Friday, June 27, 2014

  • Friday, June 27, 2014
  • Elder of Ziyon
There are a number of interesting passages in "The Inner Life of Syria, Palestine, and the Holy Land: From My Private Journal, Volume 1" by Lady Isabel Burton, who was the wife of explorer Richard Francis Burton.

At the holy places, Damascus and Jerusalem, religion is the one thought for pugnacious sentiment, as politics used to be in the days when they rose so high in England, that the dearest friends whose opinions differed could not speak. In Damascus, Christian and Moslem are as Guelph and Ghibeline, Montagu and Capulet, Whig and Tory of the olden time. At Jerusalem the fourteen Christian sects wrangle over the Holy Places, except, of course, those who doubt the truth of the sites, and who have come to teach us better. Meanwhile, the Moslems stand over them to flog them into order. If one unhappy Jew were to risk crossing the court of the Sepulchre during Holy Week, the fourteen would for once unite to tear him into threads.

The Palestine Moslems are considered by Thomson, and those who have made researches into their history, to have come from Egypt. My husband says they are a collection of all races, and that the Crusaders drew them from every part of the East.
The Maronites claim to be descended from the ancient Syrians.
The Ansariyyeh, also called Nusayri, are also made to spring from the Canaanites, but the fact is we know nothing about them.
The Metawalis are emigrants from Persia, as their physique proves.
The inhabitants of the Lebanon may be off-shoots from the original Phcenician owners.
The Druzes are Arabs from the eastern confines of Syria, settled partly in the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, and partly in the mountains to the east.

Thomson truthfully says:—

"No country in the world has such a multiplicity of antagonistic races. They can never form a united people, nor combine for any important purpose. They will therefore remain weak and incapable of self-government, and exposed to the invasions and oppressions of foreigners—a people trodden down."

This state of affairs results from and perpetuates a Babel of tongues. English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish are the languages imported by the foreign Consulates. Turkish is the official tongue, and Arabic the national; Persian, Hindostani, and Greek are also common. The Consul has to converse every day with Jews, Maronites, Arabs, Turks, Bedawin, Druzes, Kurds, Afghans, Persians, and Algerines; and he must, or rather he should, understand all their religions and customs.

...These various religions and sects live together more or less, and practise their conflicting worships in close proximity. Outwardly you do not see much, but in their hearts they hate one another. The Sunnites excommunicate the Shiahs, and both hate the Druzes; all detest the Ansariyyehs; the Maronites do not love anybody but themselves, and are duly abhorred by all; the Greek Orthodox abominate the Greek Catholics and the Latins; all despise the Jews. It is a fine levelling school, and teaches one, whatever one's fanatical origin or bigoted early training may have been, to respect all religions, and to be true to one's own.

Except the Bedawin, the Druzes, and the Jews (especially the Samaritans), only a few families can pride themselves on tracing their origin to any antiquity. We must, of course, except all those descended from the Prophet, and especially Abd el Kadir, who is an exile here.
The part about sectarian divisions was quoted in a conference held in Lebanon on how the media fans sectarian divisions of the country.

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