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Book Notes: The Zealous Intruders: The Western Rediscovery of Palestine, Naomi Shepherd; The Jews in Palestine 1800-1882, Tudor Parfitt

V. D. Lipman

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Book Notes The Zealous Intruders: The Western Rediscovery of Palestine, Naomi Shepherd (Collins, London 1987) 282 pp. ?15. The Jews in Palestine 1800-1882, Tudor Parfitt (London, Royal Historical Society Studies in History 52, 1987) xii + 243 pp. ?25. Both these books contribute notably to the growing study of relations between the West and the Holy Land in the nineteenth century, although they are very different in scope and objective. Naomi Shepherd, British born and educated, has lived in Jerusalem since 1963, where her career has included acting as correspondent for the New Statesman and the New York Times. Her work, while based on genuine scholarship and wide research, shows in its style the experience of journalism in the best sense. It is a fascinatingly good read and often shows an insight which penetrates to the essence of what really happened. Several times this reviewer, reading an account of events, such as the Warren survey of Jerusalem, with which he is acquainted from archival sources, felt that Naomi Shepherd's account had provided fresh light on what really occurred and motivated the characters involved. Her object was to portray for the general reader how the West rediscovered Palestine in the nineteenth century, and the people who did it. The first question that may be asked is how this differs from the work of Professor Ben-Arieh, The Rediscovery of the Holy Land in the Nineteenth Century (Jerusalem, Magnes Press, second edition, 1983). The answer is that Ben-Arieh, while giving the necessary background, is primarily concerned with geographical exploration and on this gives more about more people than Naomi Shepherd. Her range is however much wider. After dealing with the first travellers like Volney, Edward Clarke, J.S. Buckingham, Seetzen and Burckhardt, she discusses the biblical scholars like Edward Robinson and Tristram, and painters like Holman Hunt. There is a chapter on the consuls, with an interesting analysis of the differences in national style between them. Then a superb vignette of the Bedouin chieftain, Akil Aga, identified as the embodiment of 'feudal Palestine'. This Bedouin leader, fiercely independent of Ottoman authority, gained power and wealth by a protection racket which was the only means of assuring the safety of minorities like Jews and Christians from the marauding tribes from east of the Jordan. The account of him has been built up from travellers' reports, French and British consular archives, and the details sent by local correspondents to East European Hebrew papers. To round it off, she has discovered in the Royal Library at Windsor pictures by Carl Haag of Akil and his tribe, whereas the only 275</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes previously known drawing of him was that reproduced in the book by the American naval explorer of the Dead Sea, W.F. Lynch, a decade earlier. The book continues with the beginning of popular tourism, associated with Thomas Cook; the early years of archaeological excavation, with Warren and Clermont Ganneau as her heroes; and finally the attempts of the missionaries to convert the Jews and the resistance by the latter to them. She gives a realistic assessment of the lack of success of Montefiore's initiatives in trying to found educational, social, agricultural or industrial institutions. The Western Jewish benefactors sought to modernize the Yishuv as well as to relieve it: unfor? tunately those who really wanted to get on were those who chose the missionaries as a short cut to prosperity and a 'passport to the West'. She is good also on the spread of German influence. When Jews turned to agricultural settlement, they were influenced by the methods of the Templar colonies, and she assesses the main positive effect of the joint British-Prussian bishopric as the strengthening of German influence, especially in the over thirty years of Gobat's tenure. In spite, however, of the activities of other nations, one is left with an abiding impression of the influence of the Holy Land in this period on British consciousness. There was an 'avalanche of books' on the Holy Land published in Britain and even as early as 1854 the Holy Land 'was better known in England than the English Lakes' (p. 78). If this reviewer has a cavil, it is that the popular presentation eschews any references which would make it possible to follow up in more detail the background of any statement, or at least only with considerable effort. Original sources, divided between published and unpublished, are listed for each chapter, but only roughly in the order of subject matter in the chapter itself. There is a full bibliography of secondary sources for the bopk as a whole, including four unpublished theses (and it is clear from the text that the author has used the thesis she cites by Dr Arieh Morgenstern on the Pekidim and Amarkalim of Amsterdam, to judge by an illuminating comment on the Lehrens). The bibliography is also up to date in citing recent relevant publications, and this reviewer noted with appreciation that several essays in the Century of Moses Montefiore (by Judge Finestein, Mr Schischa and others) had clearly been read perceptively. No one could complain however of lack of documentation of statements in Dr Parfitt's Royal Historical Society Monograph. The original text of this book in a distinguished series was an Oxford D.Phil, thesis submitted in 1975 and now brought up to date. The archival sources used include the Jerusalem consulate correspondence in the Public Record Office (FO 78 and 195), the French Foreign Ministry Archives (Jerusalem and Damascus consulates), the archives of the Alliance in Paris, and the Montefiore papers in Jews' College, London, including the 1839 and other 'census' material. The period covered is that of the 'old' Yishuv from the end of the eighteenth century to the beginning of the Zionist 276</page><page sequence="3">Book Notes settlement, the 'First Aliyah'. But even before 1882 there were substantial changes in the numbers and circumstances of the Jewish population in Palestine, which increased, largely by immigration, from 6000 in 1800 to 32,000 in 1882 (p.126) and also changes in composition with the arrival of appreciable numbers of Ashkenazim from East and Central Europe, as well as an influx of Jews from North Africa, who?while they were Sephardim?differed in customs from Levantine Sephardim and formed their own Moghrabi Kolel in 1850 (p.149). The first feature of the book is an account of how the main urban Jewish communities developed in the light of changes in the towns in which they lived. This was a period of change not only in the Yishuv but in Palestine generally. From a backwater, with contacts with the West only in a few ports on the western coastline, the country was increasingly modernized in the second half of the century; and there was even a marked process of modernization, and superficial liberalization, in the Turkish regime. The second feature is the attempt to establish the demographic background. Use is made of consular reports, the Montefiore censuses, missionary state? ments, books and articles by travellers and residents. The difficulty of the task is shown by the fact that in 1881 and 1882 two sources, both associated with the Palestine Exploration Fund, put the Jewish population of Jerusalem at 9000 and 15-20,000, and the total population at 21,000 and 40,000 respectively (p.38): But the various figures are collated, commented on and reasonable con? clusions drawn. There are chapters on the four 'Holy Cities'?Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias. Jews were in a majority in Jerusalem from about 1850, the time when it began to change from a medieval to a partly Westernized city (p.291). Hebron, although only 19 miles from Jerusalem, was isolated from Western in? fluences?in 1880 it had no telegraph and no resident doctor (p.39); and while a magnet for Hasidism, especially of Habad, its isolation and insecurity limited the growth of its Jewish population. Safed between 1800 and 1840 suffered a number of disasters, natural and manmade, but then had a period of relative security and growth. Tiberias' experience was similar, but while both had Jewish majorities by 1882, the better location and climate of Safed resulted in a larger Jewish population than that of Tiberias. The book discusses other Jewish communities. Jaffa's Jewish population rose as the port developed into a main entry point for travellers to Jerusalem, and Dr Ruth Kark has shown how the Jewish community of Jaffa developed a progressive outlook. Acre was, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, probably the most important town in the country and led the Jewish communities, because it was the political centre of al-Jazzar Pasha and his successors, and of the prominent Farhi family. But with the end of the local potentates, and the decline of the port because of the better facilities across the 277</page><page sequence="4">Book Notes bay at Haifa, it sank in importance and its Jewish population was reduced to a handful (p.123). By contrast, Haifa, with its deep natural harbour, became an important port by the mid-nineteenth century, for instance shipping Palestinian corn to Britain after repeal of the Corn Laws (p. 105); and it was modernized by the influence of the German Templar colony (p. 103). The attraction to Jewish settlement was mainly the prospect of protection from the numerous foreign consuls who came to be stationed there (p.i 10). The role of the Western consuls was important in giving protection to Jews, not only to their own nationals or protected persons, but also?at least as far as the British were concerned?sometimes indirectly to Jews who were Ottoman subjects. To break new ground, the chapter on the consuls concentrates on the French consulate, on which relatively little has so far appeared. There was an inconsistency in French policy: on the one hand, it recognized the potential for expanding French influence by identifying with the interests of Jews from French North Africa, but was held back by the anti-Jewish sentiment of some of the consular personnel and the Catholic orientation of much of French foreign policy in this period. The French identified traditionally with the native Christian Latins; and, as this book confirms, the native Christians tended to be more hostile to the Jews even than the local Arabs, and the latter more than the Turkish administration. There is a useful survey of local blood libel accusations in the nineteenth century, which sets the Damascus Affair in context. The book does not deal, except indirectly, with economic life, nor with the the internal religious and spiritual life of the Yishuv; these would have required separate volumes. There is a brief chapter on the Cult of Zion; but this is mainly concerned with the motives for Jewish immigration during the period. It counters the conventional picture of Jews before 1882 going to the Holy Land as old people to die, by showing, from a sample of eleven local communities between 1845 and 1868, that only 33 per cent of the heads of household were aged 45 or over?so the immigrants were not all aged. However, because many of them did come in old age, and because the insanitary housing conditions and other factors resulted in a high infant mortality rate, the Jewish mortality rate generally was very high (pp.124-5). The Jewish population increase was due largely to immigration, especially after the improvement in conditions during the Egyptian rule in the 1830s and the subsequent period of the Ottoman reforms. The impression of the old Yishuv which emerges from this clearly written book is that it prefigured much of the post-1882 developments and that immigration, especially after 1850, laid the foundation for what was to come: in other words, 1882 and the beginning of the First Aliyah was not so radical a break as might have been imagined. V.D. Lipman 278</page></plain_text>

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