Jewish Access to holy sites during 'tolerant' Muslim rule

Ed Lasky yesterday pointed-out some of the facts overlooked by two credentialed op-ed writers in the Washington Post pushing the concept that Israel should compromise its sovereignty over Jerusalem in negotiating with the Palestinians. It is worthwhile remembering what happened to the holy sites under Muslim rule before foolishly letting go of hard-won sovereignty over them.

Contemporary observations regarding the plight of Palestinian Jews were made by the Polish Jew, Gedaliah of Siemiatyce (d. 1716), who, braving numerous perils, came to Jerusalem in 1700. These appalling conditions, recorded in his book, Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem, forced him to return to Europe in order to raise funds for the Jews of Jerusalem. With regard to Jewish access to the Temple Mount, specifically, he recorded:
The Muslims do not allow any member of another faith-unless he converts to their religion-entry to the Temple [Mount] area, for they claim that no other religion is sufficiently pure to enter this holy spot. They never weary of claiming that, although God had originally chosen the people of Israel, He had since abandoned them on account of their iniquity in order to choose the Muslims... 1
Gedaliah's report simply reflects the humiliating conditions imposed on Jews who were denied any access to the Temple Mount itself, and only allowed to pray at the Western Wall during 13 centuries of Muslim rule, upon payment of various "fees" to the Muslim authorities. Indeed, an August 1929 Arab Muslim pogrom-during which Arab marauders plundered neighboring villages and districts , killing 133 Jews, while injuring 339 more in Jerusalem-followed a simple Jewish request for authorization to install benches and a screen in the two meters wide narrow passage in front of the Western Wall

Jewish access to the Machpelah (Makhpela) cave (near Hebron), believed to contain the tomb of the Patriarchs (over which the conquering Muslims built a mosque), 3 under the Mamluks, and later the Ottomans, reflects prevailing anti-dhimmi, and specifically anti-Jewish attitudes during these combined periods of almost eight centuries of continuous Muslim rule. Prior to 1266, the conditions of such visits were described 4 by the 12th century chronicler Benjamin of Tudela. 5 In order to see the putative sepulchers of the Patriarchs contained within the cave, visitors were required to make a payment. Benjamin adds, 6
If a Jew gives an additional fee to the keeper of the cave, an iron door which dates from the time of our forefathers opens, and the visitor descends with a lighted candle. He crosses two empty caves, and in the third sees six tombs, on which the names of the three Patriarchs and their wives are inscribed in Hebrew characters. The cave is filled with barrels containing bones of people, which are taken there as to a sacred place. At the end of the field of the Machpelah stands Abraham's house with a spring in front of it
However, in 1266, the Mamluk Sultan Baybars, upon visting Hebron, prohibited Jews (and Christians) entrance to Machpelah. 7 This prohibition would remain in place for Jews through the end of the British Mandate period (1948); ordinary Christians, other than rare exceptions for dignitaries (such as the Prince of Wales in 1862), were also forbidden entry until 1922. Professor Eliezer Bashan summarized the history of this discriminatory prohibition during a period of over 600 years, beginning with an anecdote from 1336: 8

European travelers who visited Hebron before the Ottoman period and during the Ottoman period (1517-1917) and who tried to visit the cave were not allowed in, and they wrote the same applied to the Jews. They were permitted to pray only outside the walls. John Mandeville, for example, who was born in England and pilgrimaged to the Holy Land in 1336, arrived at Hebron and wrote the following: "They suffer no Christian man to enter that place but if it be of special grace of the sultan, for they hold Christian men and Jews as dogs, and they say that they should not enter into so holy a place"

An English gentleman who visited there in 1753 and again ten years later reported Jews were not even allowed to walk in the street leading to the cave. The danger that faces a Christian who approaches the place is described in the following report (published in 1845): "The Moslems guard this tomb with the greatest jealousy, and woe to that Christian who sets foot within its portal".

The vice-consul of France in Basra, who tried to visit there in 1834, requested the Muazzin to let him in, but he was told that he would first be required to embrace Islam. A missionary (H. Bonar) who visited Hebron in 1856 and was prohibited from entering expressed his opinion in the following passage, stressing the different manner and behavior of Jews and Christians: "Muslim fanaticism has shut this cave against the world; nowhere is this fanaticism wilder...than in El-Khulil (Hebron). The Jewish Temple had its great court open to all; Christian cathedrals and churches invite all to enter; only Mahomedanism with peculiar exclusiveness closes every gate of its mosque against the stranger."

S. Ehrlich, a Jewish trader from Russia, who wanted to visit this holy place, disguised himself as a Muslim imam, and succeeded  in entering the cave in 1833.

The first Christian who was permitted to enter the cave was the Prince of Wales in 1862. He was privileged not only because of his Royal personality but because of the political situation after the Crimean War of 1856. Great Britain and the Ottomans enjoyed special relations owing to the resistance of the latter to the expansion of Russia...The Ottoman authorities tried to accustom the Muslim population to a more tolerant attitude to Europeans and Christians, but the fanatic local population and its leaders did not accept the tolerant attitude and continued to impose limitations on regular Christians. Just after the visit of the Prince, a plague began in Hebron, which the Muslims considered a punishment from God because of the desecration of the holy place, and the population was on the verge of a rebellion. Under the British Mandate (1922-1948) Christians were given free access to the building, but not Jews.
References

1. Gedaliah of Siemiatyce, Sha'alu Shelom Yerushalayim (Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem), (Hebrew), Berlin, 1716. [English translation in, Bat Ye'or, The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam, pp. 377-80.]

2. Bat Ye'or Islam and Dhimmitude, 2001, pp. 161-162

3. Emil G. Hirsch, M. Selighson, Solomon Schechter. "Machpelah". The Jewish Encyclopedia.com; A. A. Bonar and R. M. McCheyne, A Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews from the Church of Scotland in 1839, Edinburgh, 1842, pp. 180-81, 273.

4. "Machpelah". The Jewish Encyclopedia.com

5. Richard Gottheil, Wilhelm Belcher. "Benjamin of Tudela". The Jewish Encyclopedia.com

6. "Machpelah". The Jewish Encyclopedia.com

7. Eliezer Bashan. "The Prohibition on Non-Muslims Entering Mosques in the Ottoman Empire as Reflected in European Sources." Shofar, Winter, 1997, p.63;

8. Ibid., pp. 63-66.

Ed Lasky yesterday pointed-out some of the facts overlooked by two credentialed op-ed writers in the Washington Post pushing the concept that Israel should compromise its sovereignty over Jerusalem in negotiating with the Palestinians. It is worthwhile remembering what happened to the holy sites under Muslim rule before foolishly letting go of hard-won sovereignty over them.

Contemporary observations regarding the plight of Palestinian Jews were made by the Polish Jew, Gedaliah of Siemiatyce (d. 1716), who, braving numerous perils, came to Jerusalem in 1700. These appalling conditions, recorded in his book, Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem, forced him to return to Europe in order to raise funds for the Jews of Jerusalem. With regard to Jewish access to the Temple Mount, specifically, he recorded:
The Muslims do not allow any member of another faith-unless he converts to their religion-entry to the Temple [Mount] area, for they claim that no other religion is sufficiently pure to enter this holy spot. They never weary of claiming that, although God had originally chosen the people of Israel, He had since abandoned them on account of their iniquity in order to choose the Muslims... 1
Gedaliah's report simply reflects the humiliating conditions imposed on Jews who were denied any access to the Temple Mount itself, and only allowed to pray at the Western Wall during 13 centuries of Muslim rule, upon payment of various "fees" to the Muslim authorities. Indeed, an August 1929 Arab Muslim pogrom-during which Arab marauders plundered neighboring villages and districts , killing 133 Jews, while injuring 339 more in Jerusalem-followed a simple Jewish request for authorization to install benches and a screen in the two meters wide narrow passage in front of the Western Wall

Jewish access to the Machpelah (Makhpela) cave (near Hebron), believed to contain the tomb of the Patriarchs (over which the conquering Muslims built a mosque), 3 under the Mamluks, and later the Ottomans, reflects prevailing anti-dhimmi, and specifically anti-Jewish attitudes during these combined periods of almost eight centuries of continuous Muslim rule. Prior to 1266, the conditions of such visits were described 4 by the 12th century chronicler Benjamin of Tudela. 5 In order to see the putative sepulchers of the Patriarchs contained within the cave, visitors were required to make a payment. Benjamin adds, 6
If a Jew gives an additional fee to the keeper of the cave, an iron door which dates from the time of our forefathers opens, and the visitor descends with a lighted candle. He crosses two empty caves, and in the third sees six tombs, on which the names of the three Patriarchs and their wives are inscribed in Hebrew characters. The cave is filled with barrels containing bones of people, which are taken there as to a sacred place. At the end of the field of the Machpelah stands Abraham's house with a spring in front of it
However, in 1266, the Mamluk Sultan Baybars, upon visting Hebron, prohibited Jews (and Christians) entrance to Machpelah. 7 This prohibition would remain in place for Jews through the end of the British Mandate period (1948); ordinary Christians, other than rare exceptions for dignitaries (such as the Prince of Wales in 1862), were also forbidden entry until 1922. Professor Eliezer Bashan summarized the history of this discriminatory prohibition during a period of over 600 years, beginning with an anecdote from 1336: 8

European travelers who visited Hebron before the Ottoman period and during the Ottoman period (1517-1917) and who tried to visit the cave were not allowed in, and they wrote the same applied to the Jews. They were permitted to pray only outside the walls. John Mandeville, for example, who was born in England and pilgrimaged to the Holy Land in 1336, arrived at Hebron and wrote the following: "They suffer no Christian man to enter that place but if it be of special grace of the sultan, for they hold Christian men and Jews as dogs, and they say that they should not enter into so holy a place"

An English gentleman who visited there in 1753 and again ten years later reported Jews were not even allowed to walk in the street leading to the cave. The danger that faces a Christian who approaches the place is described in the following report (published in 1845): "The Moslems guard this tomb with the greatest jealousy, and woe to that Christian who sets foot within its portal".

The vice-consul of France in Basra, who tried to visit there in 1834, requested the Muazzin to let him in, but he was told that he would first be required to embrace Islam. A missionary (H. Bonar) who visited Hebron in 1856 and was prohibited from entering expressed his opinion in the following passage, stressing the different manner and behavior of Jews and Christians: "Muslim fanaticism has shut this cave against the world; nowhere is this fanaticism wilder...than in El-Khulil (Hebron). The Jewish Temple had its great court open to all; Christian cathedrals and churches invite all to enter; only Mahomedanism with peculiar exclusiveness closes every gate of its mosque against the stranger."

S. Ehrlich, a Jewish trader from Russia, who wanted to visit this holy place, disguised himself as a Muslim imam, and succeeded  in entering the cave in 1833.

The first Christian who was permitted to enter the cave was the Prince of Wales in 1862. He was privileged not only because of his Royal personality but because of the political situation after the Crimean War of 1856. Great Britain and the Ottomans enjoyed special relations owing to the resistance of the latter to the expansion of Russia...The Ottoman authorities tried to accustom the Muslim population to a more tolerant attitude to Europeans and Christians, but the fanatic local population and its leaders did not accept the tolerant attitude and continued to impose limitations on regular Christians. Just after the visit of the Prince, a plague began in Hebron, which the Muslims considered a punishment from God because of the desecration of the holy place, and the population was on the verge of a rebellion. Under the British Mandate (1922-1948) Christians were given free access to the building, but not Jews.
References

1. Gedaliah of Siemiatyce, Sha'alu Shelom Yerushalayim (Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem), (Hebrew), Berlin, 1716. [English translation in, Bat Ye'or, The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam, pp. 377-80.]

2. Bat Ye'or Islam and Dhimmitude, 2001, pp. 161-162

3. Emil G. Hirsch, M. Selighson, Solomon Schechter. "Machpelah". The Jewish Encyclopedia.com; A. A. Bonar and R. M. McCheyne, A Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews from the Church of Scotland in 1839, Edinburgh, 1842, pp. 180-81, 273.

4. "Machpelah". The Jewish Encyclopedia.com

5. Richard Gottheil, Wilhelm Belcher. "Benjamin of Tudela". The Jewish Encyclopedia.com

6. "Machpelah". The Jewish Encyclopedia.com

7. Eliezer Bashan. "The Prohibition on Non-Muslims Entering Mosques in the Ottoman Empire as Reflected in European Sources." Shofar, Winter, 1997, p.63;

8. Ibid., pp. 63-66.