The Dhimmi Status of Jews in the Land of Israel
and Rachel's Tomb

The following are excerpts from Joan Peters book From Time Immemorial--The Origins Of The Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine (New York: Harper & Row, 1984.)

"Omar, the caliph who succeeded Muhammad, delineated in his Charter Of Omar the twelve laws under which a dhimmi, or non-Muslim, was allowed to exist as a "non-believer" among "believers."  The Charter codified the conditions of life for Jews under Islam--a life which was forfeited if the dhimmi broke this law.  Among the restrictions of the Charter:  Jews were forbidden to touch the Koran; forced to wear a distinctive garment (sometimes dark blue or black) habit with sash; compelled to wear a yellow piece of cloth as a badge (blue for Christians); not allowed to perform religious practices in public; not allowed to own a horse, because horses were deemed noble; not permitted to drink wine in public; and required to bury their dead without letting their grief be heard by the Muslims.(7) [p. 34]

As a grateful payment for being allowed so to live and be "protected," a dhimmi paid a special head tax and a special property tax, the edict for which came directly from the Koran: "Fight against those (Jews and Christians) who believe not in Allah...until they pay the tribute readily, being brought so low." (8) [p. 34]

In the late 1800's the Jews continued to suffer the same discriminatory practices as other non-Muslim "infidels" (58)  which "in many places throughout Syria and Palestine" meant "oppression, extortion, and violence by both the local authorities and the Muslim population." (59) [p. 180]

The demeanment of Jews as represented by the Charter has carried down through the centuries, its implementation inflicted with varying degrees of cruelty.  What that rule was tyrannical life was abject slavery, as in Yemen, where one of the Jew's tasks was to clean the city latrines and another was to clear the streets of animal carcasses--without pay, often on the Sabbath. [p. 180]

But there were additional oppressions reserved for the Palestinian Jewish community. The Jews were "at the bottom" (61) of the heap of people in status.  Among the special extortions that their Holy Land extracted from the Jews paid to "local officials, Arab notable , and Arab neighbors"(62): in Jerusalem the effendi whose property was adjacent to the Sacred Wall on the site of the Jews' temple dunned the Jews 300 pounds annually for the right to pray there. They paid another 100 pounds to Siloam's inhabitants--a village on the outskirts of Jerusalem  (63)--as protection against destruction or vandalism of the Jewish burial grounds at the Mount of Olives.  Fifty pounds a year went to an Arab community to ensure against assault upon Rachel's Tomb, and Sheikh Abu Ghosh collected 10 pounds 'not to molest Jewish travelers on the road to Jerusalem, though he was already paid by the Turkish government to maintain order on that road.' (64) [p. 181]

(7) Taken from Andre Chouraqui, Between East and West, A History Of The Jews Of North Africa, trans. from French by Michael M. Bernet (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1968), pp 45-46;  D.G Littman, Jews Under Muslim Rule In The Late Nineteenth Century, reprinted from the Weiner Library Bulletin, 1975, vol. XXVIII, New Series Nos. 35/36 (London, 1975), p. 65.

(8) Quoted from The Meaning Of The Glorious Koran, Surah IX, v. 29 Mohammed Mardaduke, Pickthall, ed. (New York: Mentor Books, 1953.)

(58) Ibid #7 above.  Also, according to the Esco Foundation for Palestine,  Palestine, p. 520: "To the Arabs , the Jews as a group were kuffar (infidels) and often frangi (Europeans).  Some hostility to them was always latent, as it was to all foreigners.

(59) Moshe Ma'oz, Ottoman reform in Syria and Palestine (Oxford, 1968), p. 10.

(61) Landes, "Palestine Before The Zionists," p. 50.

(62) Ibid, p. 52.

(63) James Finn, Stirring Times or Record from Jerusalem Consular Chronicles From 1853-56 (London, 1878), pp. 118-119.

(64) Landes, "Palestine," p. 52.

The Friends of Rachel's Tomb
Dale Baranowski, Director, P.O. Box 24, 9094200 Elazar, Israel

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