FACTS ABOUT JERUSALEM
For over 3,000 years, Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel. Jerusalem has never been the capital of any Arab or Moslem entity. Even when the Jordanians occupied Jerusalem (1948 to 1967) they never bothered to make it their capital and Arab leaders did not make a point of coming to visit it.
Jerusalem is mentioned over 700 times in what we refer to as the Old Testament and the Jews call the Tanakh.. Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran. You can check that on the internet. Find the Koran in English and tap in “Jerusalem”. Or try this site: www.islam-mauritius.org/koran/quran.htm There is nothing.
King David founded the city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in about 1,000 BC. Mohammed never came to Jerusalem. (There is one tradition that he traveled to Jerusalem in a dream, though the name “Jerusalem” is not mentioned)
017.001 (SHAKIR): Glory be to Him Who made His servant to go on a night from the Sacred Mosque to the remote mosque (Al Aqsa- built long after Mohammed died) of which We have blessed the precincts, so that We may show to him some of Our signs; surely He is the Hearing, the Seeing.
Some moslems are now saying that even this dream referred only to mohammed's flight from mecca to medina and had nothing to do with jerusalem.
"....In conclusion, the Night Journey (Isra') was not to Palestine; rather, it was to Medina. It began at the Al-Haram Mosque [in Mecca] after the Prophet had prayed there with his companion,(According to the generally accepted Islamic tradition, this companion was Abu Bakr.) and both of them had left it, and the journey ended at the mosque of As'ad ibn Zurara, in front of the house of Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari, in Medina, where the Prophet built the mosque known as the Mosque of the Prophet. The details of the journey of the Hijra are the very same details of the Night Journey (Isra'), because the Night Journey is indeed the secret Hijra." Ahmad Muhammad 'Arafa, Al-Qahira (Egypt), August 5, 2003.
Jews pray facing Jerusalem. Moslems pray towards Mecca, with their backs to Jerusalem.
"What has turned [Moslems] from the holy kibla [Jerusalem] they always used?...We [Allah] set the kibla that you originally faced only so We might distinguish between those who follow the Apostle [Mohammed] and those who turn on their heels...but We will turn you toward a kibla that will please you, and you shall turn your face toward the sacred Mosque [the Kaaba in Mecca], and wherever you are that is the direction you shall face.... Even if you should bring every kind of sign to those [the Jews] who have received the Book [the Tanach], still they will not adopt your kibla, nor are you to adopt theirs... Those to whom We gave the Book know him [Mohammed]...but one sector of them conceal the truth despite the fact that they know it." (Sura 2, verses 136-141)
Haddith, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 39:
Narrated Al-Bara' (bin 'Azib): When the Prophet came to Medina, he stayed first with his grandfathers or maternal uncles from Ansar. He offered his prayers facing Baitul-Maqdis (Jerusalem) for sixteen or seventeen months, but he wished that he could pray facing the Ka'ba (at Mecca). The first prayer which he offered facing the Ka'ba was the 'Asr prayer in the company of some people. Then one of those who had offered that prayer with him came out and passed by some people in a mosque who were bowing during their prayers (facing Jerusalem). He said addressing them, "By Allah, I testify that I have prayed with Allah's Apostle facing Mecca (Ka'ba).' Hearing that, those people changed their direction towards the Ka'ba immediately. Jews and the people of the scriptures used to be pleased to see the Prophet facing Jerusalem in prayers but when he changed his direction towards the Ka'ba, during the prayers, they disapproved of it.
Al-Bara' added, "Before we changed our direction towards the Ka'ba (Mecca) in prayers, some Muslims had died or had been killed and we did not know what to say about them (regarding their prayers.) Allah then revealed: And Allah would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost (i.e. the prayers of those Muslims were valid).' " (2:143).
Hadith, Volume 1, Book 8, Number 392:
Narrated Bara' bin 'Azib: Allah's Apostle prayed facing Baitul-Maqdis for sixteen or seventeen months but he loved to face the Ka'ba (at Mecca) so Allah revealed: "Verily, We have seen the turning of your face to the heaven!" (2:144) So the Prophet faced the Ka'ba and the fools amongst the people namely "the Jews" said, "What has turned them from their Qibla (Bait-ul-Maqdis) which they formerly observed"" (Allah revealed): "Say: 'To Allah belongs the East and the West. He guides whom he will to a straight path'." (2:142) A man prayed with the Prophet (facing the Ka'ba) and went out. He saw some of the Ansar praying the 'Asr prayer with their faces towards Bait-ul-Maqdis, he said, "I bear witness that I prayed with Allah's Apostle facing the Ka'ba." So all the people turned their faces towards the Ka'ba.
"Mecca is holy to Moslems, and Jerusalem to the Jews." The 13th-century Arab biographer and geographer Yakut
"Arabs governed Arabs, through Arabs on an imperial scale for much less than a century. It is just the Umayyad Caliphate -- the Damascus period and no more". Historian David George Hogarth
MYTHS AND FACTS
....I know what you're going to say: “Farah, the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem represent Islam's third most holy sites.”
Not true. In fact, the Koran says nothing about Jerusalem. It mentions Mecca hundreds of times. It mentions Medina countless times. It never mentions Jerusalem. With good reason. There is no historical evidence to suggest Mohammed ever visited Jerusalem.
So how did Jerusalem become the third holiest site of Islam? Muslims today cite a vague passage in the Koran, the seventeenth Sura, entitled "The Night Journey." It relates that in a dream or a vision Mohammed was carried by night "from the sacred temple to the temple that is most remote, whose precinct we have blessed, that we might show him our signs. ..." In the seventh century, some Muslims identified the two temples mentioned in this verse as being in Mecca and Jerusalem. And that's as close as Islam's connection with Jerusalem gets -- myth, fantasy, wishful thinking. Meanwhile, Jews can trace their roots in Jerusalem back to the days of Abraham.
2. ..,it rates not a single mention in the Koran, Not as Jerusalem but as Al Quds, the Moslem name it does. This claim is more than Islamic Clerics have responded to this challenge, in a letter to the Jerusalem Post. They claim 'references' in the Koran, probably similar to the chumash which refers to 'the place which I shall show you', only the Tanach references Jerusalem 700 times.
The second difficulty is that Islamic tradition tells us that al-Aqsa mosque is near Mecca on the Arabian peninsula. This was unequivocally stated in 'Kitab al-Maghazi' (Oxford UP, 1966, vol. 3, pp. 958-9), a book by the Moslem historian and geographer al-Waqidi. This description by al-Waqidi which is supported by a chain of authorities (isnad), was not 'convenient' for the Islamic propaganda of the 7th century. In order to establish a basis for the awareness of the 'holiness' of Jerusalem in Islam, the Califs of the Ummayad dynasty invented many 'traditions' upholding the value of Jerusalem (known as 'fadha'il bayt al-Maqdis'), Thus was al-Masjid al-Aqsa 'transported' to Jerusalem. It should be noted that Saladin also adopted the myth of al-Aqsa and those 'traditions' in order to recruit and inflame the Moslem warriors against the Crusaders in the 12th century.
The author of the referred writing finds difficulty in acknowledging the position of Jerusalem and the Bayet al-Maqdas in Islam because of the general tendency of studying Islam in seclusion of the traditions of the prophets of God preceding Muhammad (pbuh). Islam is not a new religion. It has never claimed to be so. The Qur’an has clearly stated that Islam was the religion taught by all the prophets of God. The Islamic tradition, thus, is a continuation of the correct traditions of Judaism.
If the author would look at Islam, in the light of the foregoing principle, he/she would not find any problem in acknowledging that the position of Jerusalem in Islam is the same as it is in Judaism, merely on the grounds that Islam is actually in continuation of the true traditions of the prophets of God – including Moses, David, Solomon, John and Jesus (pbut) – even though the name of Jerusalem is not even mentioned once in the Qur’an.
In the year 614, the Persians conquered Jerusalem. There are two historical issues connected with this event that have yet to be resolved in a satisfactory manner:
1.The extent of the destruction inflicted on Jerusalem during and after the fighting;
2.The status and activities of the Jews during and after the conquest.
From the various sources which chronicle the Persian invasion - these are mainly Christian and are thus biased - it would seem that the Jews collaborated with the Persians in several of the Byzantine areas that were overrun by the Persian forces, including Jerusalem. According to the sources, Jerusalem sustained a considerable amount of damage and many of its inhabitants were either taken prisoner or massacred, with the active help of the Jews. In fact, one Christian-Arab source maintains that masses of Jews came to Jerusalem from Tiberias, from the Galilee mountains and from Nazareth for this purpose.
It should be borne in mind that, ever since the suppression of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135, Jews were forbidden to enter Jerusalem, although a large Jewish population could still be found in the cities and villages of Palestine. With the exception of a brief episode during the reign of emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363), the gates of Jerusalem were closed to the Jews for about five hundred years and opened only during the period of Persian rule (614-628). Nonetheless, it can be assumed that the city was not absolutely closed to them and that at times Jews were allowed to pay a brief visit to the ruins of the Temple, upon payment of a fee, of course.
In his commentary on Zephaniah 1:15 ("That day shall be a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of calamity and desolation, a day of darkness and deep gloom, a day of densest clouds") and subsequent verses, Jerome, who lived during the fourth century, informs us:
Until this very day, those hypocritical tenants (coloni) are forbidden to come to Jerusalem, because of the murder of the prophets (servorum) and the last of them: the Son of God, unless [they come] to weep, for then they are given permission to lament over the ruins of the city in exchange for a payment. Just as they purchased the blood of the Messiah, now they are purchasing their own tears; therefore, even the lamentation is not given them for naught. On the day that Jerusalem was taken and destroyed by the Romans, one could see this people, the women dressed in rags and the old bearing their tatters and their years, gather for a time of mourning, proving by their bodies and their dress the meaning of the wrath of the Lord. Then a rabble of the wretched gathers, and while the wood of the crucifix of the Lord shines and glows and celebrates His resurrection, and the symbol of the Cross is topmost on the Mount of Olives, the children of this wretched nation are bemoaning the destruction of their temple, but are not worthy of compassion.
The relatively brief period of Persian rule apparently ended with grave effects upon the Jews of Palestine. Although the emperor Heraclius restrained the bloodletting when the Byzantines recaptured the city in 628, he is considered to be responsible for severe decrees against the Jews throughout his empire. Apparently, there was a massacre of those Jews who had managed to settle in Jerusalem, as we can judge from one of the seven official fasts of the Coptic church that lasts an entire week (in the period prior to Easter) and is meant to seek divine forgiveness for Heraclius' sin in permitting the slaughter of the Jews of Jerusalem in 628.
When the Persians captured Jerusalem, Muhammad, the prophet who founded Islam, was engaged in a bitter, seemingly hopeless struggle against the established leadership of the city of Mecca and against the members of Quraysh, his own tribe. Eight years later, in 622, he was forced to flee to Medina, where he immediately began to organize the first Muslim community, which was made up of members of various tribes, including those belonging to the tribe of Quraysh (who had accompanied him from Mecca) and residents of Medina.
After consolidating his position, he banished the Jewish farmers and artisans from the city and its environs, killing part of them. Apparently, he learned at the time of the fateful Byzantine victory over the Persians.
This was in 628, the sixth year of the Muslim era, four years before his death, and he commemorated the event (in what may be considered a vaticinium ex eventu) in the Chapter on 'The Greeks' which is the thirtieth chapter of the Qur'an, the first verse of which reads:
"The Greeks have been vanquished in the nearer part of the land; and, after their vanquishing, they shall be the victors in a few years."
Muhammad was undoubtedly aware of the events taking place along the northern border of the Arabian peninsula and was certainly concerned with the fate of Jerusalem. Modern scholars continue to debate the question:
Which religion had the most impact on the birth of Islam and who were the teachers who influenced Muhammad's views - the Jews, or some Christian sect, perhaps a gnostic sect theologically linked to the Manichaeans?
No matter what the answer is (if, in fact, an answer will ever be found), it cannot be disputed that Muhammad was very conscious of Jerusalem's holy status. During his residence in Mecca, he and his disciples would face Jerusalem when praying. It has, however, been argued that, even while facing Jerusalem, Muhammad took care to situate himself to the south of the ka'ba in order to 'unite the two qiblas', that is, in order to ensure that the eyes of the worshipper would be pointed in one direction - towards both the ka'ba in Mecca and the Temple in Jerusalem (see a similar motif below, with regard to the Dome of the Rock). Even after going to Medina, Muhammad continued to face Jerusalem while praying. Only sixteen months later was he instructed by God to turn the qibla around and to no longer face north, but rather southwards towards Mecca.
The source of that tradition which affords much significance to Jerusalem in later Muslim tradition (which may have originated with the Umayyad period or even later) is in Chapter 17 ('al-lsra') of the Qur'an. In the first verse, a description is given of Muhammad's nocturnal journey:
"Glory be to Him, who carried His servant by night from the Holy Mosque [the ka'ba mosque in Mecca] to the Further Mosque the precincts of which We have blessed, that We might show him some of Our signs. He is the All-hearing, the All-seeing."
This has been expanded and commented upon in many Muslim traditions. Thus, it is said to have been dictated by God to Muhammad in relation to an event that occurred near the time of his flight from Mecca to Medina, when he was 'carried away' by God from the Holy Mosque, the ka'ba in Mecca. It was the angel Gabriel who led Muhammad, who rode astride al-Buraq, the winged beast.
It would seem that the term 'the Further Mosque' (al-masdid al-aqsa) is a reference to a mosque in the vicinity of Medina.
Later Muslim tradition placed this mosque in distant locations such as Kufa, the Muslim city on the shores of the Euphrates.
Ultimately, the majority agreed that Muhammad had been carried to Jerusalem, to the Temple Mount, by way of the Sinai desert and Bethlehem (or Hebron). Accordingly, Gabriel had Muhammad dismount from al-Burg beside the Gate of the Mosque (that is, beside the Temple Mounts, tying the animal to a large iron hoop, as had traditionally been done by all the prophets. In the company of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and all the other prophets, Muhammad immersed himself in prayer.
It is interesting to note that Palestine is described in the Qur'an (30:1) as "the nearer part of the land" (adna 'I-ard), whereas the term al-Aqsa (mosque) indicates "the further."
Muslim tradition also connected the nocturnal journey to another event, which is not even mentioned in the Qur'an but which Muslims believe to have taken place that night: Muhammad's ascent (mi'raj) to Heaven. (The motif of heavenward ascent can be found in the Bible, with regard to Enoch [Genesis 5:24] and Elijah [2 Kings 2:11], and is also a central element in Christian doctrine relating to Jesus.)
It seems unlikely that the sacred status of Jerusalem was one of the motivating factors which led Muhammad to mount military campaigns against the Byzantine frontier not long before his death. Perhaps he was seeking to obtain for his faithful the "palaces and treasures of the qaysar" (i.e., the Byzantine emperor), as he promised on one occasion. In any event, though Muhammad and the members of the early Muslim community were aware of Jerusalem's sacred status, it is highly doubtful that they intended to include it at all within the theological system then taking shape.
The northward invasions carried out under Muhammad were primarily aimed at the takhum (that is the term used in Arabic sources) of balqa' and darum (Moab and the Arabah area). As explained in one of the Arabic sources, the term takhum was probably borrowed from the Hebrew and refers to the area in which the Beduin tribes on the frontiers of Palestine lived. Because these tribes were allied with the Byzantines, Muhammad quickly ordered a retreat, fearing a major military confrontation with the Byzantine forces.
When the first caliph, Abu Bakr, declared a holy war early in 634, the period of Beduin-Muslim occupation of Palestine began.
The Muslim forces advanced along three axes-
The first, under the command of 'Amr b. al-'As, proceeded in the direction of the Mediterranean coastline, towards Gaza.
The second column was originally commanded by Khalid b. Sa'rd who was subsequently replaced by Yazid b. Abu Sufyan (the brother of Mu'awiya, who became the first Umayyad caliph),
… and the third, commanded by Shurahbil b. Hasana, advanced in the direction of eastern Palestine, towards the Jordan River.
The weakened state of the Byzantine empire and the fact that it was unable to meet its regular payments to the Beduin tribes in southern Palestine, caused them to soon ally themselves with the Muslim invaders.
After initial successes in the Gaza district and in the central part of the country, apparently in the Jericho region, the regrouped Byzantine army stopped the Muslim advance. A member of a noble Mecca family and a former opponent of Muhammad, Khalid b. Walid, who then commanded the Beduin tribes fighting in Iraq, was urgently ordered to support the Muslim forces in Palestine. After an unprecedented crossing of the desert, Khalid attacked the rear flanks of the Byzantine forces, capturing most of Syria, advancing southward and joining up with 'Amr's warriors.
The battle of July 634 was the first major Muslim victory over Byzantium. Upon Abu Bakr's death, 'Umar b. al-Khattab became caliph. Due to inter-tribal considerations, 'Umar dismissed Khalid, appointing in his stead Abu 'Ubayda b. Jarrah, under whose command most of the remaining portions of Palestine were captured by the end of the year. This is evident from a sermon delivered by the Jerusalem patriarch, Sophronius, on Christmas Day (25 December 634). In his sermon, Sophronius bemoaned the fact that the "Saracens" were looting the cities, laying the fields to waste, burning the villages and devastating the holy monasteries.
Only after another major battle with the forces of the Byzantine empire did the Muslim tribes consolidate their control of both Palestine and Syria. This occurred about a year and a half later; the battle by the Yarmuk river was fought in August 636, ending in the total defeat of the Byzantine forces. Awaiting the news of the battle's outcome in Antioch, Emperor Heraclius, who twenty two years earlier had been handed a devastating defeat at the hands of the Persians, was now faced with a much more disastrous situation. In total despair, Heraclius sailed off to Constantinople and is said to have uttered the following, according to Muslim tradition: "Peace be with you, O Syria [the Muslim source adds that he was referring to Sham, the name given to Syria-Palestine], my beautiful land! You now belong to the enemy!"
THE CONQUEST OF JERUSALEM
Another religion and another language now joined those which professed the sanctity of Jerusalem; thus, the Muslim conquest of the city must be regarded as a highly significant historical event. This is what makes the period of 462 years, from the Muslim conquest until that by the Crusaders, so unique. Jerusalem ceased to be seen as a city destined to remain eternally Christian: "From the moment that a Muslim mosque was erected in Jerusalem opposite - and in open competition with - the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, it became evident that both rivals considered themselves to be branches of the very same tree whose roots, its was now difficult to deny, were firmly rooted here."
The historiographical sources are inconsistent with regard to the precise date on which Jerusalem fell to the Muslim forces.
The greatest of Arab chroniclers, Tabari, provides us with two dates: in one instance he speaks of the year A.H. 15 (636 C.E.), while in another he refers to A.H. 16 (637 C.E.).
It would appear that the date assigned by another distinguished chronicler, Baladhuri (who lived during the latter half of the ninth century, one generation before Tabari, is to be preferred, especially as it is confirmed by other sources, as we shall see. According to Baladhuri, the siege of Jerusalem, led by 'Amr b. al-'As began immediately after the victory on the Yarmuk, that is, in the early months of A.H. 15 (in the late summer of 636).
The following year, Abu 'Ubayda b. Jarrah. arrived with additional troops and joined the besiegers. In the year 17, after two years of siege, the city surrendered. Although we have no details on the siege itself, it seems likely that, at the time, all the cities, villages and highways in Palestine - with the exception of Jerusalem, Caesarea and Ascalon - were in Muslim hands.
The Byzantine chronicler Theophanes, who concurs that the siege lasted two years, provides support for 638 as the date of Jerusalem's capture. This is further supported by the report that Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, died soon after the conquest in grief over the city's fate. We know that he died in March of the year 638 (after having served four years); thus we can safely assume that the conquest took place in 638, probably sometime during the first months of that year.
According to traditional Muslim accounts, Abu 'Ubayda requested that Caliph 'Umar come to receive the city's submission in person. In making the request, Abu 'Ubayda noted how long the city had held out under siege, and that its inhabitants were prepared to surrender only to 'Umar himself. 'Umar first advanced to Jabiya in the Hawran district, where the main headquarters of the Muslim forces operating in Syria and Palestine were stationed.
According to one of the Muslim sources, he at first despatched one of the commanders from Jabiya to Jerusalem with orders to take the city by storm. Following a number of battles, the inhabitants indicated their readiness to surrender and, only then, did 'Umar order the Muslim troops to cease fighting and await his arrival. 'Umar's visits to headquarters in Jabiya are corroborated by several sources. He came there at least four times, especially in order to restrain the greediness of some of his senior commanders, who would, as a matter of course, plunder and oppress the captured regions and who had adopted a luxurious lifestyle.
Riding a camel and wearing a simple camel's hair robe, 'Umar entered the city. The man who had deposed the Persian king, defeated the Byzantine army and who held tens of thousands of people throughout the civilized world of his day under his sway, stunned the inhabitants of Jerusalem with his modest ways.
Arabic traditional sources relate that the members of his entourage - who had, during their three years in Syria and Palestine, been exposed to the influence of a more highly-developed society and its norms - were embarrassed and angered by the manner in which their revered commander appeared before the populace of the captured city. They beseeched him to drape himself in more appropriate garb and to mount a horse.
He refused their first demand, condescending only in the second. He rode a horse, but would not let go of the camel's reins. Remounting the camel, 'Umar explained that to appear on horseback would be "to turn myself into another person altogether, ... I fear that I shall become too majestic in my own eyes, and the change would not be for the good." Theophanes provides us with a Christian version of the incident. Concurring with the Muslim sources that 'Umar was wearing old clothes woven out of camel hair when he entered the city, Theophanes explains the behavior in quite a different manner:
['Umar] donned the mask of hypocrisy. He wanted to see the Temple of the Jews that Solomon had built, so that he could turn that site into a place of worship for his infidels.
In the Byzantine chronicler's account, Sophronius, on seeing 'Umar, cried out, "Here is that appalling abomination, as prophesied by Daniel, standing on this holy site." Theophanes continues:
This paragon of piety shed tears over the fate of the Christian people. While 'Umar was in the city, the Patriarch offered him linen robes and shirts, but he refused. It was with the greatest of reluctance that 'Umar agreed to don them, but only while his own clothes were being laundered. Then he returned [the linen robes] to Sophronius and resumed his original dress.
A similar account is found in a Muslim source which places the encounter in the Red Sea port of Eilat. (The stories of 'Umar's modesty and of his urging his followers to adopt a similar way of life appear abundantly in the Muslim sources and through them have apparently been incorporated into Christian literature as well.)
THE AGREEMENT OF SURRENDER
A lengthy passage describing the capture of Jerusalem was copied down by Tabari from Sayf b. 'Umar, an author of an earlier period whose writings have not survived. In this passage, we are provided with the text of the agreement drawn up between 'Umar and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Like all other agreements between the Muslim commanders and the local populaces they had defeated, this one is in the form of a letter from 'Umar to the inhabitants. According to Tabari's report, the agreement (aman, which in that period meant a certificate of security or protection) was actually written in Jabiya. This is the text, according to Tabari:
In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate. This is the certificate of protection (amen) that the servant of God, 'Umar, commander of the faithful, is herewith providing to the people of Ilium [that is, Jerusalem; see the discussion below]. This certificate of protection is given to them with respect to their persons, their property, their churches, their crosses, to their ill and healthy, to all members of the Christian community.
No [warrior] shall take up lodging in their churches or destroy them.
There will be no confiscation of any of their possessions, including crosses, or of any of their property.
Nor will there be any forced conversions to Islam.
None of the inhabitants is to be harmed in any manner.
No Jewish person shall be allowed to dwell in Iliya' with them [the city's Christian inhabitants].
The people of Iliad shall have to pay the jizya [tax; in later generations, this term was used exclusively to refer to the poll tax], as is customarily imposed on the inhabitants of the cities.
The inhabitants of Iliya' must remove from this city the Romans [that is, the Byzantines] and the lusut [a term parallel to listim in mishnaic Hebrew, which is of Greek origin - lastes, robber; here the term apparently refers to members of the local militias].
Those [Byzantines and members of the militias] who depart from this city shall be guaranteed safe conduct for their persons and belongings until they reach a secure area [that is, Byzantine-controlled territory].
Those who decide to stay here will be guaranteed protection, although they will be obliged to pay the tax imposed on the people of Illiya'.
Should there be, among the people of Illiya', those who would prefer to leave this city, to leave their churches and crosses and to take their possessions with them, accompanying the departing Romans, such persons, together with their churches and crosses [apparently until the moment they leave the city] will be guaranteed safe passage until they reach a secure area.
Tabari also quotes similar guarantees, which were given to people in the vicinity who had found refuge in Jerusalem and which were conditional upon payment of the jizya. They were assured that they would not be asked to make any payments before harvest-time.
The main elements of the agreement are:
3.security of life and property of the inhabitants;
4.protection of the churches and a guarantee of freedom of worship;
5.prohibition of Jewish residence in Jerusalem;
6.obligatory payment of a tax.
7.freedom to choose between remaining in Jerusalem and departing from the city, such freedom being granted both to the inhabitants and to the Bvzantine soldiers and their auxiliaries with guarantee of security regardless of the choice made.
The text of the agreement was copied by later authors.
One of them notes that the original letter is still in the Possession of the Christians of Jerusalem (this may have been the case during the early Middle Ages).
In terms of content and language, this document is similar to other letters of protection that were granted by the conquerors to the various communities under their military control. Essentially, these letters contained guarantees of the inhabitants' life and property and the right to freedom of worship, in return for the obligatory payment of the tax which was both a sort of service fee for the security provided and a symbol of surrender and low status.
Some of the Muslim authors present only an abridged version of the letter of protection, having deleted certain matters which they deemed unimportant. Generally speaking, these authors limited themselves to noting the obligation to pay the tax, while a few emphasized the right to freedom of worship.
Some authors, including the well-known tenth- century Christian Sa'id b. Bitriq, make no mention of the ban on Jewish residence in the city.
Of the authors who preceded Tabari, Baladhuri offers us a highly concise version of the agreement, saying only that Abu 'Ubayda b. Jarrah., wishing to draw up a peace agreement (sulh) with the local residents, granted their requests on condition that they would pay a tribute tax, in accordance with what was customarily demanded of the inhabitants of all the cities of Palestine and Syria, and on condition that 'Umar would come and personally certify the agreement in writing.
Another early author, Ya'qubi, is even more concise, providing a version of the letter in which only the guarantee of protection is given for the inhabitants and their churches. He even includes one report, which, he notes, has been rejected by others, to the effect that the agreement was contracted with the Jews, not with the Christians. Apparently, however, there may be a hint in this report of 'Umar's consent to Jewish settlement in Jerusalem.
In contrast, later Syrian-Christian authors, such as Bar Hebraeus and Michael the Syrian, emphasize the prohibition of Jewish settlement (de-la shalit yudaye de-ne'mar be-urshalem).
JERUSALEM'S STATUS UNDER THE MUSLIMS
The Byzantine administrative division of Palestine was left untouched by the Muslim conquerors.
Palaestina Prima, which included the coastal region, Judaea and Samaria, was now called Jund Filastin. Since the term jund means army, we can assume that to each of the Muslim districts were assigned certain tribes, who constituted the occupation force of that district
Palaestina Secunda. which included the entire Galilee region and the Jordan Valley on both shores (the western section of Peraea), became Jund al-Urdunn.
Naturally, Jerusalem belonged to Jund Filastin.
It should be borne in mind that, during the period of Byzantine rule, Caesarea, not Jerusalem, was the provincial administrative capital. Denying any further administrative status to Caesarea, the Muslims transferred the center of provincial administration first to Lod and then to Ramla, which was founded by the Umayyad caliph Sulayman (715-717).
Like the other cities in the district - Gaza, Ascalon, Nabulus, Caesarea and Jaffa, Jerusalem was a district capital (kura in Arabic, perhaps borrowed from the Greek khora). Throughout the entire early Muslim period, Jerusalem was under the jurisdiction of Ramla, the provincial capital and the qadi of Jerusalem was responsible to the qadi of Ramla, so that in the hierarchy of Muslim religious jurisdiction Jerusalem's court was subordinate to that of Ramla.
Jerusalem was showered with many names by the Arabs. In the earliest Muslim sources, the city is called Illiya', doubtless because of the Byzantine Aelia Capitolina.
Writing in the mid-tenth century, Mas'udi is aware of the fact that the first ruler to call Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina was the emperor Antoninus, to commemorate Hadrian, and adds that this name is still used in his time (the date of this source is A.H. 345, or 956 C.E.).
However, other Muslim authors generally gave a different interpretation to the name, saying, for example, that it is derived from Elijah or that its meaning is 'House of God'.
Another name that was commonly used during the early period was Bayt al-Maqdis, that is, the Temple, a term that was applied to the Temple Mount, to the city as a whole, and - frequently - to all of Palestine. An exactly similar pattern of usage could be observed among the Jews who at times applied the term 'Temple' (Beit ha-Mikdash) to the entire country.
Somewhat later, we encounter the name al-Quds, which, like Bayt al-Maqdis, is borrowed from the Hebrew ha-Qodesh (the sanctuary). al-Quds is the name most commonly used in the eleventh century, and, as we can see from contemporary geniza documents, was the most common term used also among the Jews. Muslim tradition also recognizes the term Zion, which, in the Arab sources, becomes Sahyun or Sihyun.
JERUSALEM DURING THE FIRST TWO CENTURIES OF MUSLIM RULE
With the exception of reports on Jewish and Muslim settlement in the city, we know very little about Jerusalem in the years immediately following its capture. In June 658, the city sustained a major earthquake, as we can learn from a passage found in a Syriac chronicle and from Theophanes.
That same year, Mu'awiya, military commander of Syria-Palestine, and 'Amr b. al-'As., governor of Egypt, met in Jerusalem, forming an alliance against 'Ali b. Abi Talib, the fourth caliph. The outcome of the conflict was the victory of Mu'awiya and the establishment of the Ummayad caliphate, centered in Damascus. It was in Jerusalem as well that an assassination attempt was made on his life in a mosque (apparently, the Mosque of Umar, in the southern portion of the Temple Mount area) by three tribesmen from Iraq.
We also lack information on Jerusalem and the events that took place there at the time of the civil war within the Muslim realm, when, under the leadership of two brothers, Abdallah and Mus'ab, sons of Zubayr (a cousin, through his mother, of Muhammad), some of the tribes rebelled against Umayyad rule. The majority of the tribe of Judham, who were the largest tribe at the time in Palestine, supported the rebels. Even after the rebellion had been suppressed, the tribes seemed to be dissatisfied with the Umayyad caliph, 'Abd al-Malik. In 698, a propagandist by the name of Harith b. Sa'id (a false prophet, according to the Muslim source) called for an overthrow of Umayyad rule, enlisting widespread support. By order of the caliph, Harith was arrested and later crucified.
After putting down the rebellion and consolidating his rule, 'Abd al-Malik. who built the Dome of the Rock, improved the network of roads linking Jerusalem with other parts of the country. Some of the milestones he had installed to replace the Roman ones on the roads leading to Jerusalem (an early Arab mile = approximately 2.3 km.) have survived to this very day.
The Umayyad period - particularly 'Abd al-Malik's reign - can be regarded as an era of massive construction in Jerusalem. However, in the last years of the dynasty's rule, the city probably underwent considerable distress in the face of endless inter-tribal warfare. According to one testimony preserved by Theophanes, the caliph Marwan II destroyed the City s walls - apparently in the year 745 - during the fighting against the rebels.
According to traditional Muslim accounts of the capture of Jerusalem' 'Umar constructed the mosque on the Temple Mount (this act is connected with the renewal of Jewish settlement in Jerusalem), refusing to accept the advice of a Jew (a convert to Islam?), Ka'b al-Ahbar, who proposed that the mosque be established to the north of the Rock (that is, the even shetiyya, the rock upon which the world is founded). In Ka'b's view, such an arrangement would enable worshippers to face Mecca in the south and to simultaneously face the rock; thus, Moses' qibla (direction of prayer) would be united with that of Muhammad. Sensing that this would be an imitation of Jewish religious practice, 'Umar rejected the idea.
This anecdote provides clearcut evidence of the fact that, in the initial phase of their rule, the Muslims did not assign any sacred status to the Temple Mount and, indeed, regarded the assigning of such status as being contrary to the principles of Islam.
Arculf, a Gallic bishop who visited the Holy Land around the year 697 - that is, some sixty years after the Muslim capture of Jerusalem (according to some authorities, the visit took place in 670, or about thirty years after the Muslim capture) - provides us with a description of the Mosque of 'Umar: a primitive, poorly built square-shaped wooden structure erected atop the remnants of previous buildings. This was, then, a simple structure of poor quality
This description, which stresses the simple and modest nature of the mosque, is similar to those which describe the first mosque, which was erected by Muhammad in Medina soon after his arrival there. This modest form is an integral part of early Muslim belief. Some Muslim traditions have been preserved which ascribe to Muhammad the observation that the mosque must be modest, like the Tabernacle of Moses' days, because the Day of Final Judgment is fast approaching and there is no need for extravagantly-built structures, which would have to be demolished anyway.
Later, under the rule of the caliph Abd al-Malik (685-705), the Dome of the Rock was erected on the Temple Mount. Begun in the year 688, construction was completed some three years later. In the opinion of many scholars (based on early Muslim sources), Abd al-Malik's motive in building this elaborate edifice was to diminish the importance of Mecca and to create a religious center that would be geographically closer to Damascus, capital of the Umayyad dynasty.
Abd al-Malik's motive had an additional reason: during his reign, Mecca was temporarily controlled by the Zubayrid rebels, as noted above. However, there were other, far weightier, reasons which refute such theories and which indicate that the idea of undermining Mecca's status was not being contemplated at all. Goitein believes that the Dome of the Rock was built to rival the splendor of the churches in Jerusalem. The Dome's structure has fascinated architecture historians, who have offered different views as to what artistic influences were at work upon its planners and builders.
['Abd al-Malik aimed to make Jerusalem a site for Muslim pilgrimage. Milestones bearing the name of 'Abd al-Malik and indicating road repairs carried out for the benefit of the pilgrims are found in a number of museums. He was also responsible for the building of the al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount. Here are two photos of the interior of that mosque, taken before extensive repairs were made in the 1940's: 1 and 2 .]
The internal instability of the caliphate increased in the 740s, as rebellions and riots spread throughout the Muslim empire, from Iraq to the Maghrib. Khurasan, in the northeastern corner of the empire, became the center of the unrest. It was there that a rebel leader of Persian origin, Abu Muslim, arose, who ultimately achieved coordination and cooperation among the various opposition groups. Advancing westward, the rebel army reached the Euphrates in September 749 and captured the city of Kufa. In the summer of 750, the Umayyad dynasty had been toppled and a new dynasty begun: that of the 'Abbasids.
The last act in the tragic history of the Damascus caliphate was set not far from Jerusalem - in Abu Futrus, or Antipatris (where present-day Rosh ha-'Ayin is located). In an act that was something between a battle or a summary execution, more than eighty members of the Umayyad dynasty met their deaths. It would seem that the 'Abbasid alliance against the Umayyads regarded the capture of Jerusalem as the ultimate prize. We find a possible allusion to this ambition in a hadith attributed to Muhammad himself: "Black banners [black was the 'Abbasid color] will advance out of Khurasan, and nothing will stop them until they are raised in Illiya'."
In fact, however, once the new regime was installed, Palestine in general and Jerusalem in particular received little attention because the 'Abbasid capital city, Baghdad, was so far away. A number of the 'Abbasid caliphs are reported to have visited Jerusalem on their way to or from Mecca. In the summer of 758, the caliph Mansur visited the Holy City. On that occasion he summoned Abd 'I-'Awn Abd al-Malik b. Yazid, governor of Egypt, to Jerusalem and dismissed him from the governorship.
During his stay in Jerusalem, according to Theophanes, Mansur ordered that the crosses on the churches be destroyed and forbade nocturnal prayer services. In addition, it would appear that under 'Abbasid rule the tribute tax paid by the Christians in Jerusalem was increased and that it was levied on the monks, who had previously been exempt.
Mansur paid a second visit in 771.
The caliph Mahdi visited Jerusalem in 780 while his son Harun (who subsequently became the caliph Harun al-Rash'd) was waging war against Byzantium.
When the fighting was over, Harun also came to Jerusalem.
In western Christian sources dating from Harun al-Rashid's reign (786-809), we have some information on Jerusalem within the descriptions of Charlemagne's relations with the caliph of Baghdad. Apparently, these ties began in 797, when a three-member delegation sent by Charlemagne to Harun, including a Jew by the name of Isaac, also visited Jerusalem. Only Isaac survived, returning to Europe after five years.
It would seem that Charlemagne wanted to obtain special status for the Latin clergy in Jerusalem. He sent a special delegation to Jerusalem which returned in 800, the year of his crowning as emperor, and brought gifts from the Patriarch of Jerusalem: a key to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and a banner of the city. Charlemagne's construction activities in Jerusalem were prodigious, including monasteries, a hostel, a library and a marketplace. Paying a sum of 580 dinars to the Saracens, he purchased plots of land in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, the revenue from which was intended to finance the activities of the institutions he established.
Between the years 807 and 815, Palestine experienced numerous disturbances in the wake of the revolt of the desert tribes, led by Abu 'I-Nida' and one 'Umar, against the 'Abbasid regime. The churches in Jerusalem and the monasteries in the surrounding areas were attacked and looted. Then nature in its turn wreaked havoc - severe drought and famine and a heavy invasion of locust. Forced to flee their homes, many Jerusalemites sought refuge in Egypt.
In a record dating from the year 826, we learn that "the church" (apparently, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher) was rebuilt by Christians returning to Jerusalem from Egypt.
Although there is no clearcut evidence as to whether the caliph Ma'mun (813-833) ever visited Jerusalem, it seems likely that he did, since we do know that he stayed for an extensive period of time in Egypt. It would seem that it was in connection with this visit that his brother, Abu Ishaq (who subsequently became the caliph Mu'tasim), then governor of Egypt, ordered the inscription on the Dome of the Rock to be 'corrected': Ma'mun's name was inserted in the inscription so that it would appear that he, and not 'Abd al-Malik, had constructed the Dome of the Rock.
During 841-842, beduins and farmers rebelled in Palestine, led by Abu Harb Tamim al- Mubarqac ('the veiled one') of the Lakhm tribe. Directed against the Baghdad regime and the 'Abbasid army, the memory of the former Umayyad dynasty became the rallying symbol of the revolt, which was successfully crushed by the end of 842.
Although we have no information on the situation in Jerusalem in the wake of the disturbances, we can assume that they must have affected daily life in the city.
After mid-century, during the decade of 850- 860, there were still anti-'Abbasid revolts in Syria and Palestine.
In 869, Theodosius, patriarch of Jerusalem, wrote to Ignatius, patriarch of Constantinople, expressing satisfaction with the current situation in Jerusalem as well as with the Muslims' treatment of the Christians, but he added that his lever was being written by order of the amer (i.e., amir).
At about the same time, the Frankish monk Bernard points to the great security in the streets of Jerusalem, noting that even if one's beast of burden falters mid-way in the journey, he could safely leave all his goods with the animal until alternate means of carriage could be found.
JERUSALEM UNDER EGYPTIAN RULE
In the year 878, Ahmad b. Tulun annexed Palestine to Egypt. He and his progeny ruled Egypt until 905. The next thirty years are marked by anarchy and upheavals, stability being restored only in 935, when Muhammad b. Tughj, the Ikhshid, assumed control in Egypt. The divisive forces at work in Egypt gradually freed that country, in effect, from the center of 'Abbasid rule in Baghdad. In the process, Palestine again gradually assumed the role that it had played for generations: that of buffer zone and battlefield between two centers of power. Because of Egypt's relative proximity, it exerted a greater influence on affairs in Palestine than Baghdad, maintaining its hold in a bloody struggle against forces from the north and from the east that caused much suffering to the local populace.
In April 885, a major battle was fought between the 'Abbasid army and the Tulunid forces: the Battle of the Mills (al-Tawahin), which took place by the banks of the Yarqon river in a place known today as 'the Seven Mills'. From that time onward, this site became the 'established' battlefield between warring Muslim armies. Precipitated by Khumarawayh's invasion of Palestine, the battle of 885 was fought soon after the death of Khumarawayh's father, Ahmad b. Tulun.
Commanding the 'Abbasid forces was Abu 'l-'Abbas b. Muwaffaq, who was destined to become caliph and was later known as Mu'tad. id. After suffering heavy losses, the 'Abbasid army was forced to retreat.
In 905, an 'Abbasid force set out to capture Egypt, passing through Palestine.
Such a situation would be repeated many times over, particularly in 919, when the caliph Muqtadir sent forces to repulse a Fatimid attack on Egypt. It would appear that the caliphs of this period, especially Muktafi (902-908) and Muqtadir (908-932), had a special connection with Jerusalem, as we can learn from a number of inscriptions, including those commemorating the dedication of several buildings in Jerusalem by the mother of the caliph Muqtadir in A.H. 301 (913/914 C.E.).
Since the tenth century, Palestine came under the influence of new forces which began to play their role in the history of this region as the 'Abbasid caliphate began to disintegrate.
First and foremost among them were two central elements in the Shi'ite opposition: the Fatimids and the Qarmatians. Radical in their theological outlook, both forces were branches of the Isma'ili Shi'ites, who regarded themselves as bearers of a unique set of religious values within the world of Islam. Posing a serious threat to the rulers of Baghdad in the tenth and eleventh centuries, the Isma'ilis professed a theological-philosophical creed that had both political and social aspects, with the object of bringing about a revolutionary renewal in the Muslim world. Like all Shi'ites, the Isma'ilis believed that all humanity would one day have a leader (imam) descended from the prophet Muhammad, more precisely, a descendant of 'AIi and his wife, Fatima, Muhammad's daughter. Their belief was characterized by a mystical interpretation of the Qur'an, an interpretation influenced by neo-Platonic ideas with regard to the creation of the world through spheres of divine emanation. The Isma'ilis considered Muhammad, 'Ali and all of the prophets accepted by Islam to be incarnations of different elements in the cosmic system.
The first of these two sects, the Qarmatians, included many Persians; according to the Muslim sources they abandoned Islam completely. Based in the Bahrayn region, the Qarmatians began to constitute a force to be reckoned with in 890, when their leader, Hamdan Qarmat (a word that means 'teacher of mystic secrets' that was borrowed from an Aramaic dialect spoken in Iraq) launched a revolt on the banks of the Euphrates, with the support of local farmers and tribes.
The other sect, the Fatimids, had much in common with the Qarmatians - in terms of world-view and apparently also in terms of their socio-ethnic background - although the Arab element was more prominent among the Fatimids. However, certain historical events led to their alienation one from the other, and, after the Fatimids captured Egypt and Palestine in 969-970, they became embroiled in a cruel war with the Qarmatians.
Consolidating their control in North Africa at the start of the tenth century, the Fatimids established a kingdom there which became a threat to the hegemony of Baghdad and, at closer range to that of the Ikhshidis in Egypt. They conquered Palestine in 970.
the Qarmatian center of activity at this time was in Persia and Iraq, but as early as 906 they had already reached Palestine and captured Tiberias. According to several Arab chronicles, the Qarmatians displayed a positive attitude towards Christianity and even assigned Jesus an important place in their theological system. They would turn to Jerusalem m prayer and believed that pilgrims should go there, rather than to Mecca.
Two additional forces, destined to play a role in later historical events, are the Hamdanids - beduin rulers who established a sort of princedom in northern Iraq and in Syria - and a number of Turkish commanders who served the 'Abbasid rulers. Due to internal intrigues, these Turks decided to leave Iraq with their regiments in order to take over parts of Syria and Palestine.
Forced to relinquish control over Jerusalem for a period of three centuries, the Bvzantine empire, which was beginning to recover its strength towards the middle of the tenth century, made every effort to recapture Palestine. They considered both the local (Christian populace and the beduin tribes - especially those of Taghlib, 'Uqayl and Tay' - in Syria and in Palestine as potential allies in this bid for power. The Jays were the principal beduin tribe in tenth-and eleventh-century Palestine, primarily in its southern part. Under the leadership of one of the tribe's families, the Jarrahids, the Tay' tried to gain control of all of Palestine. striking an alliance with the local Christian population, centered in Jerusalem. and with the Byzantines.
On the eve of the Fatimid capture of Palestine. the Ikhshidis of Egypt ruled the country through governors in Ramla and Jerusalem.
In 966, the governor of Jerusalem, Muhammad b. Isma'il al-Sinaji, took an active part in the persecution of the city's Christian population. When the Christians complained that he was extorting money from the patriarch, the central government in Egypt ordered him to cease all such activity immediately. Although a similar request was made by the governor of Ramla, who was an Ikhshidid, al-Sinaji continued his practices, instigating vicious anti-Christian riots in Jerusalem at the end of May 966. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of St. Constantine (which was known as the Martyrium and was located to the east of the first structure) were looted. The dome of the Church of the Holy Sepucher collapsed as a result of arson, which also claimed the life of the patriarch of Jerusalem, Johannes Vll. The Church of Zion was also sacked and burnt down.
According to the Christian chronicler, Yahya ibn Sa'id, "the Jews played an even greater role than the Muslims in the various acts of destruction."
THE WAR OF SIXTY YEARS (969-1029)
A year after the riots, the Qarmatians established themselves in Palestine and forced the Ikhshi did who was governor of Ramla to pay them a tribute tax. This brief period of rule ended in 970, when the Fatimid army, consisting of the members of North African tribesmen, captured Palestine without much difficulty and even advanced into Syria. Facing a combined force of Qarrnatians and Arab tribes that even invaded Egypt, the Fatimids were forced to retreat. They subsequently recovered, defeated their opponents and thus, in 972, were once again the rulers of Palestine.
Soon, however, another enemy to be reckoned with appeared on the scene: the Byzantine empire. Prior to the Fatimid invasion of Egypt in 969 and their subsequent incursion into Palestine, the Byzantines had managed a number of stunning victories against the Muslim world. After occupying Crete and Cyprus, they advanced southward from Asia Minor and, by the end of 969, were already firmly in control of the Aleppo area.
Launched in the reign of Romanus (959-963), the Byzantine campaign was conducted by two brilliant commanders, both of whom later became emperors: Nicephorus Phocas (emperor from 963 to 969) and John Tzimisces (969-976). It was clearly evident that the goal of the campaign was to recapture Jerusalem, thereby ending 300 years of Muslim rule.
According to Muslim tradition, after the conquest of Tarsus in A.H. 357 (968), Nicephorus ascended to the minbar of the city's principal mosque and asked his soldiers, "Where am I?" When told that he was standing on Tarsus' minbar, he replied, "No, I am standing on Jerusalem's minbar, for this city has stood between you and Jerusalem." It may be that this anecdote helped contribute to the false impression that Jerusalem itself was retaken by the Byzantines, a claim that appears in one Christian source, the chronicle of Michael the Syrian (second half of the twelfth century), but is completely unfounded.
In a letter that was sent by John Tzimisces to Ashot, the Armenian king, and whose text has been preserved in the chronicle of the Armenian Matthew of Edessa, the emperor describes his advance southward from Hims. via Ba'labakk in 975. Damascus presented him with lavish gifts so that he would not destroy the city.
In accordance with the inhabitants' request, he appointed a Turkish commander, a Baghdadi who had converted to Christianity, to serve as the city's governor. The emperor describes how similar developments took place in Tiberias, Nazareth, and Mount Tabor, and how messengers arrived from Ramla and Jerusalem (!) with the request that he appoint a governor for each city and promising that they would pay him a tribute tax.
Various other towns throughout Palestine surrendered and he installed governors there. However, it appears from his letter that he never reached Jerusalem, "because the accursed Africans [' the Fatimid army] had entrenched themselves in coastal fortresses."
A similar account of events is given by Muslim sources. There it is related that Damascus was ruled by a Turkish commander, Alptakin, who, with the support of the local residents, reached an agreement with the Byzantines according to which they would bypass the city and continue towards Beirut. It can be assumed that close relations were subsequently forged between the Byzantines and Alptakin, who was an ally of the Arab tribes in Palestine and who also led an alliance consisting of Turkish regiments, Qarmatians, and beduin tribes. It was this alliance that waged war on the Fatimids, capturing all of Palestine in 975, including Jerusalem.
Essentially, the description appearing in John Tzimisces' letter parallels what is recorded in the Muslim sources, especially in the writings of Ibn al-Qalanisi. Because they obviously regarded Alptakin as being a Byzantine commander, the Byzantines also considered all of the forces at his disposal - the Turkish regiments, the Qarmatians and the beduin tribes in Palestine - to be under their control as well. This explains that section of the letter in which the emperor provides a list of cities in Palestine - including Jerusalem - purported to have been captured by Byzantine arms. This was not an empty boast for, in actuality, these places were under the control of Alptakin and his allies. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the Byzantines intended to ultimately capture Jerusalem themselves, but the many Muslim armies warring with each other in Palestine prevented a further Byzantine advance southward.
Wishing to restore the situation that had prevailed before the Muslim capture, the Byzantines always longed to banish the Jews from Jerusalem. Since they themselves did not capture the city, they sought to achieve this goal through the Arab tribes with whom they maintained an alliance, as we can learn from a contemporary source.
The Karaite Salmon ben Yeruhim, in his commentary on Psalms 30, writes: ''Aiso, now the uncircumcised are inflicting blows upon us in order to drive us out of Jerusalem and to separate us from the city."
A more explicit statement is provided by another contemporary, Yefet ben 'Eli, in his commentary on Psalms 11:1 ("How can you say to me, 'Take to your hill, bird'?"): "... the Byzantines are not demanding that they leave all of the Holy Land, only that they quit Jerusalem (that is why the verse uses 'your hill' and not 'your land') ... They want to remove them from Jerusalem, but this plan will not succeed."
Later on in his commentary, when dealing with Psalms 11:2 ("For see, the wicked bend the bow"), he notes: "The reference here is to the letters which the Byzantines persistently despatch to the Arabs [that is, the Arab tribes] demanding the expulsion of the Jews; however, this plan will never succeed, although it is a well-known fact that they have been trying to achieve this goal for many years now ...".
Again, in the commentary on Psalms 11:4 ("The Lord is in His holy palace") we read:
God wished to proclaim the glory of the very mountain from which they wanted to have the Jews banished ... for, how can He dwell among you, you who are defiled and un- circumcised ...".
In the history of Palestine, the six-year period between 973 and 978 was a stormy one. The Fatimids were being hard pressed by the Qarmatians; who received assistance from the Arab tribes led by Muffarij b. Daghfal ibn Jarrah. and his sons and from Alptakin. Only in the summer of 978, after heavy fighting, did the Fatimids, after first defeating the Qarmatians, manage to wrest victory from Alptakin, whose allies, the local tribes, had deserted him.
Generally speaking, the Fatimid rulers were deeply resented by the local populace of Palestine. From Muslim sources we know of one of their leading opponents, and presumably there were many others.
Abu Bakr al-Ramli, or Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Nabulusi [a Ramla resident whose family originated in Nabulus], issued a call to arms against the Fatimids, the "Banu 'Ubayd." As the descriptions in the chronicles tell us, he was the undeclared leader of Ramla. In 968, with the consent of the town's residents, he allowed the Qarmatians to enter Ramla. It may even be that he maintained very close ties with them and that his execution, together with his loyal band of followers, was a direct result of the failure of the Qarmatian campaign against Egypt. Fleeing from Ramla, he was caught by the Fatimids in Damascus when they captured that city from the Qarmatians in the late summer of 974. Together with his son and 300 of his soldiers, he was brought to Egypt. The entire group of rebels was put to death by decapitation, with the exception of al-Nabulusi, who was flayed, his skin stuffed with straw, and then crucified, although he had been prepared to ransom himself with a half million dinars. He had been accused of having declared: "If I had ten arrows, I would shoot one of them at the Christians, while the other nine would be for the Banu 'Ubayd [Fatimids]." Up to the very moment of his death, he poured abuse upon the Fatimids.
There is no doubt that the Jews of Palestine supported the Fatimids. It seems that in Jerusalem, unlike other places, the Fatimids also had the support of Jerusalem's Muslim inhabitants. A leading figure among those Muslims who were willing to collaborate with the Fatimid authorities at the time was the Jerusalem physician Abu 'Abdallah Muhammad b. Ahmad b. Sa'id al-Tamimi. He maintained very close relations with the Fatimid vizir Ya'qub Ibn Killis (a Jew who converted to Islam), for whom he compiled a multi-volume work on medicine. A disciple of Abu 'Ali Hasan b. Muhammad b. Abi Nu'aym, another Jerusalem physician, Abu 'Abdallah, also learned a great deal from a Christian friend, a monk who lived in Jerusalem and whose name is given as Anbaz Kharma (probably a corruption of Anba [Father] Zakhariya).
In 979, while the Fatimids were engaged in fighting the northern tribes and their followers under the leadership of Abu Taghlib (of the Mawsil branch of the Hamdanids), the tribesmen of Tay', the local beduins, conquered Ramla, causing widespread destruction. It may be that a similar situation prevailed in Jerusalem.
Only in 983 did the Fatimids finally manage to crush the Tay', who fled northward to the area controlled by the Byzantines in the vicinity of Aleppo.
Until an agreement had been drawn up, according to which the Fatimid caliph would permit them to return to Palestine, the Ways collaborated with the Byzantines, though later violating the terms of that agreement.
Meanwhile, the Fatimids consolidated their rule, after having improved their relations with the Byzantines. For example, a Byzantine delegation arrived in Egypt to conduct negotiations on the restoration of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which had been badly damaged in the disturbances of 966; a peace agreement was drawn up between the two powers that was to be valid for a seven-year period; the Byzantines promised to return the Muslim prisoners taken during the fighting; the prayers offered in the mosque in Constantinople would be for the safety and well-being of the Fatimids, rather than of the 'Abbasids, as previously; in accordance with the demands of the Fatimid caliphate, there would be a regular supply of goods from Byzantium.
Negotiations were resumed between the Byzantines and the Fatimids a few years after the treaty expired. During this period, apparently, the status of the Christian inhabitants under Fatimid rule had improved and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was restored. Another Byzantine delegation traveled to Egypt towards the end of 998 in order to conduct the negotiations for a new treaty of peace and friendship. The talks, which lasted for two years, ended in a truce (hudna) that would be in effect for a period of ten years. The caliph at this time was al-Hakim, who ascended the throne in 999, after the death of his father al-'Aziz, at the age of eleven, or perhaps thirteen.
Contemporary sources hint at an unrelenting struggle for power that was waged between two camps in the Egyptian regime, one of the principal points of contention being the attitude to be adopted towards the Byzantines and the Christians. A geniza letter, evidently written at the beginning of the year 1002 and sent to Jerusalem from Fustat, includes a poem describing the defeat of two enemies, one in Egypt and the second "among us." Further on in the letter a reference is made to the "the uncircumcised ones, the Edomites, the sons of Agag, [who] plotted wicked and cruel machinations against the Chosen People," meaning that the local Christians, the Byzantines and several tribes (Agag ' Amalek; according to Muslim tradition, the Amalekites were depicted as having been Arabs) had laid evil schemes against the Jews, perhaps seeking to oust them from Jerusalem. The leader of the anti-Jewish plot, the letter tells us, was executed in Egypt (he was drowned in the Nile). In Palestine, the main centers of anti-Jewish persecution were the cities of Acre, Tyre (from which Jewish residents were subsequently expelled), Gaza and Hasariyya (Caesarea).
Despite the treaty with the Byzantines, according to which a cease-fire was to remain in effect for a period of ten years, tensions developed between al-Hakim and the Byzantines. Notwithstanding scholarly efforts, the underlying causes remain obscure. It could be that the Fatimids blamed the Byzantines for the unrest that was evident among the Arab beduin tribes of Palestine. This situation, taken together with Christian involvement in anti government activities in Egypt and in Palestine, may explain al-Hakim's negative attitude towards the Christians.
Another factor may certainly have been the increasing resentment by Egypt's Muslims of the seemingly preferred status of the Jews and the Christians, of the government posts which they held, and of the tolerance with which they were treated by the authorities. Since al-Hakim faced both internal disputes in his army and rebellions against his regime in Egypt, he may have succumbed to the pressures of his advisers or have tried to turn Muslim resentment towards the Christians and the Jews.
Already in 1003, anti-Christian persecution began to manifest itself. In Palestine, the acts of violence directed against the Christians reached a peak with the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on 28 September 1009, or perhaps in the previous year. At the time, the Patriarch of Jerusalem was Orestes, who was also al-Hakim's uncle (the brother of his mother, who was a Christian). In the years prior to the riots, Orestes' position had become steadily stronger, particularly in the wake of the peace treaty with the Byzantines. Undoubtedly, given the situation, Jerusalem's Christian inhabitants exerted considerable influence on political developments in Palestine, and even on Fatimid diplomatic policies in general.
We learn from Arab chronicles that each year, as the Easter season approached, Jerusalem would welcome a stream of Christian pilgrims, many of whom came from the Byzantine empire. These pilgrims - who included Byzantine emperors, as well as senior army commanders and high of finials - brought large sums of money and an abundance of rich gifts in the form of cash, woven goods, carpets, and silver and gold ornaments, the gifts being displayed during the Easter procession. The Muslim sources describe what they considered to be an act of deception in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher: the kindling of the Holy Fire at Easter, which, the Christians claimed, descended from Heaven and lit the candles in the church. The Muslims claimed that this was actually done by lighting oil-soaked threads. According to some chronicles, al-Hakim decided to have the church destroyed in order to put an end to the ruse.
The destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher produced a chain reaction, which included various acts of rebellion, although the information at our disposal about these events is scant. A prominent link in this chain of events was an uprising by the Arab tribes, who enjoyed the support of Palestine's Christian population.
The uprising had two stages: the first, lasting from 1011 to 1014, and the second, from 1024 to 1029.
Among the rebel leaders of the first stage - in addition to the Jarrahids - was Abu'l-Qasim Husayn b. 'Ali, who was also know as Ibn al-Wazir al-Maghribi. As this appellation denotes, Abu'l-Qasim's father was a high official in the Baghdad administration and, at a certain point, fled to Egypt where he was appointed one of al-Hakim's closest advisors. Finding disfavor with his new advisor at some later stage, al-Hakim ordered him executed. The rebellion began with an attack on the Fatimid armed forced near Ascalon, resulting in the capture of the Fatimid commander and his execution. In the course of events, an attempt was even made to install a descendant of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib as caliph to replace the Fatimid ruler. The installation of the pretender - Abu'I-Futuh Hasan b. Ja'far, who had previously been appointed by the Fatimids as amrr (governor) in Mecca - took place in a mosque in Ramla. That city, occupied by the beduin rebels, was then undergoing serious difficulties. Only in the summer of 1013 did a large expeditionary force sent from Egypt regain control of Palestine. Theophilus, Patriarch of Jerusalem, was forced to flee and hide temporarily, but later returned to the city and was honorably received by the local Fatimid commander Qutb al-Dawla ('Ali b. Ja'far b. Fallah). His flight is clear evidence of close collaboration between the leaders of Jerusalem's Christian community and those of the beduin rebellion, a partnership that apparently received the Byzantines' blessings. While ruling in Palestine, the leader of the Jarrahids, Mufarrij, even initiated the restoration of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, ordering the Christian community in Jerusalem to provide him with assistance in this matter. It was Mufarrij who appointed Theophilus partriarch, probably during the month of Ramadan of A.H. 402 (April 1012). Byzantine sources refer to both Mufarrij's rebellion against the Fatimids and to his collaboration with the Byzantines.
A letter written by Elhanan ben Shemarya of Fustat, one of the most prominent Jewish figures of the period, gives us an indication of the events of the rebellion and of how insecure travel was on their account. In the letter sent to "the holy congregation who dwell in the Holy City and who are the very center of Israel and Judah," he mentions the death of his father Shemarya teen Elhanan which, we know, occurred in 1011. When his father died in Fustat, Elhanan was in Damascus because of "the disturbances and disorder in the country and on the roads," apparently a reference to the beduin rebellion. Only after "there was some respite in the world," did Elhanan journey forth. It seems likely that he traveled from Damascus to a port city, because he mentions having journeyed to Egypt by way of the sea. En route, he and his companions were attacked by "vicious robbers, who snatch people like vultures and from whose lethal clutches we were saved only after having been furiously beaten."
It is possible that some of Jerusalem's Jews tried to save themselves from death at the hands of the beduin rebels by being baptised by the beduin's ally, Theophilos. This may be what lies behind what is related by a converted Jew in a contemporary Latin source - that he and many other Jews had been baptised by the patriarch.
For approximately eleven years, from 1013 to 1024, Palestine experienced a relative calm. During this period, the second stage of the beduin uprising began, again with Christian support. On 27 Shawwal A.H. 411 (13 February 1021) the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim was assassinated under mysterious circumstances. His sixteen-year-old son, Abu 'I-Hasan 'Ali, was declared caliph and given the name al-Zahir li-l'zaz Din Allah. Noting the weakness of the Egyptian regime, H. assfin b. Mufarrij, leader of the Arab tribes, apparently began to gradually vest himself of Fatimid domination. The events reached their peak in September 1024, when Hassan attacked Ramla, as we learn from Arab sources. According to a letter (see below) sent by the goon Solomon ha-Kohen teen Yehosef, the attack on Ramla took place somewhat earlier that year, during the Muslim months of Rabi' I and II (from mid-May to mid-July). The geniza documents provide us with direct and reliable evidence on the massacres and atrocities carried out among the Jewish populaces of Ramla and Jerusalem.
According to one of the Arab sources, the Arabs in Ramla appropriated over 400 heavy caskets containing money, clothes, goods and various artifacts. Afterwards, the marauders "spread fire throughout the city's streets and caused much destruction to the houses and their contents, and even ransacked soap and oil storerooms in the marketplaces." They also extorted immense sums of money from the local populace.
Hassan wrote to the caliph, demanding that he be appointed ruler of Jerusalem and Nabulus. An indication of the close ties between Arabs and Christians can be established from the fact that Hassan maintained secret contacts with Muhassin b. Badus, the Fatimid Minister of the Treasury, who was executed on 24 October 1024 after the discovery of a letter in which he openly encouraged rebellion. In the letter, Hassan expressed his confidence that, once the Fatimid army would be defeated, nothing could stand in the way of the rebels. He also requested that further contacts be carried out only through the Christian monks, who, he noted, were the only reliable go- betweens. After his execution, it was discovered that he had not been circumcised because he was, in fact, a Christian.
Early in 1025, the Fatimid expeditionary force despatched to Palestine under the distinguished Turkish commander Anushtakin b. 'Abdallah al-Dizbiri mounted major campaigns against the rebels. Accompanying al-Dizbiri was Fath, known as Mubarak al-Dawla, the Fatimid governor of Jerusalem. In February, Ramla was once more in Fatimid hands, and it is likely that Jerusalem had already been recaptured by then. An intertribal alliance, which included the Tay', the 'Uqayl and other northern tribes, was the framework for continued Arab hostilities against the Fatimids. The rebels were finally defeated in a massive battle on 12 May 1029 at Uqhuwana, a location yet unidentified, probably in the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee.
Supporting the Fatimids without hesitation, the Jews expected them to restore order and security throughout Palestine, in contrast to the Christians - especially church officials in Jerusalem - who sided with the Arabs.
Letters sent from Jerusalem by the gaon Solomon ha- Kohen teen Yehosef, apparently in the spring of 1025 after al-Dizbiri's victory, record details of the horrors perpetrated against the city's inhabitants. Written on behalf of "the members of the Rabbanite community who dwell beside the Priest's Gate and who are now in mourning ...," The first letter relates: "We have been dealt a mortal blow for which there is no healing and remedy."
Instead of the annual tax of 100 dinars imposed on the Jews of Jerusalem, they now had to pay the Jarrahid rulers large sums of money (the Jews called these sums 'onashim). The total tax to which the city was now subject amounted to 15,000 diners; the Jews were obligated to make an additional special payment of 6,000 diners to be divided equally between the Rabbanites and the Karaites.
After raising 2,500 diners, the Rabbanites were left virtually penniless: "Nothing is left, for we are stripped of all our belongings, naked, sad, impoverished. Our clothes and household utensils are all gone. Some have mortgaged their homes ... in order to pay off the debt, while others have simply sold all their possessions."
The sums were collected in a cruel and forceful manner: "Many have been tortured to death, because some person slandered them [that is, informers claimed that these individuals had money]. And there were those who hid in pits for fear of the heavy beating and intense torture."
Both the Rabbanites and the Karaites ("the dwellers on the slope") were forced to borrow sums from "government officials. From the letter we indirectly learn of the destruction inflicted upon Ramla. Previously, the Jews of Jerusalem had paid the annual tax of 100 diners from the revenue supplied by the pious foundations ("the rent from the shops") in Ramla. "Now [however] most of the people in Ramla are dead and scarcely a few difficult ones are left [probably meaning those from whom with difficulty even a small sum can be received]."
A second letter describes the general state of impoverishment among the inhabitants of Palestine. There were no customers for gold or expensive clothes. "Even the gentiles and the uncircumcised" (that is, the Muslims and the Christians) were in dire straits. Many of them had been killed or had died from their sufferings. The leaders of the Jewish community were forced to borrow money in order to pay off the additional tax. "Our members and our youths have all perished, the wealthy members of our community are impoverished and there are only about fifty of us left ...".
In this letter, too, we are told of the destruction and havoc visited upon Ramla, which had supplied the Jews of Jerusalem with a regular income: "And because of our iniquities, the cycle has come full round for Ramla. Life has been disrupted throughout the entire country because of the troops. The city dwellers are now fleeing to the small towns." It had been intended to sell the "shops and apartments" (i.e. apartment buildings) that had been endowed as pious foundations whose income was for the Jerusalem community, but this was prevented by the Arab attack:
The Arabs and all the peoples of Kedar ... Hagarites with the sons of Ishma'el, gathered together, numerous like locusts, and descended upon Ramla in the month of Rabi', both the first and the second [i.e. the first and second months of Rabi' A.H. 415, mid-May to mid- July 1024]. They attacked with a vengeance and killed all who stood in their path. They took the women and children prisoner, and also imprisoned the elders, beat them mercilessly, tortured them and threw them into dungeons ... and [hung them] ... by the neck in pits, on rooftops, on trees, in the field. Even women were hung by their breasts and hands. Many died and their bodies were thrown onto heaps of garbage, or into pits, or in the marketplace, or in shrines [i.e. Christian churches and synagogues] ... The young girls and boys and youths were taken to satisfy [the enemy's] appetite ...
Solomon then goes on to describe how people were forced, through torture, to reveal where their money had been hidden.
Another letter, almost certainly dating from 1025 as well, was written by Solomon teen Judah who, at the time, had not yet been appointed gaon and was still president of the High Court in the Jerusalem yeshiva, as can be seen from his signature. He referred to "the remnant of the Jewish community of the Holy City, for the majority have perished in the tragic events that have engulfed Jerusalem."
The survivors of the Jewish community asked Solomon to travel to Egypt in order to obtain urgent assistance for them, but he was unable to do so. Although his son Abraham had set out for Aleppo (Aram Nova) and Iraq (Aram Naharayim), he returned after ten days to Jerusalem in order to carry out the mission that had been urged upon his father - to make the journey to Egypt. The lever is in Abraham's handwriting, and includes grim references to
"the deep anguish and the intensity of the pain that has been visited upon us," "the inhabitants of the Holy City ... have never faced such a calamity since the time of the Return to Zion ...".
Shortly after his appointment as gaon, Solomon sent another letter - this time to Ephraim teen Shemarya in Fustat. - describing the disaster that had befallen the Jews of Palestine and noting that
"the peoples of the East [i.e. the Arabs] have devastated the Holy Land. The roads are desolate, there are no travelers and no security for he who goes and comes."
Although the Fatimid army was ostensibly in control, the situation was still unstable. He comments that he is writing this letter
... with a great pain in my heart and with lowly spirits, in the face of the terrible distress by which we are overwhelmed and in the face of the disasters into which we are sunken, as we live in fear night and day of the armed camps. May God give strength to the forces of the King, may he live for ever. Thus do we pray constantly for their assistance to counter the people of the East ...
On Wednesday 7 May 1029 (21 Iyar 4789 in the Hebrew calendar), Solomon wrote a letter to his son Abraham who, at the time, was in Fustat. Only a week, or slightly more, had passed since the battle at Uqhuwana in which the Arab forces had been routed. In the letter we read of Jerusalemites thrown into jail because of their debts, apparently incurred as a result of the special 'additional' taxes imposed in 1024. Solomon also describes the grim situation and serious distress prevailing in Palestine, for instance, that most of the fields had not been sown. In further letters written around this time, the gaon notes: "Even those pilgrims who used to gather here every year have refrained [from coming] because of the armed conflicts and of the insecure state of travel by road." He writes on behalf of
the inhabitants of the Holy City, the members of the Rabbanite sect, the sect that has been drastically reduced in numbers, that has been forced to stoop in suffering and poverty. A handful of us is left. Our yoke is heavy, we are oppressed by all, and new laws [i.e. taxes] are constantly imposed upon us, while the gifts and donations [received] have stopped ... and we have been forced to take loans with interest to pay off the taxes imposed upon us. In Palestine there are those [who live] in hunger and those [who live] in fear ... the only place w ere we have been able to relate what has passed upon us is Egypt.
He also refers to "the infliction of famine, for no food is to be found in the Land of the Philistines [i.e. Province of Filastin] and there are many poor ...".
The period of rebellion would long be referred to by the Jews of Palestine as "the days of Ben Habbura" (from the Hebrew habbura, which means bruise or wound), a reference to Ibn Jarrah (jarh in Arabic means wound).
END OF THE ERA
The years immediately following the end of the Sixty-Years' War brought a period of relative calm to Jerusalem.
A prominent event of that time was the serious earthquake of 5 December 1033. which caused extensive damage in Ramla and in other communities in Palestine. A letter written by the scribe of the Jerusalem Yeshiva provides some details of this natural catastrophe. According to some Arab chroniclers, the wall of Jerusalem (perhaps a reference to the Temple Mount wall) also toppled. Apparently, the quake seriously undermined the foundations of the wall surrounding the Temple Mount area, and a section near the synagogue collapsed during Passover of the following year. As can be seen in letters from the Jerusalem Yeshiva, the Jewish residents of Jerusalem were engaged in restoring the structures that had suffered damage. Simultaneously, as inscriptions bear out, restoration work was carried out on the Dome of the Rock in 1034 and 1035 by order of the Fatimid caliph.
The mosque was again damaged in a later quake which shook Jerusalem on 29 May 1068.
As we know very little about political developments during the latter half of the eleventh century, we must rely on fragments of information that touch upon only some of the events. According to letters from the Cairo geniza, Abu Muhammad Hasan b. 'Ali al-Yazuri, from a family of Yazur, in Palestine, served in the capacity of vizier of Egypt from I June 1050 to March 1058, and was personally involved in the affairs of the Jerusalem Yeshiva when a dispute broke out concerning the gaonate after the death of Solomon teen Judah (29 April 1051).
In 1056, the treasures of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher were confiscated by order of the caliph Mustansir. This was in reaction to the fact that the prayers being recited in the central mosque in Constantinople for the wellbeing of the rulers referred to the 'Abbasids and not to the Fatimids. Fabulous treasures were uncovered in the church and removed by the caliph's emissaries who, according to one Latin source, also destroyed the church (completely unfounded), banished the patriarch and killed a large number of Christians.
From the rule of Charlemagne onwards, the influence of the Latins, or western Europeans, on affairs in Jerusalem was increasingly felt. Although the final schism between the Byzantine Church and the papacy took place only in 1054, the preceding period was characterized by an ongoing vigorous rivalry between the major church, based in Byzantium, and the Pope's supporters. Despite the strenuous efforts of Catholic scholars to prove that there had been a special relationship between the Jerusalem patriarchate and western Latin Christianity, the opposite seems nearer the truth. It would seem that the activities of the Latins greatly intensified during the second half of the eleventh century, after the schism.
The Amalfitans, residents of an important Italian commercial center that carried on extensive trade with Egypt, were especially active in the affairs of Jerusalem at this time. With a large 'colony' in Egypt, they maintained very cordial relations with the caliph, who granted them permission (probably during the sixties of the eleventh century) to build a church, a monastery, a hospital and two hostels (one for men, the other for women) in Jerusalem.
Over the years, the structures erected by the Amalfitans became the nucleus for the development of Latin Christian orders. The Benedictines established a foothold in St. Mary of the Latins and also in a hostel. At the hub of these activities was the well-known Maurus family of Amalfi. The Amalfitan hostel (they later also erected a church) was named after St. John the Almoner (an Egyptian) and became the first site of the Knights of St. John (the Knights Hospitallers). Some scholars believe that the structures erected by the Amalfitans were built on the sites of earlier churches and other buildings; thus, the Amalfitans' construction activity could also be regarded as restoration of some of Jerusalem's Christian edifices.
What little information we have on life in Jerusalem during the late fifth and the sixth decades of the eleventh century has been obtained from a few geniza documents and primarily from the chronicle of William of Tyre. Thus, for example, we know that the governor of Jerusalem in 1060, and perhaps even earlier, was a Karaite Jew, Abu 'Sa'd Isaac teen Aaron teen 'Ali (Ishaq b. Khalaf b. 'Alun).
In one of his letters, dating from December 1060, one of the leading members of Jerusalem's Jewish community, Eli ha-Kohen ben Ezekiel, notes that the governor of Jerusalem (a reference to Isaac teen Aaron) is in dire difficulty.
Three months later, in March 1061, Eli writes that the governor has been dismissed and is now residing in Ramla.
The new governor is a Christian named Ibn Mu'ammar. Eli asks that the recipients of his letter, the leaders of the Fustat Jewish community, use their connections to have a letter sent to "Abu 'I-Muna al' 'Arel" ('the uncircumcised', perhaps the nickname of the Jerusalem patriarch or some other prominent Christian in Jerusalem), who would be requested to persuade the new governor to be lenient towards Jerusalem's Jews concerning taxes (fi'l-kharaj) and other administrative matters. As for rumors that the amir Najah al-Dawla was about to return to Jerusalem, Eli was apprehensive: "After all, you know what kind of person he is."
From this we can infer that the position of the Christians in Jerusalem had vastly improved and that they were now exerting considerable influence on the Fatimid regime. According to William of Tyre, the caliph Mustansir had decided to restore Jerusalem's walls and its watchtowers, since the walls had been severely damaged in the many wars of the previous period. The governor was charged with the duty of imposing the costs of this project on the residents of Jerusalem. Perhaps this is what Daniel teen Azariah, then head of the Jerusalem Yeshiva, is alluding to in his letter, in Arabic, of 1054 or 1055 to his friend, the influential physician Abraham teen Isaac ben Furat:
... I plan on going to Jerusalem, may God protect it, in another three weeks' time, although I know that my worries will only increase a thousandfold. Of course, I need not repeat what you doubtless know already with regard to the special matter [that awaits me] there: I am referring here to what has been imposed upon our brethren concerning the wall and may God help us for the sake of His great and glorious name.
It would thus seem logical to assume that the decision to restore the city walls was taken in 1054 or thereabouts and that the initiator of this project was the qadi and vizier Yazuri, who, as noted above, was a native of Palestine.
William of Tyre also considered the decree for the restoration of Jerusalem's walls to be a harsh one, because of the poverty that was the lot of the city's Christian residents.
When representatives of the Christian community tried to obtain some concessions, they were adamantly refused and even threatened, and only with great difficulty did they manage to get a short deferment through lobbying efforts in Egypt.
During the extra time allotted, representatives of the Christian community in Jerusalem appealed to Emperor Constantine IX Monomachus (in 1059 or 1060, apparently soon after he had ascended the throne) for assistance. According to William of Tyre, the emperor agreed to fund the Christian share of the restoration on two conditions: that a wall be built around the Christian quarter (which surrounded the Church of the Holy Sepulcher) and that only Christians would be allowed to reside in that quarter.
The caliph consented to the emperor's demands and, after the removal of the Muslim residents from the Christian quarter, construction work on the wall was completed in 1063. William of Tyre describes the wall which bounded the Christian quarter: from David's Gate in the western section of the city wall northward to the Corner Tower (later known as Tancred's Tower), then eastward to St. Stephen's (or Damascus) Gate.
The quarter's boundary within the city walls ran along the road beginning at St. Stephen's Gate and ending at the 'moneychangers' tables', from where it returned to David's Gate, following present-day David Street. William claims that the conditions of Jerusalem's Christians had vastly improved. Previously they had lived side by side with Muslims and had suffered considerably from this arrangement, which had led to endless disputes. Now they had their own quarter.
In 1065, just prior to Easter, a large convoy of Christian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem was attacked for several days by beduins about one day's journey from Ramla. Led by Gunther, Bishop of Bamberg, the company numbered, according to our sources, some 7,000 pilgrims, including knights and bishops from southern Germany. At first, the Christians did not put up a defense and therefore found themselves in a very precarious situation. Only after many of their party had been injured did the pilgrims decide to fight back, taking a number of hostages. On learning of the attack, the amour of Ramla hurried to the aid of the beleagered Christians. Apparently, plunder was the motive for the attack, since the bishops and knights had openly displayed their vast wealth. Less than 2,000 of the pilgrims returned safely to their homes.
During the sixties of the eleventh century, Jerusalem experienced a particularly harsh period of economic distress, as we learn from the many letters that were despatched from the city and have been preserved in the Cairo geniza. Apparently, Jerusalem's plight was directly linked to the overall disastrous economic state of the Fatimid kingdom as a result of a severe seven-year drought (the waters of the Nile did not rise high enough to flow into the network of irrigation canals). The famine brought in its wake a general deterioration of conditions and weakened the central regime. Travel along the roads in both Egypt and Palestine became hazardous.
At this time, a new force appeared on the scene: the Turcomans. After capturing Baghdad in 1055, they gradually advanced into Syria. Under the command of Atsiz, the Turcoman regiments invaded Palestine in 1070, but were able to capture Jerusalem only three years later, as we learn from several Arab chronicles. The Fatimid governor of Jerusalem, who was himself a Turk, handed the city over to the invaders without a fight.
A poem written on 22 January 1077 (25 Shevat 4837) by Solomon ha-Kohen teen Yehosef, president of the High Court (descended from a family of priests and geonim), who had moved from Palestine to Egypt in 1061, describes the atrocities perpetrated by the Turcomans in Jerusalem between 1073 and 1077 - destruction, massacres and looting.
With the Turcoman occupation of Jerusalem, a momentous event took place in the life of the city's Jewish community: the Palestinian Yeshiva was transferred from Jerusalem to Tyre. In 1076-1077, the inhabitants of Jerusalem rebelled against their Turcoman rulers. Exploiting the fact that Atsiz and his soldiers were occupied elsewhere fighting the Fatimids, the gad of Jerusalem, together with community leaders and a large number of local residents, took as hostages the Turcoman warriors' women and children, who had remained in Jerusalem. The women and children, as well as the possessions of the Turcomans, were divided up among the rebels. Returning to Jerusalem, Atsiz promised the populace of the city "safety and security" aman); however, after he had resumed control, he initiated a bloodbath, killing some 3,000 persons, including the qadi and other prominent inhabitants who had taken part in the uprising.
Turcoman control of Palestine steadily deteriorated because of internal disputes. The Fatimids, on the other hand, were regaining strength under the leadership of the energetic vizier al-Afdal. When the first Crusade began in 1096, the Fatimids, believing that the end of Turcoman rule was rapidly approaching, launched a campaign with the object of recapturing Palestine. The sources disagree as to the exact date of their retaking of Jerusalem from the Turcoman commanders then ruling the city, two brothers named Sukman and Urtuq, sons of llghaz'. The commonly accepted date is 26 August 1098, less than a year before the Crusader conquest. The Fatimid attack on Jerusalem's fortifications lasted somewhat more than forty days, in the course of which several sections of the city wall were destroyed.
Thus ends another chapter in the history of Jerusalem, a chapter filled with numerous upheavals, leaving in their wake considerable carnage and distress among its inhabitants and extensive damage and destruction of the city's walls and structures.
During these years, there were many periods of serious economic distress as well. Nonetheless, for the Jewish people, this was a period of renewed settlement in Jerusalem, as a result of which the physical link between Jews and the Holy City was renewed. Moreover, from the moment that the Palestinian Yeshiva established itself in Jerusalem (we do not know the precise date), Jerusalem - for the first time since the destruction of the Second Temple - became once more a spiritual center for a large segment of Diaspora Jewry.
Altogether, this chapter in Jerusalem's history spans a period of slightly more than 460 years - from early 638 to mid- July 1099, when the Crusaders conquered the city.
Moseh Gill, "The Political History of Jerusalem During the Early Muslim Period", in Joshua Prawer and Haggai Ben-Shammai (eds), The History of Jerusalem, the Early Muslim Period, 638-1099, New York University Press and Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi, 1996, pp. 1-35.
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