Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More on Jewish Kotel Pilgrimage

A reader sends this Mandate-period British report that discusses the history of Jewish rights at the Western Wall:
"The Emperor Hadrian (117-138 A.D.) made Jerusalem a Roman Colony, called Aelia Capitolina. He prohibited the Jews from entering Jerusalem and from that period dates the dispersion of the Jews throughout the world. It may be said that there has been no Jewish nation in possession in Palestine since then, though, some Jews have, nevertheless, always been living in the country, their number being larger or smaller in proportion to the degree of toleration extended to them by the successive rulers of the country.

"The Dominican Fathers just quoted also say that even after Hadrian's prohibition the Jews succeeded in getting into Jerusalem at least once a year. At that period the place of lamentation seems to have been on the Mount of Olives, from where the worshippers could see the ruins in the distance. From and after the year 333 A.D., when the Pilgrim of Bordeaux visited the Holy Land and learnt that 'all Jews come once a year to this place, weeping and lamenting near a stone which remained of the Holy Temple,' there is a more or less continuous tradition about the Jews' devotions at the ruins of the Temple or in its environs...

"There are several Jewish authors of the 10th and 11th centuries, e.g., Ben Meir, Rabbi Samuel ben Paltiel, Solomon ben Judah, and others, who write about the Jews repairing to the Wailing Wall for devotional purposes, also under the Arab domination. A nameless Christian Pilgrim of the 11th century testifies to a continuance of the practice of the Jews coming to Jerusalem annually.

"The Arab domination was interrupted by the arrival of the Crusaders who conquered Jerusalem in 1099. The Crusaders at first treated the Jews badly, but afterwards became more tolerant. Benjamin of Tudela says (1167) that during the later Crusader Period the Wailing Wall was a place of constant prayer. The Arabs reconquered the country at the end of the 12th century and Saladin, their great ruler, invited, in 1190, the Jews to return to Palestine.

"For the ensuing two centuries Palestine practically disappears from history. It shall, however, be mentioned, already in this connection, that in the year 1193 an area in front of the Wailing Wall was constituted Waqf by King Afdal, son of Saladin, that is to say that the property was detached for 'religious or charitable' purposes according to the Moslem Sharia Law. The bearing of this conception will be discussed in the following. About 1320 the houses which are now called the Moghrabi Quarter (see above) were constituted Waqf, by a certain Abu Madian. This Quarter was donated for the benefit of Moroccan pilgrims and derives its name from that.

"In 1517 the country was conquered by the Turks and from that date, save for a short interruption of nine years from the year 1831 when the country was invaded by the Egyptians, the Turkish domination lasted on until the period of the Great War. With respect to the Wailing Wall and how it was regarded during the Turkish régime it may be stated that there are many statements - too numerous to be quoted here - in the writings of various travellers in the Holy Land, more especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, which go to show that the Wailing Wall and its environs continued to be places of devotion for the Jews. In 1625 'arranged prayers' at the Wall are mentioned for the first time by a scholar whose name has not been preserved.

"During the period now referred to, several decisions of special interest in connection with the Wailing Wall were arrived at by various authorities who had to do with the matter. While the Commissioners were conducting their proceedings at Jerusalem the Counsel for the Moslems produced a decree issued by Ibrahim Pasha in May, 1840, which forbade the Jews to pave the passage in front of the Wall, it being only permissible for them to visit it 'as of old.' The Counsel for the Moslems further referred to a decision of the Administrative Council of the Liwa in the year 1911 prohibiting the Jews from certain appurtenances at the Wall. The Counsel for the Jews, on the other hand, referred the Commission in especial to a certain firman issued by Sultan Abdul Hamid in the year 1889, which says that there shall be no interference with the Jews' places of devotional visits and of pilgrimage, that are situated in the localities which are dependent on the Chief Rabbinate, nor with the practice of their ritual. In the same connection the Counsel for the Jews also referred the Commission to a firman of 1841, stated to be of the same bearing and likewise to two others of 1893 and 1909 that confirm the first mentioned one of 1889. Translations of the decrees of 1840 and 1911 as well as of the firman of 1889 are annexed to this Report (Appendices VI-VIII). The firman of 1841 was not actually produced."



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