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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘history of the land of israel’

History of Israel: Eilat, City of Sin

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Sura 7 in the Quran relates the following story about a Jewish town:

(162) And ask them about the town that was by the sea – when they transgressed in [the matter of] the sabbath – when their fish came to them openly on their sabbath day, and the day they had no sabbath they did not come to them. Thus did we give them trial because they were defiantly disobedient. (163) And when a community among them said, “Why do you advise [or warn] a people whom Allah is [about] to destroy or to punish with a severe punishment?” they [the advisors] said, “To be absolved before your Lord and perhaps they may fear Him.” (164) And when they forgot that by which they had been reminded, We saved those who had forbidden evil and seized those who wronged, with a wretched punishment, because they were defiantly disobeying. (165) So when they were insolent about that which they had been forbidden, We said to them, “Be apes, despised.”

Sound like a fractured Midrash to me.  In any case, where is this town by the sea?  According to most Islamic scholars, the city is Eilat(*).

Islamic sources mention four Jewish settlements in the Gulf of Eilat area: Adhruh, Jarba, Maqna and Eilat.  Maqna and Eilat were situated on the coast, Maqna being further south than Eilat.  Adhruh and Jarba were to the north, further inland.  These Jews grew dates (an occupation common among the Jews of Arabia), fished and kept horses.  Their women spun and wove textiles.  They carried weapons and owned slaves.

When Muhammad approached Israel, after arriving at Tabuk, these communities sent delegations to the new conqueror.

Izhak Ben-Zvi brings the following in his book “Remnants of Ancient Jewish Communities in the Land of Israel”, written by Ibn Sa’d in the 9th century (translation mine):

“Yuhanna son of Ru’ba, king of Eilat, came to the Prophet, and with him the residents of Jarba and Adhruh.  And they came to the Prophet, and he taxed them, and he wrote them a letter saying: ‘In the name of Allah the Merciful, this treaty is given from Allah and his messenger Muhammad to Yuhanna son of Ru’ba and to the residents of Eilat, their ships and their services, in sea and land.  The protection of Allah and Muhammad is given to them, and to the Syrians and Yemenites and peoples from across the sea who live with them.  And if any of them break the law, his property will not protect him, and will be to whoever takes it.  And they are not to be prevented from the water they want to access, or the way they want to pass in, in sea and land.  Written by Juhim bin-Salat and Shurhavil bin-Hasana, written with permission of the Messenger of Allah.”

And he continues: “Muhammad Ibn ‘Omar (Al-Waqidi, 8th century) says: I copied the letter of the people of Adhruh that says: In the name of Allah the merciful!  This is the treaty of Muhammad the Prophet with the residents of Adhruh, which gives them the protection of Allah and Muhammad, and they must pay 100 dinars, pure gold, on the month of Rajab, and they guarantee in the name of God that they’ll be loyal friends and act well towards the Muslims who turn to them for shelter due to fear or danger when they fear Muslims, and they can be certain Muhammad will not attack them without meeting with them first.”

“And the Messenger of Allah taxed the people of Eilat 300 dinars, and they numbered 300 men.”

“And the Messenger of Allah wrote to the residents of Jarba and Adhruh.  This is the letter of Prophet Muhammad to the residents of Jarba and Adhruh, that a treaty is given to them by Muhammad, and they need to pay 100 dinars of pure gold every month of Rajab.  And they guarantee this in the name of God.  and the Messenger of Allah wrote to the residents of Maqna, that they are to receive the protection of Allah and the protection of Muhammad, and they must give a quarter of their property and their boats.”

“Muhammad Ibn ‘Omar said Ibn Abu Zueiba said in the name of Salah, who lived under al-Tuema’s protection, that the Messenger of Allah made a pact with the residents of Maqna, in order to take a quarter of their fruits and a quarter of their textiles.  Muhammad Ibn ‘Omar said: The residents of Maqna were Jews who lived on the coast.  And the residents of Jarba [Prof. Moshe Gil adds: and Adhruh] were Jews as well.”

Jarba, Adhruh and Maqna are specified as Jewish.  Eilat had a significant Jewish community, and as we saw before, Muslim scholars throughout the ages fingered it as the town of Jews mentioned in the Quran.

Google and the Defenders of Kfar Etzion

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Gush Etzion is an area southeast of Jerusalem, which contains several “settlements.” One of them is Kibbutz Kfar Etzion. Part of the Palestine Mandate from 1917 to 1948, and the Ottoman empire before that, it was purchased from local Arabs and settled by Yemenite Jews in 1927.  They lived there on and off (they were driven out several times by Arab “riots”) until May 1948 when the invading Jordanian army overran it and massacred all but four of its defenders. All of the West Bank and East Jerusalem were made Jew-free by the Jordanians, who illegally occupied the area until 1967, when the kibbutz was reestablished.

The Haganah sent thirty-five men to relieve the besieged kibbutzim of Gush Etzion in January 1948, following an Arab attack. They were wiped out and their bodies mutilated after an Arab shepherd, whom they unwisely set free after encountering him on the way, reported their presence. They are referred to as the lamed hey, “the thirty-five.”

Let me spell it out more clearly: Jews lived there on land they owned. The kibbutzim of Gush Etzion (there were four of them) represented the realization of the promise made by the world to the Jewish people in the Palestine Mandate, that there would be a national home in the land of Israel. Arabs violently resisted their presence, and when Jordan violated the U.N. charter by invading and occupying Judea and Samaria in 1948, Jews were murdered or expelled. Not one Jew was allowed to remain on the Jordanian side of the cease-fire line. Because they were Jews.

But in the eyes of the “international community,” the ethnic cleansing of the area east of the 1949 armistice line and the 19-year Jordanian occupation thereof transformed Gush Etzion into Arab land, land that today “belongs” to the new non-member-state of the U.N., “Palestine.”

Apparently this magical transmutation was recognized by Google, because when Jewish residents of Gush Etzion tried to use Google’s search engine this month, they received a message suggesting that they switch to the appropriate page for their location, Google Palestine (Google.ps), in Arabic, rather than the Hebrew-language Google Israel (Google.il) they had been using. This follows Google’s recent decision to re-title Google.ps “Palestine” instead of “Palestinian territories.”

Some people think this is much ado about nothing, and at a time when nobody knows if Israel will be at war with Hizballah, Syria and Iran tomorrow, they have a point.

But it is indicative of a much bigger problem. In its desire to present itself as a peace-loving member of the “international community,” Israeli governments have not asserted the historic right of the Jewish people, guaranteed in international law, to the land of Israel. They have not challenged the U.N.’s abdication of its responsibility, inherited from the League of Nations, to preserve this right. They have allowed the Arab position, that the Jews are colonialist interlopers occupying Arab land, to become the conventional wisdom.

I am not saying that it isn’t possible for Israel to agree to a negotiated settlement that would transfer some part of the area of the original mandate to Arab sovereignty, assuming that it could be consistent with Israel’s security. But this has to be negotiated from the starting point that the Jewish people have prima facie rights to Judea and Samaria, not the Palestinian Arabs.

This distortion underlies the position of the U.S. that Israel should withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines “with land swaps.” In other words, the U.S. believes that the armistice lines represent the boundaries of “Arab land” and so if Israel annexes any of it, the Arabs must be “compensated.” Why? The land wasn’t theirs to begin with!

Recent Israeli governments have argued for holding onto parts of the territories for security reasons, an argument which makes eminent sense. But they have generally avoided firmly asserting that Israel, on behalf of the Jewish people, holds the legal title to the land and has the right to dispose of it as it sees fit. The Arabs, of course, aren’t shy in saying that it’s all theirs, and that in addition, Jews aren’t allowed to live there.

The Jewish Connection to Israel: Sephardic Aliyot

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

The anti-Israel community often attempts delegitimize the State of Israel by using the rhetorical argument that the Jewish people left Israel following the Bar Kokhba Revolt, were absent from the area for 2000 years, and didn’t return to their ancestral homeland until the rise of the Zionist movement. The reality is that the Jewish people were never absent from the Land of Israel, for Jews continued to live in as well as settle the Land of Israel despite all of the hardships associated with it since ancient times.

For example, 34 synagogues were found in the Golan Heights dating from the late Roman era up until the Arab conquest. There was also a strong Jewish community present in Ein Gedi that continued to flourish up through the sixth century until Byzantine persecutions brought that community to an end. Additionally, a Jewish community found in Baram existed up through the Crusader period and population estimates from the seventh century as well as from 1517 following the Crusades and Black Plague also indicate a Jewish presence in the land of Israel.

The Sephardic Aliyah to Israel

Aside from ancient and medieval Jewish communities that existed within Israel the Jewish Diaspora never lost touch with their ancestral homeland. Hundreds of years prior to the founding of the Zionist movement there were Jewish communities which made Aliyah in the Middle Ages. One of these medieval Aliyot was that of the Sephardic Jewish community which fled Spain following the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition in order to live under Ottoman rule in the Holy Land. Between 1391 through the fifteenth century, a significant number of Jews immigrated to the Holy Land as a response to the persecution they endured in Spain and Portugal.

According to the scholar Jane Gerber, writing in her book The Jews of Spain:

Entire family groups’ banded together and rented ships to make their way to Palestine since they were barred from Christian vessels. This movement contrasted sharply with the previous migration, which involved primarily the scholarly and the elderly who sought burial in the Holy Land. Soon, the Sephardic settlement in Jerusalem increased noticeably, and by the mid-century the community had become so heterogeneous that Hebrew, the only language shared by all, became its spoken language.

Dona Gracia Nasi

In fact, during the height of the Ottoman Empire, one brave Jewish woman of the Renaissance, Dona Gracia Nasi, sought to set up a semi-autonomous Jewish province in the area of Tiberius, Israel. Despite local Arab and French opposition, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent supported the project. Many modern historians evidently view Dona Gracia Nasi’s attempt to establish a Jewish province in Tiberius as part of a larger attempt to revive Jewish statehood prior to the rise of Zionism.

According to Andree Aelion Brooks’ The Woman Who Defied Kings: the Life and Times of Dona Gracia Nasi:

In Tiberius, the newcomers were soon taking over abandoned structures, renovating deserted houses, restoring gaping roofs, clearing the rubble and quarreling in typical Jewish fashion. By 1564 the revival was sufficiently far along that yet another traveler recalled that the scent from the date palm, orange and pine trees was so overpowering that it was almost suffocating. Yet another talked effusively of a wilderness turned into a Garden of Eden. Almost all of the residents, noted one of these travelers, were former conversos from Spain and Portugal!

Although the Tiberius community went into decline after Dona Gracia Nasi passed away, there are some Jews living in Israel today who can trace their residency in the Holy Land back to this Aliyah, known as the Old Yishuv.

Visit United with Israel.

When is a Palestinian Not a Palestinian?

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

I usually write about the Jewish history of Israel.  This time around, a short piece on the flexibility of national identity among our neighbors.  Less than a century ago, the Christian residents of Bethlehem did not identify themselves as Arabs, and even less so as the indigenous peoples.  In welcoming the conquering Anglos, they eagerly associated themselves with the conquering imperial power.

From “The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine” by Charles Guy Powles (1922), quoted in “The Changing Land Between the Jordan and the Sea” by Benjamin Zeev Kedar:

Bethlehem is a Christian city…  The people declare that they are not Arabs, but that they are descendants of the Crusaders.  They certainly are not generally so dark and swarthy as the Arabs.  All the women have colour in their cheeks and many have blue eyes, and their dress is interesting and picturesque.  Apart from its attractive coloring – a sky-blue robe with red girdle and embroidered jacket – they wear a head-dress extraordinarily like that of the ladies of the Crusaders of old…
Visit The Muqata.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/muqata/when-is-a-palestinian-not-a-palestinian/2013/01/27/

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