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The New York Times asked several experts to walk readers through pivotal moments of the past century. Yehoshua Ben-Arieh , a historical geographer at Hebrew University. Many early Zionists were secular European socialists, motivated more by concerns about nationalism, self-determination and escape from persecution than by religious visions. There was a reordering of their society. The local Palestinian aristocracy, the big families of Jerusalem, emerged as leaders of the Palestinian national movement, which was suddenly being confronted by Jewish migration.

Opposition to that migration fueled several deadly riots by Palestinians, while Jews chafed at British rule and at immigration restrictions imposed in — restrictions that blocked many Jews fleeing the Holocaust from entering. The Arabs rejected the partition plan, and a day after Israel proclaimed its independence in , the Arab countries attacked the new state.

They were defeated. The Crusades set the stage for several religious knightly military orders, including the Knights Templar , the Teutonic Knights, and the Hospitallers.

Christianity under Islam in Jerusalem: The Question of the Holy Sites in Early Ottoman Times

These groups defended the Holy Land and protected pilgrims traveling to and from the region. These groups departed for Byzantium in August In the first major clash between the Crusaders and Muslims, Turkish forces crushed the invading Europeans at Cibotus. Another group of Crusaders, led by the notorious Count Emicho, carried out a series of massacres of Jews in various towns in the Rhineland in , drawing widespread outrage and causing a major crisis in Jewish-Christian relations.

When the four main armies of Crusaders arrived in Constantinople , Alexius insisted that their leaders swear an oath of loyalty to him and recognize his authority over any land regained from the Turks, as well as any other territory they might conquer. All but Bohemond resisted taking the oath. The city surrendered in late June. Despite deteriorating relations between the Crusaders and Byzantine leaders, the combined force continued its march through Anatolia, capturing the great Syrian city of Antioch in June Having achieved their goal in an unexpectedly short period of time after the First Crusade, many of the Crusaders departed for home.

To govern the conquered territory, those who remained established four large western settlements, or Crusader states, in Jerusalem, Edessa, Antioch and Tripoli. In , the Seljuk general Zangi, governor of Mosul, captured Edessa, leading to the loss of the northernmost Crusader state. After Louis and Conrad managed to assemble their armies at Jerusalem, they decided to attack the Syrian stronghold of Damascus with an army of some 50, the largest Crusader force yet.

The combined Muslim forces dealt a humiliating defeat to the Crusaders, decisively ending the Second Crusade. In , Saladin began a major campaign against the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. His troops virtually destroyed the Christian army at the battle of Hattin, taking back the important city along with a large amount of territory. From the recaptured city of Jaffa, Richard reestablished Christian control over some of the region and approached Jerusalem, though he refused to lay siege to the city. In September , Richard and Saladin signed a peace treaty that reestablished the Kingdom of Jerusalem though without the city of Jerusalem and ended the Third Crusade.

In response, the Crusaders declared war on Constantinople, and the Fourth Crusade ended with the devastating Fall of Constantinople , marked by a bloody conquest, looting and near-destruction of the magnificent Byzantine capital later that year. Throughout the remainder of the 13th century, a variety of Crusades aimed not so much to topple Muslim forces in the Holy Land but to combat any and all of those seen as enemies of the Christian faith.

The Albigensian Crusade aimed to root out the heretical Cathari or Albigensian sect of Christianity in France, while the Baltic Crusades sought to subdue pagans in Transylvania. The movement never reached the Holy Land. The peace treaty expired a decade later, and Muslims easily regained control of Jerusalem. This battle, known as the Seventh Crusade, was a failure for Louis. Under the Byzantines, Jews were barred from Jerusalem.


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The Arabs allowed them in again. We have records of Muslim rulers helping found Christian monasteries. The highlight of his research, however, was a seventh-century canon law permitting Christian priests to administer last rites to Muslims as well as perform exorcisms to heal Muslims using Christian relics. Thus, in return for submission and the payment of the jizya , the poll tax, Islam guaranteed the people of the Book security of life, property and protection in the exercise of their religions.

Each community exercised jurisdiction over matters of personal status, such as marriage, divorce and inheritance. So long as they submitted to the Muslim state and paid the jizya , Christians and Jews were left alone to run their own lives without interference. The jizya , which adult, sane dhimmi males paid for protection and exemption from military service, was reasonable and not oppressive. It was paid either in money or in kind.

Peasants in rural areas usually paid one gold dinar or 12 silver dirhams in addition to one jarib of wheat per head. Urban dhimmis paid from a minimum of one gold dinar or 12 silver dirhams to a maximum of four gold dinars or 48 silver dirhams , depending on their wealth. Women, children, old men, slaves, poor monks, and the mentally sick were exempt. Monks in Egypt were exempt until the period of Umar II, — Thereafter, they paid the jizya.

Positions in government administration and the economy were open to dhimmis. In fact, from the Arab conquest to the beginning of the eighth century, the language of the administration remained Persian in Iraq and Greek in Egypt and Syria.


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Only dhimmis , especially Christians, had the linguistic and administrative skills to keep the government functioning. The well-known St. John of Damascus, his father and grandfather, served the Umayyad state in high office in Damascus. John was also noted for his theological dialogues with Muslims regarding the divinity of Christ. Jews, of course, were not excluded from government posts and Arab courts. The Jewish physician — philosopher ibn Maimoun, or Maimonides — , distinguished himself in the service of the Ayyubid Court in Cairo.

Muslim-Christian Relations: Historical and Contemporary Realities

Furthermore, Jewish and Christian merchants played significant roles in banking and the economy. Between and , over the course of two centuries, Christian translators, among others, made available to the Muslim mind virtually the whole Greek and Syriac philosophical, medical and scientific body of knowledge in Arabic.

The Shia Fatimid Caliphate based in Cairo was noted for its tolerant attitude to Christians and Jews, except for the period of Caliph al-Hakim — Several individuals of Jewish and Christian background reached the second highest position in the state, that of wazir. Between and , the Arabs were in control of almost all of the Iberian Peninsula.

Spanish cities usually surrendered without a fight, as the natives were assured of security of life, religion and property. Spain, called Andalus by the Arabs, became a model of toleration and religious coexistence. It flourished economically, intellectually and socially. Cordoba, capital of Muslim Spain, rivaled Baghdad and Constantinople in the tenth century as a cosmopolitan city, noted for trade, culture and learning. The closest library to it in Europe was in Switzerland with books.

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Christians and Jews, along with Muslims, shared in the wealth of Cordoba and occupied high positions in society and the royal court. In the towns and cities, Jews found themselves in unique positions as intermediaries between Muslim-dominated Spain and the rest of the world. Having suffered severe discrimination at the hands of the Visigoths, Jewish communities under the Muslims enjoyed more freedom, affluence, and social standing than any Jewish community would until the nineteenth century. Where is the layman who now reads the Latin commentaries on the Holy Scriptures, or who studies the Gospels, prophets and apostles?

All the talented young Christians read and study with enthusiasm the Arab books — they despise the Christian literature as unworthy of attention. As was the case in the Arab state, the attitude of the Ottomans to Christians and Jews was essentially the same. So long as they submitted, paid the jizya and stayed away from seditious acts, they were left alone.

Ottoman subjects were organized into three millets , or religious communities: the Muslim millet, the Greek Orthodox millet and the Jewish millet. Each millet was autonomous under its religious chiefs who served as links between the Ottoman government and their flocks. Religious chiefs were sometimes responsible for collecting Ottoman taxes from their communities. Issues of personal status were also under their control. No effort was made by the Ottomans to convert people to Islam. When conversion did occur, it was not the result of pressure. The Ottomans did not proselytize. When Constantinople fell to Muhammad II in , its population was declining.


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  5. The sultan restored order and opened the city to all, Muslims, Christians and Jews, to settle in it. Those who had fled were encouraged to return. Muhammad II installed a new Patriarch, Gennadius, and invested him with more authority than a patriarch had exercised under the Byzantines. The Patriarch and his Holy Synod settled doctrinal questions, disciplined members of the Church, managed church property and levied taxes on clergy and laity. Freedom of conscience and worship was guaranteed. The Patriarch exercised considerable civil authority over his community and was considered a government official with the rank of wazir.

    The sultan promised the Patriarch and his ecclesiastical hierarchy protection against fellow Christians, be they Roman Catholics or Serbian Orthodox rivals. No wonder then, some , Jews from Spain and other parts of Europe found refuge in the Ottoman Empire.

    Thirty to forty thousand settled in Istanbul and fifteen to twenty thousand in Salonika. Others settled in Izmir Smyrna or elsewhere.

    Oded Peri (Author of Christianity Under Islam in Jerusalem)

    With time, they flourished economically and became skilled merchants, bankers, and artisans. Although tolerated, protected, and many of them well-to-do, Christians and Jews were not without complaints under Islamic rule. They lived under certain legal and social disabilities.