كتب الدكتور كامل العسلي ١٤ كتابا عن القدس وتاريخها. بعد ان توفي في عام ١٩٩٥ ترك مكتبه بما في ادراجه من أوراق دون تنسيق لوقت طويل. عندما زرت عمان في شهر شباط بدأتُ وجدتي وامي بترتيب تلك الأوراق ووجدنا بينها كنوزا مدفونة. قررت ان أشارككم هنا احدها. 

Dr. Kamil J. Asali

November 25, 1991

Jerusalem: Short Historical Notes

On The City’s Identity, Population and Development Through The Ages

Origin of the City and its Population

Jerusalem was founded towards the beginning of the third millennium BC, as a Canaanite settlement in what was called the Land of Canaan. The Amorites,  people closely related to the Canaanites, shared in the establishment of Jerusalem. The first name of the city, Urusalem, and the names of two of its early kings, are believed to be Amorite.

In the middle of the second millennium, Jerusalem was inhabited by a people of Canaanite extraction, called the Jebusites. These gave the city its second name Jebus.

About 2000 years after its establishment, Jerusalem was invaded by the David (c. 1000 B.C.).

According to the Old Testament, the Israelites did not expel the Jebusites from Jerusalem, but lived with them side by side, most probably they could no drive them out. Ever since the Israelite occupation the Canaanites continued to live in the country up to present day, i.e. now for five thousand years they constitute the majority of the Palestine peasantry.

The simple fact is that the majority of the Palestine Arabs of today were not descendants of the relatively “new comers”- the Arabs who came to the land with the conquests of the 7th century. They are a mixed population whose relation with the land rose since time immemorial (they were arabised and islamised and supplemented with ethnic arabs in the 7th century and after).

Therefore they (the Palestinians of today) are the real owners of the land.

Thus the claim that the jews were the original inhabitants of Palestine and that they preceded the Arab population of Jerusalem falls asunder. 

Islamic Toleration towards the Jews 

Rome and Byzantium expelled the Jews from Jerusalem and did not tolerate their presence in the city. But the Arabs and Muslims -ironically enough- allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem.

This happened three times:

  • In the 7th Century: when the Arabs came under the banners of Islam they lifted the Byzantine Embargo and allowed the Jews to return.
  • In the 12th Century (after 1187): Saladin agreed to the return of the Jews to Jerusalem after the expulsion of the crusaders
  • In the 16th Century: the Ottoman esp. Sultan Sulaiman the Magnificent, opened the gates of Jerusalem and Palestine before Jewish refugees from Spain.

 Prof. Amnon Cohen of the Jewish University of Jerusalem stresses the positive attitude of the Ottoman authorities towards the Jews. He observes that the entire supervisory mechanism governing the implementation of religious law was often slanted in favour of the Jews, and that autonomous Jewish life was encouraged by Muslim rulers.

About the Population

Throughout the 1300 years of Muslim rule the number of Jews in Jerusalem and their landed property was minimal in comparison with the Arabs.

  1. In the Mamluk period there were some hundred Jews. In 1483 their number was estimated at 400;
  2. According to Ottoman registers the number of Jews in the middle of the 16th Century was 1,201 out of 12,500. Some years later, in 1572, their number decreased to 500;
  3. In 1871 there were 3780 Jews out of a total population of 14,358;
  4. The number of Jews in Jerusalem increased rapidly from 1882, and especially during the British Mandate.

It is indicative, however, that in 1947 the Jews constituted still a small fraction of the population of the “Old City”: 2,400 out of 36,000, i.e. 7%. They owned less than 1% (0,6%) of the land.

Veneration of Jerusalem in Islam

Israeli historiography has often brought up the claim that “Jerusalem did not command a paramount place in the consciousness of the world of Islam…” etc.

This claim can be refuted on both religious and historical grounds:

For 13 years Jerusalem was first qibla of the Muslims. And the Prophet made his Isra’ (nocturnal Journey) to it, thus underlining its unique place. Hundreds of traditions (Hadith) of the Prophet extol Jerusalem. Consequently tens of thousands of devotees flocked to the city from all over the world including many companions of the Prophet. Hundreds of beautiful monuments were constructed in various Islamic periods, including Sufi (Mystic) establishments and mosques. 

No less than 50 books were written on the merits of Jerusalem in Islam (Fadail Al-Quds) from the beginning of the Fifth Century onwards.

The Ayyubids and Mamluks established more than 50 religious colleges (madaris) in the city and hundreds of small mosques (zawaya).

In Mamluk times the city enjoyed an eminent place in all parts of the Islamic world: Kings of India, Morocco and Ottoman Sultans of Asia Minor sent donations to Jerusalem and embellished it with Waqf Foundations.

Even in the days of the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the sultans paid great attention to the repair and maintenance of the Haram Ash-Sharif (especially the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa Mosque) and other religious places. The efforts of Sultan Suleiman in building the city are symbolic.

Although Jerusalem was not made capital in almost all Islamic periods, it was always accorded a special attention and respect by various Islamic governments.

If Jerusalem was not one of the administrative enters in the early Islamic period, that was because these centres were to be bases for the Arab Muqatila (troops) to meet their needs in pastures and climate, and to be directly linked to the Arab peninsula. Jerusalem and its Haram were hardly suitable. Suleiman, the Umayyad Caliph, thought of making it his capital. Al-Muazzam Isa, the Ayyubid Sultan, made it his chief headquarters.

It should be noted that Jerusalem had its special governor and Qadi, on equal footing with provincial capitals.

Conclusion

The religious as well as the so-called historical arguments brought forward by the Israelis to justify the expulsion, displacement and dispersal of the people of Jerusalem and Palestine are totally unacceptable by the norms of ethics and to all unbiased students of international law.

If continued residence in a city for hundreds, nay thousands of years, does not give its people an absolute title to it, what else can give.

If the deportation and exchange of whole peoples is allowed after the lapse of centuries of permanent residence, then the change of the whole map of the globe, and the transfer of all nations must on the same grounds be excepted and justified.

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