Ottoman Brothers: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Early Twentieth-Century Palestine

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In addition, there were the Jewish families who could trace their roots back for generations in Palestine. As we will see below, these different communities started to unite under a local form of Zionism, which for the first time started to break down the main barrier dividing Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. During the last decade, the scholars working on Ottoman Palestine have placed great emphasis on documenting relations between the Jewish and Arab communities, specifically within the urban sphere of Jerusalem. In addition to the works mentioned in the introduction, other studies within this field look at cases of intercommunal microrelations within Jerusalem, such as the relations between the Jewish Ishaq Shami and Arabs 30 and that of the Sephardic Valero family.

This documentary, which was based on the book Jerusalem The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict , recreates a world where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together and interacted in the neighborhoods of the Holy City.

These narratives, which have focused closely on Jewish—Arab relations, have been central to deconstructing the dominant narrative of conflict that emerged during the subsequent British Mandate, the founding of the Israeli state and the Palestinian Nakba, and the years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In other words, by demonstrating that relations between the different communities existed, these works show us a period when the two peoples were not set in conflict but rather interacted with each other as Ottoman citizens within multiple communities. Parallel to the emergence of this new narrative, some scholars, including myself, have started to question the extent of these relations.

For example, Edhem Eldem, who focuses on Ottoman Istanbul, argues against understanding the mixing between the different communities as something widespread in Ottoman cities. He holds that it certainly did not expand to the bulk of the population. Jerusalem around was, like all urban societies, a place crisscrossed by conflicts, competition and power relations. Until now, however, no scholar has scrutinized these memoirs as a source for explaining relations between the two communities.

That Jawhariyyeh recorded his thoughts and impressions decades after events occurred could undermine the accuracy of his descriptions of the late Ottoman period. Furthermore, we need to recognize that he was born in , making him an eleven year old child when the revolution occurred. Thus, for example, his claim that following the revolution, Arabs welcomed the coup but Jews in the city mocked it seems based solely on hearsay.

It would indeed be hard to imagine an eleven-year-old retaining such detailed information. It also contradicts most primary sources, which state that the Jewish community, like the Arab one, welcomed the revolution. However, caution is required when citing the memoirs as an overarching source, even if they do appear to be in keeping with other emerging narratives.

His descriptions are often vague and unchanging over time.

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Ottoman Brothers: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Early Twentieth-Century Palestine

For example, he recalls that the Jewish celebration of Purim took place alongside a Greek Orthodox carnival that coincided with the last day of Lent. According to Jawhariyyeh, Jews and Muslims gathered together with Christians to observe the procession of people dressed in costume. However, we learn nothing at all about his interactions with Jewish celebrators or vice-versa, concerning the Greek Orthodox procession. In other words, this could point to the fact that even if there were Jews living together with Arabs, the public celebration of the Jewish holiday took place in areas demarcated as Jewish neighborhoods.

In a section where he writes on neighborly relations, Jawhariyyeh uses the aforementioned Greek Orthodox carnival as a point of reference for celebrations that Christians and Muslims from the same neighborhood celebrated together, with no mention of Jewish participation. Compared to later eras, this may have been more common in the Ottoman era, but it is hard to extract more information about the extent of the interactions. Crucial to understanding relations in the late Ottoman era is to see how they transformed as the local populations — the Jews and the Palestinians — were thrown into conflict by the growth of Zionism and an increasing a sense of Palestinianism, which was not only a reaction to the rise of Jewish nationalism but was also part of their desire to protect the Holy Land from European imperialism.


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In her work on the port city, Sibel Zandi-Sayek explores relations between its different communities. Concerning holidays, she writes,. Although each community celebrated its own holy days, many observances were made known to all because of their implications for the daily life of the entire city. Businesses and shops owned by Muslims, Jews and Christians were closed on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, respectively, which pressed other groups to make their provisions accordingly and left only four workdays for the entire city.

On these occasions, people refashioned select streets and other outdoor spaces to house or otherwise mark these events. Holy days could be provocative; fueling latent prejudices, reifying the social boundaries between the neighborhoods, and rendering visible the power inequalities among them. We were like one family, we were all friends. Our mothers poured out their hearts to Muslim women and they poured out their hearts to our mothers. The Muslim women accustomed themselves to speaking the Ladino language.

We observe that Arabs Muslims and perhaps Christians did learn Ladino. Other cases emerging in the late Ottoman period of Palestinians learning Hebrew in order to communicate with the Jewish community offer insight into the relations between the two groups.

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In my own research, I have uncovered different accounts that cast doubt on how widespread the phenomenon was of Jews Sephardic or Ashkenazi knowing Arabic. In a report prepared during the years before World War I , the Zionist official Arthur Ruppin supplies a breakdown of languages within three Hebrew kindergarten classes.

Out of children, Ruppin claims that only 7. There would thus be no reason to play down the number of Jews speaking Arabic.


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In fact, given the circumstances, the opposite could have been true. He then asks:. Publisher: Policy Studies Organization. Document Type: Book review. Length: 1, words. Campos Stanford: Stanford University Press, ISBN: Sign In to view the full article.

‘Ottoman Brothers in Palestine' translated into Turkish

This is a very important study of a crucial period in the Ottoman Empire and Palestine. Although it focuses on Palestine, it provides broad analysis of basic issues of the time, with implications on current affairs in the 21st century. Campos' study complicates and enriches our understanding of the late Ottoman Empire, including Palestine, and as such represents an original and exceedingly readable contribution to the field.

Campos does a fine job of describing the forms of cooperation that developed between the adherents of the different religions. It is an innovative, original study of the late Ottoman Empire and Palestine and its confessional and inter-communal nature, which also contributes to a greater understanding of the citizenship discourse and its competing ideologies in multi-ethnic and multi-national settings.

Campos delivers a wonderfully rich contribution to the study of the modern Middle East. Campos sheds a completely fresh and new light on a crucial era in the evolution of the late Ottoman Empire, problematizing and deconstructing commonly accepted narratives. She shows that the mainstream Muslim, Christian, and Jewish population enthusiastically supported 'Ottomanism.

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