WHOSE LAND IS PALESTINE?
foreword Claims for Good Reasons
This is a book that needs to be read widely by the public, particularly by those persons in governments and on delegations to the United Nations who have responsibility for formulating policies that pertain to the Middle East. Its value is enhanced by the fact that it has been written by an articulate and well-informed young manreared in a Mennonite home in Canada and son of refugee parents after World War I-- whose personal background gives no reason for personal bias towards either the Arabs or Israelis.
The distinguishing feature of this book is that it is directed to Western Christians - particularly those in Canada and the United States. Dr. Epp is critical of past Western policies, contending that they are based on "a historical view that is too short and a theological stance that is too narrow." Accordingly, he has undertaken to place the problem of Arab-Israeli conflict in an appropriate historical perspective that encompasses all essential considerations as he sees them, including those which have a theological base.
In attempting this task, Dr. Epp has introduced few facts that have been heretofore unknown. However, he has placed greater emphasis than other writers on "the prominence of God or gods in the minds of men in the long history of the Middle East," believing that an understanding of this will facilitate insights relative to a solution. In that portion of the book that relates to background, Dr. Epp has presented the facts simply, interestingly, accurately and in a manner that likely will not be seriously challenged, even by readers who begin the book partial to one side or the other.
Dr. Epp's major contribution to better understanding of Arab-Israeli conflict is in the latter part of the book where he deals with the general subject of "Christian involvement" in Middle East conflict. It is his thesis that Christian theology has not only been a factor contributing to Jewish persecution in the past but that more recently it has contributed towards the persecution of certain Arab peoples - particularly the Palestinian Arabs - as Christians have placed on these Arabs the price of Christian atonement to the Jews. In Dr. Epp's words, "an old anti-Semitism directed against the Semitic Jews now became a new anti-Semitism directed against the Semitic Arabs. As the old anti-Semitism terribly wronged the Jews so the new anti-Semitism terribly wronged the Arabs."
Dr. Epp challenges Western Christians to take the lead now to redress the wrongs they have helped to inflict on Arab peoples and to do this in a manner that avoids new persecution of Jews. To this end he admonishes Christians to "accept their Messiah and become Christians," and that in so doing "they will make their most important contribution to peace." From this premise the author outlines a new approach to peace that merits studied consideration by all persons concerned with peace in the Middle East. Dr. Epp's insight into the problem of Arab-Israeli conflict and his sensitivity to underlying issues and the attitudes of both Arabs and Israelis are reflected in such comments as is:
We must recognize ,.. that the Palestinian struggle for liberation ... of their homeland is at the root of the current problem.
To the Palestine Arabs security for Jews and sovereignty for Israel were always two separate questions. They were always prepared to guarantee the former but never to accept the latter.
The Jews who have already made Palestine their homeland have a right to stay there, but it would be difficult to accept further immigration until the requirements of justice to the Arabs have been met.
In the long run an Israeli state is as insecure in the Arab world as white regimes are insecure in Africa.
The world in general and Western Christians in particular should feel indebted to Dr. Epp.JOHN H. DAVIS
International Consultant and Former Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)
In the summer of 1969 1 had the privilege of leading a seminar group of twenty-one persons in a unique study experience in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, and the occupied territories. In the forty-five major briefing, interview, and lecture sessions we attended, the most frequent questions concerned who was at fault in the Middle East: "Who bears the responsibility for the continuing hostilities?" "Who actually is the chief aggressor?" "Who is taking the land away from whom?"
The answers, we soon learned, were predictable. When we talked to the Arabs, the Israelis got all the blame; when we spoke to the Israelis, the Arabs were the undoubted disturbers of the peace. The farther we traveled and the more we listened, the more confused the seminar participants became.
One Middle Easterner we met, however, suggested a new approach to finding the answer. "There are two ways of looking at the conflict," he explained. "One way is that of the tourist, summer seminarian, or the journalist-in-a-hurry; the other way is that of the historian.
"In the first approach you look at contemporary events only. You isolate them and try to determine who fired the first shot. On that basis you identify the aggressor. But it's an inadequate approach, because it's like analyzing a newsreel on the basis of one or two frames or like judging a football game on the basis of one or two isolation replays. To get the whole story, you have to see the whole film. And the Middle East story is - a very long newsreel. The more of it you see, the better you understand."
Our educated informer was correct, of course. Western conclusions- on the Middle East conflict, as on the war in Vietnam, have been based too much on the daily snatches of news, which are rarely, if ever, placed in historical context. It is difficult, of course, always to know how far to roll back the Middle East reel. Must one go back to the war of 1967, or to the United Nations Partition Resolution of 1947, or to the Balfour Declaration in 1917, or to the First Zionist Congress of 1897, or to the conquest of Palestine by the Turks in 1517?
In this present work we try to roll the reel back five thousand years or more, admittedly a difficult task because it really means dealing with the beginning of civilization and most of the history of man. However, we have accepted the risks and pitfalls of treating such a big subject in so little space on the assumption that what is needed, particularly among North American Christians (the primary audience of this study), is the kind of historical and theological understanding that comes from historical perspective in length and breadth. In other words, we hope to help overcome two weaknesses in the western approach to the world in general and the Middle East in particular, a historical view that is too short and a theological stance that is too narrow.
I am indebted to a large number of people who have assisted in the preparation of this volume, in particular a group of six manuscript readers. But my thanks must also go in a special way to more than one hundred Middle Easterners who, in my 1968 field research trip, first opened up to me the breadth and depth of the problem, and to the 1969 seminar resource people who helped to sharpen up the insights gained from field and library research, which was sponsored by the Mennonite Central Committee Peace Section. The responsibility for the contents of this book, of course, is mine alone.
-FRANK H. Epp
... that most desirable area basking under the mediterranean sun, washed by a lovely ocean, redolent of the most sacred history and religious associations of Muslims, Christians, and Jews, a land of spreading orchards, a Middle Eastern crossroads! -John Nicholis Booth1
The Middle East is rapidly shaping up as one of the most critical areas of international conflict since World War II. The geographic region that encompasses the world's oldest centers of civilization now presents to the modern world one of its most complicated political situations.
The problem would not be so difficult nor the conflict so critical if throughout history there would not have been so many competitive claims to the area. These claims have not been ordinary expressions of interest in a given piece of land. The region has, for very good reasons which we will presently explore, always possessed an unusual attraction for peoples and empires both near and far. The Land Called Palestine
At the heart of the current conflict, which is but another repetition of history, lies a dual claim for the same parcel of land, commonly called Palestine, the crossroads of the Middle East. Both the Palestinian Arabs and the Jews of Israel say that Palestine belongs to them. The former are supported by the surrounding Arab states and the latter by world Jewry, in particular by the Zionists. Additionally, both sides draw moral and material support from one or more of the big powers, thus turning the Middle East into an arena of East-West confrontation.
The name Palestine gives a general rather than a precise description of the contested area. The word Palestine is derived from the Philistines, a migrating twelfth-century people from the Aegean civilization (3000-1100 BC). The name appears to have been used first by Herodotus, the Greek "Father of History," and after him by early Christian historians. An earlier name for the area was Canaan, after kinakhu, a much-prized purple dye obtained from the shellfish for which the coasts were known.
While Canaan usually referred to the precise region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the term Palestine has had a much more flexible usage. “ On the one hand, Palestine has described an area as small as the coastal regions occupied by the Philistines or as circumscribed as the Roman Judea in Jesus' time, and, on the other hand, as large an empire as the Kingdom of David and Solomon (1000-925 BC), extending, in general, from the Nile River to the Euphrates.
The maps most common and familiar in the West until recently identified Palestine with the Canaanite territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, extending about 150 miles from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south. Actually, under the British Mandate for Palestine (1923-48), when the present territorial image was formed, a spur of land to the Gulf of Aqaba extended the length to 270 miles. In older times, Palestine sometimes included territories east of the Jordan, and in modern times these have occasionally been referred to as Eastern Palestine or more recently as the East Bank.
As the Palestinian boundaries have shifted in the past, so the outside limits of the present quarrel are not easily determined. Long-term Israeli goals and ambitions, for instance, remain somewhat in doubt, as do the interests of some of the Arab states. When Prime Minister Levi Eshkol early in 1968 asked US President Lyndon B. Johnson to guarantee the borders of Israel, Johnson pointed to the crux of the matter when he replied, "You are asking me to guarantee your borders? What borders do you want me to guarantee?"
Various spokesmen for the cause of Zionism and for Israel have, with their statements from time to time, illustrated the uncertainty concerning the extent of the claims and the location of the desired borders. Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, for instance, described the area of the Jewish state he envisioned as stretching "from the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates." The World Zionist Organization, in submitting its official plan ,to the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference for the creation of a Jewish homeland, specified the minimal territories necessary as follows: the headwaters of the Jordan River in Syria and Lebanon; the south of Lebanon up to the town of Sidon, the southern Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, the Hauran Plain in Syria, and the control of the Hijaz Railway running north-south considerably east of the Jordan from Derra in Syria to Amman and Aqaba in Jordan. Control of the Gulf of Aqaba itself was set as a requirement (see Map 1). The larger area identified by Herzl, however, was not quite forgotten. Nearly three decades later, shortly before the Jewish state came into being, Rabbi Fischmann, a member of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, recalled the founder's territorial vision. Fischmann declared in his testimony to the special United Nations Committee of Enquiry that "the promised land extends from the River of Egypt up to the Euphrates" including parts of Syria and Lebanon.
Fischmann's conception was never granted. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations recommended and authorized a Palestine partition plan that gave to the Jews a fraction of that dream, though the fraction represented 55 percent of the land west of the Jordan River. With the Palestine War of 1948, an additional 22 percent of this land was incorporated into the newly self-proclaimed State of Israel. In 1967, the territories under Israeli control were further extended to include all the land west of the Jordan, plus, the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights of Syria.
At the conclusion of the 1967 June War, Premier Levi Eshkol began to speak of a "Greater Israel," as did the new maps. The Israeli army's chief, General Itzbak Rabin, identified, at least for the time being, the Suez Canal, the Jordan River, and the Golan Heights as the "natural frontiers" of Israel. Even so, the Arab states bordering Israel were not sure that the Israeli claims for territory had been satisfied.
As Israeli ambitions have remained in doubt, so there has been little certainty concerning the full claims of the Arabs. That the Palestinian Arabs themselves want to return with first class citizenship rights to their homeland west of the Jordan is clear, and they want little else. The ambitions of Egypt under President Nasser are now said to be limited to regaining Gaza and the Sinai, but his dreams of a greater United Arab empire have not completely faded either. And King Hussein, whose father annexed the Palestinian UN Partition Plan, seems to be as much concerned with maintaining and restoring the Hashemite kingdom as with recognizing the rights of the Palestinian refugees. Similarly, other Arab governments, being normal nationalistic states, want to advance rather than retreat in their struggle for a share of Middle East power.
Generally speaking, the Israelis believe that the Arabs want to push them into the sea, and the Arabs, who are being pushed into the desert, are sure that the Israelis are after much more than any borders they have yet achieved. Speaking for themselves, both sides admit to no such ambitions. Thus the exact size of the area in dispute is impossible to determine. No doubt it varies from time to time between the extremes mentioned above.
Though the quarrel over land is basic, there are other important differences between the two parties. Some of these are cultural differences, as the Palestine Royal Commission of 1936 reported:
There is no common ground between them. The Arab community is predominantly Asiatic in character; the Jewish community is predominantly European. They differ in religion and in language. Their cultural and social life, their ways of thought and conduct, are as incompatible as their national aspirations.
Be that as it may, the present conflict in its regional and international dimensions is not a phenomenon new to the area. As "the middle of the earth," Palestine and the regions surrounding it have had their attractions and been competitively claimed from the beginning of time - or at least as long as the historical record reports - by a variety of claimants.
The Oasis in the Desert
A look at the geography gives the first indications why this should be so. Palestine, taken as a whole, can be considered an oasis on the edge of the vast southern and eastern deserts, the Sinai Peninsula and the great Syro-Arabian desert. To this oasis the nomadic peoples of the desert have gravitated and migrated quite naturally, seeking temporary resting places or permanent settlements in the river valleys, plains, or hill country of this desirable strip of real estate along the Mediterranean Sea.
The same was true, of course, of the fertile Nile and TigrisEuphrates valleys, to the west and the east of Palestine, where the nomads brought their herds and were attracted by the prospect of establishing more sedentary settlements. Syro-Palestine, however, had the additional attraction of being located midway between these other two river valleys, forming together with them the socalled Fertile Crescent, along which and into which the ancient people moved.
Palestine and Syria may be considered as the single region of Syro-Palestine because together they form a continuous 500-mile strip, a series of successive valleys and plains between the desert and the sea. Both southern and northern parts of this strip have a large north-south cleft, which divides them into eastern and western parts. In Palestine, the cleft is the familiar Jordan Valley ending in the Dead Sea or even farther south in the Gulf of Aqaba.
The geography and climate of this Syro-Palestine region are widely divergent, serving a variety of needs, and this has contributed to its continuing, often universal, appeal. Within a very small geographic region variations of topography can be found to meet varying needs at different times of the year. The elevation, for instance, varies from the 9,232 feet of snowcapped Mount Hermon to the 1,286 feet below sea level of the surface of the Dead Sea.
In between these extremities are the fertile valleys and plains: the Jordan Valley running north-south the full length of the land; the east-west Jezreel Valley or Plain of Esdraelon between the hills of Samaria and Galilee; and the Sharon Plain on the coast connecting the north with the Judean hills and the Negev to the south.
As the elevation, so the climate has its variations and extremes, and this, no doubt, is one reason why Jewish immigrants from so many parts of the world have found in Palestine a little bit of home. The cold and wet winter winds from the north and west contrast with the hot and dry desert winds sweeping in occasionally from the east. While the snow still glistens at the head of the Jordan, temperatures soar to 100 degrees and more at its mouth. Moderation of both these extremes is provided by the influence of the Mediterranean Sea and the mountain breezes of the hills. Rainfall varies from forty inches in Galilee to a little more than one inch in the Negev, with the coastal plain striking a happy medium. C. C. McCowan has observed that the presence of all varieties of climate from sub-tropical to sub-arctic within a distance of 100 miles (Jericho to Mount Hermon) is one reason for the universal appeal and understanding of the land: "One reason the Bible is intelligible in nearly all parts of the earth is that it so nearly runs the gamut of the world's climates, land forms, and living conditions."
Others have noted "a symbolic universality" of plant and animal life in Palestine. The flora and fauna found there are representative of almost every other region of the globe, from the Arctic circle to the tropics:
The plants of northern Europe flourish in Lebanon, those of central Europe at the level of Jerusalem and Carmel, andthose of the West Indies on the plain of Jericho near the Jordan. As for the animals, some are denizens of Alpine districts, and others the fauna of the plains of India and the rivers of Africa.... "
One of the favorite points of entrance from the desert into this beckoning region was near the junction of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. There where the Judean hills and the Jordanian plain meet at a spring-fed oasis, nomads first began to settle down to develop more permanent agricultural communities and urban life. The place was called Jericho, and archaeological digs have provided evidence that here we have the development of the earliest city, dating back to 5,000 BC and perhaps much -earlier.
The Middle of the Earth
However, not only the nomads of the desert found themselves moving into, and through, the Syro-Palestinian crescent. With them, and partly because of them, came also the traders and the conquerors, both of whom found "the middle of the earth" to be a bridge, from the west to the east and from the north to the south. Through Palestine- and Syria lay the caravan trails with direct connections to Egypt, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, South Arabia, and other regions of the ancient world.
Known from earlier times also as the "Land of the Five Seas," the "middle of the earth" accommodated not only the traders, exploiters, and conquerors of the Fertile Crescent but also those who traveled to and from distant regions. Whether the men of commerce and conquest were based in the territories beyond the Mediterranean, Black, Caspian, Red, or Arabian seas, and whether they traveled by land or sea, they found in the Fertile Crescent the all-important intersection of all their routes.
Since the greatest travelers, traders, and conquerors turned out to be Europeans, it was they who eventually named the area. To them the Land of the Five Seas was the gateway to the Far East, and so they referred to it as the Near East.
In the nineteenth century, when European powers developed a stronger interest in the middle itself, the gateway name of Near East became less satisfactory. When, therefore, the American naval historian, Alfred Thayer Mahan, in 1902 used the term Middle East to designate the strategic naval area between Arabia and India (the Persian Gulf), it was soon picked up for official use by the British government.
Indeed, the term was found to be so useful that it was soon applied to a much larger area, sometimes stretching from the Black Sea to equatorial Africa and from India to the Atlantic." The US State Department has limited the Middle East region to the eighteen countries listed in Table 1. The recent history of the countries suggests the extent to which the Middle East has been an attraction to, and dominated by, outside powers.
The importance of the Middle East as a crossroad was recognized, of course, long before Europeans built the modern Suez Canal in mid-nineteenth century (1859-69). Improvements and short cuts to international trade routes were attempted as early as the twentieth century BC, when a series of canals were built by Egyptian kings to extend tile northern reaches of the Red Sea. Today the Suez Canal has, because of the conflict, fallen into disuse, but the utility of the Middle East as a crossroads has not been eliminated. On the contrary, the region is more significant than ever, because no all-weather global air route can be developed without it."' As Ilene Beatty has written:
... Palestine is today a crossroads to an even greater degree than ever before. The radius it draws from is enormously expanded, and the Middle East is now a four-way intersection for the criss-crossing airlanes of the world. Planes from the western nations fly in over 'the Mediterranean; Egypt and Africa come up from the south; Iraq and Iran, Pakistan and India from the East; and Turkey and Russia have a near approach from the north. All gravitate centripetally toward the crossroads vortex, and the avaricious among them scheme more subtly and psychologically than their ancient predecessors dreamed.
Wine, Milk, Honey, and Oil
Not only were the waterways and land corridors of the Middle East lucrative commercial routes, but the area itself, parts of which were a veritable Garden of Eden, was rich in natural resources. These resources, however, were shamelessly devastated by invading armies and ruthlessly exploited by selfish rulers. This was particularly true of Palestine and Syria where the natural mineral wealth and forest resources vanished almost entirely already millennia ago. More recently, the Dead Sea has been discovered as an unparalleled source of potash and bromine.
Olive oil and the fruit of the vine were throughout history the region's most stable crops, because the olive trees and vines grew on almost every rocky hillside. In springtime, the otherwise barren hills blossomed with a colorful profusion of flowers, including the hyacinth, crocus, and narcissus followed by anemones tulips, iris, and daisies, the resource base for bees and the honey industry. Thus Palestine "flowed" not only with olive oil and wine, but also with honey, and, of course, milk. Large herds of goats and cattle grazed near the springs and streams of the region, especially during the summer months when the deserts were hot and dry.
The fertile valley soils were conducive to raising grain, and both wheat and barley became staple crops. As time went on, figs, almonds, and bananas were introduced with profit along with citrus fruit, for which the coastal plain, when irrigated, offers the world's most favorable combination of soil and sunshine. The early growth of onions and garlic was later supplemented by such vegetables as tomatoes and potatoes. Cotton, groundnuts, and sugar-beets have also been successfully introduced on a comparatively large scale.
In the twentieth century, the area gained new economic significance. The search for oil, beginning in 1908, uncovered the fabulous petroleum reserves under the Middle East deserts in both Asia and Africa-perhaps as much as 62 percent of the world total. The irrigation of dry land and the reclamation of waste hills brought new life to desert sands and stony slopes.
Culture, Civilization, and Religion
Besides its strategic geographic location as an intercontinental crossroads and its resource potential, the Middle East has had historical significance and attraction also as the cradle of human civilization. There we discover not only the first domestication of plants and animals, but also the earliest development of urban life, with its political, social, and economic institutions. The employment of metallurgy, pottery, numbering, and writing, with their many scientific and cultural applications, all appeared first in the Middle East.
Common words like algebra, zero, mathematics, alchemy, mattress, orange, and atlas testify to the impact that one group of people, the Arabs, has had on western civilization. Later, a related group, the Jews, made staggering contributions in science. literature, music, finance, and philosophy, winning no less than twelve percent of all the Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry, and medicine." Both of these peoples originated in the area in question.
The ancient people in the middle also excelled in religion. Indeed, it can probably be argued that it was religious as well as commercial impulses that provided much of the motivation for their cultural achievements. These impulses developed and matured as much in the desert as in the cities, not least of all because the nomadic experience came first. The wide horizons, the open sky, and the solitude of the shepherd together made possible and necessary the thought and reflections that gave to humanity the wisdom and insights later identified as the revelations of the gods.
As the tribes and settlements came in conflict with each other in intertribal warfare there were conflicting revelations, with the resulting plethora of deities to support the various claims. Such a state of affairs never proved satisfactory in the long run, and the tendency to return to the simpler, more unified, and universal notions of deity remained very strong. In the end, the monotheistic revelations had the widest and longest appeal, and so it happened that the people in the middle of the world gave to that middle and to the entire world an unparalleled spiritual heritage, complete with very precious shrines and powerful religious symbols. As Philip Hitti has written:
Both Judaism and Christianity were nurtured therein. Their daughter, Islam, the third great monotheistic religion was cradled in an adjoining territory. All three religions, are the products of the spiritual experience and genius of the same people, the Semites.
Each of the three religions had at least one thing in common with the ancestral nature worship, which established very close links between man and his land and his gud. Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike tended to see humanity, geography, and deity as a "holy trinity." To all of them Palestine became a holy land. It was this notion of sacred ground being indispensable to religious experience that gave all three religions an unholy character. The Jews became napalm-dropping Zionists, Christians became bloody crusaders and freespending tourists, and Muslims turned into zealous conquerors and determined guerrillas.
All of them made too sacred too small a piece of land, thereby doing an injustice to that land and to religion, which was never intended to promote so much unholy carnage in the name of holy gods. But the higher intentions of religion are another subject to be discussed a little later. Suffice it to say here that religion became an important factor in the historic struggle of control over Palestine. All other good reason: for wanting the land were reinforced by the most important reason of all, religion.
If then we consider all the geographic, economic, political, cultural, and religious factors that gave the Middle East and its Palestinian hub so much appeal, it is not surprising that so many people and empires have laid claim to the area. The resulting claims have led to conflicts so serious that the Holy Land has often had the character of an unholy place. Or, to use the words of Gobineau:
The Middle East is a delicious meat, but it poisons those who eat it.
The Claims of Many Gods
Nature made Syria and Palestine the inevitable meetingplace and battleground of all the migratory, commercial, mid military movements of the Near East.... Historically, we see the rise of the idea of universal kingship under the aegis of the god whose people prevails over the others. -Sabatino Moscati1
In our historical survey of people and empires claiming the land of Palestine it will become obvious that there is nothing new under the sun. The people are claiming, as they always have, that they were there first. The empires are claiming, calai-mg as they always have, that they are intervening for good reasons. And both people and empires relate their claims to the gods, as they always have, either explicitly or implicitly.
On Being There First
When Arabs and Jews today claim Palestine as their own, they do so in part on the grounds that they were there from the beginning, the first to occupy the area effectively and to establish a permanent society. Like the Indians of North America, they rest their case for first rights to the Palestinian real estate on their having been the earliest indigenous populations of the land. In doing so, they tend to forget that the human presence in Palestine goes back much further than most of us have ever believed, though this fact does not necessarily nullify either or both of the claims.
The Jews push their claim back to the patriarch Abraham, who early in the second millennium brought his family from Haran for permanent settlement in Canaan. Since the exact date of this "descent" down the Fertile Crescent is unknown,
Jewish chronology tends to argue for the earliest possible date. The earlier to have been there the better, when it comes to claiming land.) As far as Jerusalem itself is concerned, the Jewish identification may go as far back as the somewhat mythical Melchizedek, even though the city did not fall into Hebrew hands until early in the first millennium. Apparently, Melchizedek was priest and king of Salem when Abraham arrived, and the patriarch recognized the king as a priest of the highest God and offered to him the tenth of his possessions (Gen. 14:18-20).
The Arabs press three possibilities when it comes to determining who was there first. On one level, the Arabs argue that they have been there longer than any of the present-day Israelis, most of whom are recent immigrants without any prior connections to the land. Most frequently, the Arab claim at this level dates back to Islam's spread of Arabic Culture in the seventh and eighth century. Individual Arab families, on the other hand, will recall the known history of their location in any one place. An example of such a claim is that of Rouhi Khatib, ex-mayor of Arab Jerusalem, whose family lived in that city for 700 years prior to his exile to the East Bank in 1968.
At another level, the Arabs go back in their claims at least as far as the Jews. Arabs too claim possession through Abraham and his descendants, pointing out that Ishmael was born before Isaac and Esau before Jacob, and, they say, lshmael and Esau belong to them. Indeed, they go as far as to indicate that Jacob may have succeeded in tricking Esau out of his birthright once, but that he surely won't get away with it the second time (Gen. 25:19-34). Finally, the Arabs identify with the Canaanites of earliest history to press their prior claim. Their ancestors were the indigenous population, they say. The Arabs cannot, of course, push the claims of birthright too far, because, as the years go by, the claims to land by right of birth undergo strange shifts.
The present situation illustrates this fact. Although most of the older Jews in Israel today are immigrants to that country, most of the younger ones were born there. Conversely, the older Palestinians who want to return were born in Palestine, but many of the children were born in camps away from their homes. In one generation, most Israelis will be indigenous to Palestine while most "Palestinians" will not be. Yet, from these "non-Palestinian" Arabs will come the strongest claim for the Palestinian homeland-in the form of a determined guerrilla movement!
Generally speaking, however, the argument is a powerful one, not least of all because it has been used again and again by a multitude of other peoples throughout history. The first people to occupy effectively a given piece of land that was or appeared to be unclaimed were the ones who "owned" it. They needed no stakes, no deeds, and no land title offices to have their claims recognized in their ancient generations. Instinctively, they felt that the land belonged to them, and that they belonged to the land.
At first such a feeling of belonging was true in a general way only, because the migrant life of the nomadic herdsman preceded the settled life of the agriculturist or urban dweller. The immigrants to a new area tended to remain migrants for a time, always literally looking for greener pastures. Too content with wandering really to settle down, they seemed to know in their hearts that they were called to move about, for why else would the world have been made so wide. Filling the earth and subduing it (Gen. 1:28) meant first of all to wander over it. And this is no doubt one of the reasons why the endless deserts of the Middle East were so well known by the ancient Arabs, meaning desert dwellers.
A Complicated Situation
When it comes to identifying the first inhabitants of Palestine and linking these with any specific people of the present day, we are confronted by an enormous problem, partly because of the migrating character of early peoples, partly because the history of those peoples goes back much further than was at first believed, and partly because there has been a great deal of mixing through the years.
There has been a tendency, both among western Christians and Jews, at least until recently, to assume the beginnings of Palestinian settlement to be at the time of Abraham, or just prior to it. But now it is clear from archaeological research that the second millennium lies nowhere near the dawn of time and the earliest Middle East settlements. As John Bright has well expressed, Palestine knew settlement and culture many millennia before Abraham was born:
Horizons have widened amazingly in the past generation. Whatever one says of Israel's origins must be said with full awareness that these lie nowhere near the dawn of history. The earliest decipherable inscriptions, both in Egypt and in Mesopotamia, reach back to the early centuries of the third millennium BC-thus approximately 1,000 years before Abraham, 1,500 before Moses. There history, properly speaking, begins. Moreover, in the course of the last few decades discoveries in Egypt, in Palestine, in Syria, and in Mesopotamia, have revealed a succession of yet earlier cultures which reach back through the fourth millennium and the fifth and, in some cases, as far as thee seventh. The Hebrews were in fact latecomers on history's stage. All across the Bible lands, cultures had come to birth, assumed classical form, and run their course for hundreds and even thousands of years before Abraham was born. Difficult as it is for us to realize, it is quite as far if not farther from the beginnings of civilization in the Near East to the age of Israel's origins as it is from that latter time to our own
The historic details concerning these earlier population facts are, of course, very vague, but skeletal remains point to the existence of men dwelling in the numerous Palestinian caves perhaps as long as one hundred thousand years ago. The caves of Stone Age men eventually gave way to permanent villages, which have appeared as early as the seventh millennium BC. The founding of Jericho, for instance, may go back to about that time if the date given by radiocarbonology is to be believed. Archaeological findings point to the use of brick or perhaps even stone construction, to the worship of a fathermother-son trinity, to the domestication of animals, and to a system of irrigation.
This high culture came to an end, as did other early "permanent" settlements, for reasons which have already been suggested. Earlier populations were replaced by later ones, who moved in from the desert, from the sea, or from the upper and lower ends of the Crescent. Little is known of them before the third millennium, because historical records of any such specific consequence do not go back much further.
The Semites Leave Their Mark
From that time on, however, one people of a particular character appears to have left its linguistic and cultural influence in the regions of the Fertile Crescent more than any other. These people have been called Semites by scholars since the eighteenth century, after the biblical Shem, whose descendants, according to Genesis 10:21-31, spread through greater Syria and Persia, north to Armenia, and south to the Persian Gulf.
Some historians -claim that these Semites first developed a distinctive social and cultural community in northern and/or southern Arabia, but their original home is really quite difficult to determine. At the dawn of history, traces of the Semitic languages can be found all over the Fertile Crescent. Even the earliest Canaanites of history, who have been linked to the Hamites of Egypt as descendants of the biblical Ham, show a very strong Semitic influence.
Those who hold to the Arabian origin of these Semites also conjecture that waves of nomads periodically engulfed the Crescent, both in historic and pre-historic times. The geography of the area and its commercial and military history suggest some credibility for this migratory theme, or at least a variation of it. The keepers of herds of cattle and goats did move back and forth with the seasons. The hot and dry summers brought them to the streams and valleys of the Crescent, while the cooler and wetter winter seasons allowed a return to the wider and more open spaces of the southern deserts. Similarly, extended periods of famine sometimes drove them from one area to another. The commercial and military competition, on the other hand, also guaranteed periodic convulsions, which "coughed" people into the desert from whence they were destined to return at a later time with an even greater: resolve to stay.
Whatever their theory about distant origins, historians acknowledge a major movement of Semitic: tribes into the Fertile Crescent in the third millennium before Christ. They mixed with already existing populations in Canaan and along with them became known as Canaanites. In the Nile Valley they intermarried with the Hamites to form the Egyptians of history.
At the other end of the Fertile Crescent, the Semites encountered and mingled with the Sumerian people of the Mesopotamian Valley even before city-states were established there. In Mesopotamia, as elsewhere, the Semites thus had a share in developing the first high civilization of man, as the linguistic evidence everywhere indicates.
Father-Sky and Mother-Earth
The cultural influence of the Semites also had a religious element, in that their concepts of deity were transmitted throughout the Crescent. With some local adaptations of these notions, the same fundamental concepts of deity were found everywhere, including both male and female deities, a sky-god and an earth-god, respectively. Father-sky ruled the affairs of humanity, while mother-earth was the source of all fertility. Various names were used to express these concepts. In Mesopotamia the divine couple was once known as Iztar and Tamtnuz; in Egypt as Isis and Osiris; and in Canaan, El and Asherah.
From these male and female gods were derived a host of lesser divinities with many local and tribal variations. The sky-god, for instance, could be surrounded by other heavenly divinities named after the stars aid after such heavenly phenomena- as sky and lightning. Mother-earth, on the other hand, was associated with other fertility goddesses, such as Anat or Astarte, known as Ashtoreth or Ashtaroth in the Bible.
The Canaanite sky-god counterpart of Ashtoreth was Baal, a god of the storm, of lightning, of rain, and also of agricultural processes. The proper worship of Baa1 and Ashtoreth called for elaborate rituals and rites of fertility in which both priests and priestesses took part. Fertility could not really be celebrated without reference to human reproduction, and for that reason sacred sexual intercourse was introduced in the temples of the gods.
The fertility theme - father-sky and mother-earth (or their offspring) united in the process of life and nature -led, as might be expected, to a close identification of deity with nature, more particularly with the land. The land was the gift of the gods to man. Man recognized this gift by giving back to the gods the first fruits of the harvest. If a man sinned, he not only corrupted himself but he also offended the land. Thus man and his god and land were intimately linked together.
This relationship had its universal as well as more parochial applications. In the general and universal sense, the god gave all of the land and made it fertile for all of the people. In a more local or tribal application, a tribal god gave a particular piece of land to a particular tribe. Since the Semites as a people manifested the characteristics of tribalism as well as universalism, we find among them both applications, although tribal expressions tended to be the most common.
The Tribes and Their Deities
The tribes were the normal social units among the Semites They were expanded families or households, held together by kinship. At the head of the tribe stood the patriarch himself. Sometimes the tribes could not stay together because of personality clashes or leadership struggles. Occasionally a tribe would be driven asunder by outside forces. Economics also played a divisive role. Small oases or narrow river valleys could not always accommodate a growing tribe, and so, as in the later days of Abraham and Lot, the tribes would divide to the left and to the right.
The tribes each had their chieftains, patriarchs, or judges, and where they established permanent settlements there arose small sovereign city-states, each with a king and a military force to protect and advance its interests. Often these kings were at war with each other, while sometimes they formed alliances against a common enemy. At the time of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites there were scores of such kings to be dealt with and subdued either individually, if they stood alone, or collectively, if they had entered into coalitions.
Along with new tribes and their territories came new tribal deities, who were identified with these tribes and were believed to defend their territories. This identification intensified with the degree of tribal feeling, because both the lands and the gods served the interests of the tribe. The land Claims of a given tribe were supported by the gods and vice-versa, and territorial ambitions and acquisitions were, more often than not, co-equal with the desires of the god.
The gods fought for the kings and their people, and commanded the kings and the people to fight for them. The close links of land (whether pasture, settlement, or city-state), tribe, and god could only be broken through defeat in war. This is why the chieftains and kings so frequently sacrificed all they had to destroy all of the enemy in order to protect or make a claim.
Wherever a people laid claim to a parcel of land by effectively occupying it, they clung to it with all the zeal that tribal religion could muster and with all the means at their disposal- Not infrequently their deities would ask them-so they understood them - not only to defend what was already theirs, but to acquire other territories. Occupation by military force was added to indigenous ownership as a new unwritten title for landed property. The gods sanctioned both.
The Gods Demand Expansion
Indeed, if a god meant anything at all to a particular tribe it meant that he was superior, more authoritative, than the gods of other tribes. This fact in itself called for a concern on behalf of the less privileged tribes. That this religious zeal expressed itself in military terms more often than not should not surprise us, for this was how the superiority of a tribe was proved and the authority of a god established.
The zeal of the (rods for more property and authority increased with the advance of civilization. Thus the Sumerian originators of city-states, sculpture, art, cuneiform writing, and other forms of culture had a greater passion than many others to spread the good word abroad. The gods wanted it that way, because after all they guarded the interests of the city-states that belonged to them. This is borne out in the early (around 3000 BC) evidence of Mesopotamian culture found in the lower end of the Crescent in the Nile Valley." Cultural expansion was, of course, a commercial enterprise, which in turn required military protection.
At a somewhat later time, the gods in the Nile Valley seemed to have gained the superiority, and military as well as commercial influence flowed in the other direction. Indeed, the pharaohs of Egypt, who themselves were the embodiment of the Egyptian gods, controlled Canaan and the Canaanites in a general way for a very long period of time. Abraham went down into Egypt when famine came to Canaan because this was the most natural thing for him to do, both politically as well as geographically.
When the Egyptian of today claims that he was there first and longest, he has a real point, because after the earliest Canaanite city-states, Egypt was the effective occupier for the longest period of time, as ancient strata remains uncovered at such places as Biblos and Megiddo indicate. Egypt’s interests in Canaan apart from the turquoise and the limited copper in Sinai were the trees of Lebanon.'' As the kings of Egypt expanded, they claimed the subdued territory for their gods, or, more correctly, for themselves, because their ambitions and the desires of the god were identical. Thus the testament of one Rameses says that he guaranteed to the god nine Palestinian towns that he had conquered.
The pharaohs and gods of the larger Egyptian kingdom did not always triumph, because they were faced by other gods and kingdoms. As united as the Old Kingdom - established around 3000 BC - was; with its glorious pyramid building, it could not last due to internal opposition. Disintegration came in the latter part of the third millennium before Christ.
Competition from Other Gods
The threat to Egypt from without came chiefly from the other Semitic civilization in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. Just as the Egyptian gods sent their kings up the Fertile Crescent, so the gods of Mesopotamia sent its kings to the southwest, with Canaan paying the price for being a buffer state. Egypt and Mesopotamia together controlled the Crescent for hundreds of years (see Map 3).
Sometimes, the threat from the northeast originated outside of Mesopotamia, as in the second millennium when the so-called Hyksos kings (1710-1480) came down the Fertile Crescent and subdued the Middle Kingdom of Egypt, which had been united under the rulers of Thebes. Though the Hyksos, too were Semitic in language and religion, they had links deep inside Asia and may have came from as far away as the Caucasus.
After the overthrow of the Hyksos, the reestablished New Kingdom extended the Egyptian empire farther than ever, and the mighty King Thutmose III (1490-1436) conducted seventeen campaigns into Asia and introduced military and civilian controls as far as the upper reaches of Syria. He too felt himself called by his god to smite the rulers of foreign countries, in particular the Hyksos and a coalition of 330 princes from Palestine and Syria that rebelled against him, each of them with a little army.
The big clash came at the Hill of Megiddo overlooking the Plain of Esdraelon in central Palestine, a site that had already become known as "the hill of the battles," and was forever to remain the symbol of the biggest battle to come in which the highest god would vanquish his enemies and establish his superiority. A fortress-city since about 3500 BC, Megiddo had dominated for many years the most important part of the Middle East crossroads, the intersection of two vitally important ancient trade and commercial routes. The fortress was set up high on a hill and had the additional advantage of abundant wells and springs and food resources, in the fertile plain below. Through this intersection had moved many of the hunters of the Stone Age, the caravans of endless traders traveling to Mesopotamia or Egypt, and the armies of many peoples. In days to come they would include not only Egyptians and Canaanites, but Assyrians, Israelites, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Saracens, Crusaders, Turks and the British.
Whoever controlled Megiddo controlled the crossroads, and here Egypt had many confrontations with the kings and armies of foreign gods. Thutmose, for instance, confronted the mighty Canaanite coalition with a seven-month siege that yielded him four thousand horses and cattle, twenty thousand sheep, much gold and silver, and access to the Palestinian wheat harvest of 450,000 bushels. In subsequent Egyptian campaigns, the Pharaoh brought back ninety thousand Asiatic prisoners, including Nomadic Bedouins, many inhabitants of Palestine-Syria, and 3,600 Habiru peoples.
The Gods and the Empires
The expansion of the Egyptian empire also led to a review of the gods and a universalization of the deity. Amenhotep IV (1370-1350), who renamed himself Akhenaton, after Aton the universal sun and supreme god, was a monotheist. Consequently, he was jealous of other gods and sent agents throughout the empire to remove their names and to eliminate them. The realignment of the deities was accompanied by sweeping political, religious, and social changes.
So it was throughout the ancient world. The religious and secular elements of life were completely interwoven with each other. Politics determined religion and religion politics. Every phenomenon and process of life was attributed to the agency of a god or gods. Art and literature, commerce and military expeditions - all were directly related to the deities.
Akhenaton's monotheism, however, could not save the empire, and after the Hittites from the north had seized control of Palestine, Egyptian influence in the Crescent was never restored to its former glory, although later rulers (including Nasser of the twentieth century) did manage to establish temporary alliances with the Syrian region.
After a period lasting about four centuries in the first millennium, when Canaanites, Philistines (a new people from the sea), and Hebrews (a new people from the desert) struggled for the control of Palestine, the initiative fell to new empires in the east, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and then the Persians (see Table 2). More will be said about these peoples later. With the exception of some brief interludes, the imperial interests then shifted to Europe, with Greece opening the way for the mighty Roman empire, which as Byzantium remained in control into the seventh century of the Christian era.
Though the Europeans were more secularized than the Middle Eastern peoples, they too acted in the name of their gods, although they may have expressed it differently. Alexander the Great (365-323 BC), for instance, was anxious to establish some harmony between- Europe and Asia, in the same way that the monotheistic pharaohs of Egypt felt called to impose a larger humanity on the many tribalisms.
Similarly, although the Roman Caesars made allowances for many gods, they tried to establish a hierarchy of divinities with themselves assuming tile deity of the highest level. Throughout the: empire elaborate temples to tile prevailing regional gods were built to help give the empire the legitimacy and sanctity it needed. The Islamic empire, which replaced the European influence, was similarly born out of a passion for unity and universality on behalf of a single god who was tired of all the tribal deities and tribal rivalries.
The claims of the various successive empires and their gods, of course, had important consequences for the "crossroads" of the region. As Ilene Beatty has said:
Palestine is now and has been for thousands of years a trampled crossroads, a political pawn, traded, invaded, -,I subject poll, sometimes a vassal, or a protectorate, or a satellite, or a mandate, annexed, dismembered, devastated,denuded, burned, partitioned ....
Modern States, Peoples, Lands, and Gods
The ideological rationale for commercial and military expansion or intervention has, of course, never faded from the earth. As the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Muslims gave credit to the gods for their adventures, so also Britain and France had religious reasons for their Middle East intervention, as will be seen later. Today, the Soviet Union and the United States, both thoroughly secularized states, express their presence in the Middle East in religious terms, when they say, on the one hand, that they come as liberators (from imperialism) and, on the 'other hand, as protectors (of freedom). How divine sanction for imperial interests enters into the picture even today is well described by a recent Middle East editorial.
Ever since the United States entered the Middle Eastern scene to fill the "vacuum" created by the departure of the former imperial powers, it has been persistently drummed into the Arabs that American interests in the area are as indivisible as the oneness of God, but as diversified as the Concept Of Trinity. ...the elements of this Trinity of interests were explained to both Arabs and Americans as being in chronological order: cultural-American universities, missions, introduction of American values of democracy; economic - oil interests, investments; and finally strategic - sea and air routes, bases, etc.
The universal theme of good land being promised to better people by superior gods has occurred frequently in history. Hundreds of peoples of all ages and regions have identified the promised land with the gods, who gave to them because they favored them. This is the basic and underlying theme of all history, not only of the Middle East but of the entire world.
America, for example, has become the promised land for uncounted migrating peoples. So strongly have they felt about the land where they settled and became prosperous that they wrote books and poems, made films, and preached sermons about it. And they heard their god commanding them to kill Indians, enslave Negroes, fight the Spaniards, incarcerate the Japanese, and even massacre tile Vietnamese in order to make the promised land safe for the chosen people.
National environments like America, of course, cannot produce such pure and powerful religious symbolism as has been provided by Palestine, but this only serves to demonstrate that holy land notions can emerge from and be nurtured by "nonreligious" events like the breath of freedom. the experience of raw nature, the conquest of native peoples, the emergence of a new group ego, and, not least of all, the discovery of rich corn fields, gold mines, and oil wells.
Yet symbols there are, and every chosen people soon establishes its substitute holy city upon which the gods bestow special favors and a special status. The attractive publicity brochure of Washington, D.C., for instance, says as much as it introduces the American capital to its many visitors, as follows:
In every age, there has been one city which has seemed to be the center of the world, which the Fates have chosen to be the guardian for the hopes of all men, to hold and control their aspirations, to determine the probability of their glory, or their happiness or their misery, their bondage or their freedom. That world city in our time is Washington.
We cannot be entirely sure, of course, that Washington is the holy city, because in the last decade two American presidents have identified Berlin as freedom's holy city. "We are all Berliners!" Kennedy and Nixon have said, and so one might suppose that tile new city coming out of heaven could also be Berlin. The Russians feared that, of course, and so they built a wall through to confuse the gods. Russians have known since the fifteenth century that it was not Berlin but Moscow that was really the holy one, a Third Rome as it were, a successor to the first Rome (Jerusalem) and the Second Rome (Vatican City), which had failed their divine missions. In the meantime, millions of other people grew up believing in Rome as "the holy city" or the "eternal city."
Where there were holy cities there also were promised land and chosen people. Berlin was Berlin because it belonged to a Herrenvolk, a super-race. Moscow Was Moscow because it was the home of the Great Russians, and London was London because from there the divinely favored Britains ruled not only the most land but also the waves. Little wonder that William Blake wrote:
I will not cease from mental flight,
Nor shall the sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.
The claims of the gods and the identification of promised Jan-J, of holy cities, and of chosen people -that is what history and the Middle East conflict are all about. Let us now turn to some particular examinations of this theme with reference to Palestine.
3. the Claims of Abrabam,Isaac, and Jacob
... go in and take possession of the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and their descendants after them. - Deuteronomy 1:8
After innumerable tribes or kingdoms and their gods had from time immemorial laid claim to the lands- of the Canaanites, a new tribe, announcing a higher god and a prior claim, arrived from the desert around the year 1250 BC. Approximately the same time also a new people arrived from the sea. Both the Philistines of the sea and the Israelites of the desert now fought the inhabitants and each other for the coveted Canaanite real estate.
At the same time, these two determined peoples also had to come to terms with the major imperial powers from both ends of the Crescent - Egypt to the southeast and Assyria and Babylonia to the northwest-as well as with several minor ones. In the contest between the two peoples, however, the Israelites and their God established themselves most firmly, though the Philistines impressed posterity sufficiently to have the land named after them.
Migrations from the East
The Israelites or Hebrews, as they were also called, claimed the land on the basis of an oral tradition of some 600 years or more. That tradition, reported in Genesis 12-50, insisted that a man with the name of Abram or Abraham, the patriarch of the tribe, had received the promise of Canaan from his God. This promise had been passed on to his descendants, notably through Isaac and Jacob, though these were not the only sons. Both Isaac and Jacob had older brothers, Ishmael and Esau, respectively.
The story, which was set down in its present Old Testament form centuries after the event, begins with the descent of Abraham and his family into Canaan from Haran. This latter settlement in the upper reaches of the Euphrates River had in turn become the home of the clan after a migration from Ur near the mouth of the Euphrates.
The exact chronology has not been determined (see Table 3),' but the migration probably came around the nineteenth century before Christ, when numerous other semi-nomadic Semites were descending into Canaan. It was a time of political instability in the east and a time of new opportunity in the middle, where a period of similar turbulence had just passed. Population movements in the Fertile Crescent were characteristic of such unstable times.
Thus, a drama that had been enacted in the Crescent countless times in preceding centuries now repeated itself in the family of Abraham. As another restless and wandering Semite, he nurtured the vision of an expanding clan, who would possess the entire world between the Euphrates and the Nile. As in the twentieth century (after Christ) Canadians thought of a promised "dominion from sea to sea" (Ps. 72:8) so the twentieth-century (before Christ) Canaanites thought of a promised dominion from river to river, more precisely "from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates" (Gen. 15:18). In both instances, the seas and the rivers were the natural boundaries of lands of great promise.
Abraham's vision, in other words, appears to have had much in common with the ambitions of earlier and later tribal chieftains. He saw his tribe inhabiting and probably dominating the Fertile Crescent. Yet, his dream was also of a higher order. He anticipated a dominion that would not be yet another imperial imposition but rather a source of righteousness and justice and of blessing for other tribes and nations in the area. According to the Genesis story, Abraham's God was telling him “... Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation and all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by him. ...I have chosen him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice ..." (Gen. 18:19).
As many Semites before him, so Abraham too saw a close link between himself, his God, and the land which he was seeking and finding. But again, there was an important difference, because he was claiming land not in the name of a localized deity but rather at the command of El, the highest god in the Canaanite pantheon. It was the same, or almost the same, god worshipped by Meichizedek, the king-priest of Salem.
A higher god demanded a higher loyalty and a better religion. Thus Abraham disregarded the lesser deities and despised the idolatrous liturgies of other tribes. He also rejected the Canaanite religion of child sacrifice, and offered an animal instead. Altars were built to El, the highest god, and all the new ideas about the new society were credited to this god, whose wish was the patriarch's command. Abraham's grandson, Jacob (Israel), identified El as the God of Israel (Gen. 33:20).
Escape from Enslavement
Abraham did not see his dream fulfilled, nor did his immediate family, because there were discouraging delays. In the first place, he had no sons until he was old, and even then his first one was by an Egyptian maid. Although Abraham circumcised Ishmael and recognized that he would also be blessed by El, he expected the true fulfillment of his dream through Isaac, a son born of his wife and hence of purer birth and closer to his heart.
There were other problems. Isaac had only two sons. His family too was small, and his sons were jealous of each other. As the story goes, the elder son Esau broke with the clan when he was cheated out of his birthright by the younger Jacob. Thus Esau, like Ishmael and Lot before him, started tribal offshoots of the Hebrew family which, at least for the time being, followed an independent course in Canaan and surrounding territories.
A divisive tendency similar to that in the family of Abraham and Isaac appeared in the family of Jacob, whose sons sold one of their number to the Ishmaelites. But eventually all twelve sons and their families migrated to Egypt because of the famine in Canaan. Patriarch Abraham had gone that route before and for the same reason, while Jacob had returned at least once to the ancestral home in the east. Thus, we see how all the lands between the two rivers were not only a dream but an actual part of their experience. To traverse the whole region at least once in a lifetime was the normal Semitic thing to do.
In Egypt, the children of Israel, as they became known in that country, received a friendly reception. Indeed, Joseph was placed in charge of agricultural production and food distribution. This is not too surprising in view of the possibility that the Hebrews may have been related to the Hyksos who were now in control of Egypt. Both Semitic groups had come out of the Syrian east and beyond, and both had gradually moved through Canaan to Egypt, though not necessarily precisely at the same times.
In due course Hyksos control in Egypt came to an end, and a pharaoh "who knew not Joseph" used the tribe of Israel as slave labor, a practice not uncommon in those times. During their enslavement, the old vision of the promised land never left the Israelites, and indeed as a hope it was many times reinforced. At a lime in the thirteenth century when the empire was crumbling and a series of natural disasters was complicating other domestic turmoil, the Hebrews made their dramatic - to them miraculous - escape under the leadership of Moses.
Moses appears to have combined within his total genius the gifts of law-making, administration, writing, and prophecy, though he was not as articulate as he might have wished. Enterprising and innovative, he had studied at Pharaoh's court, and monotheistic tendencies in Egyptian religion had given him much time for` reflection on his own notions of deity, as he had learned them from his family. Somewhat a rebel, Moses fled from Pharaoh's court into the desert after he had killed an Egyptian in a fit of anger.
Moses’ experience of some forty years with the Midianites in the Sinai also proved to be invaluable. He may have received further instruction in monotheism from Jethro, his Midianite father-in-law, and apparently he also gave a good deal of thought to law and order, inasmuch as be had found the Egyptian social situation far from satisfactory. On this latter matter he appears to have had at least some familiarity with the law codes of Hammurabi, a famous, ruler of an eastern empire earlier in the millennium. In any event, the emerging Mosaic code bore some resemblance to the older Babylonian tradition, though the Mosaic code was superior and was presented in the nature of a covenant between God and his people.
Ten basic laws or commandments were central in the Mosaic code. Moses identified them as coming from God, whom he now knew as Yahweh. Although Moses named him, Yahweh really was a God whom no words or name could fully define. On the one hand, Moses identified him as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but, on the other hand, he knew him to be undefinable, and all he could say about him was "He is who He is" (Exod. 3:13). To Yahweh Moses attributed all of his new insights.
Hand in hand with these revelations from and about Yahweh, Moses received a call to be the liberator of his people, a possibility in his mind ever since he had turned his back on the royal court. Though reluctant at first to go all the way, he gave forceful leadership once lie had made up his mind that the cause was worth it. Not only did lie succeed in bringing his people out, but before their departure he demanded and obtained reparations for the slave labor of many years. The Israelites obtained much jewelry and precious metals, which later, in moments of idol worship, became a golden calf and, in days of Yahweh worship, the trimmings of a most extraordinary portable tabernacle.
The Covenant with Yahweh
The establishment of Yahweh worship, centered in the tabernacle, was Moses' first project in the first year of liberation. He took his people to Horeb where he shared with them the ten commandments. In the days and years thereafter he added many related instructions, dealing with slavery and concubinage, homicide and other crimes punishable by death, theft, seduction, witchcraft, and similar sins. The code enjoined justice and kindness to the stranger, the widows, and the fatherless, and it made certain demands regarding the use of the land and the disposition of the harvest.
Thus Moses spelled out the terms for his -new society, the condition by which the descendants of Abraham were to become the universal blessing and receive the fulfillment of other promises. The most fundamental condition was the worship of Yahweh. He was one God and, as far as Israel was concerned, the only one. He was the one who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, tile house of bondage. This God of Israel demanded absolute obedience, but he also promised many blessings. Indeed, according to the covenant relationship, which was now to be established, obedience meant blessing and disobedience meant cursing. Yahweh was not to be represented in any graven images. The tabernacle and the ark of the covenant should suffice as symbols of the holy.
In these terms Moses communicated Yahweh to his tribal society as the highest God he knew, and, indeed, a higher god the Middle East had not known. It was hard to know Yahweh because he was so different. The children of Israel had difficulty accepting him. It was easier for them to express their religion in calf worship, and in their minds Yahweh himself was reduced to other tribal deities, because in the competitive games of the gods (the tug-of-war of the tribes), he demanded what the gods had always demanded, complete annihilation of the enemy. The Amalekites were only the first of many to be hacked to pieces man, woman, and child. The annals of the Israelites later reported the meaning of that first of many slaughters:
And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.... And the Lord said to Moses, "Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, for I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek under heaven" (Exod. 17:13-14).
All of these experiences-the miraculous escape from Egypt, the rescue from other tribes, the provision of food and water in a dry desert, the receiving of the commandments, the building of the tabernacle, and the organization of the wandering society -had a profound effect on the people recently emerged from servitude. They were now a people, a nation, with a higher god. They had made their covenant with Yahweh, and they were now more- certain than ever that they were destined to have their turn in the promised land, the crossroads of the earth.
The Conquest of Canaan
Moses had, in all probability, considered entry into Canaan at first by the Mediterranean coastal route, but Egyptian military installations discouraged such a short cut. An attempt to enter via the central route through the southern Canaanite hills likewise failed to materialize. Entry was finally made from the east after forty years of wandering in the wilderness and only after the unadaptive generation born in Egypt had died enroute.
Under Joshua, their new leader, the Israelites finally crossed the Jordan and captured the gateway city of Jericho. After that victorious entry there were numerous setbacks - the first attack on Ai, for instance, was a complete failure - but gradually General Joshua was able to assert himself against the Canaanite kings in the hills. Either these submitted themselves voluntarily to the Israelites or they were vanquished in battle.
In these conquests, the Israelites believed themselves to be doing the bidding of Yahweh, who was on their side in the same way that other gods assisted their enemies. The quarrel over land and the fighting between the tribes was a testing of the gods, as intertribal warfare among the Semites had always been. We may, therefore, not be too surprised to discover Yahweh, as the Lord God of Israel, smiting all their enemies. As it is written:
When Israel had finished slaughtering all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them… and all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000, all the people of Ai.... So Joshua burned Ai .,, and he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening ...( Josh. 8:24-25).
Before Joshua died and after some twenty-five years in the land, it is reported that the land was sufficiently under control that the tribes could be assigned to their respective territories, several of them east of the Jordan. However, the conquest of Canaan was not as quick or as complete as the somewhat idealized presentation of military history in the Book of Joshua might suggest. Later recollections, such as those in the Book of Judges, indicate that many places were not subdued for a long time. The holdings of the children of Israel constituted no well-rounded territorial units and the outside borders of the tribes shifted constantly. The coastal plains and Esdraelon were not easily conquered, and even in the mountains the Canaanites retained their enclaves. The mount of Zion, for instance, remained a foreign city until the time of David. During all this time Egypt, though greatly weakened, remained an overlord for Canaan.
Joshua's advice to his people was later recorded as farewell instructions and admonitions. As these were later remembered, they forbade mixing with other tribes (though this happened frequently), recognizing (naming and swearing by) other gods, and marrying other women. Keeping the covenant with Yahweh was of prime importance if the land was to be retained and blessings were to flow. The people accepted Joshua's plea and pledged themselves to obey only the God who had brought them out of Egypt and into Canaan, with the following covenant:
Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods; for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that it we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples … therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God (Josh. 24:16-18).
The Times of the Judges
After the death of Joshua the Israelites had no central leadership. They were a loose confederacy of twelve independent tribes, whose unity lay in the worship of Yahweh,in his commandments, rightly or wrongly understood, and in the ark of the covenant. With Yahweh as their leader, the Israelites needed no other government. In times of crisis they would look to leaders with special abilities to lead them against the enemies. When the emergency had passed, they would continue to seek the counsel of the successful leader, and he would be their judge. For at least two centuries the Israelites depended completely on these charismatic judges to save and guide them. They were their priests and their "kings."
The Israelites needed the judges frequently, because oppressions front outside tribes and chieftains were many. Thus Othniel saved Israel from the faraway Mesopotamians; Ehud from the Amalekites, as well as the Moabites and Ammonites, both descended from Lot; and Deborah and Barak from the Canaanites who after Joshua had become powerful again.
When the Israelites had once again been overcome and driven into the caves by the Amalekites, as well as the Midianites and Ishmaelites (all of them descendants of Abraham), they needed a mighty warrior like Gideon, who with his 300 courageous men gave them a victory long to be remembered. Another of the mighty judges was Samson, who on several occasions routed the Philistines.
The successes and failures of the Israelites and their judges were closely associated with the keeping and breaking of the covenant, The oppressions that came were seen as punishment for idolatry. This consequence of evildoing in turn prompted repentance, and when the people turned from their wicked ways Yahweh heard and gave them the needed saviors, the judges endowed with charisma and spirit. This is how later historians interpreted the experience of the people:
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals.... So the anger of the Lordwas kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers ... so that they could no longer withstand their enemies.Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord wasagainst them for evil ... and they were in sore straits. Thenthe Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the powerof those who plundered them. And yet they did not listen .,.(Judg. 2:11-23; see also 2 Kings 17:7-18).
In their new land, the Israelites had great difficulty in keeping the covenant they had made under Moses and renewed under Joshua. As they settled down to agricultural life, they learned many new customs from their neighbors. It was easy to accept also the Canaanite manner of harvest festivals, their liturgies, and their gods. However, whether or not they adopted other gods, their image of Yahweh was influenced by what they knew of Baal and the Asherah. Yahweh became a tribal deity, the Lord God of Israel. For this reason they heard Yahweh saying the kinds of things one might normally expect only from other tribal deities.
As interpreted by the tribalism of the day, Yahweh was as barbaric as any tribal god in the Crescent. He sanctioned the slaughter and extermination of the foes much in the same way that the twentieth-century Christian god, as interpreted by the nationalisms of the day, called for concentration camps, the use of nuclear weapons, and napalm drops. Israel's God allowed for every terror at the disposal of the Israelites, sometimes even against one of their own tribes. As it is written:
And the Lord said, "Go up; for tomorrow I will give them Into your hand." ,.. And the Lord defeated Benjamin before Israel; and the men of Israel destroyed 25,100 men ... the men in ambush moved out and smote all the city with the edge of the sword ... and all the towns which they found they set on fire (Judg. 20:28-48)
The Demand for a King
The gods of other peoples, however, were equally jealous, and they pitted the tribes against each other. A contest on the battlefield usually demanded the extermination of one or the other of the tribes. Particularly troublesome to the Israelites were the Philistines, who had entered Canaan from the Sea. To them too Canaan was a promised land, and, since they could not be pushed out of their coastal strongholds, it was they rather than Israel that gave the name to the land. This too the Israelites could never forget, which is why the modern State of Israel, whose citizens, like the Philistines, also came by way of the Sea, determined once and for all to attach its "Land of Israel" label to the territory.
The continuing Philistine threat finally led the children of Israel to request, and their God to consent to, a king and a kingdom to replace the loose confederacy under the judges. Samuel, the last and perhaps the best of the judges, was upset about this development since he believed it to be a rejection of himself. However, when there seemed to be no other alternative, he consented to the anointing and proclaiming of Saul, a tall and brave Benjamite, as king (1020-1000 BC). Though Saul was anointed king he was not a king in the later tradition. He made no administrative and structural changes. He developed no bureaucracy, no splendid Murt, and no harem, as was the kingly custom. Instead, he remained the charismatic warrior-leader in the tradition of Joshua and the judges.
Even so, Saul's appearance represented an important transition in the development of the Israelite society. Until Samuel the judges had represented more of a religious rather than a political tradition. With them as leaders, the Israelites saw themselves directly under Yahweh seeking to do his will. The coming of the king Saul meant the emergence of the soldier and patriot for whom religious considerations tended to be secondary. Under a king the Israelites were becoming a society like other societies meeting them on their own, not necessarily on Yahweh's terms.
Saul had weaknesses apart from his role. He seems to have had a nervous disorder and was given to unreasoning fits of terror and brooding. An evil spirit seemed to possess him, and he needed the sound of music to bring temporary relief to his unhappy soul. These personal weaknesses accentuated the weaknesses of the monarchy itself and all of Samuel's fears were confirmed then as well as in subsequent generations. Samuel gave them the word of the Lord as follows:
... he will take your sons . . . to be his horsemen ... and he will take your daughters ... he will take the best of your fields ... he will take the tenth of your grain. ... your menservants and your maidservants, and the best of your cattle and your asses ... and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day ... (1 Sam. 8:10-18).David and David's City For the time being, however, the opposite appeared to be true. Saul did not make many demands and both Saul and his successors brought the Israelites the taste of glory they had not known before. Saul was able to vanquish the Amorites and thus secure the eastern front beyond the Jordan, but he struggled all his life against the Philistines. Although he drove them out of the central hills temporarily, they remained firmly entrenched in the coastlands. Jerusalem and the Plain of Esdraelor, likewise remained beyond his reach (see Map 4). He and his sons finally fell in a battle at Mount Gilboa, and once more the hill country was opened up to the Philistines.
David and David's City
After Saul, David the Bethlehemite took Command as the new king (1004-961 BC). He had demonstrated military skill in Saul's army, established relations with the King of Gath, and perhaps also (through Ruth) with his relatives the Moabites. Like Saul before him, David was a charismatic leader chosen by the people for his gifts. Using both his military and diplomatic ingenuity, he rapidly advanced the kingdom. First he consolidated his position in the south with Hebron as his capital. Then he moved to conquer, control, and secure other territories, which he did so successfully that his reign was later seen as the golden age in Israel's history (see Map 5). David was a zealous prosecutor of war, as the historical chronicles reveal:
After this David defeated the Philistines and subdued them ... and he defeated Moab...and David also defeated Hadadezer ... king of Zobah, as he went to restore his power at the River Euphrates_ And David took from him a thousand and 700 horsemen, and 20,000 foot soldiers ... slew 22,000 Syrians ... and David won a name for himself ... he slew 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt.... And the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went (2 Sam. 8:1-14).
Besides extending the borders of the kingdom to the Red Sea and the Euphrates River, David established a new capital, and this latter achievement brought him as much glory as the former. Hebron had served well when the country was not much larger than Judah, but for a growing nation it was too far south and too related to David's own tribe to serve as a rallying point for the entire nation. In one of his early campaigns against the Philistines, David's fancy was caught by the Jebusite stronghold of Jerusalem, which had withstood many onslaughts. David wanted to secure the fortress by peaceful negotiations, but since the Jebusites had never before had reason to surrender, they mockingly replied that if the walls were manned by the blind and the lame any assault would still be a vain undertaking. But one of David's warriors crawled through one of the conduits with his bravest men and took over, David was now the master of the stronghold, and he named it the City of David (2 Sam. 5:5-9).
David wanted Jerusalem not only to be a royal fortress, but also to carry religious symbolism and to have a sacred character. Thus he linked the national center to the religious traditions of Samuel and Moses as he transferred the ark of the covenant to Zion. He also made plans to build a temple, but its execution was left to the reign of his son. As Moses before him, David was a man of many gifts, being a musician and poet as well as warrior and king. In his literary works, particularly his psalms, and in his political administration, he sought to be a faithful worshipper of Yahweh.
David, however, also followed his own interests, in the course of which he acquired many wives. He even committed murder and adultery to win his favorite Bathsheba, the wife of a Hittite mercenary. These acts in turn, however, also led to deep remorse, and in his repentance he discovered personally the same merciful, forgiving, and long-suffering God whom the people collectively had experienced. Yahweh was jealous and judgmental, but he also forgave all iniquity and acknowledged as favorites those who acknowledged him (Ps. 51).
David experienced forgiveness in his penitence but also judgment for continuing cruelty, such as his blood revenge against the house of Saul. The judgments caught up with him in the disintegration of his family, the rebellion of his son, and his inability to carry through his plans to build a magnificent temple. Yet so impressive had been his kingship in other ways, that in later days of trouble he was always seen as the prototype of an even greater messiah or deliverer for Israel. The city that he had established was viewed thereafter as a symbol of humanity's eternal and ideal city. Countless poems were written and sung about Jerusalem or about Zion, as the city was later also called (Ps. 122; Isa. 2).
As for David, the following words. from modern Jewish historians seem to be a fitting tribute:
He left to his successor a rich heritage, and to his people the memory of glorious achievement. He had his faults; in the full record of his life, which is preserved in holy writ, there is no attempt to cover him up or condone them. He could be vindictive and then again magnanimous. He hated his enemies, but also loved his friends; he was an overindulgent father; he was prone to sin, but was quick to repent. He rose to his station by dint of an indomitable energy; a great warrior, he also pursued the genteel arts of song and music; he loved religious pomp and ceremony. Deeply pious by nature, he divined his people's sacred vocation. The holy city of Jerusalem was his foundation, the rocky hill for the rearing of the temple was his choice. His dynasty continued down to the Persian times; patriarchs and exilarchs reckoned themselves to his house. To the last days the hope of Israel is bound up with this great figure, David the King, symbol of the Jews' undying faith.
Solomon and Solomon's Temple
Solomon (961-922), son and successor, brought additional glory to the kingdom, chiefly with his extensive building programs, notably the magnificent temple in Jerusalem. The temple was built with architectural and construction help from Phoenicia, and materials such as cedar and cypress timber secured from Lebanon. Other building projects integrated with the temple area included a king's palace, an armory, a treasury, a hall of judgment, and a palace for Solomon's favorite wife, the Egyptian princess.
The temple added very significantly to the attraction of Jerusalem and to its religious and political significance, and it is hard to overestimate the importance attached to the temple by the Israelites in subsequent times. It gave rise to much religious patriotism expressed in psalms and poetry, and this literature in turn strengthened the image of the temple both near and far. Beautiful in elevation, the city and temple were "the joy of the whole earth" (Ps. 48:2; see also Pss. 84, 87, 122, 125, 126, 132, 135).
The temple was meant to bring glory not only to Jerusalem and the kingdom, but to Yahweh himself, who with the growth of the kingdom had also become more universal. Indeed, Solomon wanted foreigners to worship in his temple and he built special chapels to accommodate them. While the temple was meant to contain God, Solomon recognized that the temple could no more contain him than could the heavens, as he confessed in his prayer of dedication: "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!" (1 Kings 8:27).
Solomon's interest in building extended to military fortifications and commercial enterprises. Among the former we can cite the establishment of Megiddo as one of his famous "chariot" cities, and among the latter the merchant fleet that operated from bases on the, Red Sea. Megiddo helped him to protect his nation and the merchant fleet helped him to keep it prosperous.
Solomon's programs involved considerable expense, and soon the treasure accumulated by David was exhausted, in spite of the more efficient taxation system that his son established. Like his father before him, Solomon used forced labor extensively, and there is even a hint that he sold laborers to Egypt to help balance his account. He lost some of the territories acquired by David, and upon his death the kingdom divided into two parts and remained that way until they were dissolved, each in its turn. Thus, while kingship brought to Israel stability and splendor, it also exacted the toll that Samuel had predicted.
The Divided Kingdom - Israel
When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam was accepted as king by Jerusalem and the south, but the northerners, who had resented Solomon's taxes the most, refused to accept Rehoboam. Instead, they followed Jeroboam, who with the assistance of Egypt staged a successful revolt and even forced Rehoboam to empty the last of his father's treasures.
The political unity established by David and Solomon for less than a century thus came to an end, as the two kingdoms fought against each other. In other ways, however, they occasionally found a unity as their common faith and tradition transcended their political disunity.
The kings of the northern state, which embraced ten tribes and was called Israel, found themselves in almost continuous confusion until Omri (876-869) in the early ninth century did for the north what David had done for the entire kingdom. He established a new capital at Samaria, entered into profitable alliances, and generally so impressed the Assyrians to the east that they referred to Israel as "The Land of Omri."Allied with Phoenicia, Israel was able to keep both the Ararmaeans of Syria and the Assyrians at bay, but only for a short while (see Map 6).
Ahab's continued alliance with Phoenicia brought Jezebel into Israel's ruling family and with her an autocracy and religious idolatry that brought much ill to the country. Prophets like Elijah were able to assert themselves against Ahab and the prophets of Baal, calling the people to repentance and promoting the righteousness of Yahweh while fighting for the maintenance of the covenant and individual rights against such autocratic oppression. However, their efforts to curb the growth of a wealthy class under the prosperous reign of Jeroboam 11 (786-746), which was likewise oppressive, were quite unsuccessful.
During this time the prophets took the place formerly held by the judges in calling- people back to Yahweh. King David and King Solomon had not neglected religious functions, but the official priests of the kingdom did little more than sanction the policies of the kings. There were those in the kingdom, however, who felt that Yahweh could not always approve of the kings, and some with insight and courage rose up to prophesy against the evil. David, for instance, already heard the sharp rebukes of Nathan for his evils (2 Sam. 12).
In the north, where most of the nineteen kings and their priests served the Egyptian calf or the Canaanite Baal, the religious situation clearly demanded a new charisma. Elijah was one such prophet, and it was he who called the people back to the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses: "How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him, but if Baal, then follow him" (1 Kings 18:21). Religious idolatry was accompanied by much economic inequality. Prophets like Amos and Hosea denounced the ill treatment of tenants and peasants and the injustice of the courts who favored the rich. Amos in particular saw Israel's breaking of the covenant in the oppression of the poor by the wealthy upper class, as we read in the book of his prophecy:
For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of shoes -they that trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth.... Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are in the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy ... (Amos2:6-7; 4:1).
Unable to reform society, the prophets predicted the judgments that inevitably followed. Internal disintegration was followed or accompanied by a repeated onslaught from Assyria, and in 721 Samaria was captured and destroyed after a three-year siege. Most of the kingdom was reorganized as the Assyrian province of Samaria, and large numbers of Israelites, perhaps as many as 30,000, were deported eastward (2 Kings 17).
The Israelites were replaced by Aramaeans from Syria and Bedouins from the desert. They intermarried with the remaining lsraelites, and since the northern kingdom was now the Assyrian province of Samaria, they became known as Samaritans, a few of whom survive in the region around Nablus to the present day. The people's language also changed from Hebrew to Aramaic, the Semitic dialect of Syria, and this language was soon spoken throughout the land including Jerusalem. The ten tribes lost their identity both inside and outside of Canaan and became known as "the ten lost tribes of Israel," though some of the exiles did later return to the land.
The Southern Kingdom - Judah
The southern kingdom of Judah differed from the northern kingdom in several ways. It was much smaller and concentrated, and less exposed to the expanding eastern empires of Assyria and Babylon. Its kings - with one brief interruption - continued the Davidic dynasty, and officially they maintained the worship of God, though in Judah too there was much idolatry. The geographical, political, and religious factors, however, all contributed to a longer duration for the southern kingdom than the northern.
As Egyptian influence in the south declined, Assyrian and later Babylonian influence and control increased. After the fall of Israel, Judah was for all practical purposes also under the thumb of Assyria, but the eastern empire had no reason to press its claims any further, because Egypt was for the time being no threat to anybody.
Yet Judah was tempted to forge an alliance with Egypt to get out from under Assyria, and this was true especially after one of her greater kings, Uzziah (783-742), had died. It was in this
situation that there arose in Jerusalem the first prophet to direct his message primarily to the southern kingdom, Isaiah. He was probably the greatest of the prophets of the children of Israel.
Isaiah, an articulate and sophisticated member of Jerusalem's privileged class, had a new vision of Yahweh in the year that Uzziah (tied. To him the Lord appeared once more with the majesty and intimacy that he had revealed to Moses. According to the prophet, Yahweh would remain true to his covenant. He would bless the people if they kept their promise, but all conceivable judgmental woes would befall them if they strayed away. Isaiah, however, did not limit his message to Judah: On the contrary, more than ever before Yahweh was presented as the universal God to whom all nations, including Egypt and Syria, were ultimately subject. Judah should, therefore, trust the Lord and not any one single nation:
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord! ... The Egyptians are men and not God; and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish (Isa. 31:1-3).
Two prominent later kings, Hezekiah (c. 715-687) and Josiah (c. 640-609), sought to restore the worship of Yahweh in the temple; and Jerusalem was spared as Isaiah had promised. Josiah's reforms were aided by the discovery of a book of the law, probably the present Deuteronomy.
After Josiah Judah declined rapidly. Josiah's immediate successor became a vassal of Egypt, and this was a state of affairs which could not be tolerated by the east. Soon after the new Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar had crushed Assyria, he extended Babylonian domains to the full extent of the Assyrian empire. Jerusalem was captured in 589, the king and the best of his subjects were sent into exile. Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, and there were three additional major deportations in 589, 587, and 586.
Isaiah was not the only One to predict that idolatry, foolish alliances, and rebellion would bring the downfall of Judah. His message was later corroborated by the voices of Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel: As the crisis deepened, Jeremiah called for a deeper knowledge of Yahweh and a more personal relationship to him. As his society was destroyed, the prophet went to Egypt, while his colleague, Ezekiel, joined the exiles in Babylon.
The Exile and the Return
The desolation of Jerusalem had been complete, and this fact added to the discouragement of the Babylonian exiles who now had to make their life in a new society. Under Nebuchadnezzar their existence was tolerable, but under his successors it became increasingly precarious. And even though they developed the synagogue to replace the function of the temple, they longed for a return.
They sang old and new songs of Zion, and prophets whose works were later incorporated into Isaiah saw the coming of a redeemer from out of the House of David who would be even greater than that great king. He would be a prince of peace, and his kingdom would have no end. Others like Daniel, who were favored in the highest courts, had visions and dreams regarding the inevitable downfall of various nations and the triumph of Yahweh. While Daniel had reference particularly to Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece, his apocalyptic writings have had a variety of other applications in later times, and his "other horn" has been identified as the anti-Christ, the Roman pope, and such latter-day leaders as Stalin and Hitler.
Ezekiel, the earlier prophet of doom, now offered a message of hope. He announced a new day for Yahweh's faithful remnant and predicted that the dry bones of an exiled society would take on flesh with a new spirit. Yahweh's enemies would be defeated, and a new Jerusalem would appear among men. On behalf of Yahweh, Ezekiel promised:
I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.... A new spirit I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you.... You shall dwell in the land of your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God ( Ezek. 36:24-28).
Ezekiel read the signs of the times correctly. The Babylonian empire was declining rapidly, and under Cyrus the Persian empire was expanding. Cyrus reversed the policies of former emperors and returned exiled populations to their former houses. In 539 he issued an edict authorizing the return of the Jews. Only a few returned at first, but the first ones to return laid the foundations of a new temple. So difficult was their task that little progress was made for eighteen years.
A new impetus came under Cyrus' successor Darius, who encouraged the Jewish governors of Jerusalem, descendants of Jehoiakim, the last king of Judah. With further impetus from a new group of prophets, including Haggai and Zechariah, work on the temple was resumed; but the restoration was not completed until Nehemiah became governor under the Persian overlord around 444.
With Nehemiah and Ezra the scribe, there came an emphasis that dominated Jewish thought until the time of Jesus. For Nehemiah the national Jewish identity, if not independence, and the purity of the Jewish congregation were all-important. For these reasons the returned Jews clashed frequently with the Samaritans to the north. Ezra directed the Jewish people to become a people of the book, which also remained a prominent characteristic.
The independent nationhood of the Jews, however, remained an elusive goal. The Persian empire ended with the conquests of Alexander the Great of Greece in 333. Though Alexander died ten years later, Greek influence prevailed for several centuries. The new conquest meant a new scattering of the Jews, and they became leading merchants and traders. So strong was Greek culture that the Jewish colony in the new Egyptian city of Alexandria proceeded to translate the Hebrew writings into Greek, and they became known as the Septuagint.
When Alexander died, the empire was divided by his generals, the Ptolemies based in Egypt and the Seleucids based in Syria. The latter controlled Palestine from 198. The introduction of Greek gods into the temple so offended some Jews that a minority, led by the Maccabeans, staged a revolt, and a period of independence began in 164. The temple was cleansed and rededicated, as the Maccabeans ruled as high priests and later as kings.
However, this time of independence came to an end a hundred years later as another empire appeared on the world stage, that of the Romans. Jerusalem was conquered in 63. While Roman administration of the region was not always direct, the Jews had lost political control of their destiny. The latest suppression renewed the hope of a king like David, but even though a messiah in the Davidic line did appear he was too unlike David to be recognized as the desired savior.
The Jews staged a series of revolts, and in the end the Romans like the Assyrians and Babylonians before them lost their patience and crushed the rebels completely. The temple, which had been built anew by Herod the Great, was destroyed in AD 70 and another wave of Jews was scattered.
The people lost their land, but not their sacred writings. Wherever these were read among the dispersed Jews, they became reminders of past promises and glories, and these in turn became the content of the future hope. For this reason the bygone realities of promised land, a glorious Davidic dynasty, a beautiful Zion, and a sacred temple remained future possibilities in a very literal sense. How could it be otherwise, if generation after generation kept singing the Israelite song composed and learned in Babylon: "If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning" (Ps. 137:5)?
4. the Claims of Islam
The greatest achievement of Arabic civilization in Palestine is manifest in the Muslim religious buildings. Above all, the Mosque of Al-Aksa and the Dome of the Rock, both on the place of Hebrew Temple, stand out, and the latter is among the greatest monuments not only of its age, but ofall times. -Norman Bentwich
As the Jews and their later religious relatives, the Christians, spread out from the Middle East, they carried with them the biblical literature, which repeatedly identified the children of Israel with the promised land of Palestine. In terms of historical and sociological reality, however, this association of one people with one land was only one part of the total human story. Another much-neglected dimension had to do with the other descendants of Abraham and of his Semitic relatives, who also became very much attached to Palestine for religious reasons.
The stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel), and their descendants were known and retold endlessly wherever the Judaic-Christian tradition established itself, while the stories of Isaac's brother Ishmael, Ishmael's cousin Lot, and Jacob's brother Esau were forgotten. Yet they and their offspring continued to exist as part of God's humanity. They too multiplied exceedingly, as did scores of closely or distantly related Semitic tribes around them. Like Jacob Ishmael gave birth to twelve tribes, which increased even more rapidly than the twelve tribes of Israel and became a great people who spread throughout the region, assimilating themselves to, and integrating with, other Semitic peoples.
Invasion from the Desert
Not infrequently Abraham's other descendants and relatives crossed paths with the Israelites in ways both friendly and hostile. The Ishmaelites, for instance, are known to have befriended Joseph and helped Moses, but they also joined other tribes in resisting the Hebrew conquest of Canaan, for they too had a claim on that, land or a part of it. In other words, the Ishmaelites, like other Semitic tribes before, during, and after the times of the Hebrews, tended to move from desert areas toward the fertile areas and claim some part of them as their own.
The most desired section of the Crescent, as we have already seen, was the Canaanite territory halfway between the Nile and the Tigris-Euphrates valleys. Because this region was the most desired, it was the location of the most frequent invasions and expulsions of peoples. Like other tribes before and after them, the Hebrews were both the fortunate benefactors and the tragic victims of these patterns of population movement and conquest.
The most determined invasions came from the desert, and the most determined desert people were the inhabitants of the vast Arabian peninsula. Indeed, one theory has it that all the Semitic peoples eventually found in the Crescent (including the Syrians, Aramaeans, Canaanites, Phoenicians, and Hebrews) had their original home in Arabia. Ancient history is too vague to allow much confidence in this theory, but there is no uncertainty that the Arabian people did in later times spill out of the desert and into the Fertile Crescent in a magnitude unprecedented in both quantity and quality.
These migrating and conquering Arabians identified themselves as relatives of all other Semites. More specifically, they recognized themselves as sharing the religious and territorial inheritance of Abraham through Ishmael. For the patriarch's first son and his mother a sacred shrine was established in Mecca, the chief city of the Arabian peninsula. The latest Arabian invasion became possible in the seventh century of the Christian era by the decline of other power centers, particularly the waning of the Persian and Byzantine empires, which until that time had vied for the control of the middle of the earth. The identification with Abraham and his people, on the other hand, came with the rise of a new religious force, which also provided the motive power for expansion at the very time when power vacuums were begging a new authority.
Muhammad - Prophet of Allah
This new religious and military dynamic appeared in the commercial heartland of Arabia and was precipitated by Muhammad, who became known as a prophet of Allah and the founder of Islam, a new religion that placed a premium on man's submission to God.
Muhammad was born around AD 570 in the city of Mecca, Arabia's most prominent population and business center. Brought up as a poor orphan, he acquired wealth and position at the age of 25 by marrying the rich widow of a merchant and becoming a merchant himself. In his later teaching he spoke of God's providing guidance and enrichment for an erring and impoverished orphan. His words applied not only to himself but also to the impoverished slaves of greedy masters and to destitute desert dwellers, all of whom received his message with eagerness since it brought them so much comfort:
By the light of day, and the fall of night, the lord has not
forsaken you, nor does he abhor you.
The life to come holds a richer prize for you than this present life. You shall be gratified with what your lord will give you.
Did he not find you an orphan and give you shelter?
Did he not find you in error and guide you? Did he not find you poor and enrich you?
Therefore do not wrong the orphan, nor drive the beggar away. But proclaim the goodness of your lord.
Though Muhammad was in all likelihood not too well educated (some sources say he was illiterate), he was familiar with the contents of the sacred writings and their ideas of Jewish monotheism and Christian revelation. Jewish and Christian influences came to him not only from the writings but also from the numerous traders and travelers coming through Mecca and from actual communities of both traditions, which had penetrated the peninsula. The Jews and Judaized Arabs could be found everywhere, though mostly in Medina, a rival center to Mecca. The chief Christian center in central Arabia was in Najran, likewise a center of commercial and political power.
The "pagan" Arabians, like their Semitic ancestors, were open to new religious revelations, and a monotheistic God was usually only as far away as a leader and his tribe who would champion the monotheistic cause. During the latter part of the sixth century, the Hanifs in Mecca were most unhappy with the prevailing pagan idolatries, but they were not enthusiastic over either Judaism or Christianity. Among the dissatisfied was Muhammad, who felt the call to preach his new insights when he was about forty years old. His earliest and also his latest preaching had to do with the unity of God, the wickedness and idolatry of his age, and the imminence of divine judgment.
The only way to escape the wrath of God was to submit to his will. What this will was was spelled out more precisely as time went on. Like the Bible, the holy writings of Islam forbade lying, stealing, adultery, and murder. Warfare was justified if it served to unify the warring tribes and bring them into submission to the one God. Submission to God forged a brotherhood more binding than the ties of blood relationships. Indeed, those who died in the effort to bring about such intertribal brotherhood .earned thereby a special reward in heaven. As it was spoken and written:
Did you think that you could go to Paradise before Allah has proved the-men who fought for Him and endured with fortitude? ... Many large armies have fought by the side of their prophet. They were never daunted by what befell them on the path of Allah: they neither weakened nor cringed abjectly. Allah loves the steadfast.... Therefore Allah gave them the reward of this life, and the glorious recompense of the life to come; Allah loves the righteous.
Reaction to Polytheism
Muhammad's emphasis on the unity of God grew out of his contempt for the polytheism he observed around him. At the Kaaba (a holy black stone where bloody sacrifices took place) in Mecca, for instance, the Meccans worshipped not only Allah, as the supreme Semitic god was known in those parts, but also a number of female deities. These derived their divine status from the fact that they were, as was believed, daughters of Allah.
Similarly, Muhammad was not attracted by what he thought was polytheism in Christianity as he knew it. He could not reconcile tile doctrine of the trinity as it was expressed (he hardly knew the doctrine in the more classical formulation of the Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon), with his understanding of the unity of God. The trinity among the Christians of Arabia included Mary and, in the prevailing culture of the time, her divinity was seen as comparable with that of other female deities, such as the daughters of Allah: Al-Lat (sun), Al-Uzzah (Venus), and Al-Manat (Fortune).
For Muhammad such notions were scandalous; and he could no more accept the idea that God had a wife than that he had daughters. The Christian community believed Jesus to be a member of the divine trinity as a physical offspring of Allah and Mary. To Muhammad this was utterly unacceptable. The unity and supremacy of God, therefore, became his primary theme, which he proclaimed with all the vigor and energy at his command. His message was later recorded in the holy book Koran as follows:
Never has Allah begotten a son, nor is there any other god besides him. Were this otherwise, each god would govern his own creation, each holding himself above the other. Exalted by Allah above their falsehoods ... he that invokes another god besides Allah - a god for whose divinity fie has no proof -his lord will bring him to account....
The Jews say Ezra is a son of Allah, while the Christians say the Messiah is a son of Allah. Such are their assertions by which they imitate the infidels of old. Allah confound them! How perverse they are!
They worship their rabbis and their monks, and the Messiah, the son of Mary, as gods besides Allah; though they were ordered to serve one god only. There is no god but him, exhalted be he above those whom they deify besides him!
Muhammad's removal of Mary and Jesus from the deities to be worshipped did not mean that he lost his regard for them. On the contrary, he recognized that Jesus, as well as Moses, had been sent by Allah to call the people to obedience. But the people had refused to heed him. Indeed, they did not even believe the miracles Jesus did.
Allah, according to Muhammad, was a compassionate and merciful God, who desired the salvation of all mankind but who would judge all who refused to believe and obey, while they worshipped other gods. To such idolaters Allah was a God of terrible judgment. All men were, therefore, called to submit themselves to him, and this emphasis on submission gave to the new religion its name, Islam (meaning submission). Those who submitted themselves were Muslims, a name likewise derived from the act of submission.
From Mecca to Medina
Muhammad's message was not readily received by the lords and citizens of Mecca, but the people of the rival city of Medina responded to him with greater openness and eventually welcomed him as the chief magistrate of the community. The prophet's migration, or Hijara as it was called in Arabic, from Mecca to Medina came after a time of negotiations with the city fathers. The year of the Hijara, AD 622 by Christian reckoning, became the first certain and recognized date in Islamic history, and Islam's calendar begins with that event.
In Medina, Muhammad tried to win the Jews over to his side, inasmuch as he recognized them as the bearers of the same monotheistic tradition. He adopted Jewish practices and directed that prayers be spoken facing toward Jerusalem. When the Jews, however, rejected this "'gentile prophet," he substituted Mecca, the traditional Arabian center of worship, as the direction of prayer. Jerusalem was, however, never forgotten and later it became a city as holy as Medina or Mecca.
While leading Jews, Christians, and Arab pagans alike rejected the prophet, he did not remain without some followers. Many of his kinfolk believed in him, and the slaves and poor people of his day also took to his message. This is not surprising, since his message was directed against the wealthy and powerful classes who had rejected him in Mecca.
Since the wealthy had also rejected Allah. Muhammad felt called to go out after them in his name and bring them to submission. The more they opposed him, the more he became determined to humiliate his enemies at Mecca and to cleanse the monotheistic religion of Abraham of its idolatrous Jewish and Christian accretions. In his zeal it was not always clear whether he was first a warrior or religious reformer. Most of the time lie was both, seeking reform and demanding submission in the name of Allah. If this required war then so be it. Political and religious objectives were of one kind in the mind of the prophet, and methods appropriate to the one area applied also to the other. Since many citizens of Medina, most of all the poor, shared his feelings about Mecca, it was not too difficult for him to organize them for his campaigns, against that city.
Meanwhile, brief returns to Mecca had won him new converts, among them Khalid ibn A1-Walid, who was to play a prominent role in the future. With his following reinforced by fresh converts, Muhammad was able to capture Mecca in January 630. Though he lived only two and a half years thereafter, Muhammad consolidated his victory and firmly established himself as a new religious and political authority to whom many Arabian tribes quickly submitted. When the prophet died, he had established a new community, a state well organized and armed, with power and prestige to unify the many Arabian tribes under Allah.
The New Unifying Force
A single God required a single people, and this new doctrine became the ideological foundation of the empire that emerged after Muhammad's death. The Middle East was ready and waiting for a new unifying force. The two contending empires of Persia and Byzantium had spent themselves in a series of -wars from 602-628, both of them unaware of the new challenge that was to burst forth from the Arabian desert.
The military thrust of Islam was initiated by Muhammad's immediate successors, who had formerly been his deputies or caliphs. Their authority embraced the political, military, and religious spheres in which Muhammad had also been active, and this power became institutionalized in the office of the caliphate.
Abu Bakr, the first caliph, and Umar, his successor, did not automatically inherit all of Muhammad's authority and prestige. Both were confronted by rebellions, collectively known as the Ridda movement, which first had to be suppressed. This action to subjugate dissident tribes and their leaders turned into a conquest, which ultimately led far beyond the borders of Arabia. The key figure in this conquest was the prominent Mecca convert, Khalid ibn Al-Walid, who established his military powers at a major successful battle as early as 633. From that time on a series of expeditions radiated in all directions.
The Christianized Arabs to the north, no longer protected by Byzantium, threw in their lot with the invaders, as did many other tribes. The Islamic general kept advancing and, supported by a few thousand Arabs, he routed a Byzantine army of the Yarmuk River in 636, thus gaining access to all Syria and Palestine. Jerusalem fell after a siege of four months and so did Caesarea, Damascus, and Antioch in short order.
Following this early conquest of Palestine and Syria, Khalid directed his armies against Egypt, North Africa, Tunis, Iraq, and Persia. All were subdued by 661 (see Map 7). For Muhammad, the passion for a unified human race had arisen from his belief in one God, but for his crusaders on the frontier the rewards of booty also provided strong motivation. The prophet justified the taking of the: spoils of war if they were taken from the rich and given to the poor, and most of his followers happened to be poor. Very eagerly his generals rode forth with hordes of untrained soldiers to spread the good words of Allah, to enforce the new unity, and to gather in the goods. One such general in 642 led 20,000 desert dwellers as far as Alexandria, and sent back the kind of dispatch which would easily generate enthusiasm for additional crusades. He said: "Suffice it to say, I have seized therein 4,000 villas with 4,000 baths ... and 400 royal places of entertainment.”
Special Attention to Jerusalem
The offer to surrender Jerusalem was made by Patriarch Sophronius on condition that the Caliph himself appear to negotiate the takeover. To this Umar agreed, for Jerusalem was a city different from all the rest, since it was to Jerusalem that Muhammad had made his miraculous nocturnal journey and it was in Jerusalem that he had ascended on a celestial ladder into heaven. The Caliph agreed with the Prelate to terms or surrender expressed by the former as follows:
In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is the covenant which Umar, the servant of Allah, the Commander of the faithful granted to the people. ... He granted them safety for their lives, their possessions, their churches, and their crosses .., they shall not be constrained in the matter of religion, nor shall any of them be molested.... And the people shall pay the poll-tax.... Whoever leaves the city shall be safe in his person-until he reaches his destination.
Umar then proceeded to search out in the old Temple area the holy place, the Rock from where Muhammad had, so it was supposed, temporarily ascended into heaven, and in this he was assisted by the Patriarch. The Caliph directed that no prayers be spoken until the Rock, which had been concealed under a dunghill, had been washed by rain three times.
Furthermore, Umar directed that two of his deputies, former companions of the Prophet, take up residence in Jerusalem. One, a teacher, was made the first Muslim judge of Jerusalem, and the other was given special religious duties to perform. Both remained there until their deaths.
Before his departure from the city, Umar directed that a mosque, a place for prostration in prayer, be erected on the spot where he had led the Muslims in prayer. The first structure was very primitive, but it provided the beginnings for monumental Muslim structures later in the century.
Arabization and Islamization
While a new unity was being forged on the frontier of the advancing Arabic armies, dissension and factionalism appeared among the rulers at Medina. Of the first four caliphs (632-611), only the first died peacefully. The last three were murdered. In 661 the Umayyads, an aristocratic family from Mecca, seized the caliphate and in so doing edged out Hussein, a relative of Muhammad. The young contender was killed, but his descendants nonetheless worked their way up to an influential role, which culminated in the monarchy of Transjordan many years later.
The Umayyad dynasty ruled from Damascus. During its rule (661-750) Islam spread over Persia into central Asia and India, and over Syria and Egypt into Spain and finally France, where the Muslims were stopped in 732 near Poitiers by Charles Martel. The vast, military conquest of the Arabs set in motion a two-dimensional cultural thrust: on the one hand, it resulted in the Arabization of the Middle East, and on the other hand it culminated in the Islamization of many peoples who because of distance did not become an integral part of the Arab culture, as in India and Indonesia.
The Arabization had both linguistic and racial dimensions. The latter was a consequence of the invasion and migration of the aggressive Arabic Semites from the Arabian peninsula. The resulting dominance of this breed of people: led to the linguistic and cultural integration of the majority of the Middle Eastern Semitic tribes into an Arabic unity, although the separate dialects of the area remained in use a long time. This Arabization had begun in some areas before the Muslim conquest. In those instances, the armies speeded up and universalized the process:
In less than three generations, the life of those counties was completely transformed. While a new religion preached by the invaders .., allowed large communities in the conquered countries to retain their old faith ... the Arabic language had unity and became uniformly dominant everywhere. Before the end of the seventh century, it had become the language of state. ..."
Arabization in the Middle East, having begun earlier, proceeded more rapidly than Islamization. Indeed, the Muslim empire in its early generations contained many non-Muslim subjects, who for a long time constituted the majority of the population. These people were not all forcefully converted, as has sometimes been assumed, because Muhammad's words that there should be no compulsion in the matters of religion were taken seriously by most of the crusader armies. It was the tolerance rather than the sword of Islam that swelled the ranks of believers, especially in Syria and Palestine. Only deliberate unbelief and rebellion against Allah should be punished.
Autonomy in the Millets
Christian and Jewish communities were left largely undisturbed as long as they agreed to the payment of annual tribute and recognized the one God. Since Muslims were exempt from such taxation, the conversion of non-Muslims was actually discouraged in order not to lessen the number of taxpayers. The taxes were raised through a system of self-administering religious communities or millets. Muslim law did not apply in these communities, inasmuch as in Islamic thought the religious and political orders were one. Thus the religious dignitaries of those communities were in charge of administering the civil code that had applied before the conquest.
Under the millet system some Christian and Jewish communities actually prospered. This was true particularly of the Jews, who felt that they had at long last been liberated from their oppressive Christian overlords. As Merlin Swartz has written:
"For the Jews in the Near-East, North Africa, and Spain the Arab conquest marked the dawn of a new era. Those forces that had led to the progressive isolation and disruption of Jewish life were not only checked but dramatically reversed. . . ."
In economics, in education, and in political life the Jews in the Arab world experienced a remarkable renascence, which was checked only when the Arab world itself entered a period of stagnation. Until then the Jews shared the prosperity of the Arab world and, under the Fatimid caliphs of Egypt, even political power. A Jewish governor ruled the province of Syria, and important positions in the caliph's court were also held by Jews. This Jewish influence caused one Arab poet to write a poem about the desirability of being a Jew:
Today the Jews have reached the summit of their hopes
and have become aristocrats. Power and riches have they,and from them councillors and princes are chosen.
Egyptians, I advise you, become Jews for the very sky has become Jewish!
Within the context of the millet system and religious freedom, Arabization was complete also in Palestine, where most of the inhabitants were Christians, though there were some Jews. The Arab tongue became the common cultural bond of the inhabitants, while religious liturgies continued the use of the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin tongues. The villages and towns, which had been Hellenized, resumed their former Semitic names.
Worship and Learning
The Umayyad caliphs took a special interest in Palestine. Umar's successor had himself proclaimed Caliph in Jerusalem rather than in his capital Damascus. Caliph Abdul-Malek, ruling from Damascus, strove to make Jerusalem a Muslim religious center to rival Mecca and Medina, which were not always under Umayyad control. Jerusalem should be El-Kuds, meaning the holy town, and Islamic Arabs forever after recognized it as such.
To turn Jerusalem into a holy place for Muslims, the caliphs built on the site of the Temple, which had become a heap of refuse in the Byzantine empire, two outstanding shrines of Islam, tile Mosque of Al-Aksa and the Dome of the Rock. The rock on which the dome was built was believed to be the place where Abraham prepared to offer Isaac and to which Muhammad had made his nocturnal visit.
The mosque may originally have been a Christian basilica, but the Dome was an original creation completed in 691, and reflecting the genius of Byzantine, Persian, as well as Arabic craftsmen. Both the inner and outer walls were beautifully decorated with mosaics, the motifs being taken from nature with emphasis an floral designs. The two Islamic shrines endured for many centuries, longer than any of the Jewish temples. As it became necessary, the structures were restored, but any willful harm was looked upon as an offense against Allah and his holiest of holy places. This is why the fire in 1969, when the mosque was under Israeli control, was believed to be sufficient cause for a holy war by Islam against Israel.
The Umayyads had great achievements to their credit, but they lost control of the caliphate to the Abbasid dynasty in 750. The capital was moved from Damascus to Baghdad from where Islam ruled until 1258. While Palestine did not receive as much attention from the new, more distant capital, three Abbasid caliphs made pilgrimages to Jerusalem and one of them ordered major renovations and restorations of the Dome. From that time on many Muslim pilgrims went to Jerusalem, including state functionaries, commentators on the Koran, students of prophetic traditions, mystics, and pious men and women in general. One Muslim author wrote concerning the new majesty and significance of Jerusalem:
As to her being the finest city, why, has any seen elsewhere buildings finer or cleaner, or a mosque that is more beautiful? ... And as to the excellence of the city, why, is this not the place of marshalling on the Day of Judgment? ... Verily, Mecca and Medinah have their superiority by reason of the Kaabah and the Prophet, but, in truth, on the Day of Judgment, both cities will come to Jerusalem, and the excellencies of them all will be united.
The Abbasid period was one of general prosperity and cultural brilliance, and Jerusalem, along with Baghdad, Cairo, and Damascus, became an important center of learning. The colleges of all four cities together formed a university that predated the oldest universities in Europe by hundreds of years. These Arab centers of learning gave new life to the exhausted culture of the Byzantine and Persian empires, while generating knowledge and insight distinctively Arabian in character. Astronomy was revitalized, and mathematics, arithmetic, geometry, and algebra were developed anew. Many Arab scienttific terms were destined for universal acceptance. And there were other contributions:
The astrolabe, which was a Greek invention of antiquity, was perfected by the Arabs to determine the hour of prayer and the position of Mecca. Geography became an important practical science because every good Muslim had once in his life to be a traveller and make the pilgrimage to Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. Road books consequently were multiplied. Arithmetic was revolutionized by the Arabic system of numbers which adopted the sign of zero (Arabic ziphr) and so enabled an enormous development that was closed to the Greek and Roman scientists. Music flourished, and the Arab instruments, the lute and the guitar, were brought with their Arabic names to Europe."
The cultural renaissance under the Abbasid caliphs was equaled, and in part made possible, by the general economic prosperity brought about by ambitious men of commerce. The rapidly expanding trading empire of Islam extended to China, Russia, Sweden, and Madagascar, bringing great material wealth to Baghdad, which the Arabian Nights later turned into a legend. At first a blessing, the wealth became a double curse. On the one hand, it contributed to the corruption of the Islamic court, and, on the other hand, it became a temptation for outsiders.
Threats Within and Without
The empire was too huge and too young and the regional rivalries too great to allow for an easy holding together of its far-flung territories. As the Abbasids had in 750 overthrown the Umayyads, so the Fatimid dynasty wrested North Africa and Egypt from the control of the Abbasids in 1055, though the latter were to rule elsewhere for another two centuries.
Actually, the Turks first made their entry into Islam as slave troops, hired as mercenaries by the caliphs. In due --course, they became masters in their own rights, and Turkish princes from North Syria joined Saladin of the Kurdish dynasty in Egypt in fighting off the Christian crusaders in 1171. From 1250, when the Abbasids were completely eclipsed, these mamelukes, as the Turkish mandarins were called, controlled Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, until in 1517 they too were dominated by another force. In the meantime they became strong enough for the sultan (or sovereign) himself to be elected from their midst.
In the eastern part of the Arab world the Mongols from deep Inside Asia competed with the Turks for the riches of the decimated Abbasid caliphate. While the Mongols held the upper hand for several generations, the Turks won out in the end. The latter were rallied in the fourteenth century by a restless Turkish tribesman by the name of Othman, who by 1326 had extended his control through much of Asia Minor.
Othman's sons were no less ambitious than their father, and to his savagery they added an effective military organization at the heart of which was the famous corps of janissaries (from yeni cheri meaning new strength). Ironically, the new strength came not from Islamic Turks, but from Christian Greeks. The first janissaries were young lads taken from their Christian families and brought up as Muslims. Forbidden to marry, they had to submit themselves in every sense to military disciplines and training in order to become ideal fighting material for their leaders. In this practice the Turks were using the Greeks in the same way that the Arabs had used the Turks.
The Ottoman Turks took Jerusalem in 1516 and Cairo early in 1517. In the century immediately following, the Ottoman authorities took great interest in the Arab communities and did their best to promote positive development. Many of them enjoyed considerable autonomy, as long as the Turkish pashas, or viceroys, were able to collect taxes. Conscripts found their places and achieved stature and power in the Turkish armed forces.
As champions of Islam, the Ottoman leaders gave personal attention to the holy cities, particularly Jerusalem. Sultan Sulaiman of the sixteenth century carried out extensive restorations of the Dome of the Rock and gave Jerusalem a new water supply, including five fountains in the Haran area, the site of the Dome and the Al-Aksa Mosque.
Even after the decline of the empire, the sultans never gave up maintaining and further embellishing the mosques in Jerusalem, Medina, and Mecca. Eventually, in the nineteenth century, the floors of both mosques on the Haran were completely covered with priceless Persian rugs.
The End of Progress
As the quality of Ottoman leadership deteriorated and became a conservative force, the clock of human progress came to a halt in the empire. The discovery of new trade routes from western Europe to the East did not help matters, because the Middle East waned somewhat in importance as a trade route and a commercial center. The discovery of gold and silver deposits in the new world led to devaluation of the Ottoman currency, and external military threats demanded of the empire a large and expensive army. Agriculture also was seriously neglected, and, in the words of Anthony Nutting,
... a system of absentee landlords and speculators grew up; a drift from the land followed immediately; and by the middle of the seventeenth century, the once prosperous rural areas of the empire lay derelict. Villages wore abandoned, fertile plains were eroded and turned to deserts and, 200 years after the Ottoman occupation started, the population of all Syria had shrunk to little over a million and that of Palestine to abare 200,000.
In a depopulated Palestine the taxes from pilgrim tourists became a most important source of revenue. The yearly rate of pilgrims rose from several thousand persons to some 12,000 in the eighteenth century. The taxes collected for visits to the Jordan River alone were three times the tax assessment in Gaza, the largest Palestinian town.
Egypt too suffered under the Ottoman maladministration. The irrigation system decayed, and the one-time granary of the Roman empire suffered from frequent famines and pestilence. The population of nearly ten million was reduced to an estimated one-fourth of that number.
The European Christian Concern
While the Sultan in Constantinople named himself as Caliph, head of the Muslim community as the successor of Muhammad and thus the commander of all the faithful Muslims, he allowed considerable religious freedom and independence to non-Muslim groups who remained organized as millets. The Greek Orthodox Church, with the later assistance of the Russian Tsar, became the main intermediary between the Sultan and many of his Christian subjects. In many ways the Christians in the Ottoman empire fared better than the Jews in Christendom. And for a long time Christians were better off in Turkey than were the Protestants in France or the Roman Catholics in the British Isles.
The Christianity of Europe, however, could not accept the Islamic empire of Ottoman any more than it had accepted the Islamic empire of the Arabs. While the latter had offended the holy places of Christendom in Palestine, the Ottomans in the, early centuries were a constant threat to Christian kingdoms in southern Europe, a threat that neither the Orthodox of Russia, the Catholics of Rome, or the Protestants, somewhat farther away, could accept.
While Christianity was legally protected in the Ottoman empire, the social and economic pressures were such that its numbers declined as a result of intermarriage and the continuing process of Arabization and Islamization. European powers, therefore, felt themselves called to protect and, if possible, extend Christianity in the Middle East. When eventually the Ottoman empire weakened and became "the sick man of Europe," the protectors became rivals, all in the name of Christianity, and the crusader spirit of an earlier day manifested itself again, though this time in a more sophisticated form and with much less bloodshed.
5. the Claims of Christianity
The land where our Lord was born and died had a powerful attraction for the west from the time of the first Christian emperors•.... -Philip Hughes'
The Christian religion was born six centuries before Islam, and, if historical sequence were to be followed consistently in this narrative, the earlier Christian claims on Palestine should have been presented before those of the Muslim faith. The totality of the Christian claim, however, has been determined by the rise of Islam that some justification can also be made for following the present order. In any event, it was the Christian view of the Muslim threat as the anti-Christ that most determined the modern involvement of western Christianity in the Palestine question.
From the time of its beginnings in the first century, Christianity, like Judaism and Islam, could have given good reasons for claiming Palestine. Jerusalem and the country surrounding it had been important geography for Jesus. It was in the City of David that he had made his debut as a youth, where he had manifested his miraculous power, and where he had delivered some of his major speeches. Here he had given his famous Palm Sunday demonstration prior to his arrest, trial, and crucifixion. In Jerusalem was the nucleus of the first Christian congregation, and leading churchmen gathered there for their first major conference to settle important religious questions having international implications.
The Founder and the Holy Places
Yet, for good reasons the earliest Christians appear not to have made strong claims to the Holy City and the Holy Land. Their Master had discouraged that kind of religious concern. He himself had not attached much importance to real estate; indeed, at the time of his temptation and several times thereafter he had rejected the contention that property was essential to his cause and his kingdom. Most of the time he had no place he could really call his own where he could lay his head. Comfort, security, property, and the ordinary power of kings were not of prime importance in the order he had come to establish.
Jesus did not appear to have the usual human interest in the identification of holy places. While he respected and frequently visited the holy temple of his people, he seemed to find greater spiritual renewal in the deserts and mountains, where he went to pray in private more often than he did in Jerusalem. As precious as- the hills were to him, however, he discouraged attaching any religious significance to particular mountains. On the contrary, he predicted a time when his followers would not be tied in their worship to specific hilltops and temples but would learn to worship God in spirit and in truth:
Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.... But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:21-24).
This they did and, as a consequence, Jerusalem was not as important to the early Christians as it was to the Jews and the Muslims. Christians believed that they had received a mandate to make the entire world a holy place and all of its people a holy race. 'the holiness or chosenness of a people was now based on faith in God, a relationship of obedience and servanthood, rather than on racial or related factors. Peter's identification and description of the new society was most precious to them, and they repeated these words with frequency especially when their persecutors sought to destroy them:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were no people but now you are God's people ... (1 Pet. l:9)
Theology was one reason for the early detachment from holy places; the other was the political and military realities of the latter part of the first century. In many ways, the Christians of the Roman empire shared the fate of Jews, for they too were persecuted and scattered abroad so that they had little time to form binding attachments. Their holy places, if they had any, were the new outposts where they preached the gospel, the catacombs where they met in secrecy, and the stakes where they were burned.
Bishops, Rites, and Basilicas
As the Christian church spread rapidly from Jerusalem throughout the Roman empire, communities of Christians headed by bishops were established in various districts and cities. The bishop of the most important city in a district assumed responsibility over his fellow bishops. This development gave rise to the offices and districts of archbishops, metropolitans, and patriarchs, which later had its significance for the Holy Land.
Initially, Jerusalem was superseded in importance and rank by such centers as Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome, which represented the only patriarchates until 451, when the Council of Chalcedon raised the bishoprics of Constantinople and Jerusalem to patriarchal rank. Constantinople became second in importance to Rome, due to its having been elevated and renamed by Constantine as his civilian capital.
The patriarch of Rome, who as assumed to be in the succession of the Apostle Peter, remained the acknowledged head of the whole church, which developed varied liturgies and rites in its several patriarchal parts. At first Greek was the dominant language of all the rites, but Latin was used in some sectors of the Roman empire as early as 200, and also came into prominent usage in Palestine. The various liturgies themselves became more sophisticated as time went on. In addition, as soon as social and political conditions made the Christian communities more secure than before, came the drive to build better church buildings. In cities like Rome and Jerusalem, it was believed that church buildings were most appropriately constructed on sites hallowed by the heroes and martyrs of the faith, or by relics left behind or by events remembered.
The Emperors and Religion
The best religious sites of all were in Palestine, and when the emperors themselves became interested in buildings, some rather magnificent structures arose. The first thus to build was the emperor Constantine. Together with his pious mother St. Helena, lie constructed stately basilicas, not only in Rome but also in Palestine and elsewhere in the empire.
In his policy of aiding the construction of religious buildings, Constantine was not initiating a new trend but simply following in the footsteps of his predecessors, who also had expanded and controlled their empires by recognizing existing religions and patronizing the influential deities. Emperors long before Constantine had discovered that the best way to get the gods to bless the empire was for the emperors to boost the gods. Once Constantine had decided that Christianity was the best religion for his empire, tradition dictated that he express his religious appreciations in massive building programs. In 324-325, Emperor Constantine gave specific instructions to Metropolitan Eusebius of Caesarea and Bishop St. Macarius of Jerusalem to preserve the holy places for Christian purposes. The pagan structures erected by Emperor Hadrian over the rock of Calvary and the empty tomb were demolished, and soon the Martyriurn church appeared on Calvary and the Anastasis church over the Tomb. Additional basilicas were built over the Grotto at Bethlehem and on the Mount of Olives, where the Christian Lord and his disciples had often gathered for retreat and prayer. The completion of these churches was usually marked by an impressive ceremony, which officially was meant to advance the cause of the church, but which also improved the image and strengthened the hold of the empire. The Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, for instance, was dedicated in the solemn presence of over 300 bishops from all over the empire in 335.
This new association of, identification with, and cooperation between, the empire and the church and the emperor and the bishops was of itself to have profound significance for the future relation of Christianity to Palestine. Until that time, Christianity had more or less refused to be identified with the interests of the Roman empire. As Church Historian Lars P. Qualben has written:
In the Graeco-Roman world the State was conceived of as the Highest Good. The State included all the possible good that could come to man, even religion, which was subordinated by the State. Hence supreme loyalty to the State was the great Roman ideal. Service to the State was the purpose of life. But the Christians were citizens of a Kingdom that was not of this world. They recognized an authority that was higher than the State, and if the law of the Empire came in conflict with the law of God, they would obey God rather than man. It was this supreme loyalty to a law outside the Roman law that irritated and worried the Roman authorities more than all the other accusations against Christianity combined.... 3
As late as Emperor Diocletian (284-305) there were attempts to annihilate Christianity because of its refusal to bow down to the state. But when the great persecution of 304 and after, which offered the Christians either apostasy or death, failed, the emperors reconsidered their position. In 312 Constantine made the Christian cross his military insignia, and a year later he ended the persecution.
The Edict of Milan 313 recognized Christianity as a lawful religion; and when Constantine became the sole ruler of the empire in 325, he began openly to favor and protect the church. Weary of many decades of persecution, the church soon welcomed his embrace and saw Constantine's conversion as a real victory over paganism.
The rise of Christianity to the status of state religion, however, had some by-products that changed Christianity's thinking on a number of points. Whereas God and his kingdom had previously reigned supreme above the empire, they were now more and more identified with - and often subordinated to - the empire. The process that became known as the Constantinization of the church allowed the church in subsequent history to ally itself so closely with the various empires and nations that it lost its earlier prophetic stance. More and more it tended to represent the claims of the national kingdoms, as more and more it endorsed the sword and the military crusade against the national enemies, a policy that continued centuries later through World War II in the twentieth century.
There were other important consequences. When Christianity became official in the Roman empire, the Persian archenemy of Rome closed its doors to the Christian gospel, and later the Muslim world became intolerant of Christianity to the extent that it represented the Byzantine empire in the Middle East. Similarly, the Communists suppressed Christianity because it had been the religion by which the Tsars had maintained their power.
In the light of the early persecutions, however, we can understand why the Christians in the fourth century enjoyed their newly won status, and the long-term implications of the change could not easily be foreseen at the time. In any event, joint pilgrimages of governors and bishops seemed infinitely better than persecutions.
The pilgrimages increased, especially as Constantine's immediate successors continued the building program he began. Before the end of the fourth century, the Church of the Ascension had been completed on the Mount of Olives as well as the Church of the Agony in Gethsemane, and a Spanish Abbess by name of Aetheria had written her famous "Pilgrimage to the Holy Places." This earliest antecedent of modern tourism brochures attached great importance to the holy places and the religious services conducted there. At the same time, according to Aetheria, various languages, and rites (Greek, Syriac, Latin) were already being used to accommodate all Christians, though the church was as yet not divided.
The new basilicas in Palestine brought more pilgrims, and the pilgrims, it seems, brought more basilicas. The fifth century saw the construction of the Basilica of St. Stephen, the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (the site of Caiaphas' palace), and the Church of the Tomb of the Virgin at Gethsemane, among others. By the sixth century, Jerusalem had become, to quote one traveling father, "a treasure house of churches, monasteries, hostels, and hospitals."\
Invasion and Insecurity
Where there are treasures there usually is insecurity, and so it was with the Byzantine investment in Palestine. The earliest threats from the Persian empire had been warded off in the middle of the sixth century, but the Persians could not be held back forever. Damascus fell in 613 and Jerusalem a year later. As a result of that conquest, a considerable number of churches were burned, including the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. Over 30,000 Christians were massacred and others were sent into captivity. After fourteen years of great sadness for Christianity, Byzantium was able once more to control Jerusalem, and the rebuilding of churches was immediately promoted.
Byzantium's imperial strength had, however, waned. When the armies of Islam moved in from the south, Constantinople could not come to the aid of Jerusalem, so the patriarch quickly made an agreement with the Muslim Caliph to guarantee the Christians their security and their churches. When the Caliph entered Jerusalem in 638, he was accompanied by Patriarch Sophronius. The church leader's cooperation with the conquest had won him the concessions necessary for the Christian communities to live in relative peace, especially under the Umayyad caliphs. And such a rapprochement was not too difficult in view of Islam's theology, which tolerated Christians as well as Jews.
There came a time, however, when Muslim tolerance and good will towards the Christians diminished and the Christian church felt itself severely threatened. Early in the eighth century, therefore, some Palestinian church leaders turned to the Christian west for help, the Christian east having been at least temporarily incapacitated by the political problems of Constantinople. Since the first King of France and his famous son Charlemagne (742-814) had established diplomatic relations with some Muslim caliphs, France became the most accessible and ready protector of Christian interests in Palestine. These agreements brought relative quiet for about a century, but renewed Byzantine offensives and victories near the end of the tenth century embittered the, Muslims, who burned not only the Church of the Resurrection but also the patriarch himself because of his relations and cooperation with the Byzantine emperor. The Christians, too, were, harassed until an agreement between the emperor and the caliph in 1027 once more brought tranquility to the believers in the Holy Land. The Byzantines had temporarily replaced western rulers as protectors in Palestine and again large amounts of money were spent to restore and build churches.
Massive Pilgrimages and Crusades
Pilgrimages, which were now organized on a massive scale, brought seven hundred Normans under the protection of the Duke to Palestine in 1027 alone, and no less than twelve thousand participated in a pilgrimage under the leadership of the Bishop of Romburg in 1065. It was a miniature invasion, inasmuch as it was a military expedition, which more than once fought for its life and which anticipated the crusades of the years immediately following.
The Byzantine protectorate, however, was effective only as long as the Byzantine empire was strong. In 1054, some 250 years of strained relations between the patriarchs in Rome and Constantinople came to a head. The patriarch of Rome - the pope - excommunicated the patriarch of Constantinople who, supported by the three other eastern patriarchs (in Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem), now became the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Among the inevitable consequences was a continuing dispute between Orthodox and Catholic factions over the holy places in Palestine. (This quarrel has not come to an end to this very day, making it necessary for a Muslim family to hold the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.)
The two factions came together again a decade later, when the Seljuk Turks threatened the boundaries of the Byzantine empire and captured Jerusalem in 1070. By 1092 they had seized the whole of Asia Minor and pressed to regions beyond. With both Byzantium and the holy places threatened, the emperor appealed to the pope for help, suggesting the reunion of the church. Armed with the double cause of saving Palestine and reuniting the church, Pope Urban II in 1095 urged an assemblage of European clergy and barons to take up arms for the deliverance_ of the holy Sepulchre. As a reward, he offered the remission of past sins to all participants, and they in turn replied with enthusiasm "God wills it." The papal appeal went as follows:
These pagans have made a vigorous onslaught on the Christian empire; they have pillaged and laid waste the whole land with unheard of cruelties up to the very gates of Constantinople. They have occupied these countries with tyrannical violence and massacred thousands and thousands of Christians like beasts. If, therefore, we have any love for God, if we are truly Christian people, the unhappy fate of this great empire and the deaths of so many Christians must be for us all a great anxiety. Our Lord's own example, who redeemed us, and the duty of Christian charity, lead us not only to lament these misfortunes, but also, if it be necessary, to give ourselves in sacrifice for our brethren.
Thus began the first of a series, of three major and six minor crusades, which did not come to an end until two centuries later. The first crusading army, led by Godfrey of Bouillon, captured Jerusalem on July 15, 1099 and established the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, one of four such crusade states. Godfrey became the 'leader of the Jerusalem kingdom but he refused the title of King (see Map 8).
Bouillon's brother, who succeeded him, accepted the crown and became Baldwin I of the Latin Kingdom. The fact that the crowning took place on Christmas Day, 1100, in the Basilica of the Nativity at Bethlehem added to its sanctity, thus helping to generate the religious energy needed for subsequent crusades.
The Greek-oriented Christians did not very much appreciate the Latin dominance which had now come to the Holy Land -even the Jerusalem patriarch was now of the Latin rite-and not a few fought with their Muslim neighbors against the western crusaders.
If this eastern religious alliance appeared strange to the western crusaders, the western coalition appeared equally incongruous from the Christian point of view, if not more so. Merchants of all sorts, released criminals, and a host of adventurers made up the crusading groups, frequently numbering in the thousands. All were moving under the symbol of the Christian cross, and, consequently, the crusades were called the holy wars of the Middle Ages. As so often in history, so also this holy war represented a strange mixture of religious, political, and commercial motivations:
The crusader period was not only one of warfare but also of intensive trade and cultural interchange, between western Europe and Islam, and "Frankish" knights who volunteered from all over western Christendom were invariably followed by traders from Venice, Pisa, Geneva, and Florence. These traders financed the crusades.
In the Holy Land itself, the crusaders engaged in massive construction and restoration programs. To the churches, hospitals, and hostels already there, they added monasteries and castles, of which some ruins can be seen to this day. The Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre was rebuilt to include both Anastasis and Martyrium. Dedicated in 1149 on the fiftieth anniversary of the capture of Jerusalem, the Basilica still stands, having been renewed in 1810. The Muslim Dome of the Rock was used as a Christian church as was the neighboring Mosque of Al-Aksa. The latter also served for a time as a palace for the king.
The building programs to boost Christianity were only one side of the story. On the other side was one of the darkest chapters of barbarity in human history. The victory of capturing the holy city of Jerusalem had been celebrated by whole:sale and indiscriminate massacre of the Muslim population. Even the women and children were not spared, not even when they took refuge in the Haran and its mosques, which were desecrated and their treasures plundered. The anguish felt by the Muslims is illustrated by the following lines from a contemporary poet:
Our blood we have mixed with over
flow of tears
When our line of defense was no more. A man's worst weapon is tears to shed
When war is waged with cutting swords.
Oh ye sons of Islam, behold
Onslaughts on all sides!
How can you close your eyes
To a calamity that awakes the sound
How long will Arab heroes endure
And submit to disgrace from the
The Loss of the Latin Kingdom
The Latin kingdom was not to endure forever. In 1187, before a century had passed, Caliph Saladin of Egypt and Syria took Jerusalem from the Christians. For him and his followers the campaign was as much a holy war as the crusades were for the Christians. When his victory was complete, all Christians had to pay a ransom to save their lives, but in spite of the payments many non-Palestinian Christians were not allowed to stay in the country. The mosques were restored to Muslim use, as were some Christian churches, but the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, soon to become a center of pilgrimage and an important revenue source, was spared.
In western Europe Saladin’s conquests led to the dispatch of additional crusading forces, but Jerusalem could not immediately be recaptured. Pilgrimages to Jerusalem could be resumed freely under a truce agreed to in 1192. This agreement led to other concessions, including the reestablishment in Jerusalem of a western protectorate. Latin control ended suddenly once again in 1244, however, when a Tartar tribe from Central Asiatic Russia sacked Jerusalem. Soon thereafter the city fell into the hands of Egypt, which then controlled both Palestine and Syria until the coming of the Ottoman Turks in 1517.
The second and final loss of Jerusalem to the western crusaders did not, however, mean the end of their efforts. They managed to retain a foothold in the coastal towns of Palestine longer than anywhere else, but since their controls had been slipping and their energies had been dissipating for some time, they could not hold them beyond 1291. One cause for the weakening of the crusaders beginning early in the thirteenth century was the continuing church quarrel between east and west, which caused the crusader army to forget Jerusalem temporarily, and to concentrate on humiliating Constantinople instead.
While the crusaders lost their real power and their territory, they did leave behind some cultural evidence of having been in Palestine. The Latin rite remained strong until 1517, and certain religious orders like the Franciscans gained permanent bases in the country with their parishes, schools, convents, orphanages, and workhouses.
These "Franks," as they were called in the documents of the country, remained for many centuries the only representatives of western Christianity in Palestine. They were confirmed in their role as guardians "of the holy places on behalf of the whole of Catholic Christendom" by Pope Clement VI in 1342.
For a while thereafter it seemed that the Latin Western and Greek Orthodox interests would be reunited, but the 1439 Council of Florence decree concerning the reunion of the See of Rome with the Orthodox East was effective only a short while. The reunion with Constantinople ended with the fall of that city to the Muslims in 1453, and Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem likewise defected once more from Rome.
Under the Ottomans
From 1517, when the Ottoman Turks took control of Palestine, Orthodox churches were treated with greater favor than were the Latin ones. There was some Ottoman vacillation in granting favors, depending on diplomatic pressures and financial considerations, but two and a half centuries later the Orthodox had definitely superseded the Latins in Palestine.
After 1774 and the Russo-Turkish Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji, the interests of the Orthodox in Palestine were championed by the Czar of Russia. For some time he and his predecessors had been waging war against the Ottoman Turks on the pretext of protecting the Eastern Orthodox everywhere and most of all in Palestine. The 1774 treaty established Russia's position officially. Thereafter funds for the building and restoration of churches flowed also from that part of the world, although pilgrimages had been made by Russian officials since the time of the crusades.
The extended influence and improved Russian position in the Middle East alarmed such western powers as France and Britain, who themselves were not always on friendly terms. For a while France had the greater international initiative, because the French ambassador to Turkey had established himself as the protector of Latin church interests in Palestine and the guarantor of Latin church cooperation with the Ottomans. The traditional Latin-Orthodox disputes over the holy places were intensified by French-Russian imperial rivalry, and the religious quarrel became one of the causes that led to the Crimean War.
Before that time the Protestant Christians of western Europe had likewise developed a very specific interest in Palestine, and their cause was championed by such political powers as Prussia and Britain. Indeed, Britain's national involvement in the Palestine question beginning in the nineteenth century became so interwoven with Protestant claims that the latter can best be treated in a later chapter. Suffice it to say here that the British (later the American) government and the Protestant churches served each other's interests in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the same way that the Catholics had found a convenient partnership with western European nations (particularly France) prior to that. The marriage between the Orthodox Church and eastern powers (Byzantium and Russia) was a similar arrangement.
In each instance, religious institutions were advanced under the protection of the national powers, while these powers, in turn, enjoyed the legitimization or sanctification that the religious cloak alone could give to their imperial ambitions. It is more than coincidence that Anglo-Saxon Protestants discovered Islam and the Ottoman Turks as the anti-Christ (as formerly the crusading Catholics had done) precisely at the time when Britain needed the Middle East as a shorter route to India and as a block to Russian expansion into areas of great interest to Britain.
Palestine and the Jews
Nor is it just coincidence that Britain and her Protestants were discovering "that Palestine belonged to the Jews," precisely at the time when their archenemy Napoleon of France was promising Palestine to the Jews. Arriving in Egypt and Jerusalem in 1799, he addressed himself to the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem on April 20 with the following words:
Israelites, unique nation, whom, in thousands of years, lust of conquest and tyranny have been able to deprive only of ancestral lands, but not of name and national existence... The young army with which Providence has sent me hither, led by justice and accompanied by victory, has made Jerusalem my headquarters....
Rightful heirs of Palestine! The great nation which does not trade in men and countries as did those which sold your ancestors unto all peoples (Joel IV, 6) herewith calls on you not indeed to conquer your patrimony; nay, only to take over that which has been conquered and, with that nation's warranty and support, to remain master of it against all comers: ...
Hasten! Now is the moment, which may not return for thousands of years, to claim the restoration of civic rights among the population of the universe which has been shamefully withheld from you for thousands of years, your political existence as a natural right to worship Jehovah in accordance with your faith, publicly and most probably for ever (Joel IV, 20).
The Rabbi of Jerusalem hailed Bonaparte as "the great and highly enlightened Commander-in-Chief of the French armies in Africa and Asia," and as "the man after God's own heart," and advised his brethren that the "glorious prophecies" were being fulfilled by the victorious army of the great (French) nation.
The Rabbi's final salute and challenge-"Here the sword of the Lord and of Bonaparte!" - was too much for Britain. Like other western nations who had treated the Jews badly, she was anxious to purge a guilty conscience. But more than that, Britain like France needed the national and international cooperation of the Jews in her imperial designs.
The notion that the prophecies should be fulfilled by Catholic armies was also too much for the Protestants. Thus it happened that Britain's Christian community in the nineteenth century developed an extraordinary interest in Palestine. This involvement, with its several facets, could not reinforce British interests more handily. Islam, symbolized by the Ottoman Turks, became the latest anti-Christ. The Jews, whose support the British needed, were identified as the rightful heirs of Palestine. But the British belonged there too, because, after all, the world-wide mission of the church could not exclude Palestine. It was inconceivable that the Protestants should leave Palestine alone to the Orthodox and Catholic Christians.
Prophecies and Predictions
The idea of the return of the Jews, of course, was not entirely new. There had been Jewish, Protestant, and British expressions of it before Napoleon came to Cairo. It was new, however, in the sense that neither the early church fathers nor the leaders- of the Protestant Reformation had been much concerned, if at all, with this dimension of the prophetic word. While the early church knew several conflicting schools of thought on "the premillennial advent and personal reign of Christ," the territorial restoration of the Jews did not enter into the controversy, since none of the parties seemed to believe in it. Nor did the Reformers, so far as is known, hold to a literal restoration of the Jews to the land of Palestine."
The French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, however, had the effect of stimulating considerable interest in predictions concerning the future. The upheavals accompanying the revolution appeared to be the fulfillment of certain apocalyptic predictions, and some saw the mystical 1260 days referred to in the Old Testament Book of Daniel now coming to a close. In any event, the decisive conflict between the Kingdom of Christ and the anti-Christ appeared to be at hand. Some Christian teachers associated all of these events with the physical restoration of the Jews; others saw only the time of their general conversion approaching; still others believed that conversion would either precede or follow the return but that the return was as certain as the predicted conversion.
As a result of these speculations and projections, several works on "the restoration of Israel and the overthrow of the anti-Christ" appeared in Britain within a decade after Napoleon's dramatic entry into the Middle East. One of the most widely read publications appearing in both Britain and the United States in 1809 was George Stanley Faber's
A GENERAL AND CONNECTED
The Conversion, Restoration, Union, and Future Glory
of the Houses of
JUDAH AND ISRAEL,
The Progress, and Final Overthrow,
THE ANTI-CHRISTIAN CONFEDERACY
In the Land of Palestine;
And the Ultimate General Diffusion of
The common theme of the prophecy books fitted all of 9 David Brown, The Restoration of the Jews: The History, Principles, and Bearings of the Question, the enemies of Protestantism and Britain into the prophetic scheme extracted from the Book of Daniel, much as the popes had done nearly a millennium before. France, Russia, the Ottoman Turks, and the Latin empire were now identified with the anti-Christ, whose downfall would be accompanied by the restoration of the Jews; and Britain was seen as Daniel's "great prince which standeth for the children of thy people" in the "time of trouble" (Dan. 12:1).
This restoration, however, was not seen in a narrow sense giving advantages only to the Jews. As it was interpreted, it meant giving both Protestants and British the long-coveted foothold in the Holy Land. Faber explained the future of the nations thus:
At the period when these matters are transacting, the Ottoman empire will have been overthrown, and the great confederacy of anti-Christ will have been completed. It will consist of the Roman beast ... and the subordinate vassal kings of the Latin empire. To these, Daniel adds a state ...(with a king) that magnified himself above every God ... the state in question 1 have shown elsewhere to be the anti-Christian France ... this great northern power 1 have already conjectured to be Russia .... 10)
Post World War I American Christians may be surprised that Russia was identified as the northern power long before atheistic and Communistic rulers replaced the czars, but the national enemy of Britain, even if he was a Christian czar, was the anti-Christ long before the Communist revolution.
Faber visualized that the "times of the Gentiles" would run out in about 1866 (although one of his contemporaries had decided that the date was 1836) and that it would only be the faithful maritime power (meaning Britain) which, together with converted Jews, would stand up to the great anti-Christian confederacy, at the heart of which stood the Muslim "land of Satan."
These theological views applied to the politics of the time did not become, at least not officially, the stated views of the church. However, like the leaven that leavens the whole lump, the idea that "Palestine belongs to the Jews" gradually but surely became a basic religious and political assumption of British society. As Leonard Stein has written, "It is possible to compile a fairly lengthy list of English writers who between 1850 and 1880 pleaded the cause of the restoration of the Jews to Palestine."
Thus, religious thought and writing in Britain was influenced by the national political ambitions of the day. And these aspirations in turn, in the balance of the century and into the twentieth, were affected -by the religious-political thought, as Protestant missions and prophecy, British imperialism, and finally organized Zionism all reinforced each other in their respective goals.
6. the Claims of Zionism
The Jews have always hoped -it was an article of faith for religious and even non-religious Jews -that a day might come when they would be allowed to return to the land of their ancestors. They have never given up this claim. -Chaim Weizmann
The idea that the Jews of Europe should and would find a new home in Palestine came to the fore, as already indicated, in the nineteenth century, and the vision was at first championed as much by non-Jews as by Jews. By the end of the century, however, the Jews themselves were the strongest advocates of the "return" to Zion. These zealous promoters of Jewish resettlement were called Zionists, and the movement itself became known as Zionism.
While the end of the nineteenth century saw the establishment of the Zionist movement, it must be remembered that the idea of a return to Palestine by the descendants of Abraham was not really a new one. After Abraham, the idea to go to Canaan was reborn nearly as often as there was a voluntary or involuntary departure from that country. Famine drove Abraham out to Egypt but he had to return. His grandson Jacob left for Mesopotamia to get himself a wife, but he too went back. The entire tribe was driven westward to Egypt in search of food, but under Moses and after 400 years of enslavement, the Israelites returned, The same was true of the exiles to the east some 600 years later. In due course, some of them too came back.
The Songs of Zion
Inasmuch as history repeated itself once more in a later expulsion of the Jews, so the longing to return repeated itself. Indeed, all the prayers, promises, poetry, and folklore arising from earlier exiles very appropriately spoke the language of the later exiles. Thus, the songs of the Jews deported to Babylonia remained on the lips of generation after generation of European Jews much in the same way that German emigrants kept singing about the Heimatland and Russian emigrants never stopped singing about the Volga River and its boatmen.
The Babylonian song in its origin was a Jewish response to their tormentors who taunted them to "sing the songs of Zion." The exiles took this teasing seriously and proceeded to express themselves in the sad songs of a homeless people. Their favorite one was the following one about remembering Jerusalem:
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cleave
to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy! (Ps. 137:5-6).
As the song was sung by succeeding generations, it strengthened the memory of Jerusalem in the hearts of those who had been expelled and of their descendants. The Jews may have been far away from Jerusalem in body, but Zion continued as an experience in their hearts and minds, most of all when it was difficult to find a friendly environment in Europe. Persecution always intensified their longing for a homeland.
Dispersions and Conversions
The Jews had originally migrated to Europe voluntarily and involuntarily in several waves, beginning in the days of the Greek empire centuries before Christ. They arrived at the Mediterranean peninsulas of Greece, Italy, and Spain, some as traders and some of them as slaves and prisoners. In the early days of the Roman empire in Palestine (beginning 63 BC) an estimated three million Jews could be found from Asia Minor to Spain. They constituted about seven percent of the empire's total population. Most of the estimated one million Jews inhabiting Palestine proper later in the first century of the Christian era also went into this diaspora. From southern Europe they eventually spread inland.
As Greek colonies were established in southern Russia, Jews moved along and founded their trading outposts on the Black Sea as well as farther inland. Whole tribes, such as the Khazars, were converted to the Jewish faith through these Jewish outposts, and these conversions account in part for the large Jewish population later found in Russia.
The most religiously active Jewish communities, however, appeared in Italy, particularly in Rome, from where the missionaries of Judaism went out to central Europe. They were accompanied and also followed by other Jewish migrants, most of whom specialized in trade and commerce and who assisted in establishing permanent settlements. So effective was Judaism in converting the Gentiles that tile Roman writer Seneca complained: "The customs of this criminal people are gaining so much ground that they find followers in all countries, and thus the defeated have imposed their law upon the victors."
In some ways, it might be said that the Jews prepared the way for Christianity not only in the Middle East but also in Europe; for wherever the Christian missionary Paul went, he began his work in established Jewish settlements and their synagogues. His desire to go to Spain appears to have been linked to firmly established and well-known Jewish communities there. Eventually, the Christian evangelists overtook the Jewish missionaries and the Jews were thus confronted not only by rivalry from the Romans but also with competition from the Christians, though the latter was riot serious as long as the Christians themselves were despised.
Elevation and Segregation
In the Mediterranean basin and the regions beyond, the Jews attained key positions in the economy of the Roman empire; After operating as trading intermediaries, they became great merchants and shipowners, while also excelling as farmers, lawyers, physicians, manufacturers, and goldsmiths.
In some places, the Jews were also found in high governmental positions, but generally they were held back inasmuch as they never reconciled themselves to Roman rule. They remained, generally speaking, a people apart, independent in spirit, persistent in the observance of their laws and customs, strictly observing the Sabbath, and stubborn in their insistence that Palestine belonged to them and not to the Romans.
Generally speaking, however, the pagan emperors treated the Jews better than they did Christians, at least in the first three centuries. The situation was reversed in 325 when Constantine gave official approval and legal status to the Christian religion and to the doctrine of the deity of Christ. From that time on Judaism and Jews were subordinated. Constantine ordered that the wealthier members be drafted into unwanted jobs in the civil service, and Christian leaders like Augustine assigned to the Jews the full guilt of Christ's crucifixion.
Such views and actions by the great Christian emperors and bishops, as well as the financial genius and stubborn separateness of the Jewish community, were largely responsible for the strife between the two groups. This early animosity in turn laid the foundations for the persecution meted out to the Jews by the Christian natives of Europe in subsequent generations. In the words of Kahler, the Christian majority now passed on to the Jewish minority their own experience of an earlier day when they were few in number:
In its early period, Christianity had undergone the same ordeal that was to be Judaism's throughout its history. The Christians were accused of having no god and hating men, of setting themselves apart from the non-Christian community, of being unpatriotic, indifferent toward the state, arrogantly intolerant of all the pleasures of life, and of mocking all that was sacred to millions of people.
Rules restricting the activities and rights of Jews were promulgated by Christian councils and emperors, but divisions in Christendom and the pervasiveness of paganism at first prevented their effective implementation. The pagan tribes were not as hostile to the Jews, and some Christian communities, particularly the Arians (the followers of Arius, who questioned Christ's deity), were friendly.
Arian Christianity, however, was defeated by the Nicene Creed, first promulgated in 325 and revised in 381, which insisted on the essential divinity of Christ. Those who opposed the Nicene Creed to any degree were called Judaizers; and Judaizers, like the Jews, were enemies of Christ. Since Nicene Christianity eventually conquered Europe, the Jews were in that conquest destined to be either converted or suppressed.
Friendship and Animosity
This influence of Nicene Christianity did not mean, however, that the Jews were entirely disadvantaged, because kings, princes, landowners, and even church dignitaries liked them as financial agents, personal physicians, and even diplomatic negotiators. One such king was Charlemagne (742-814), who, while promoting Christianity, resisted restrictions on Jews as landowners and international tradesmen.
Such royal concessions to the Jews were frowned upon by Christians, however, whenever and wherever the competition between Jews and Christians was extended from the areas of doctrine and missions to land-owning and commerce. While the Christians eventually won out in the former area, the Jews excelled in the latter and unquestionably became the financial leaders in Europe. Each group remained jealous of the other's successes.
More difficult days lay ahead for the Jews in both the economic and religious spheres. With the rise of feudalism Christian barons dispossessed Jewish landowners, as few and as small as they were. This displacement turned the Jews more than before to bartering and banking, which brought them much ill repute as time went on. The successful rise of Islam, on the other hand, had the effect of arousing among Christians a religious hostility that often treated Judaism and Islam as a single target.
Thus it happened that the Jews and Muslims embraced each other in certain places and at certain times as the common victims of Christianity. When the Muslims invaded Spain in 711 the Jews welcomed them. As a consequence, the Jews under Muslim rule experienced in Spain in the eight centuries following the golden age of European Jewry. Henceforth, the European Jews knew that under Islam there was greater
tolerance than among Christians, and not a few sons of Abraham found their way to peace and security in Arab countries in subsequent generations. In the favorable climate of these Middle East regions, as in Spain, they rose to positions of diplomatic, academic, and commercial prominence.
The Curse of the Crusades
Christian persecution of the Jews in Europe became very real early in the second millennium. The Christian crusades meant attacks not only on the Muslims in the Middle East but also on the Jews in Europe. They were plundered and massacred by undisciplined mobs, who could not be restrained by horrified princes and humanitarian Christians like Bernard of Clairvaux. From that time on the Jews were harassed and blamed for every evil that befell Europe.
The unorganized Jew-baiting so characteristic of the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries turned into a system of repression and banishment iii the thirteenth. Pope innocent III's internal crusade against Waldensians and other heretics included the Jews. Their holy places were desecrated, and the Talmud was publicly burned in Paris in 1242. Jewish apartness resulting from this religious persecution was further reinforced by official industrial restrictions. More than ever they were pushed into ghettos or forced to scatter to the far-flung regions of Europe, including the British Isles.
In England, Jews were tolerated as long as they were indispensable to economic mobilization. Once the balance of power was favorable to the lords and clerics, they sought in every way to limit the Jews and drain away their wealth. Massacres in 1189 were followed by expulsion in 1290. Not until after 1656, when the Puritans brought them back, were Jews found in England again in significant numbers. The stricken English conscience thus tried to redress some wrongs, but complete reconciliation was not achieved. Eventually, the English concluded that the Jews belonged more to Palestine than they did to England - a conclusion that made both groups much happier.
Jewish communities in eastern Europe too had relative peace until the crusades brought ravaging gangs into their territories. In Hungary where Jews, Christians, Muslims, and pagans had lived together in peace, the Hungarian king treated the crusading hordes as robbers. He had many of them killed, thereby earning Hungarians the title of "pagan" or "Jew" in western Europe.
Needless to say, the financial and administrative power position achieved by the Jews in the east was one of the reasons for the hostility from the European west. But there were also indigenous rivalries. One of the worst persecutions in the cast came in the mid-seventeenth century in Poland, when Ukrainian Cossacks and peasants rose up against the oppressions of Polish nobles, most of them Jews, and virtually destroyed 90 percent of the Jews in 700 communities.
In Orthodox Russia, the struggle between Christian and Jew was similar to that in early Catholic Europe. The ideological reason for keeping the Jews at bay was the protection of the realm against Judaizing challenges to the doctrine concerning the divine Christ. The more practical, and perhaps the more real, reason again was the financial and administrative power that Jews seemed to achieve so quickly. The results of the clash were repeated pogroms against the Jews as late as the twentieth century.
Enlightenment and Emancipation
In western and central Europe, the Protestant Reformation brought only temporary relief. Luther at first censured the church for persecuting the Jews, but when he could not win them to his side he too turned his fury against those "stubborn people." Only the humanists, pioneers of the later enlightenment, came to the defense of the Jews. In Holland, the first great seat of the enlightenment, the Jews first experienced the benefits of free thought, and in Amsterdam they founded their largest shipping and banking firms. Enlightenment influence also led to the loosening of intolerable restrictions elsewhere in Europe. Christian scholars and writers, influenced by humanism, now joined in the struggle for Jewish emancipation. Equality of rights for Jews was proclaimed first in 1776 by the American Declaration of Independence, followed in 1790-1791 by the granting of full rights by the Constituent Assembly of the French Revolution. Emancipation was advanced in neighboring countries by the armies of the revolution, but some of the new freedoms thus won were repealed by the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The equality of the Jews was not finally recognized in most countries until well into the nineteenth century, as can be seen from Table 4.
Theories of equality were more easily preached than practiced, and prejudice continued strong, not least of all because the Jews remained it power factor. As new freedoms were pained, the Jews rushed to, take advantage of the situation, and their zeal and genius led them onward and upward in many fields. Before long, they had entered and excelled in the professions much in the same way that they had monopolized banking and trade.
As the twentieth century dawned in Germany, the minority Jewish population had produced forty-five times more lawyers, eight times more writers and scholars, and six times more physicians per capita than had emerged among non-Jewish people. The result was a moving out of the ghettos, and following the nationalistic spirit of the times the Jews also participated in patriotic identification. "There were no prouder Germans than the German Jews; there were no more enthusiastic Frenchmen than the French Jews. This was true of the Jews of every nation."
Nationalism and Zionism
Such proud identification with the nation-states of Europe may have been somewhat exaggerated, because another kind of nationalism was now maturing in the Jewish mind. This nationalism was in conflict with the larger society much like the former social separateness had been. It was a nationalism that envisaged the Jews in their own homeland and in full control of it. Thus, even while a brighter day was dawning for European Jewry, the nationalistic stirrings were strengthening the memories of Palestine that had been kept alive by the darker days.
Perhaps the new day was appearing only faintly because the new legal position of the Jews had by no means eliminated anti-Semitism in the European heart, as the twentieth century was to reveal only too clearly. But even before that, anti-Jewish feelings erupted in both Germany and Russia, and it was in these countries that the Jewish nationalism, known as Zionism, found its earliest and most articulate expression.
The Zionists pointed to recent historical precedents for the desired return. When Palestine had come under the control of the Turks in 1517 the country had been opened to Jewish immigration and in 1563 Don Josef Massic led his Spanish followers to found an agricultural colony on the shores of Lake Tiberias. Other "messiahs" of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, notably David Reubini and Sabbatai Sebi, advanced plans for the settlement of Jews in Palestine.
Mordecai Manuel Noah, on the other hand, was ready to found the Jewish State of Ararat on Grand Island in the Niagara River. When that plan fail, he switched his efforts to Palestine. The coming of the nineteenth century, however, gave new strength to these older minority ideas, not only because more Jews accepted them, but because there were more Jews to accept them. Jewish population in the world enjoyed a fourfold increase in the nineteenth century, from 2,500,000 to over ten million (see Table 5).
At the same time, Christian millenarians were suggesting the movement of the Jews to the Holy Land as a step toward the realization of a world-wide messianic dream. Since such proposals were being advanced at the very time that European powers, particularly Britain and France, were scrambling to pick up the pieces of the crumbling Turkish empire, it seemed to be a propitious time for the cause of Zionism.
Early Ideas and Writings
The first problem to be overcome by the Zionists was the prevailing Jewish notion that the return would be associated with the coming of the Messiah and hence be supernatural in nature. It was the Polish Rabbi Hirsch Kalischer who tried to convince the Jews with biblical and talmudic citations that the redemption of Israel was to be accomplished in a natural way. The Messiah, he said, would come only after a number of Jews had already gone to Palestine. While trying to convince the masses, he also sought to persuade such wealthy Jews as Asher Meyer Rothschild of Frankfort to offer financial and organizational assistance. Neither the masses nor the millionaires were yet ready to respond, but Kalischer nonetheless succeeded in establishing an agricultural school called Mikveh Israel ("ingathering of Israel") near Jaffa in 1870.
The theory of Zionism was more significantly advanced by the German Socialist, Moses Hess, who in 1862 published a small book entitled, Rome and Jerusalem: The Latest National Question. Hess objected to the effort of reform Jewish leaders to achieve national and social integration as Germans while following the Mosaic religious tradition. These Jews were eliminating references to a return to Zion in the prayer books, and Hess felt that this was a big mistake. In his opinion Jews could make their contribution to the world only through a renascence of their national consciousness, and such regeneration could be achieved fully only in the ancient homeland:
The acquisition of common ancestral soil, the organization of the work on a legal basis, the founding of Jewish societies of agriculture, industry, and commerce on the Mosaic, i.e. social principles, these are the foundations on which Jewry will rise again and in its rise will kindle the glowing fire of the old Jewish patriotism and light the way to a new life for the Jewry of the entire world.
After Moses Hess, the most important figure in the development of the Zionist movement was the Russian physician, Leo Pinsker, of Odessa. Pinsker at first felt that the emancipation for the Jews would come with assimilation, but pogroms and restrictive settlement measures in 1881 and 1882 led him to review his position, and he concluded that deliverance for the Jews could only come if they reestablished themselves as- a nation in a territory of their own.
Reestablishment meant the acquisition of the normal attributes of a nation---a common language, common customs, and a common land. Pinsker recognized that this would take time, but suggested that a first step should be taken by calling a congress of Jewish notables. His pamphlet, Auto-Emancipation: An Admonition to His Brethren by a Russian Jew, was well received by Jewish intellectuals in his country, and soon he found himself heading up the Lovers of Zion movement.
At first favorable to the idea of a homeland for Jews in America. Pinsker soon accepted the view that Ereiz (land of) Israel was the only territory where the Jews could reestablish themselves as a nation. To help raise funds for the immigration to Palestine, he founded the Odessa Committee (the Society for the Support of Jewish Agriculture in Syria and Palestine), which anticipated the founding of, and later merged with, the World Zionist Organization. Actual colonization in Palestine, sponsored by this movement, began in 1882 by Bilu (a word formed from the first Hebrew letters of Isaiah 2:5-"House of Jacob, come, let us go"), a society of 500 young people dedicated to the idea of pioneering in Palestine. It was their initial effort that inspired Baron Edmond de Rothschild of the French section of the famous banking family to support Palestinian colonization.
Herzl and the Big Push
With all these efforts, political Zionism was slowly but surely establishing itself in both theory and practice in a limited way, thus preparing the way for others to give it a major push. The leader to give the big promotion at the turn of the century was Theodore Herzl, a Viennese writer and journalist, who published his Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) in 1896. This book became the foundation-stone of world Zionism.
Herzl came from a well-to-do, conventional, liberal-reform type Jewish family in which German classical literature was almost as much appreciated as the Jewish tradition. Liberal Jews called for the assimilation of Jews to the larger society as a way of escaping the ghetto, and this also became Herzl's earliest proposal for solving the problem of the Jewish middle class.
Herzl advocated mixing the oriental and western races in the context of a common state religion or nationalism, but he changed his mind after he was faced by the realities of antiSemitism. This confrontation came in two ways. He read Eugene Duehring's 1881 book, The Jewish Problem as a Problem of Race, Morals, and Culture, which presented the Jewish people as racially inferior. Then as a journalist in Paris he witnessed the trial of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish French patriot with a military career who had chosen the path of assimilation, apparently without success. The Dreyfus Affair revealed the depths of anti-Semitism. A loyal Jewish Frenchman was denounced by other Frenchmen as a lowly Jew. A Jesuit journal asked for the withdrawal of all civil rights from the Jews, saying that they were nothing but spies.
As he observed this anti-Semitic outburst occurring one hundred years after the Declaration of the Rights of Man, Herzl resolved that the only way out of the ghetto was to get out, physically and environmentally. His first new goal now was to persuade Jewish philanthropists to aid in resettlement. Meeting with considerable opposition he directed his energies to a more careful formulation of his ideas instead. Der Judenstaat was the result. In it, he gave up assimilation as an answer to the Jewish problem. Theoretically, it might be possible through intermarriage, and practically this would happen to some Jews, but it could and should never happen to the whole Jewish people. So he advanced what to him was a "perfectly simple plan," the Zionist idea, as follows:
Let the sovereignty be granted us over a portion of the globe large enough to satisfy the rightful requirements of a nation; the rest we shall manage ourselves.
The Organizing of Zionism
Herzl's heart was not definitely set on Palestine, because some of his negotiations were with a Jewish philanthropist who was then resettling Jews to Argentina. He thought that the Society of Jews, an organization to be formed and an authority to be recognized as a "state-building power," should finally determine the location of the Jewish sovereignty. The Jewish Company, a second organization to be founded, would be the financial instrument for resettling the migrating Jews.
In his essay Herzl envisioned a mass emigration from Europe taking place over several generations. The exodus would be in accordance with a prearranged plan of building up the new land. The upbuilding itself would employ the latest instruments of science and technology and the result would be a model also along social lines. He concluded his pamphlet with a challenge and a promise:
Let the word be repeated here which was given at the beginning: the Jews who will it shall have their state. We shall at last live as free men on our own soil and die peacefully in our own homeland. The world will be liberated by our liberation, enriched with our wealth, made greater by our greatness. And that which we seek, therefore, for our own use will stream out mightily and beneficently upon mankind.
Herzl's call was received both favorably and unfavorably among his own people. Some identified him as a crackpot, others as a modern Moses. Christians as well as Jews, leaders as well as the masses, hailed his suggestions. Chaplain Heckler, of the English embassy in Vienna, wrote a tract prophesying that Palestine would be restored to the Jews by about 1897-1898.
In 1897 Herzl did succeed in calling the First Zionist Congress in Basel, attended by 197 elected delegates from Europe, Palestine, and the United States. The representatives, who quickly agreed that the homeland should be Palestine, adopted a four-point plan for colonization and development. Subsequently called the Basel Program for World Jewry, the plan read as follows:
The aim of Zionism is to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law.
The Congress contemplates the following means to the attainment of this end:
1. The promotion, on suitable lines, of the colonization of Palestine by Jewish agricultural and industrial workers.
2. The organization and binding together of the whole of Jewry by means of appropriate institutions, local and international, in accordance with the laws of each country.
3. The strengthening and fostering of Jewish national sentiment and consciousness.
4. Preparatory steps towards obtaining government consent, where necessary, to the attainment of the aim of Zionism.
External and Internal Opposition
After Herzl was elected president of the new World Zionist Organization, he wrote in his diary that on that day he had "created the Jewish state." Much work, however, still needed to be done before his creation was actual. First of all, he needed recognition for the proposed state from the Turkish Sultan, and he also sought approval for his plans from European powers.
Herzl's appointment with Kaiser Wilhelm was achieved through his millennial friend, the Christian Zionist, Reverend Hecklin. Herzl was cautious, however, and suggested to the Kaiser only the establishment of a Land Development Company that would operate in Palestine and Syria under a German protectorate. The Kaiser was enthusiastic, motivated in part by the anti-Semitic view that wanted the removal of some "usurious" Jews from Germany.
Soon thereafter, the Kaiser cooled toward the proposal, when he realized that the Sultan as well as France, England, and Russia would look with disfavor upon such a German protectorate. He was in no mood to jeopardize other German interests affected by international power plays at the time. Herzl was disappointed; but he had believed all along that England would be a better natural ally for the Jews than Germany.
The Sultan likewise was not interested in Jewish colonization in Palestine, though he welcomed a few Jewish families in Turkey to help him with his finances. Herzl concluded that if the Jews could fund the public debt of Turkey-more than a million pounds-the Sultan would be more cooperative. But the Rothschilds and other Jewish bankers could not be interested, and the fund-raising efforts of the Jewish Colonial Trust, later succeeded by the Jewish National Fund, had not been too successful either.
Since little progress was achieved on Palestine settlement, Herzl presented to the Sixth Zionist Congress in 1903 a British proposal for a Jewish settlement in Uganda in east Africa. Herzl advocated settlement in Uganda only as temporary haven enroute to Palestine. Even so he won little encouragement. His suggestion that an investigating commission be sent there was approved only by a narrow margin and only (in condition that no Zionist funds be expended for the purpose. The Congress heard the Commission's report two years later and rejected the Uganda idea overwhelmingly. Herzl was not present to experience this discouragement. He had died in the summer of 1904.
The opposition for territorial reasons was not the only obstacle that Herzl had experienced before his death. Even though enthusiastic federations of Zionists were established in every land, including England and the United States, prominent Jews did not really accept the Zionist idea. There was the influential Ahad Ha'am (pen name of Asher Ginzberg), who insisted that the revival of Jewish values was much more important than a strong economy, thriving race, or sovereign territory. A cultural identity, he said, was more important than a national homeland. Close to Ginzberg were those Reform and Orthodox Jews who felt that Jewish claims to universal religion would be compromised by the revival of a Jewish nationalism. (mark) One American rabbi insisted that his Zion was Washington. Some Orthodox Jews, on the other hand, objected to Zionism because, in their opinion, natural means should not be used to attain its goals.
Opposition to Zionism on the basis of nationalism was particularly strong among liberal European Jews who believed that assimilation was the answer. Others, like the influcntial historian, Simon Dubnow, did not believe that Jewish survival depended on either kind of nationalism. In his opinion, the Jews had demonstrated that the core of unity and existence was not territory or statehood but a simple communal organization that provided for and allowed the functioning of spiritual power.
Significant opposition to, as well as support for, Zionism came from the Jewish American community, which had increased its population dramatically from 250,000 in 1815 to three million by 1914. Over one million of these were immigrants who had found their promised land in America and who could see no reason for promoting another elsewhere. But Zionism did have its strong supporters, and not many years later American Jewry became an all-important factor in the establishment of the national homeland for the Jews in Palestine.
Limited Immigration and Colonization
Meanwhile, a limited amount of colonization was taking place in Palestine. Before 1900, seven new colonies of settlers were added to the 34,000 Jewish inhabitants in the land in 1882. These old settlements were concentrated mainly in Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed, and Tiberias. The new agricultural colonies were supported largely by the Rothschild administration.
More settlements were established in the twentieth century. Between 1901 and 1907 a number of colonies founded in the wheat country of Lower Galilee were also funded by Rothschild. The Zionist Organization itself began colonization in 1908 and by 1914 had helped to increase the agricultural settlements to forty with a population of 12,000. Hebrew was established as the language of Jewish school instruction in Palestine. Communal life manifested its earliest organization and labor groups were formed, anticipating the later establishment of a national state.
Such a state, however, was not really in sight until either the Turks or some of the leading European powers would lend support and sponsorship. That the hundreds of thousands of native Arabs, the very unwilling and restless subjects of the tottering Ottoman empire, should also have a say in the question was hardly considered. The Jews, like other Europeans, had no difficult), in assuming that the Arabs were of little consequence.
The European power most anxious to be consulted by the Zionists was England. Precisely at the time that the Zionists needed an imperial sponsor, the empire itself needed Jewish support for its own international schemes. Thus dreams and schemes flowed into each other as the Zionist ambition found itself in partnership with the British expansion.
7- The Claims of the British
While the direct responsibility for the calamity that overtook the Palestinian Arabs was oil the heads of tile Zionist Jews who seized a Lebensraum for themselves ... a heavy load of indirect, yet irrepudiable, responsibility was on the heads of the people of tile United Kingdom....-Arnold Toynbeel
In spite of the enthusiastic and aggressive efforts of Zionist nationalism to establish a national homeland for the Jews, it is doubtful that its program would have progressed as it did if it would not have been for the help of British imperialism at the most opportune time. The British help in turn, it must not be forgotten, was supported by a Protestant millenarianism, which helped to make imperial expansion and Zionism a holy cause, in much the same way that Catholicism in an earlier day had strengthened Roman and French imperialism, and Orthodoxy had provided the ideological base for the empires of both Byzantium and Russia.
Serious British interest in Palestine began in 1798, when Napoleon entered Cairo with 15,000 troops and prepared to march across the Middle East bridge to Asia in order to threaten British power in India, while offering to return Asian and African Jews to Palestine. The British quickly entered into an alliance with the Turkish Sultan, and a year later forced the French troops to surrender at the border of Egypt and Palestine. The British victory did not yet mean easy access to Palestine - a consulate was not established until 1842-but a European return to Palestine after centuries of absence now appeared quite certain.
The Religious Developments
The British victory over the French had significant national and international consequences. British prestige increased within the Ottoman empire, and on the British domestic scene internationalist (i.e., imperialist) interests - commercial, religious, political, and military - were definitely escalated. The religious developments are particularly important because the British overseas missionary interest went hand in hand with the expansion of the British empire.
In much the same way that certain later American Christians viewed troop movements to Japan and Vietnam as "a highway for the gospel" to Asia, so the British Christians could not help seeing the victory over Napoleon as another open door for their missionary enterprise. This time the gates were opening to the Middle East, where Islam the anti-Christ reigned and where Orthodox Christians under Russian protection didn't appear to be capable of fulfilling the Christian task. This moment of opportunity for Protestant Christians in Britain was a clear responsibility, and their leaders could not allow it to slip by.
Two missionary societies were formed in London in 1799 and 1804, respectively, and both were destined to play an important role in the injection into Palestine of both the British and the Protestants. They were the Church Missionary Society and the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews (which in abbreviated form became known as the London Jews Society). As the two major English-language religious and educational agencies in the Holy Land, they formed the cultural dimension of the general British thrust.
Sometimes the cultural-religious presence preceded and prepared the way for commercial, political, and territorial expansion; at other times the missions simply accompanied or even followed the general British involvement. In any event, the imperial leaders welcomed and even promoted the religious missions, not least of all because they provided concrete evidence of high moral purpose on the part of the British.
The activities of the missions led to the introduction of a chain of teaching, preaching, and relief stations. A school system covering Jerusalem and a large number of Arab towns and villages was established, as were churches, hospitals, clinics, and centers for distributing religious literature. A learned society for the exploration and elucidation of the background of the Bible came into being and with it the beginnings of western-sponsored archaeological excavation.
The approach to the peoples of the Middle East was not always circumspect. An American Committee, which followed the London Committee, and which was likewise interdenomi-national, looked upon its missionary assignment as including Jews, Muslims, and Christians almost equally. All of' them needed the enlightenment which the Protestants could bring. No contact was sought with the legally constituted Christian ecclesiastical authorities in the Ottoman empire.
The missionary-minded Protestants were not yet in a mood to recognize, certainly not to learn from, the Christianity of either the Catholics or the Orthodox. Latin and Eastern Christians were believed to be superstitious and idolatrous, the clergy ignorant and hypocritical. Muslims, of Course, needed Christian missions most of all:
If the Protestant missionaries' approach to the eastern Christians was one of superiority, the approach to Islam was manifestly one of hostility. The Christians were merely ignorant brethren and all that was needed was to rekindle the light of faith in their hearts and minds. With Islam and Muslims it was quite different. Beyond the shores of the Mediterranean the false prophet exercised his tyrannical sway. Therein lay the mission's opportunity, if they could only distribute enough tracts, deliver enough sermons, teach enough boys and girls, light was bound to prevail upon the darkness.
Christianity and the Consulate
Closely connected with the new Protestant community was the British presence in general - business interests, such as banking and shipping, and the tourist and retail trades. One of the first tasks of the first resident missionary in Jerusalem upon his arrival there December 26, 1825, was to secure the appointment of a British consul. Jerusalem was to be a special case, for consuls were usually placed in seaports and commercial centers, and Jerusalem was neither. Besides, no other European power had a consulate in Jerusalem. Still, the British felt that they needed an official presence in Jerusalem, and the Protestants fully agreed and helped to achieve this goal.
The Turkish Sultan was not too responsive to the request for an official British post in Jerusalem, but the occupation in 1831 of Syria and Palestine by Muhammad Ali, an Egypt-based rebel against Ottoman authority, changed the situation. Muhammad Ali's temporary Palestinian regime was more favorable to the British, and he quickly issued a proclamation to the civil and religious authorities in Jerusalem and elsewhere to relax restrictions on foreigners, particularly Christians and Jews.
In this new atmosphere, the Anglican bishop, who in the interests of Protestant unity s also financially supported by the King of Prussia, was successful in bringing a consul to Jerusalem on January 21, 1842. Both Bishop Alexander and Consul-General Hugh Rose rode into Jerusalem at the head of a very impressive cavalcade.
With the arrival of the Consul-General, the British became the official protectors of the Protestant Christians and Jews in the Holy Land under the millet system of the Ottomans, the autonomous religious communities of non-Muslims in the Ottoman empire, whose patriarchs or rabbis were responsible to the Turks for the payment of taxes and other conduct of their members.
Competition in Protection
The Latin and Orthodox Christians stood under the protection of France and Russia, respectively. This did not iprove their relations with the Protestants, especially when the protectors of all three -the British, French, and Russians - were in international competition with each other. All wanted a strong lease in the Middle East generally, and to strengthen their hold on Palestine in particular.
Thus, even before the end of Muhammad Ali's occupation, Russian pilgrims in Jerusalem were predicting that Palestine would soon fall under Russian control. The prediction was not fulfilled, but the Russian consul in Beirut did arrive in Jerusalem with an Ottoman decree in his hand extending his jurisdiction also to Jerusalem and its dependencies. Immediately, the consul had buildings erected in Jerusalem for occupation by Russian subjects.
The British and French watched this development very closely. Since the Ottoman empire was obviously on the decline the European powers were considering various schemes for the advancement of their interests. In so doing they anticipated developments that became reality in the twentieth century under the so-called Mandate government. Norman Bentwich has reported the scheming as follows:
The French proposed to establish an ecclesiastical enclave for Jerusalem and an area around it, to be governed by a Christian municipality under the direction of the Christian states. Prussia proposed a European protectorate over the holy cities, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth. Certain sections in England advocated a policy of restoring to Palestine the Jewish people.... The Frenchman Laharanne advocated an independent Jewish State. Russia ridiculed all of these proposals.
One of the most vigorous British promoters of Jewish settlement in Palestine was Lord Shaftesbury, who felt that the development of the immense fertility of the country between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean Sea would be served thereby. A Christian millennialist, Shaftesbury believed that Palestine belonged to the Jews and should be returned to them, hopefully as converts to Christianity. Since the first Anglican bishop in Jerusalem was Jewish by race, the restoration, so it appeared to Shaftesbury and others, had already begun.
The Holy Places and War
For the time being, however, the Turks remained in control. The British were not particularly bothered by this, because they recognized Turkey as a convenient roadblock in the way of Russian expansionism. The British-Turkish alliance reached a peak of cooperation during the Crimean War (1853-56). British Christians, who had identified Turkish (Islamic) domains as the land of Satan, had their problems with this relationship. In the end, however, they adjusted to the alliance much in the same way that American Christians a century later adjusted to the American-Soviet alliance against the common enemy of Germany in World War II.
The Crimean War, which had its origin -at least by pretext -in the question of control over the holy places, did not resolve that problem, and the treaties of Paris in 1856 and of Berlin in 1878 among the leading European powers (Russia, Britain, France) merely confirmed the status quo. The continuing quarrel over the holy places between the Latins and the Orthodox was left to plague the British Mandate government a half century later, The Protestants eventually developed their own happy solution to the problem of the holy places. They identified a new sepulchre (the Garden Tomb) and a new (Gordon's) Calvary as the most likely scenes of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
The Crimean War had generated new interest in the Holy Land and European pilgrims by the thousands went to Palestine to view the holy places. Jews, too, became interested and several permanent settlements and institutions were established in the 1860s and 1870s. At the same time, a German Christian community, known as Templars, settled near Jaffa and Haifa in order to be near Jerusalem at the time of Christ's second coming.
The British pilgrimage interest led to the establishment in 1865 of the Palestine Exploration Fund, which brought scores of explorers and archaeologists to Palestine in the decades following. The first main survey of western Palestine was prepared in the 1870s. Among the participating engineers was Horatio Herbert (Lord) Kitchener, whose resulting lifelong devotion to Palestine: and the Near East was to have a dramatic effect on its subsequent history.
Territorial and Commercial Expansion
British engineers and financiers gave some thought to building a canal, as a rival to the predominantly French-controlled Suez, from Haifa to the Gulf of Aqaba, but later gave it up as too expensive. When the British occupied Egypt in 1883 and gradually supplanted French dominance, a second canal was no longer necessary.
Thereafter, the British expanded east of the Suez to control as much of the Sinai as the Turks would allow. In Palestine itself, the British competed with the Russians, French, and Germans in building hospices, churches. cathedrals, and schools and in sponsoring pilgrims.
The visit of the German emperor to Jerusalem in 1899 was so impressive that Theodore Herzl believed that Wilhelm II would be the man to help the Jews to establish their national homeland. The Kaiser proved to be a disappointment to the World Zionist Organization, but the British were definitely interested in Zionist goals. The new Jewish settlements had already been establishing economic ties with England, the latter buying oranges and barley from Palestine and shipping in cotton and iron goods in return. More Jewish immigration was seen as the key to further economic development of the area and to further political control for the British.
Then came the- discovery by British engineers of some of the huge oil reserves in the Middle East and the formation of the Anglo-Persian and other oil companies. The Middle East was soon estimated to contain half of the world's oil resources, and since Britain was almost completely dependent on outside petroleum resources, her interest in the area became more intense than ever.
By 1913 First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill had replaced coal with oil as fuel for the British navy. To guarantee the necessary supply of oil he arranged for the British control of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. That was the beginning: other oil companies were formed with British assistance and protection, including those in which Americans were eventually to have a dominant economic interest. These investments in Middle East oil gave first to Britain and then the United States a strong and undeniable vested interest in the area, as can be concluded from Table 6.
The War and Arab Nationalism
The coming of World War I in 1914, which saw Turkey, allied with Germany, made Britain's goals and priorities very clear. Turkey had to be defeated and British interests in the Middle East made secure. In this undertaking, Britain needed the cooperation of the Arab world, in which a strong nationalism and desire for self-determination was stirring. Arab leaders were not sure, however, whether the goal to independence lay in cooperation with, or opposition to, the Turks.
The British helped the Arabs to decide against the Turks by explaining to them that nationalist aspirations could best be obtained in cooperation with themselves, who were renounced as champions of freedom everywhere in the world. The explanations were followed by promises as soon as the British sensed that Arab cooperation was in dispensable to victory over the Turks in the Middle East. Until then neither the British nor the other European powers had expressed much concern for the Arabs. British writers had distorted tile Arab image by concentrating on one meaning of Arab at the expense of another. Thus the Arab was identified almost exclusively as a desert dweller, a Bedouin living in a tent and riding on a camel. Forgotten was the Arab who had nurtured a brilliant civilization with outstanding achievements in mathematics, astronomy, and science, and the more modern urban Arab, well educated in classical English or French, sophisticated, in close contact with European thought, and well able to take care of himself.
It was true, of course, that the Arab peoples had, so to speak, fallen into a great sleep during Ottoman rule. But the Arab awakening was well on its way at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, when the British felt that the Arabs could not possibly manage the Middle East without Europeans. American and European teachers in Syrian and Lebanese schools since the middle of the nineteenth century had contributed substantially to the Arab awakening. Many of the educators were Protestants; and, if western Christianity failed the Middle East in other ways, it did stir in the Arabs the desire for dignity. The impact of American and European thought was felt most of all in the growth of nationalism, which for Arabs meant two things: independence from Turkey and any other outside interference, and the restoration of the united Arab world that had been part of their past and whose glory now exhilarated them.
The Arab national consciousness at the turn of the century was strongest in Syria-Palestine and in Egypt. In the former area, it was stimulated by a new Turkish despotism, which, while it was prepared to recognize equality of rights for Arabs, foresaw emancipation only in the context of a reborn and democratic Turkish empire. The Arabs, however, felt that the so-called "sick man of Europe" was nearing the end of his days and they saw no reason for assisting in his resurrection. Arab nationalistic eagerness, therefore, turned into widespread agitation and revolt after the death of Sultan Abdul Hamid in 1908.
Egypt, on the other hand, as a huge millet in the empire, had been domestically independent and developing as a selfcontained nation-state since the days of Muhammad A1i. The government and army, however, retained a strong Turkish complexion. This remaining Turkish influence led to the Egyptian revolt, which in turn gave the British their excuse for occupying a coveted area in 1883, thus once more usurping the French.
The British presence stimulated Egyptian political ideas and administrative know-how. On the other hand, the occupation aggravated those Egyptians who wanted to be rid of all foreign control, British as well as Turkish and French. The Egyptians were unhappy particularly because Britain was using their land as a base for the extension of its influence throughout the Middle East. From the two sides then. Syria and Egypt. Britain was confronted by a strong and determined Arab nationalism.
British Promises to the Arabs
By 1915-16, Britain's position in the Middle East war theatre; was a precarious one. The Turkish-German forces were threatening not only the Suez Canal but also the overland route to India. The Arab role in the struggle was crucial. The Sultan of Turkey as the Muslim Caliph had issued a call to all the Muslim subjects of the British empire to rise up in a holy war against England. The Caliph was most anxious to have this call supported by the Sharif of Mecca, Hussein Ibn Ali, a man of prestige in Muslim eyes because he was a descendant of Muhammad and the custodian of the holy places of Islam.
The British, for obvious reasons, now also sought discussions with Hussein. The negotiations were begun by the aforementioned Lord Kitchener, who since his role as engineer in Palestine had been British high commissioner in Egypt and who was now the British war secretary. Kitchener promised personal security to Hussein and support for the Arabs in their struggle for independence.
Hussein was most receptive and the detailed negotiations were left to him and Sir Henry McMahon, Kitchener's successor in Egypt, to complete. Hussein was joined in tile consultations by his two sons, Abdullah and Feisal, and tile three entered into an agreement on January 1, 1916, to join the allied side on conditions outlined by McMahon as follows:
Subject to the above modifications [he had reference to parts of Syria in which France was vitally interested Great Britain is prepared to recognize and support the independence of the Arabs in all the regions within the limits demanded by the Sharif of Mecca. Great Britain will guarantee the holy places against all external aggression and will recognize their inviolability. When the situation admits, Great Britain will give to the Arabs her advice and will assist them to establish what mat appear to be the most suitable forms of government in those various territories....
With these guarantees, the Arabs revolted against Turkey and, under Feisal's leadership, fought side by side with the troops of British General Allenby until the strategic center of Damascus fell. In this struggle the Arabs rendered invaluable service to the allied cause, and when victory came they were certain that they had won their independence.
Agreements with the French
However, the British had been negotiating not only with the Arabs. Indeed. even while the discussions with Hussein were in progress the British foreign minister was also contacting the French ambassador in London to discuss the interests of then respective governments in Ottoman Asia. The details of the Anglo-French negotiations were entrusted to the two men after whom the ensuing Sykes-Picot agreement was named.
The provisional formula for the division of the Arab provinces between Britain and France was shared with the other ally, Russia, who agreed to the division on condition that she, in turn, receive certain other areas controlled by Turkey. The final agreement reached on October 23, 1916 recognized that independent Arab states or a confederation of states was to be established, but it also specified that in given areas France or Britain should have "priority rights of enterprise" and supply the-advisors or functionaries deemed necessary for this enterprise. Generally, this meant that the Syrian-Lebanon area would fall to France and the Palestine-Jordan-Iraq area to Great Britain.
To the dismay of the allies and even more of the Arabs, the Turkish government obtained the text of tile Sykes-Picot agreement and drew it to the attention of the Arabs, who were furious about the plan to divide and control their territories. To pacify the Arabs, the British government assured Hussein that there were no designs on the Arab country and that the liberation of the Arab peoples remained a firm pledge. The Arabs were not easily pacified, however, and seven leading Arabs meeting in Cairo demanded an explanation. Again, the British gave assurances of complete independence and that no regime would be set up anywhere that would not be acceptable to the native peoples.
British Promises to the Jews
The assurances left many doubts in the minds of Arabs, not least of all because yet another negotiation with yet another party had been in progress. The British were seeking help in winning the war not only from the Arabs and all possible allies, but also from the Jews and, through the latter, also from the Americans. In 1917 the British themselves announced a policy regarding Palestine and the Jews, which policy became known as the Balfour Declaration.
The Jews had been very much alert to possible changes in the status of Palestine resulting from the war, and so they had petitioned the emerging victor for their share in the territorial pie to be divided. The Zionist movement, now led by the British chemist, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, presented its case anew; and, since Britain wanted international Jewry to support its cause and, more importantly, to get the United States to join the war on the British side, Britain was open.
Assisting Dr. Weizmann in the Zionist petition to the British were Baroft Lionel Walter Rothschild, president of the English Zionist Federation, and the Honorable Louis D. Brandeis, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and the leader of the American Zionist Movement. Brandeis was entirely clear on what he wanted for the Jews. In an address delivered in New York two years before the Balfour Declaration was issued, Brandeis stated that the aims of Zionism were as follows:
Zionism seeks to establish in Palestine for such Jews as choose to go and remain there, and for their descendants, a legally secured home, where they may live together and lead a Jewish life, where they may expect ultimately to constitute a majority of the population, and may look forward to what we should call home rule. The Zionists seek to establish this home in Palestine because they are convinced that the undying longing of Jews for Palestine is a fact of deepest significance; that it is a manifestation in the struggle for existence by an ancient people which has established its right to live, a people whose three thousand years of civilization has produced a faith, culture, and individuality which enable it to contribute largely in the future, is not a right merely but a duty of the Jewish Nationality to survive and develop. They believe that only in Palestine can Jewish life be fully protected from the forces of disintegration; that there alone can the Jewish spirit reach its full and natural development; and that by securing for those Jews who wish to settle there the opportunity to do so, and that the long perplexing Jewish problem will, at last, find solution.
Brandeis apparently succeeded in persuading President Wilson that a pledge of support to the Zionist organizations wouldbe a good thing not only for them but for him. The words of the Balfour Declaration were checked out with Wilson byBrandeis, and the Declaration apparently became Britain's part of the deal that brought America into the war. WinstonChurchill, more than twenty years later, stated that "in consequence of and on the basis of this pledge ... we receivedimportant help in the war, and after the war we received from the allied and associated powers the Mandate for Palestine."'
Thus, with American (and apparently also French) help and considerable domestic pressure, the British foreign secretary, Arthur James Balfour, issued the famous "British Declaration of Sympathy of Zionist Aspirations" of which the first draft had been drawn up by the Zionist leaders Weizmann, Rothschild, and Brandeis.
Brandeis' contribution to the agreement was no secret, and on the centennial of his birth in 1956 he was hailed as one of Israel's founding fathers. The Zionist Organizations of America recognized that: "Brandeis played a major part in assuring the approval of the United States Government for the issuance of the Balfour Declaration." It was also Brandeis who gave to American Zionists their slogan "To be good Americans we must be better Jews ... and to be better Jews, we must become Zionists The November 2, 1919 Balfour Declaration was addressed as a letter to Baron Rothschild with the request that it be communicated to Zionist organizations throughout tile world. The text of the letter reads:
I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of his Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet: - His Majesty's Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.
The Arabs were entirely dismayed when the Balfour Declaration, not meant to be a secret document, became public knowledge and when postwar immigration policies were announced. But the British continued to reassure the Arabs, who took new courage also from the famous Fourteen Points Speech of President Wilson. On July 4, 1918, the American leader declared that post-war settlements would be based on free acceptance of those settlements by the people immediately concerned. The Arabs believed that this meant them, but they were soon to learn that they as a people would not be much consulted.
The Eager Zionist Lobby
Following the issuance of the Balfour Declaration, the Zionist Organization lost no time in establishing its new position and gaining further ground. It influenced the substance of the "Tentative American Proposals at Paris," presented its own memorandum regarding the "historic title of the Jewish people to Palestine," and subsequently addressed itself also to the San Remo conference of victorious World War I powers in 1920 and the newly founded League of Nations. Zionist leaders were instrumental in drafting the proposals and plans that led to the establishment of the British Mandatory Government for Palestine.
The Mandate for Palestine, which was finally approved by the Council of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922, and which officially came into force on September 29, 1923, established effective British control over Palestine. The Mandate referred in specific terms to the Balfour Declaration and gave the Mandatory the responsibility of "placing the country under such political, administrative conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home."
The Mandate also specified that "the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine irrespective of race and religion" should be safeguarded. Arabs already knew, as the British were to learn from bitter experience, that these two parts of the Mandate were incompatible, not least of all because the Arabs were the dominant group and the British were at this stage more inclined to satisfy the aspirations of the Jews.
The Mandate provided for the establishment of an appropriate Jewish agency that would advise and cooperate with the administration of Palestine in matters related to the establishment of the national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine. Actually, all of this had already happened before the Mandate had spoken. The British administration, cooperating closely with the Jewish National Agency, had already in 1919 provided for a quota of 16,000 Jewish immigrants for the year 1920.
The Arabs, quite understandably, were furious. Before their very eyes they saw eroding the self-determination for which they had hoped so long; which they had been promised, and for which they thought they had fought. Their claims to the land were, so it seemed, being minimized, but the British and Zionists were soon to learn that the Arabs could not be ignored forever.