quit the throne, after reigning thirty-eight years, in 5447 (1687), in favour of his son, Salim II., who was succeeded by his son, Mustapha II., in 5451 (1691). Sultan Achmed III. assumed the government in 5459 (1699), who was dethroned in the thirty-first year of his reign, and thrown into prison. In 5490 (1780), Sultan Ottman ascended the throne; and in about 5510 (1750), Sultan Mustapha III.
In the year 5542 (1782), Sultan Selim became head of the empire, but was afterwards murdered. During his reign, in 5558 (1798), Napoleon Bonaparte, the general of the French army, invaded Egypt, and, having conquered it, he pursued his march to Palestine. He arrived at Gazza, where he fought a battle with Abraim, Bey of Egypt, and Achmad Djizer, Pacha of Akko (St. Jean d'Acre). On the 25th of December, 1799 (Kislev, 5559), he captured Gazza. The Jews of this place had to endure a great deal from his soldiers, so that many were induced to escape by flight. On the 6th of March, 1800 (Adar, 5560), he came to Jaffa, where he ordered 4000 Turkish soldiers to be executed. His route of march was then directed to Jerusalem, in consequence of which a terrible consternation, a perfect panic prevailed there. The Jews of the Holy City were, in the mean time, in the greatest danger of being all slain by the Mahomedan inhabitants; from which they were saved by the presence of mind and wise demeanour of their chiefs, the learned Rabbis Algazi and Mejuchas. They were accused of standing in secret correspondence and in a treaty with Napoleon to deliver the city into his hands, through fraud and cunning; and, as the Mahomedans actually believed that all the resident Jews of Jerusalem were spies and traitors, they had secretly resolved among themselves to kill all the Jewish inhabitants, so soon as Napoleon should march upon Jerusalem. This resolution was, however, revealed and communicated by a Mahomedan, a confidant and friend of our ecclesiastic chief, to the Rabbis; and, as it was already universally known that Napoleon had resolved to march towards the Holy City, there was scarcely more than a step between the Jews and death (1 Sam. 20:3). Our chief, therefore, had at once a proclamation made throughout the whole city, that all the Jews, from the greatest to the smallest, should assemble in prayer in front of the west wall of the temple (כותל המערבי) in order to entreat God for protection and aid for the city against the French army. This order was at once obeyed, and an immense multitude assembled to perform their devotion, to pray for the welfare of the city and its inhabitants. The Rabbi then called upon the chiefs of the Mahomedans to commence at once to make a new rampart and bastion around the fort, the Kallai, and stated that all the Jews were ready on the spot, no one to be spared, to labour with all their might. This was actually done; and even this high chief, a venerable, gray-headed man, stood with shovel in his hand, labouring on the fortification, digging and working with the greatest industry, through which, as one will naturally conceive, all Jews were stimulated to be active. The Mahomedans now saw clearly that it was nothing but calumny and falsehood to accuse the Jews of a treasonable intention, since they proved themselves the true defenders and protectors of the city and the country; nay, they thought much better of them in consequence, as they afterwards asserted that the general prayer of the Jews before the "Mourning Wall" had saved the city.
Napoleon had already reached Ramleh with his overwhelming army, to march on Jerusalem; but he suddenly altered his plan, the reason of which step is unknown, and took up his march towards Akko, and left Jerusalem untouched, where the joy was indescribable, and people asserted that this sudden change was owing to the Jewish devotion, for which cause they were greatly esteemed by the Mahomedans. On the 18th of March, Napoleon appeared before Akko, and on the 15th of April (Nissan), he fought a great battle near Mount Tabor, where his generals, Kleber and Murat, defeated the Turkish army, and put them to flight. A division of the French army then marched towards Tiberias and Zafed, where the Jews were greatly maltreated by the French. Napoleon now commenced the siege of Akko, which was occupied and defended by the Turkish forces, under Djizer Pacha, and the English, under Sir Sydney Smith. The siege lasted till the 21st of May (Iyar), when he was compelled to raise it, as he was attacked on all sides, and was suffering from want; besides this, the plague broke out fearfully in his army, and he was therefore no longer able to maintain his position. Enraged, he now commenced his return to Egypt, and, appearing before Jaffa, he ordered the city wall to be demolished, and, quite inhumanly, he caused his soldiers who were sick with the plague, and whom he had left here behind when he moved on to Akko, to be poisoned, that he might be rid of them, and that they might be no incumbrance to him on his return march, or rather his flight to the south. He thus fled to Egypt, and soon after returned to France.
Nevertheless, this short expedition had much of interest and influence for Palestine; since the spirit of the Arabs became thereby somewhat more animated, particularly in military matters, for they saw the conduct, the mode, and ways of civilized troops in campaigns, battles, and sieges; and I often heard the Arabs here express themselves, "Yes, Napolis and the French leave opened our eyes."
Sultan Mahmed II. came on the throne in 5568 (1808). He commenced, to give his government a direction somewhat more akin to that of civilized states, to which the abolition and execution of the Janissaries, of whom he caused 100,000 to be butchered in 5588 (1828), greatly contributed. A part of these troops, however, who were natives of Palestine, formed the garrison in the Kallai; and even these had to quit the fort and city; and at present the name of "Ginitsheris" is banished from the whole empire. But this monarch had also many tyrannical traits, which he permitted himself to display against several rich Jews at Constantinople, of which I shall speak more hereafter.
In 5584 (1824), the inhabitants of Jerusalem rebelled against Seliman, Pacha of Damascus, because of the terrible exactions which he practised against them. At that time there was a garrison of about 500 Arnauts (Harnuwut) in the Kallai. The inhabitants of Jerusalem represented to the commander in the fort, that they were engaged in a contest with the people of Beth-Lechem; and they therefore requested him to march with his Arnauts, in connexion with the men of Jerusalem, against the rebel people of Beth-Lechem. The commandant did not think of any deception, and leaving but very few men in the fort, moved with his Arnauts, in company with the men of Jerusalem, on the 17th of Tamuz (June), out of the city, on his way to Beth-Lechem. Scarcely, however, was he gone, when suddenly several brave Arabs surprised the fort, drove out the few Arnauts who formed the garrison, and took possession of the same. They then fired several cannons as a signal to their fellow-citizens who served as soldiers for the time, and who were outside with the commandant, that the city and fort were in the power of the inhabitants. The commandant asked his seeming auxiliaries why the cannons were fired; but they professed to know nothing of the matter. At last, however, he found out, when too late, that he was terribly deceived; and he saw clearly that he had lost the city and fort. The people of Jerusalem were far too powerful for him to think of entering the city with his handful of men by force of arms. His supposed allies now returned, and denied him all ingress; and after all had safely arrived within the town, the gates were closed, and the commandant saw himself compelled to leave everything behind him, and to move with his Arnauts by degrees as far as Damascus. Jerusalem was thus left to the will and pleasure of several Mahomedan rebels, and our people had to submit to manifold exactions.
The event was soon reported to the Sultan in Constantinople, and he gave Abd Allah, the Pacha of Akko, orders to take Jerusalem by storm from the rebels. He therefore moved on to the Holy City with a strong force, in the month of Tishry, 5586 (September, 1825), and took up a position on the west side thereof, opposite the Kallai, and commenced to bombard the fort, which, however, returned his fire in such a manner that he was speedily compelled to give up this position, and he encamped then on the Mount of Olives. He next commenced to fire terribly into the city, as he had now a safe and sure point of attack, the distance from the Kallai being too great, and the Mount of Olives being too remote to be reached by cannons and bombs from the fort. But something incredible occurred in this bombardment, and I could myself, I confess, scarcely believe it, if I were not firmly persuaded of its truth, and could assure all my readers that it actually so occurred. Thousands on thousands of cannon-balls were thrown into the city without doing the least harm, and they appeared to have lost their destructive power. They fell everywhere, in the courts, houses, and dwellings, without killing or wounding any one. Children played in the open court-yards and places; and they often saw a terrible cannon-ball suddenly fly in their midst without touching one of them, and falling harmless near their feet. My friend was sitting in company with several others, when suddenly a ball came flying through the window over their heads, and remained filed in a hole in the wall left there for ventilation, in the opposite direction; had it rebounded it would have caused a frightful havoc among the persons assembled there. The balls occasionally passed between people sitting near each other, without injuring any one. At length the people became so indifferent to the bombardment, that they walked fearlessly about the streets, so strong was the conviction that a higher Power protected Jerusalem. But a single mishap, of no importance, occurred during the whole siege. My friend, G. A., was sitting on his roof, when all at once a ball fell near him, and, as it exploded, a splinter struck his foot, causing a severe but not dangerous wound; he was soon restored, however; but to this day he feels in a slight degree the effects of the injury, when walking. This person was the only Jew injured; but the other inhabitants likewise, whether Mahomedans, Christians, Armenians, Greeks, &c., remained uninjured.* The bombardment lasted nearly two weeks. The Pacha was astonished to find that he neither perceived any injury or destruction in the city caused by his cannons and bombs, nor that he was offered any capitulation on the part of the besieged. He thus saw that his bombardment was quite fruitless, and could not explain it in any other manner than that a higher Power protected Jerusalem. He therefore offered favourable terms to the city. Negotiations were now commenced, and on the 22d of Tishry (October), the gates were opened to him, and he had a peaceable entry. The people of Jerusalem surrendered to him both city and fort. He placed in the latter some troops, remained some days longer in town, and then moved off with his army without molestation to Akko.
* May not this little execution have been owing to unskilful gunnery?--TRANS.
In the year 5592 (1832), Mahmud Ali, pacha of Alexandria in Egypt, declared himself independent of the Sultan of Constantinople. His son, Abraim Pacha, moved suddenly with a large force towards Palestine, and took, without almost any resistance on the part of the adherents of the Sultan, Jaffa, Jerusalem, Nablus, and Chaifa, and placed Egyptian soldiers as garrisons in the same, and appeared next before Akko, which was occupied by Abd Alla Pacha, and besieged it a long time, and took it finally by storm, carrying away the Pacha as prisoner to Egypt. He gradually now occupied all Palestine, Syria, Arabia, and Nubia, together with a part of Anatolia, and even penetrated as far as Smyrna, and was about making a conquest of Constantinople, when his progress was stayed by the European power, and he was bidden to content himself with his southern possessions, and give up his advance to the north. He now commenced to introduce civilization in his dominions, instituted regular courts of law and proper officers of justice, and restrained the wild Bedouins; but he more particularly extended his protection over the strange Europeans, called here the Franks, gave them all rights, and even privileges, and would not suffer them to be exposed to the arbitrary proceedings of the Mahomedans. He conferred on the consuls ample power, and the privileges and respect due their station, so that the name of Frank was in a measure a title of nobility, especially as he had not to pay any poll-tax or contributions, nor could be held to labour for the state.
In the year 5593 (1833), he conquered completely the eastern part of Palestine beyond Jordan, called Al Ledja (where he had several severe contests with the Druses), Al Djedr, Hauran, &c. Soon after, he ordered the Arabs and Bedouins to furnish him recruits for his army, on the plan of the European states, and proceeded to organize a formal conscription in the country. This was, however, an extraordinary and unusual measure, since it is not the oriental custom to raise troops after this fashion. The Arabs and Bedouins of Palestine resolved, therefore, with one voice, to refuse him this concession, and came to an understanding among each other to organize a revolution in the land against Abraim Pacha. Unfortunately, he was at that time absent in Alexandria, and the whole military force in the country was exceedingly small; so that the rebels had to use but little exertion to overcome the same, and to get possession of the fortified places and the whole land, which in consequence became disturbed. All the roads were unsafe, and highway robberies were openly committed, since immense bands of Arabs and Bedouins collected together and roamed through the country. Their principal plan and aim was the capture of Jerusalem, and to obtain possession of the Kallai, which is the strongest fortified point, and contained the chief garrison. The whole of the mass was divided into four divisions, to conquer--1, Galilee, i. e. Zafed and Tiberias, with their environs; 2, Nablus (Shechem) ; 3, Hebron; and 4, Jerusalem and the Kallai.
In the beginning of the month Iyar, 5594 (May, 1834), word was brought that these bands were gradually approaching Jerusalem, and had already made their appearance on the mountains not far from the city. On the 16th, therefore, the city gates were closed, and the siege commenced; and at midnight of the 22d, the town was taken by the rebels by assault,--the first one which I ever witnessed. Whilst a part of the rebels penetrated into the city through a subterraneous canal, the others scaled the wall, and others battered down the gates, and thus obtained possession of the town. The soldiers, observing in the moment of the assault that they were unable to oppose the rebels with any degree of success, withdrew into the Kallai, and left everything to the assailants. What a terrible night was this for us all! The echoing of the voices of thousands of warriors,--of men, women, and children, who all raised their wild Arab war-cry in the gloom of the night, at the storming of the city; the tumult of the retreating troops; the lamentations of the defenceless, abandoned inhabitants, who heard already in their midst the shouts of the infuriated conquerors,--all presented a most mournful scene.
At daybreak we observed that the whole city was completely filled with an innumerable mass of the rebels, great and small, women and children. We thought indeed that we were all lost, in being exposed to the licentiousness of such barbarians; and some houses and courts were already broken open and plundered: when suddenly the herald or crier of the rebel leader, a just and venerable Bedouin, who in this matter might perhaps put to the blush many European generals, proclaimed throughout the city that Mislamin, Yehud, and Nazrani might remain perfectly quiet and in peace, since no one should be molested; and, if any one of his subjects should dare to violate this order, he should be summarily dealt with according to military rule. We felt ourselves partly saved and happy through this proclamation. The soldiers, indeed, made, a few hours afterward, a small sortie from the fort, in which many of the rebels fell, and others were taken prisoners; but they nevertheless could not maintain themselves, and had to withdraw again within the fortifications. The rebels now commenced to fire against the Kallai; but they had no cannons, consequently they could do no execution. The commandant, a venerable and philanthropic man, who was particularly on terms of friendship with many Israelites, could easily have opened a heavy fire upon rebels; but he would not employ the cannons against them, as they were all within the city, which he was desirous to spare. Although now they fired on the Kallai from the city, they were unable to approach the fort any nearer, not to mention that they could not scale it. As they then found that it was impossible for them to obtain possession of the fort by open violence, they endeavoured to undermine it; when suddenly the joyful news was noised about, on the afternoon of the 28th, that Abraim Pacha had arrived at Jaffa from Egypt, with a very large force, and was reported already as being near Jerusalem. This news scattered the whole rebel army, so that in a few hours scarcely one man of the whole could be seen in Jerusalem, as they had fled towards Burak and the mountainous district near it. On the 29th, in the morning, Abraim Pacha actually arrived, with his large army and heavy artillery; and then only did we breathe freely again, since we were in the greatest anxiety and terror the whole preceding week, notwithstanding the proclamation of the rebels.
The Pacha made, after a few days' rest, several rapid expeditions against the rebels at Burak, and they suffered on each occasion a severe defeat, and many were captured and imprisoned; the remainder then moved farther to the south, and united themselves with their confederates at Hebron and its vicinity. Abraim Pacha then restored order, appointed in Jerusalem and its environs new judicial officers, placed troops in the country, and moved against Nablus, where he again defeated the rebels, and put a garrison therein, and caused the principal instigators to be executed. Order and quiet were likewise restored in Galilee a few months later, through the chief of the Druses, called the Amir Abshir. But the most obstinate were the rebels in Hebron and its neighbourhood, as their numbers constantly augmented, since the Arabs to the east of Jordan also joined them, and, making common cause with them, formed quite a formidable army. They rejected all summons made to surrender by Abraim Pacha; till at length he surprised them, on the 28th of Tamuz (July), with a force of nearly 20,000 men, and caused a terrible defeat, accompanied with a fearful loss of life, among them. Hebron suffered severely, and was given up for several days to the license of the soldiers, on which occasion the Jews were great sufferers, as I shall mention more fully, under article "Hebron." From this place Abraim Pacha extended his expedition of conquest to Kerak, and chastised its inhabitants; who had destroyed his whole garrison stationed in the fort of that city; their sheich was taken prisoner, and executed publicly in Jerusalem. The same fate overtook several others, who had all been engaged as authors of the revolution. Abraim restored peace and order in every direction; and, after the lapse of two or three months, he was again lord over the whole country. Soldiers were quartered everywhere among the Bedouins, all sorts of arms were taken from the Mahomedan inhabitants of both town and country, and only the strangers, the Franks, were left in possession of their weapons; houses also were visited with extreme rigour; a close search was instituted, to effect this end; and Abraim Pacha became at length so greatly feared in the whole country, that his very name was a terror to the wildest Arabs. The entire land enjoyed, in consequence of this, such security that highway robberies were scarcely to be heard of any more, and everything commenced to flourish. People could travel unmolested, day and night, in perfect security in every direction, and this even among the wildest Arab tribes. He also abolished and prohibited, under severe penalties, the onerous and exorbitant so-called Kafaar, which means transit toll, which was not a fixed tax, but an arbitrary exaction, which every villager, every sheich, every Bedouin, demanded at pleasure from every traveller or wayfarer at every village,--I might almost say from every one met in any division of a village, even from a Bedouin working in the field; and it was accompanied with the grossest maltreatment of the plundered individual. The Israelites obtained permission to rebuild their ancient but ruinous Synagogues, and all their rights were conceded to them. In the year 5599 (1839), an English consul was permitted to reside at Jerusalem, and all the usual immunities were accorded to him, while hitherto a European consul was scarcely ever suffered to reside there. But Palestine was now compelled to furnish regular recruits to the Pacha's army.
In 5600 (1840), Abdul Medjid ascended the throne of the imperial house of Constantinople. After the death of Sultan Mahmed, Abraim Pacha again commenced to extend his dominions beyond the fixed limits assigned to him, and already made some conquests to the north of his government from the territory of the Sultan; whereupon England and Austria joined the Turkish army to oppose Abraim's progress. In 5601 (1841), they besieged Akko, and in a very short time this town, as also the whole of Syria and Palestine, were again in the possession of the Sultan. Abraim fled to Egypt, and his whole army was dissolved, every one returning to his home; and thus all the possessions which he had in Asia reverted to the Sultan, so that only his African territory remained under his sway. The Arabs and Bedouins had their arms restored to them, and Palestine again began to retrograde, and to relapse into its former state of insecurity, since the Arabs obtained anew the privilege of not furnishing any recruits, and of not being compelled to be civilized by force; the roads, or more correctly speaking, the whole country, was rendered anew insecure, and the Franks were deprived of many of their former privileges. Nevertheless, much of the good and beautiful which Abraim had introduced was retained. Many consuls were appointed for Jerusalem, and now there are six of them resident there, namely, Russian, Austrian, English, French, Prussian, and Sardinian.
In the year 5604 (1844), the French consul obtained the imperial permission from Constantinople to hoist his national flag. But when he was about to display the same on his roof, in company of the Pacha of Jerusalem and several of the principal officers, a general insurrection took place among the Mahomedan inhabitants against the Pacha, and they employed violence, through which means several persons were wounded, to prevent the unheard-of outrage of displaying any other flag in the Holy City except that of the Crescent. The Pacha seeing that the mass of the people was too great, he yielded so far as not to have the flag hoisted. And although several of the rioters were afterwards arrested and severely punished, the Mahomedans nevertheless maintained their ancient right, and the permission was revoked by the imperial authority; and thus no consul is at this day permitted to display or hoist his flag in Jerusalem.
A SHORT REVIEW OF THIS PERIOD.
In the year 5283 (1523), a learned Italian of Leghorn travelled through the country, and he gives the Jewish population as follows: In En Sethun, a village not far from Zafed, where at present no Jews live, 40 families, with a Synagogue, wherein were kept 21 copies of the law ספרי תורה; in Zafed, more than 300 families, with 3 Synagogues; in Alma, a village 5 miles south of Kedes in Naphtali, where no Jews reside at present, 15 families, with 1 Synagogue; in Gith (Gath Chepher), 40 families; in Nablus, 12; in Hebron, 10, with 1 Synagogue; in Jerusalem, 300, among whom 15 German; in addition, there lived in Jerusalem more than 500 widows; in Kefr Anan 30, with 1 Synagogue; in Beirut, 20, with a small handsome Synagogue; and in Damascus, 500, with 3 Synagogues. He also says: "Tiberias is quite destroyed, and entirely depopulated." The whole would give us 1207 families, which, with the 500 widows in Jerusalem, would probably constitute a population of about 18,000; consequently, considerably smaller than at the visit of Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela in 4930 (1170).
(In the original, there follows here a list of 28 Rabbins who succeeded each other in Jerusalem from the year 5250 till 5605, which, not being of interest to the general reader, is omitted in our translation.) [We are sorry for the omission, for it would have been of great interest to our readers for genealogical purposes--Webmaster.]
In the year 5385 (1625), in the reign of Sultan Amrad, there lived in Jerusalem the just and kind governor Machmad Pacha, who granted the Jews all possible privileges, so that they had their own properties, both houses and fields, and lived in the greatest security, contentment, peace, and happiness. When suddenly a rapacious and tyrannical Arab, who was blind in one eye, called Ibn Paruch, purchased the post of Pacha of Jerusalem from the chief of all Syria and Palestine, the Pacha of Damascus,--as it is nothing strange to sell offices to the highest bidders. Ibn Paruch came thereupon, on the 26th day of Tebeth (January), to Jerusalem, with an escort of about three hundred armed men, and deprived the benevolent Machmad Pacha of his office. The situation of the people now took a woful change, as Ibn Paruch tormented them terribly, and made heavy exactions, especially from the Jews, and often caused the most respectable men, the principal officers of the congregations, to be thrown into prison, and compelled them to satisfy his unheard-of demands through means of cruel treatment, which often brought them to the verge of the grave. Thus, for example, he ordered the Synagogue to be surprised during divine worship on Sabbath, the 11th of Elul, of the above year, and caused fifteen venerable men to be taken from the same to prison as hostages; and they were not liberated until he was paid 11,000 grush, or 5500 American dollars. These scenes and exactions followed each other so often, and became so general, that the Jews were gradually exhausted, and could contribute no more money to satisfy this monster's desires; they had to part with all their gold and silver articles, and everything of value; and at length, to save their miserable lives from the tyrant, they were compelled to borrow of their Mahomedan fellowtownsmen the sum of 50,000 grush, for which, though obtained for but a short time,--till they could obtain relief from their benevolent brothers abroad,--they had to promise the exorbitant interest of 20,000 grush, wherefore their indebtedness amounted to 75,000 grush, or 35,000 dollars. Many endeavoured to escape with their oppressed families by flight; they left everything behind, glad only to save their lives; but the tyrant placed guards in every direction, so that no one could leave the city; and even when a corpse was carried out for interment, it was examined, to discover whether or not it might be one feigning death endeavouring to make his escape.
The Jews nevertheless
succeeded, in almost a wonderful manner, to communicate in secret their dreadful
situation to their brothers in Constantinople, and to pray of them to announce
at court the raging of this hyena. The Sultan was greatly incensed at hearing
the news, and commanded the Pacha of Damascus, also an insatiable extortioner,
immediately to depose Ibn Paruch; who nevertheless endeavoured, partly by
artifice and the interest he had, and partly by means of considerable bribes and
presents, to prevent the Pacha from carrying the imperial will into effect; and
mainly gained his point by showing himself openly as a rebel against the Sultan,
inasmuch as he captured, on the 22d of Kislev, 5386 (December, 1626), the
Kallai, in which lay in garrison some troops of the Sultan, under command of an
Aga. This affair made him still more formidable; and having thus little to fear
from outward force, he commenced to tyrannize yet more cruelly in Jerusalem; and
he caused occasionally the most venerable and aged Israelites to be dragged to
the scaffold, and the hangman stood with the axe in his hand, the rope was
already fastened round their necks, and it only needed his diabolical nod to
hurry these honoured fathers into eternity; and all for the great crime that
they were not able to furnish him any more money. So that every one was tired of
life, and sighed for death as a deliverer from an insupportable burden.
But at length as report said (which, however, seems to want confirmation), the Sublime Porte again gave orders to the neighbouring Pachas to attack the tyrant, and to deliver him into prison. Those Mahomedans, however, who were most intimate and best acquainted with him, related afterward the following as the real cause of his precipitate flight. One night he had a dream, when he saw standing before him a venerable old man wrapped in a purple cloak, who was about to slay him. Ibn Paruch in great terror asked him who he was, and why he appeared so inimical to him, to which the apparition answered, "I am King David; and know, tyrant, that if thou quittest not the city instantly, and if thy eyes close themselves here again in sleep, thou shalt surely die." Ibn Paruch awoke trembling, and caused the treasures which he had obtained by robbery to be collected together, as far as this could be done, in the greatest haste, and loading several camels with gold, silver, and other precious things, he fled away suddenly and hurriedly, on Tuesday, the 12th of Kislev, 5397 (December, 1627); and thus was Jerusalem saved from the power of this monster, to the general joy and gratification of all its inhabitants.
This remarkable occurrence I have taken in extract from a printed document, entitled חרבות ירושלים, "The Ruins of Jerusalem," printed in Venice, in 5388 (1628), in which this event is told circumstantially, and quite at length. The document was written and signed by the chiefs of the Jewish people at Jerusalem, and given as an authorization to the messengers who had been sent to Italy to make collections in behalf of the Holy City, which had been reduced to indigence through the acts of the tyrannical Ibn Paruch.
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