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THE JEWS IN JERUSALEM.
supported solely by the voluntary contributions of their brethren throughout the world.
I think I am warranted in stating, that the number of Jews now in Jerusalem is greater than at any other period of modern times. The population of any eastern city is with great difficulty accurately ascertained, owing to the total absence of statistical or municipal tables, as well as to the immense floating population, hundreds arriving at night, and passing out in the morning; besides, here, the number of pilgrims varies daily. The entire resident population of the city is about 30,000; of which 8,000 are Jews; 8,000 Christians ; 10,000 Mohammadans; and about 4,000 foreigners, or partial residents, including the garrison. This, however, is by many considered too much, some estimating the total population at so few as eleven or twelve thousand.
As a rough guess would but little approximate to the truth, and as many contradictory accounts have been published of the number of Jews resident in Jerusalem, I used every means of procuring correct information on this subject. The Latins, and the Jewish rabbis themselves, whom I severally consulted, both agreed in stating, that the number is greater now (1837) than at any other period in latter times of which they have any record; and that, at the lowest calculation, it amounted to the number I have stated.
The period is not very distant when the Turkish law permitted no more than 300 Jews to reside within the walls. The celebrated Jewish historian, Benjamin of Tudela, gives a lamentable account of the state of the Jews in Palestine about the middle of the twelfth century: and "we may safely select," says Milman, in his History of the Jews, “his humiliating account of the few brethren who still clung, in poverty and meanness, to their native land. There is an air of sad truth about the statement, which seems to indicate some better information on this subject than on others. In Tyre, Benjamin is said to have found 400 Jews, glass-blowers. The Samaritans still occupied Sichem; but in Jerusalem there were only 200 descendants of Abraham, almost all dyers of wool, who had bought a monopoly of that trade. Ascalon contained 153 Jews; Tiberias, the seat of learning and of the kingly patriarchate, but 50. This account of Benjamin is confirmed by the unfrequent mention of the Jews in the histories of the later Crusades in the Holy Land ; and may, perhaps, be
CONDITION OF THE JEWS IN THE HOLY CITY.
ascribed in a great measure to the devastations committed in the first of these depopulating expeditions.” A vast concourse of this people flocked to Jerusalem at the time that Syria was occupied by the Egyptians; and afterwards, on the conquest of Algiers. Within these two or three years, however, the extreme scarcity of provisions has deterred others from going there, and the number has not been so great as heretofore.
A partial famine was making itself felt among the Jews at the time of our visit, in consequence of the remittances for their support not having arrived punctually. Nor are those who, in the first instance, receive these remittances, free from the strong suspicion of withholding a part for their own private uses. Bread, all kinds of provisions, and even water, were becoming scarce and dear, owing to the increased population within the walls, and the decrease of agricultural population without, to cultivate the soil, and raise the necessaries of life. This decrease arose from the impolitic conscription carried on in this thinly populated country to augment the
army of the Básha; and great fears of famine, and its horrors, were entertained. Many poor Jews were then beginning to suffer from hunger, and both they and the Mooslims were, during our stay, observing a solemn fast, and praying for rain to descend on this thirsty land, whose wheat crops were withering for lack of moisture. The army of Ibrahim Basha was entirely supplied with foreign corn.
With all this accumulated misery—with all this insult and scorn heaped upon the Israelite here, more even than in any other country-why, it will be asked, does he not fly to other and happier lands? Why does he seek to rest under the shadow of Jerusalem's wall ? Independently of that natural love of country which exists among this people, two objects bring the Jew to Jerusalem ; to study the Scriptures and the Talmud—and then to die, and have his bones laid with his forefathers in the valley of Jehoshaphat, even as the bones of the patriarchs were carried up out of Egypt. No matter what the station or rank—no matter what or how far distant the country where the Jew resides-he still lives upon the hope that he will one day journey Sion-ward. No clime can change, no season quench, that patriotic ardour with which the Jew beholds Jerusalem, even through the vista of a long futurity. On his first approach to the city, while yet within a day's journey, he puts on his best apparel ; and when the first view of it bursts
THE LOVE OF COUNTRY.
upon his sight, he rends his garments, falls down to weep and pray over the long-sought object of his pilgrimage ; and with dust sprinkled on his head, he enters the city of his
forefathers. No child ever returned home after long absence with more yearnings of affection ; no proud baron ever beheld his ancestral towers and lordly halls, when they had become another's, with greater sorrow than the poor Jew when he first beholds Jerusalem. This, at least, is patriotism. “It is curious," says the learned author, from whom I have already quoted, “after surveying this almost total desertion of Palestine, to read the indications of fond attachment to its very air and soil, scattered about in the Jewish writings; still, it is said, that man is esteemed most blessed, who, even after his death, shall reach the land of Palestine, and be buried there, or even shall have his ashes sprinkled by a handful of its sacred dust. • The air of the land of Israel,' says one, 'makes a man wise ;' another writes, "he who walks four cubits in the land of Israel is sure of being a son of the life to come.' "The great Wise Men are wont to kiss the borders of the Holy Land, to embrace its ruins, and roll themselves in its dust.' • The sins of all those are forgiven who inhabit the land of Israel.' He who is buried there is reconciled with God, as though he were buried under the altar. The dead buried in the land of Canaan first come to life in the days of the Messiah.”—History of the Jews, vol. iii.
It is worthy of remark, as stated by Sandys, that so strong is the desire this singular people have always manifested for being buried within these sacred limits, that in the seventeenth century large quantities of their bones were yearly sent thither from all parts of the world, for the purpose of being interred in the valley of Jehoshaphat ; for the Turkish rulers at that time permitted but a very small number of Jews even to enter Palestine. Sandys saw shiploads of this melancholy freight at Jaffa ; and the valley of Jehoshaphat is literally paved with Jewish tombstones.
“ Samaria ! thou art still my home,
And thou ere long shalt be my grave:
There let me sleep, where sleep the brave.
A waste, and not a flower-decked sod;
If but the spirit rest with God.”
In Jerusalem alone, of any place upon the earth, is the Hebrew spoken as a conversational language ; for, although the Scriptures are read, and the religious rites performed in Hebrew in the various countries in which the Jews are scattered, yet they speak the language of the nations among whom they are located.
And as the last link of that chain which binds them to home and to happiness, they, like other oppressed nations, cling to it with rapturous delight. And it is the only door by which the missionary there has access to the Jew, for they themselves have often said to me “We cannot resist the holy language.”
Most of the Jews are learned ; and many spend the principal part of their time in studying the Scriptures or the Talmud; while others are engaged in discussing the law, and disputing in the synagogues, or in weeping over Jerusalem. They are particularly courteous to strangers ; and seem anxious to cultivate an intercourse with Franks.
One morning while inquiring about some medicine at the shop of a poor Jew, I was accosted by a venerable rabbi in good English, who invited me to see their new synagogue, of which they are now very proud, inasmuch as it is built on a piece of ground lately restored to them by Mohammad Alee, after a judicial investigation of their right, and after having been withheld from them for upwards of two centuries. It was covered with heaps of rubbish and old ruined houses ; and it is curious that in excavating among them, they found the remains of some very old arches and pillars, which they strongly affirm were portions of a synagogue in days gone by. They were clearing these away at the time of our visit ; and some tolerable houses and baths were also being built upon the spot. The altar or holy place, in which are kept some ancient manuscripts of the Pentateuch on parchment rolls, was adorned by representations of the different musical instruments mentioned in Scripture belonging to Hebrew melody, as the harp, sackbut, and psaltery. A compartment was railed off on the left hand for the females.
When I entered the synagogue, I found a number of old men seated at tables, the greater part of whom were reading the Talmud, and some few the Scriptures. All who were so engaged, had small square black boxes, each about two inches in diameter, strapped upon their foreheads, which, on inquiry, I was told were the “ frontlets” that the Jews were directed to bind between their
EFFECTS OF THE EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT.
eyes ; others had similar ornaments strapped on the left arm, (Deuter. vi. 8,) and containing a verse of Scripture. Several of these Jews were standing in groups, discussing and disputing about the law. They reminded me of the doctors in the days of our Lord, when similar scenes may have taken place, even on this very spot. There was a tolerable library attached to the place, where the young men were instructed in the Talmud, the books of Moses, and the mysteries of the Jewish religion, in order to prepare those that are intended for the priesthood, who are the only Jews that leave Jerusalem. The greater number met with in the streets are of the priestly order, marked by their tall black caps, with a band of gray and white muslin bound round them.
Heretofore both Jews and Christians, but especially the former, were prohibited from repairing any of their places of worship; the permission now granted them speaks well for the mildness of the government of Mohammad Alee. Indeed, that persecution which has ever since Jerusalem's fall been the birthright of the Jew, has been very much mitigated in Palestine, since the assumption of the government by the Egyptian ruler. Nay, I do believe that at no period, since Titus led them captive, to grace his triumphal entry into Rome, was their condition ever so meliorated, or have they enjoyed so many immunities, as under Mohammad Alee. Nor can tradition or historic record show so great a number of Jews, and so secure from persecution, residing in Jerusalem. Many say that this is but a cunning policy, to make a show of liberality; - but, by whom do kings reign? is a question never asked. Their becoming possessed of this synagogue and the portion of ground around it, after so many years, is the more remarkable, as for many years the Jews were not allowed to possess a single rood of the soil of their forefathers; and the circumstance reminded me of Jeremiah's purchase of the lands of Hananeel, and hiding the bond, in order to enjoy it after the captivity.
The male part of this people are exceedingly handsome; but I must acknowledge that those Jewesses I met in Jerusalem were not as beautiful as those I have seen elsewhere. Many of them had light complexions, which, with the highly marked and prominent features of the Hebrew countenance, is by no means pleasing. Here they do not wear the yashmac or face-cover.