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Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of Palestine

By Rabbi Joseph Schwarz, 1850

The Jew Found in Al Charim

In the year 5593 (1833), soon after my arrival in Palestine, it happened that the Mahomedans found one morning, at their entering their great mosque on the Temple Mount, Al Charim, a young Jew, who had remained there the whole preceding night, and had made great havoc among the costly lustres, lamps, lanterns, and the like—whatever, in fact, he was able to destroy. But it was speedily perceived that he lacked reason, and was not much less than downright crazy. The furious Mahomedans, however, fell upon him, and he was dragged out, thrown into prison, and cruelly beaten the whole day, all of them thinking it a religious duty to ill-use him. Every one, therefore, who passed by, and every one who could get near him, deemed himself obliged to strike him, in quality of a faithful believer. He was, therefore, beaten with cudgels, sticks, hands, and fists, besides being kicked; and it was almost a wonderful thing that he was not torn to pieces by them, and killed on the spot; but the latter alternative was purposely avoided, as he was destined to be reserved for something yet better and higher,—a punishment yet more agreeable to Alla. The rage of the barbarians went so far that every Jew who was at that time seen in the street was ill-used, and it was feared that they would have to suffer a general assault of the faithful. This state of things lasted several days, until, fortunately, the Egyptian troops arrived, on their march to the seat of war in the North, and, stopping a few days, restored quiet and order. The day on which the awful criminal should be publicly burnt had almost been determined on already; but it was resolved first to inform the lord of the land, Mahmud Ali of Egypt, and to obtain his sanction and confirmation, which no one doubted would be readily given. But the Pacha answered briefly, “that the guards of Al Charim were responsible, and greatly deserving of punishment, in so carelessly executing the duties of their office; and that the Jew should be set at liberty, since the sacred law which interdicts the entrance to Al Charim to a non-Mislamin, under punishment of death, that is, to be burnt, is inapplicable in the present instance, because the Jew is also circumcised, and is thus somewhat akin to the Mislamin; that he could not indeed be permitted to enter freely the sanctuary; nevertheless he is not liable to the death penalty.” The pious believers looked greatly surprised when they heard this resolve, but they were compelled to let the malefactor go at large.

Jews and Muslims in Palestine