Sunday, August 14, 2011

Jews in Egypt, 1840

The myth of harmony between Muslims and Jews is exposed, again, in the 1843 book "The American in Egypt: with rambles through Arabia Petra︠e︡a and the Holy Land, during the years 1839 and 1840" by James Ewing Cooley:

Hated and contemned by the Moslems, they are compelled to pay tribute to the Turks; and they tamely submit to insult and indignity from the meanest Arabs. The animosity of the Moslems toward the Jews is no less proverbial than that of the Jews toward the Moslems. So abominable are the Jews in the eyes of the Turks, that when any of them are condemned to suffer death, they are invariably hanged — lest, should they be beheaded, according to the usual mode of executing criminals in the East, the sword should be defiled by the blood of a Jew! The name of Jew, among the Egyptians, is synonymous with the most opprobrious epithets. The muledrivers, when nettled by the obstinacy of their headstrong animals, after exhausting their strength in whipping them, and their imaginations in endeavouring to find words for an adequate expression of their displeasure, find a consoling revenge by applying to their mules and jackasses the hateful name of Jew!

...Some of the Jews are wealthy; but, fearful of exciting the envious and marauding disposition of the Moslems, they make little display of their riches, except at home. When going into the street, they are careful to change their dress, and to give themselves as shabby and mean an appearance as possible. The Jews of Cairo, as in all other places, have not only a peculiarity in appearance, but their occupations are also peculiar, or such as Jews, wherever situated, are found to engage in. Money-changers, jewellers, gold and silver smiths, pawnbrokers, and old clothes-venders are found in any quantity among the Jews of Egypt. The same spirit of avarice, and the same disposition to overreach in commercial transactions, which distinguish the lower classes of Jews in other countries, where they are less oppressed, act with much stronger force upon the Jews in Cairo; and often bring them into perilous contact with the government, where, frequently, their lives only can atone for indulging their inordinate desires after wealth. A Jew money-changer once lost his life in Cairo for five cents! The Pacha having issued a decree prohibiting the circulation of a certain Turkish coin, called 'adleeyefis, for more than ^fifteen piasters; and a Jew who had demanded and taken sixteen for the same piece of money, being convicted of the offence, was hung forthwith.

The Jews have found Egypt, ever since the death of Joseph, a country of oppression and tyranny toward the people of their nation ; and, with the exception of some brief periods, particularly under the early reign of the Macedonian dynasty, their condition in that country has been little better than was that of their ancestors in the days of Moses. They have existed there only in a state of bondage, degradation, and fear. They have always been tributary to government, and often in a state of literal slavery. Ptolemy Philadelphus, in his reign, ransomed a hundred and twenty thousand Jews who were then slaves in Egypt. When Alexandria fell into the hands of the Saracens, there were forty thousand tributary Jews in that city alone. Their numbers in Egypt have greatly dwindled with the decaying power and declining civilization of that country; while their physical and moral condition cannot be said to have improved. They are generally the first to suffer in case of any sudden outbreak among the people: are frequently plundered, and almost daily insulted. They live in a state of perpetual fear, religiously contemning the Christians, bitterly hating the Moslems, and receive little or no sympathy from any quarter. When the plague breaks out in Egypt, its ravages among the Jews are most appalling. Death sweeps down their ranks, threatening total annihilation to their race in the land. What stronger evidence can be adduced of the truth of Holy Writ, than the present condition of the poor Israelites'.

This is immediately followed by an account of the slave market in Cairo where black Africans were sold.