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Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of Palestine

By Rabbi Joseph Schwarz, 1850

The Faithful Testimony of the Jews of Hebron

In the year 5606 (1846), when the Sheich Abd al Rachman was engaged in a violent contest with his brothers for the government of the large district of Hebron, he brought it at last so far by his influence, or rather the power of his money, that the Pacha of Jerusalem took his part, who thereupon marched with a large body of men against Hebron, to reinstate Abd al Rachman by force of arms, and to make war against his brothers, as also all the city, which had taken their part. The Pacha was now earnestly urged by the consul-general in Beirut, and the consuls in Jerusalem likewise, not to molest the Jews at Hebron, who had joined neither party, but kept themselves quite neutral, and to use all possible means that they should come to no harm at the taking of the hostile city. The Pacha promised this faithfully, and assured them that their recommendation should be strictly complied with.

Some days had now elapsed since he had marched against Hebron, and we had received no tidings whether he had succeeded, and that the city was taken, or whether he had received a check from the strong party within it, and was yet compelled to continue the siege when one morning we saw quite unexpectedly several articles exposed in the streets of Jerusalem by the soldiers, which evidently had been plundered from the Ashkenazim at Hebron. These things consisted of clothing and furniture, which were known to belong to the German Jews of that place; and there were even copper and tin cooking utensils, to which the just prepared food yet adhered. This then was the first evidence that we had that the city must already be in possession of the Pacha, since his brave army had behaved so gallantly there. At a later hour we learned that, on the preceding evening, the city had been taken by assault, and that, therefore, during the same night the plundered property had been carried hither in all haste, since it was offered for sale by the soldiers at break of day.

The Jews of Hebron had been grossly ill-used, beaten, and wounded; one old man had his hand shot off; some houses were clean plundered out; and it was on the whole a terrible scene which the military enacted there in their wild licentiousness. When their fury had abated a little, which probably was when there was nothing more to be plundered, the magnanimous Pacha made his appearance with his august escort in the house of the President of the Jewish community, to receive his thanks for the noble protection (perhaps for their not having been all killed) which had been afforded them.

But, not satisfied with mere thanks, he asked the Jews, or rather commanded them, to give him a written testimony that they had not suffered the least harm; that the noble Pacha, true to his promise which he had made to the consuls, had taken them and their property under his paternal protection, although at the very time the stolen property was offered publicly for sale in Jerusalem by his faithful soldiers; and as it was sold very low, and much under its value, many a kind-hearted Jew here bought in much of it, so as to be able to restore it afterwards to its impoverished owners. No one ventured to remonstrate with him at this outrageous falsehood which he demanded from the Jews as a faithful testimony, when the warm blood of the wounded was yet running before the eyes of the tyrant, when he yet saw the destruction which his bloodhounds had caused.

But all this was mere sport which his brave warriors had had with the Jews, who might therefore, nay, ought to give him an honourable and faithful testimonial of his kindness. He nevertheless had some little fear that the certificate given by these unfortunates might not for all this paint in sufficiently bright colours the noble protection they had received; and in order also to spare them the trouble of writing, he had the magnanimity to order his secretary to draw up the required paper, in his own style, and required of the directors of the congregation merely to sign their names, and they had only to pay 50 pieces of gold (1000 piastres), as a fee for the writing. But there was one of the managers to whom it was impossible to subscribe this lying certificate. And why he more than the rest? From the simple cause that he lacked the hand with which to write his name, because it had been shot away by the infuriated assailants. Can cannibal chiefs show more beautiful traits of character?

Jews and Muslims in Palestine