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 Home > Damascus and Religions > Damascus and Jews

Jews, non-Muslims meriting Islamic rule

La Ceuilette des Citrons
by Frederic Leighnton

The Jews were considered non-Muslims meriting Islamic rule, just like Christians and Mandaeans. They had to pay tribute in return for Islam’s protection. They also were exempt from military service.

The Damascus Jews merged, just like other Arab countries Jews, in the Arab life, meriting all rights, enjoyed by Arab citizens, a unique matter was not available elsewhere. While lived in Europe within ghettos, exposed to religious oppression, the Jews in the Arab countries felt that they are a part of the local society, while preserving their religious freedom, heritage and sectarian affiliation.

The Jews existence in the Arab countries dates back to successive migrations, the most ancient of which goes back to the sixth (6) century B.C. The Jews melted in the country population, speaking Arabic in addition to using some Hebrew phrases in their salutations, especially on Saturdays.

The Sham land (Greater Syria) Jews were not different from Shamis (Syrians) in norms and customs, but in what is related to their exclusive religious creed. Their names had a great thing to do with Sham land Muslims friendliness. Thus, they named their children after Arab names.

The local Jews measured up to Muslims, observing the provisions of circumcision, major ritual ablution and ablution, resulting in a certain kind of closeness with Muslims.

Jews Migrations to Damascus

Jews waves arrived in Damascus under Ottoman occupation, the first of which was from the Iberian (Andalusia) peninsula Jews, banished with Muslim Arabs. Some of those Jews settled in Palestine, Syria and Egypt, in the cities of (Jerusalem, Safad of Galilee, Cairo, Alexandria and Damascus). They speak among themselves Ladino language; then Arabic become a common language between them and the local Jews. In the early nineteenth century, a new Jewish wave arrived from eastern Europe, i.e. the Ashkenazi Jews, speaking Yiddish dialect.

Jewish Families in Damascus

It is remarked that most Jewish families in Damascus are of Arab origin. What are left originate in Ottoman cities and areas, or else were named after crafts, they practised. Some of the latter were originally Ashkenazi or Sephardim.

None of these families came into light, in the Damascene society, save a few, especially in the exchange and economic domains, such as the Farhis, the Shana’as, the Abul’Afias, the Hiraris, the Shahadas, the Khidr . . et al. The most prominent of these Jewish families was the Farhis, originally Andalusian, whose forefathers had migrated to Anatolia, in the wake of Spanish Inquisition, aimed for Muslims and Jews in Andalusia, after its fall into their hands in the late fifth century, consequently, these families were motivated to migrate to the mentioned place and then to Damascus.

Damascene Jews
Authr: Dr. Youssef No'iassa
Publisher: Dar Al-Marifa

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