Tuesday, February 16, 2016

I've happened to stumble across an account of a public meeting that took place in Dundee (George Galloway's old stomping ground) in March 1893, deploring the persecution of the Jews of Tsarist Russia.  Addressing the meeting,  R. Scott Moncrieff, described  as Commissioner of the Society for the Relief of Persecuted Jews, made some remarks regarding a visit he made to Ottoman Palestine in August 1891 that might be of interest :

"The question was often asked how many Jews there were in Palestine, and that question he had endeavoured to find an answer to.  In Palestine he found after much inquiry   ̶  although he had considerable difficulty in getting reliable facts   ̶  that there were at least 75,000 Jews, young and old.  The great bulk  ̶  much more than half  ̶  of the Jews were in Jerusalem.  After inquiring at different Rabbis and at Christian residenters [sic; Scots for 'residents'], he was led to conclude that there must be at least 45,000 Jews in and around Jerusalem."  (Dundee Advertiser, 31 March 1893.)

Later in 1893 an Arab Christian visited Britain to give a series of public  lectures on the condition of Ottoman Palestine.  Described a few years earlier, when he had made a similar visit, as "the Bible illustrator from the East" and "son of the sheikh of Ramallah' (Morpeth Herald, 12 January, 30 March 1889), he was Yusuf Audi, described in the South Wales Daily News (31 October 1893) as having "recently succeeded his father as chief of the Dahr Awad tribe" and as follows in the Western Mail (3 November 1893): 'The Arab sheikh, Joseph Audi, who is lecturing this week at Cardiff and Abercarn, is a lineal descendant of Jonadab, the son of Rechab, spoken of in the thirty-fifth chapter of Jeremiah.  The largest section of his tribe still "dwell in tents and drink wine," as there recorded. '

Two days earlier the Western Mail carried an interview with him, headed "An Arab Chief in Cardiff":

'Mr Audi, the Arab chief who on Monday delivered the first of a course of lectures dealing with life in Palestine, was interviewed on Tuesday evening by a Western Mail reporter.

"This is your first visit to this country, is it not,?" said our representative, after introducing himself.

"Oh, no; I was in England about four years ago, and I have been already five months lecturing in London."

"Then you like England and the English?"

"Yes, I think it a grand place, and the people have always been most kind to me."

"What characteristics of the people have you been most impressed with?"

"Well, I can hardly say, but perhaps what has struck me more than anything is your inventive genius.  The English are never content.  That is the great difference between my own nation and yours.  The Arabs are contented.  Although they are taxed and oppressed by the Sultan, yet they do not  complain, and are content to live and die as their fathers did, knowing little, but being peaceful and happy."

"What is their chief employment?"

"The cultivation of their land and the cultivation of their vines and olive trees.  They have no manufactures whatever,"

"Are the people well-educated?"

"No; hardly anyone is able to read or write.  Each tribe has a man, called a Gothern. who is specially employed in reading any letters which the people of the village may receive and writing answers for them.  There are no newspapers. "

"No newspapers!  However do you get on without them?"

"At different times of the year messengers are sent out from each tribe to Jaffa, Shechem, Jerusalem, and other large towns to collect all the news.  On their return all the tribes assemble to hear them recount what they have heard."

"What religion do the majority of natives follow?"

"The Jews, who number 35,000, are in a majority, and all the remainder are either Mohammedans or Christians, there being about 20,000 of each."

"I suppose that the Arabs have not yet learned to play our English games?"

"No.  Football would hardly suit the peaceful mind of an Arab," answered Mr Audi, with a smile, "but they amuse themselves by playing a game very similar to draughts.  Shooting is also a favourite pastime among the Arabs, there being pheasants and gazelles in abundance.  No, the English recreations have not spread to Palestine yet, but I remember once seeing a man upon a bicycle in Jerusalem."

"What a joke!"

"It wasn't for the man on the machine, for the people took him for a devil, and he had to seek refuge in a mosque."

Mr Audi, in conclusion, said that at the beginning of next week he would go to London to fulfil an engagement which will last till Christmas.  Next year he hopes to visit Cardiff again, and also make a tour of South Wales."

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