Monday, May 29, 2023

This article from 200 years ago - May 1823 - describes the lives of (Sephardic) Jews in Jerusalem then, and pays particular attention to the women.


Many of the Jews are rich and in comfortable circumstances, and possess a good deal of property in Jerusalem, but they are careful to conceal their wealth, and even their comfort, from the jealous eye of their rulers, lest by awakening their cupidity, some vile, indefensible plot should be devised to their prejudice. In going to visit a respectable Jew in the holy city, it is a common thing to pass to his house over a ruined foreground, and up an awkward outside stair, constructed of rough unpolished stones, that totter underfoot, but it improves as you ascend, and at the top has a respectable appearance, as it in an agreeable platform in front of the house. On entering, the house itself is found to be clean and well furnished the sofas are covered with Persia carpets, and the people seem happy to receive you. The visitor is entertained with coffee and tobacco, as is the custom in the houses of the Turks and Christians.

 The ladies presented themselves with an ease and address that surprised me, recalled to my memory the pleasing society of Europe. This difference of manner arises from many of the Jewish families at Jerusalem, having resided in Spain or Portugal, where the females have rid themselves of the cruel domestic fetters of the east, and on returning to their beloved land, had very properly maintained their justly acquired freedom and rank in society. They almost all speak in broken Italian, so that conversation goes on without the clumsy aid of an interpreter. It was the feast of the Passover. they were all eating unleavened bread; some of which was presented to me as a curiosity, and I partook of it merely that I might have the gratification of eating unleavened bread with the sons and daughters of Jacob in Jerusalem. It is very insipid fare, and no one would eat it from choice. 

...The Jewesses in Jerusalem speak in a decided and firm tone, unlike the hesitating and timid voice of the Arab and Turkish females, and claim the European privilege of differing from their husbands, and maintaining their own opinions. They are fair and good looking; red and auburn hair are by no means uncommon is either of the sexes. I never saw any of them with veils; and 1 was informed that it is the general practice of Jewesses in Jerusalem to go with their faces uncovered - they are the only females there who do so. They seem particularly liable to eruptive diseases, and the want of children is as great a heart break to them now as it was in the days of Sarah.

Alexandria Gazette
Alexandria, Virginia • 
Sat, May 10, 1823
Page 4

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 19 years and 40,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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