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The Arab clothes of our forefathers - Articulating Ashkenazi Palestinian Jewish identity through dress and language

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A R G O M E N T I
«The Arab clothes
of our forefathers»
Articulating Ashkenazi Palestinian Jewish
identity through dress and language
Ido Harari
For hundreds of years, the Ashkenazic Jewish community in Jerusalem was part of the
everyday life of the city, a life shared by Muslims, Jews and Christians of different backgrounds. Despite this fact, modern Jewish and Israeli historiography did not devote much
attention to this community – be it due to the fact that it represented a set of values not appreciated by modern nationalist ideology, or because of the preference of historians, when
writing about Arab-Jewish relations in the Land of Israel/Palestine, to emphasize conflict
rather than coexistence. This article addresses the question of the integration of Jerusalemite Ashkenazic Jews into the fabric of the city, paying special attention to the issues of clothes
and language. Through the use of «external» and «internal» sources, religious/legal and ethnographic texts, the article paints a picture in which, on the one hand, Ashkenazic Jews are
presented as clearly «native» to the land, and on the other hand as deliberately emphasizing
difference – especially in places where this difference is most likely to become blurred.
Keywords: Jewish – Arab – Palestinian
When addressing the issue of the immigration of European Jews to Eretz Yisrael/
Palestine1 in modern times, scholarship has often tended to emphasize the dissonance between the character of the land and its people, on the one hand, and the
ideology and costumes of those who arrived in it, on the other. This tendency is not
discordant with historical reality, as is evident, among many other examples, in the
words of the Zionist writer Moshe Smilansky, writing in 1914: «Over the course of
thirty years we did not learn the language of the land. In the entire Hebrew Yishuv
there are not even ten people who can read and write Arabic. This fact might seem
absurd to the reader; but to our disgrace, this is the reality»2.
1
The Hebrew term «Eretz Yisrael» (and its’ Yiddish equivalent «Eretz Yisroel» [The Land of Israel]) was used
in traditional Jewish writings to denote what is most commonly known in the Christian west as the «Holy
Land». The term «Palestine» is used to describe the same territory (more or less) since Roman times, and was
also in use during the years discussed in this article. Throughout the text I use the terms interchangeably and
depending on the context.
2
L.R. Halperin, Babel in Zion: Jews, Nationalism, and Language Diversity in Palestine, 1920-1948, New
Haven, Yale University Press, 2015, pp. 142-143.
Contemporanea / a. XX, n. 4, ottobre-dicembre 2017
ISSN 1127-3070
© Società editrice il Mulino
569
570
However, the very terms employed by Smilansky, an influential figure in the early
years of Zionist settlement in Palestine, are already pregnant with the problem that
he wishes to eliminate – and most of all in the term «Hebrew Yishuv», the «we» in
the name of which he speaks. The literal meaning of the Hebrew word «yishuv» is
«settlement». This term, however, was employed by the Zionist colonists in Palestine to describe their endeavor and its realization. In opposition to the new Zionist
Yishuv, the colonists dubbed the Jews living in the land before the dawn of Zionism
as belonging to the «Old Yishuv», thereby weaving a modern narrative of historical
progress from the «old» to the «new» – a narrative which also has orientalistic undertones in which «the old» is in many cases identified with the East while «the new» is
that which comes from the West and brings its culture and values along. Moreover,
the fact that the new «Yishuv» is demarcated as «Hebrew» is also telling, and all the
more so when we remember the problem which Smilansky wishes to address: the
ignorance of Arabic, characteristic of so many members of the «New Yishuv».
What is intended in the following article is to shed light on a much-neglected aspect of Jewish life in modern day Eretz Yisrael/Palestine, an aspect which in Smilansky’s words appears as the unacknowledged Other (the acknowledged Other being,
of course, the Palestinian Arabs): the way in which the lives of the members of the
so-called «Old Yishuv» were interwoven with the lives of the other people of the land.
To further delimit the topic, the focus of the discussion will be the Ashkenazi community – i.e., that of Jews of European decent – within the «Old Yishuv», and the
ways in which they both assimilated into the Arabic culture of the land and differentiated themselves from it3. What I intend to do is to call attention to the intersection
between social and historical reality, on the one hand, and strategies of constructing
and articulating identity, on the other, while focusing on two specific and interrelated
aspects of these strategies – that of clothes and attire and that of spoken language.
This delimitation is based on an assumption that a close examination of the ways in
which the Ashkenazi Jews have dressed, spoken, and spoken about their dress can
lead us to understand the close connections between them and their non-European
neighbors – Sephardic Jews and Muslim and Christian Arabs.
3
The place of the Ashkenazi «Old Yishuv» within the pre-Zionist Palestinian context has been addressed
from various angles: see for example M. Kosover, Arabic Elements in Palestinian Yiddish. The Old Ashkenazic Jewish Community in Palestine, its History and its Language, Jerusalem, R. Mass, 1966; H. Cohen,
hayav ve-moto shel ha-yehudi ha-aravi be-eretz yisrael u-mihutza la [The life and death of the Arab-Jew:
Eretz Israel-Palestine and beyond], in O. Shiff (ed.), moladot ba-gola; tefisot shel shayahut v-zarut ba-tefutza
ha-yehudit [Homelands in Exile: perceptions of belonging and alienation in the Jewish Diaspora], Ben
Gurion Institute for research of Israel and Zionism, Ben Gurion University in the Negev, Sdeh Boker, 2015;
M. Klein, Lives in Common. Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Hebron, Oxford-New York, Oxford
University Press, 2014; and briefly in Y. Mendel, The Creation of Israeli Arabic. Political and Security Considerations in the Making of Arabic Language Studies in Israel, Houndmills, Basingstoke-Hampshire-New
York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. So far, however, it has not received a discussion specific to itself of the
kind I wish to offer here (a discussion that is by no means exhaustive).
We will see that the discursive strategies of members of the Ashkenazic «Old
Yishuv» harness and make use of the above-mentioned «eastern» elements in their
lives, and enable them to present themselves as members of a group which is differentiated from the new immigrants in that it is immersed in the culture and costumes
of the land, and yet distinct in its specific appropriation of this culture and in the
meanings with which it is endowed. Besides contributing to the understanding of an
existence of a vibrant and diverse pre-Zionist Palestinian-Jewish identity, this article
is also an intervention in the much-debated topic of the «oriental» nature of the Jews
in Europe4 – an intervention that I hope will make the sometimes too-clear-cut dichotomies of «East» and «West» appear more fluid and complex.
Crisis and Recovery
The presence of Ashkenazi Jews in Jerusalem is documented from as far back
as the late Middle Ages. Historically, most members of the Ashkenazi community
resided in a living compound named after it (Dir Shiknaz, in Arabic «place of residence of the Ashkenazim») and which included a synagogue where the Ashkenazi
worship traditions were observed5. The community grew significantly – for a while
at least – in the year 1700, with the arrival of the Polish messianic-Sabbatean leader
R. Judah Hasid [Hasid: «the Pious»] Segal Halevi and a group of 200-300 of his followers. The account of R. Gedaliah of Simiatiz, who was part of this group, attests to
the foreignness of these Ashkenazim to Jerusalem’s urban texture, especially from a
lingual standpoint:
And if the ones who know the language of the gentiles [i.e., Arabic] are like this [i.e. poor],
what will we the Ashkenazim, who do not know their language and will be in their eyes like
a mute that is unable to speak and like a person that does not hear their language, supposed
to do? We are [here] like strangers amongst the Jews and all the more so amongst the nations.
When we take some food item from an Arab in the shouk [market] he hints to us with his finger
and we hint to him with a number of the hand’s fingers, and we will be in their eyes a veritable
laughing stock6.
4
On this topic see I. Davidson Kalmar, D.J. Penslar (eds.), Orientalism and the Jews, Waltham (Mass.),
Brandeis University Press, 2005, and recently U. Brunotte, A.-D. Ludewig, A. Stähler (eds.), Orientalism,
Gender, and the Jews: Literary and Artistic Transformations of European National Discourses, Berlin-Boston, De Gruyter, 2015.
5
See E. Reiner, Ḥatzar Ha’Ashkenazim Be’Yerushala’im: Yemei Reshit [The Ashkenazi Courtyard in Jerusalem: the First Period], in R. Gafni, A. Morgenstern, D. Cassuto (eds.), Ha’Ḥurva: Shesh Meot Shanim shel
Hityashvut Yehudit Be’Yerushala’im [The Ḥurva Synagogue: Six hundred Years of Jewish Settlement in Jerusalem], Jerusalem 2010. The first mention of the Dir Shiknaz is in a text written in 1488; see ibidem, p. 12.
6
A. Ya’ari (ed.), Ma’saot ereṣ yisrael. Shel olim yehudim me-yemei ha-bei’nayim ve-ad reishit yemei shivat
ṣiyyon [Eretz Yisrael journeys of Jewish olim from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the days of the
return to Zion], Tel Aviv, 1946, p. 335.
571
One of the first tasks undertaken by these olim [Jewish immigrants to Eretz Yisrael]
was a renovation of the run-down synagogue in the Ashkenazi courtyard. However,
the failure of the Ashkenazi community to pay back loans taken by these newcomers for the reconstruction of the synagogue led some twenty years later to the building’s destruction, and the near-disappearance of the entire community (leading to
this house of worship becoming known as Ḥurbat rabi yehudah he-ḥasid – the Ruin
of R. Judah heḤasid; or in short, the Ḥurva). This turn of events is retold, with some
exaggeration, by Yehoseph Schwarz – a German Jew who came to live in Jerusalem
in the 1830s – in his book Tvu’ot ha-areṣ (Crops of the Land, 1845):
572
And it came to pass on the holy day of Shabbat, the [Torah] portion of Leḥ Leḥa, the 8th of the
month of Marḥeshvan in the year 5481 [November 1720], that the Ishmaelite [i.e. descendents
of Ishmael, a common term in old Hebrew referring to Muslims and/or Arabs] residents of
the city suddenly came to the Ashkenazim’s synagogue, lit a fire, and burnt all the books and
all the woodwork therein. [...] And they caught all the congregation’s luminaries and leaders
and placed them under watch before taking possession of all the homes of the «dir» [i.e. Dir
Shiknaz]. The Ashkenazim were banished from there and fled from the holy city. From that day
forth, the dwelling of Ashkenazim [in Jerusalem] was halted. Some of them escaped to Safed,
some of them to Hebron, and some went abroad. [...] From that day forth, an Ashkenazi could
not show his face within the city. Furthermore, Ishmaelites moved into all the courtyards and
all the houses that the Ashkenazim had around the synagogue square7.
Although the statement that the Ashkenazim were «banished» from Jerusalem is
not fully in line with historical events8, Schwarz and his book still constitute important
points of reference for this discussion, which shall be revisited later on. In the present
context, it is important to note his description of the events leading to the disaster that
came upon the Ashkenazim’s dwelling in Jerusalem. The words «could not show his
face within the city» reflect this state of affairs; or, as put more accurately by a mid-20th
century historian, «at any rate not as Ashkenazim. […] And if they came [to Jerusalem] – they wore the place’s Sephardic garments, some of which are noticeable in
the garb of fervent and conservative members of the «Old Yishuv» to this very day»9. R.
Moshe Yerushalmi, writing in the mid-18th century, offered a slightly different take:
«And it is forbidden for an Ashkenazi from our countries, from Poland, Ashkenaz [i.e.,
Germany], or other Ashkenazi lands to enter Jerusalem, unless he is donning the garY. Schwarz, Tvu’ot ha-areṣ [Crops of the Land], Jerusalem, 1900, p. 471.
For a balanced historical account of these events, much-debated in Israeli historiography, see Y. Barnai, «VeHaḤurban haze Be’etzem Ne’elam»: kama birurim historiographi’yim be-ikvot hofa’at haSefer
«Ha’Ḥurva» u-mehkarim nosafim [«And this Destruction has Actually Disappeared»: A Few Historiographic
Clarifications Following the Publishing of «Ha’Ḥurva» Book and Other Studies], «Katedra», 2013, 147. I
thank Prof. Barnai for his comments on an earlier version of this text.
9
A.B. Rivlin, Yerushalayim: Toldot ha-yishuv ha-ivri ba-mei’ah ha-tesha-esrei [Jerusalem: the History of the
Hebrew Settlement in the 19th Century], Tel Aviv, 1966, p. 20.
7
8
ments of Togarmah [i.e., Turkey; see Ezekiel 38, 6] and speaks the language of Togarmah to the point where they [i.e., Muslims] do not know that he is from Ashkenaz»10.
Noting the difference between these two accounts is critical: Rivlin describes the clothing worn by the Ashkenazim that visited or resided in Jerusalem following the 1720
events as «Sephardic», while R. Moshe Yerushalmi refers to their attire as «garments
of Togarmah», namely Muslim-Ottoman clothing. While the link that Rivlin draws
between the two Jewish communities’ apparel is indeed significant, emphasizing it
nevertheless reflects a bias not uncommon for someone writing within the context of
the Arab-Jewish conflict in the holy land. One of the purposes of this article is to call
attention to the other and different influences that were also at work.
Following the aforementioned events, the number of Ashkenazim residing in Jerusalem decreased significantly, and only slowly did the community regain its foothold
and stability. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, disciples of the Vilna Gaon
(Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman of Vilnius, 1720-1797) took up residence in the
Galilean town of Safed. «In 1812», Schwarz reported, «there was a great plague, may
the Merciful One save us, in the upper and lower Galilee. [Some of the] Ashkenazim
fled to the Holy City of Jerusalem and placed their necks on the line by showing themselves in the city». However, «the Ishmaelites had already forgotten their animosity
[towards the community]. [...] And from that time forward, Ashkenazim came to Jerusalem, some of them wearing the Sephardim’s clothing in order to disguise their
identity»11. An earthquake that hit Safed in 1837 drove many Jews, both Ashkenazi
and Sephardi, to Jerusalem, and by 1840 it housed no less than 1,000 Ashkenazim,
who comprised a fifth of the city’s Jewish population.
At first, the Ottoman authorities refused to fully recognize the Ashkenazi returnees
as Jews. However, the institution of the Tanzimat Reforms in 1839, which placed the
rights of all Ottoman subjects on equal footing, improved the Ashkenazi community’s
standing. Above all, its debts were pardoned and members were officially allowed
to dwell in the city and rebuild the Hurva Synagogue. «In 5626 (1866)», Yeshayahu
Press notes, «Sheikh Yusef a-Zadik, the head of the Islamic religious court (mahkamat
a-shari’a) ruled […] that the Ashkenazim are also of the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob and their rights are equal to those of the Sephardim in every respect»12.
From the eighteenth century onwards, therefore, Jerusalem’s Ashkenazi community adopted external characteristics that obfuscated the unique identity of its members. Yehoseph Schwarz dressed in local attire when coming to the city even though
the restrictions against Ashkenazi residence were already lifted by the 1830s: «Until a
A. Ya’ari, Ma’saot ereṣ yisrael, cit., p. 448.
Y. Schwarz, Tvu’ot ha-areṣ, cit.
12
Yeshayahu Press, mea shana be-yerushalayim: me-zichronot ish yerushalaym [A Hundred Years in Jerusalem: Memoirs of a man from Jerusalem], Jerusalem, 1964, p. 28.
10
11
573
few years ago, a European person, dressed in Western clothing, was subject to public
insult and attacks on the part of the masses. For this reason, I saw myself as being
compelled upon my arrival in the Land to change my German clothes for Turkish
clothes». However, this attitude toward European dress, especially on the part of the
authorities, would change during Schwarz’s lifetime: «Now they treat him [i.e., a European] in a hospitable manner and with respect. Before the court I always appear
in German attire, and then they treat me […] with special treatment for the good»13.
While Schwarz’s testimony reveals another way in which Jerusalem’s Ashkenazim
adopted the majority culture, the end of his account also serves to testify to how attire
and the identity signified by it were tools in political power struggles that frequently
surfaced in Palestine during the Ottoman era. As demonstrated by R. Gedaliah of
Simiatiz’s above-cited observation, though, clothes alone are not enough for a new
group to fit in with the place in which it lives. If its members are unable to communicate with the surrounding society, they will remain foreign.
Mediating Between the Languages
574
Approximately in the same years in which Schwarz wrote his above-mentioned
letter, he was also immersed in writing his book Tvu’ot ha-areṣ, dedicated to imparting knowledge on the Holy Land’s past and present to its Ashkenazi readers. At
around the same time in Safed, R. Menachem Mendel Boim of Kaminitz wrote a small
booklet entitled Korot ha-eitim le-yeshurun be-ereṣ yisrael yisrael (Annals of the Times
of Jeshurun in the Land of Israel). This text, which was first published in Vilnius in
1839, is primarily a survey of its author’s experiences as an Ashkenazi immigrant
in Palestine during the 1830s. However, towards the end of Korot ha-eitim we unexpectedly find a short list of widely-used Arabic terms, which are also translated into
Hebrew for the benefit of new olim. To begin with, Kaminitz enumerated the three
languages that were in use at the time in Palestine: «A. the Ishmaelites’ language [i.e.,
Turkish], B. Partugal [i.e., Ladino] is spoken by Jews that are called Frinkan [i.e., Sephardic Jews], C. is Arabic and in this language everyone speaks, both the villagers
and the townspeople in every trade». Put differently, the lingua franca for business
and everyday communication was Arabic, and to a certain level everyone had to
master it. Kaminitz then listed the Arabic numbers, from one to a thousand (with
intervals), and the Arabic names for the big cities in the Land of Israel/Palestine. This
is followed by a short phrase-handbook: «He who inquires about trade says kadesh
hada. For example to open the door iftah baba. To close [it] sager elbab. He who gives
Y. Schwarz, Letter dated 23 Iyar 5597 (May 28, 1837), in Sha’arei yerushalayim. Te’udot le-toldot yerushalayim ve-toshave’ha (mikh’tavei rebi Yehosef Schwarz) [The gates of Jerusalem. Documents from the
history of Jerusalem and its’ inhabitants (Letters of Rabbi Yehoseph Schwartz)], Jerusalem, 1969, p. 26.
13
an oath says ali rasek, meaning [I swear by] my head. Or hayei eyni meaning [by the]
life of his eyes […]»14. In addition, Korot ha-eitim includes a short Arabic glossary of
fruit, vegetables, and other food products. Two years later the book came out in Yiddish, too; in all likelihood, based on the assumption that not every Ashkenazi Jew was
fluent in Hebrew.
Approximately six years later, Schwarz’s Tvu’ot ha-areṣ came off the press, and
expanded the number of every-day Arabic terms available to Jewish readers. Most
scholars refer to Schwarz’s use of Arabic within the context of his efforts to discern
the location of ancient Jewish settlements in Eretz Yisrael using Arabic toponyms.
However, in his book he also provided the Arabic names for a wide array of flora and
fauna, along with their German-Yiddish equivalents (in Hebrew letters). Although
Schwarz never explicitly mentions this, he shared Kaminitz’s goal of mediating between Arabic and Hebrew.
Towards the beginning of his Korot ha-eitim, Kaminitz offered an eyewitness account of «the great plunder» of 1834, namely a month of abuse targeting Safed’s Jewish community amid the Palestinian peasants’ revolt that erupted against the reign of
Muhammad Ali of Egypt. In one violent incident, members of the kollel [Talmud study
institute] established by disciples of the Vilna Gaon escaped to the nearby Arab village
of Ein Zaytun. Soon after, they decided to return to Safed and evacuate the wounded:
Upon hearing the deeds that they [i.e., the Arab masses] perpetrated in the city of Safed,
Rabbi Yisrael [of Shklov] […] entreated the Ishmaelites [Muslim Arabs] from Ein Zaytun [to
come to the Jewish community’s aid], and also many Jews wore Ishmaelite clothing and they
all went to the city of Safed in order to bring the sick and injured Jews from there.
The Jews that were dispatched to the city were selected with care:
And we chose R. Leib Kohen and R. Shalom Chayat because they have a good understanding of the finer points of their language [i.e., Arabic] and can also speak [it] well. Moreover,
they have acquaintances among the Ishmaelites for they sew their [i.e., the Arabs’] clothing15.
Notwithstanding the violent context in which these things transpired, and aside
from the assistance provided by Ein Zaytun’s Arabs to their Jewish neighbors from
Safed, I would like to call attention to two other points: first, to the switching of clothes
and the blurring of the external distinction between Jews and Arabs; and second,
to the fact that already in the 1830’s there were Ashkenazim in Safed who were fluent Arabic speakers. It bears noting that Muhammad Ali’s conquest of Palestine in
14
Menachem Mendel Boim (Kaminitz), Korot ha-eitim le-yeshurun be-ereṣ yisrael [Annals of the Times of
Jeshurun in the Land of Israel], Vilnius, 1839, p. 13a.
15
Ibidem, p. 4a, «chayat» is the Hebrew word for «tailor».
575
1831 appears to have enhanced the status of the local Jews, particularly Ashkenazim.
When the Ottomans seized back the land ten years later, the Tanzimat Reforms had
a similar impact on the empire’s non-Muslim subjects and residents.
The «Jerusalemite attire»
Nearly a hundred years after the events described by Kaminitz, we come across
a story which is in many ways a mirror-image of the one just told. The event is recounted in the name of the Kabbalist and ultra-Orthodox activist R. Yeshaya Asher
Zelig Margaliot, who was born in the Polish city of Chelm in 1894 and immigrated
to Palestine at the age of 12. Margaliot is primarily known for his harsh polemics
against what he viewed as the Zionists’ deviations from the Old Yishuv’s way of life.
The backdrop for the episode discussed here, concerning his Arab neighbor Abed, is
most likely the bloody events in Palestine during the summer of 1929:
576
One Shabbat, the Halutzim [lit. pioneers] (a group of Zionists who had forsaken the Torah)
ran amok and pounded at the Arab’s door with the intention of killing him together with his
wife. Pandemonium raged outside, and they asked him [i.e., Margaliot], who was then a young
yeshiva student, to come and help. He came and stood by the door. During the confusion while
they [the Zionists] were opening the door, they [the Haredis] dressed the Arab in a shtreimel [a
round fur hat] and kaftan [long coat] and he went to the synagogue, and the Halutzim did not
know who was the Arab [sic]16.
Underlying this account is an assumption which places the Zionist «Halutzim» on
one side of the barricade and the Haredim of the Old Yishuv, together with their Arab
neighbors, on the other. It is important to reiterate that the overall picture of Jewish
political alignment was much more complex; but that said, this case manifests something important about the range of Jewish and Arab identities in the Land of Israel/
Palestine. Whereas in Safed, Arabs dressed Jews in Arab garb for the sake of rescuing
them from other Arabs, Haredis in Jerusalem dressed an Arab as a Jew to protect
him from another group of Jews. The role of clothing in the web of local identities is
all the more significant with regards to what in the late nineteenth and beginning of
the twentieth century came to be identified as the Ashkenazi-Haredi «Jerusalemite
attire» – that same combination of shtreimel and kaftan in which Margaliot dressed
his Arab neighbor and which he himself habitually donned.
While the shtreimel, a festive head covering made of sable tails, is undoubtedly of
Eastern European provenance, the other Ashkenazi Jerusalemite garments employ
S. Margaliot, Sefer AZaMeR be-shavkhin: Toldot ha-rav ha-ḥasid ha-mekubal r. yeshaya asher zelig margaliot […] [AZaMeR be-shavkhin book: the life-story of the pious kabbalist rabbi R. Yeshaya Asher Zelig
Margaliot], Jerusalem, 2003, pp. 11-13.
16
clear Middle Eastern elements. The kaftan is made out of a local striped material,
which to this day is purchased by some Jerusalemite Haredis at Arab fabric shops in
the Old City, and its Yiddish name is derived from the Arabic kuftan. Until not long
ago, and rarely even today, a brown robe was worn over the kaftan, which – a derivative of the Arabic jubbah – is called a jubbe in Yiddish. A wide cloth sash is tied
around the kaftan, and although its name – gartel – is in Yiddish, it nonetheless
clearly resembles a Turkish-cum-Arab sash.
Scholars are hard-pressed to determine exactly when the specific components of
Jerusalem’s Ashkenazi attire took form. As noted above, the original motivation leading Ashkenazim to don oriental garments in Jerusalem was to mask their identity,
during the years when the Ashkenazim were banned from the city. Over the years,
this pragmatic need was replaced by ideology, and we will briefly try to understand
this process. Yehoseph Schwarz planned to elaborate on the clothing in Eretz Yisrael
in the fourth part of Tvu’ot ha-areṣ, but this part was never completed. All we have is
a short paragraph, designated by Schwartz himself as a «digression», in the second
part of his work:
The people’s clothing [in Erez Yisrael] is similar to the priestly vestments that are mentioned
in the Torah: Cloth pants on their flesh and a tunic over the pants. The upper garment is similar
to a coat […]; and on their head [rests] a hat, namely a long turban which is folded twice and
thrice […]. One garment resembles a sash, a long garment that is folded on their stomach twice
and thrice. It is also their custom to bear writing utensils on their waist (Ezekiel 9, 2, with a
writing case by his side). Moreover, the entire order and custom of the Land [of Israel] is what
existed in the days of old17.
At this point, Schwarz endeavored to place the succession between the priestly
clothes and his own era’s Land-of-Israel attire within a historical-anthropological
context: «The modes do not change. The kind of clothes today is like it was a thousand
years ago, and a thousand years before like it was three thousand years ago. The fashion that was in vogue during the time of the Land’s first inhabitants is still in vogue
today […]»18. These words, which deal with an imagined «Eretz Yisraeli clothes» without making any temporal or ethnic distinctions, attempt to paint a picture in which
the attire in Eretz Yisrael/Palestine had remained the same over the millennia.
As noted earlier, when trying to blend in with the people of Jerusalem, the newlyarrived Schwarz wore Sephardic apparel; and in any event, the overall evidence suggests that a distinct Jerusalemite Ashkenazi dress code had yet to emerge in the early
1800s. This hypothesis is bolstered by the fact that the community established by
the students of the Vilna Gaon, whose members played an important role in turn17
18
Y. Schwarz, Tvu‘ot ha-areṣ, cit., p. 482.
Unlike the vast majority of this work, this comment was written in German Yiddish, not Hebrew.
577
ing this raiment into an ideology, only managed to lay down permanent roots in the
city during the time that Schwarz penned his account. Moreover, R. Eleazar Mendel
Biderman of Lelov, who is credited with rendering the striped kaftan a favored garment of Jerusalem-based Ashkenazim, had yet to begin his tenure as grand rabbi.
Nevertheless, by pointing to the resemblance between his era’s Land-of-Israel garb
and the priestly vestments of the Temple, Schwarz imbued the former with a measure of holiness.
By the turn of the twentieth century, the Ashkenazi Jerusalemite dress code seems
to have already assumed clearer guidelines. Evidence of this development is provided by Abraham Samuel Hirshberg, who visited the Land of 1899:
578
The white and multi-colored fabric is the essence of their attire. Baggy cloth pants are girded around the males’ waists and pinned downward from the knees to white socks. […] A
long garment of white and multi-colored fabric, and for the rich of colorful silk, which does
not cleave [to the body] whatsoever [sic]; a sort of night-garment covers their back [from] up
top. And a wide belt is to be tied around the waist. […] Upon leaving their homes, they roll up
a wide-edged, light black jacket, with spacious sleeves. A low and soft beret (filzhut [i.e., a felt
hat]) is fitted on their head. […] The eastern apparel does not know the figure and the cut and
is not directed or fitted to the body that wears it, for it is suited to the hot climate and is thus unkempt. [...] The Sephardic apparel is similar to that of the Arab; that of the Ashkenazim’s elders
to that of the Sephardim and [that] of the Ashkenazim’s youth is a mixture of the European and
Oriental attire: and in general, the Ashkenazim invented for themselves foreign outfits that do
not have a unique character, and they make their owners a laughing stock in the eyes of the
European traveler. [...] On Sabbath and festivals everyone, even laymen, don the shtreimel on
their heads19.
According to Hirshberg, then, the Ashkenazic outfit is stylistically ambiguous and
a pathetic mixture of Eastern and Western elements. Be that as it may, these observations indicate that such an identifiable attire already existed at the turn of the twentieth century, and that this eclecticism was its main characteristic.
Some twenty years later, R. Yeshaya Asher Zelig Margaliot recounted a story positing
that an Ashkenazi dress was known and recognized as signifying a specific group identity
already towards the end of the 19th century. The story pertains to the arrival of Rabbi
Yehoshua Yehuda Leib Diskin, a distinguished Lithuanian rabbi, to Jerusalem in 1877:
And I heard from […] R. Yitzchak Shlomo Blau […] that at the time that the holy, righteous,
genius, etc., our teacher the Rabbi Y. L. Diskin came here, upon reaching the village near Jerusalem (Qalunya Motza), he instructed to have a kaftan brought to him and happily wore it,
whereupon he proceeded to Jerusalem20.
19
20
A.S. Hirshberg, Be-ereṣ ha-mizraḥ [In the Land of the East], Vilnius, 1900, pp. 341-342.
Y.A.Z. Margaliot, Sefer ashrei ha-ish [Blessed is the Man], Jerusalem, 1921, p. 1b, fn. 10.
This excerpt, I think, reveals a key moment in the rise of the Jerusalemite attire as
a powerful marker of group identity, a marker that consciously distinguishes its users
from those wearing European, Sephardic, or Arab garb.
«More or less Arab clothing»
Hirshberg’s impressions from his stay in Eretz Yisrael include other observations
concerning the relations between Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem. The Arab influence
on Ashkenazim, for instance, is presented by him as mediated by Sephardim:
When these [Sephardic] youth grow up, they inevitably draw closer to the members of the
nation, within which they dwell, and they become Arab-Jews, externally polite and internally
wild. […] Anyone that observes the life of our brethren the Ashkenazim in Jerusalem will
already today find traces of the impact of our brethren the Sephardim on them. […] The Ashkenazim born in Jerusalem have already reconciled themselves with the polite and diplomatic
way of speaking. They are gradually limiting themselves, like their Sephardic brethren, to their
dalet amot [4 cubits, namely confined space] of self-love, and the oriental cunning in the pursuit of lucre is steadily spreading among them as well. […] The Ashkenazi women are steadily
adopting the customs of Sephardic women. The drinking of kahwe [Arabic for coffee] and the
narghile [water pipe] are also rife among their elderly women, and already today they give the
impression of a type mixed together from Sephardic and Ashkenazi21.
Despite the obvious orientalistic undertones, Hirshberg seems to have accurately
described the relations and mutual influences between Jerusalem’s various groups.
As Yehoshua Kaniel writes in his work on Ashkenazi-Sephardic relations in Jerusalem, «one should not ascribe the changes in Jerusalem’s Ashkenazic way of dress
exclusively to their Sephardic neighbors. The Arab society in which the Jews lived
and operated also had a fair share in this development»22. Kaniel’s hypothesis is corroborated by R. Amram Blau (1894-1974), the leader of the Haredi [ultra-orthodox]
anti-Zionist political movement Neturei Karta [«Guardians of the city» in Talmud
Aramaic]23: «It is more or less Arab clothing. People dwelling in the Land of Israel wore
it and slightly modified [it] from the Arabs’ dress». On the other hand, Blau claimed
that «it is written in the books that it is an accepted garb from [sic] the patriarchs»24. To
substantiate this argument, Blau repeated the aforementioned story told by Margaliot
in the name of Blau’s father. In this version, the emphasis is on attire qua tradition:
A.S. Hirshberg, Be-ereṣ ha-mizraḥ, cit., pp. 393-394.
Y. Kaniel (Marshein), Ha-yiḥasim bein ha-sefaradim ve-ha’ashkenazim ba-yishuv ha-yashan be-yerushalayim [The Relations between the Sephardim and the Ashkenazim in the Old Yishuv in Jerusalem], M.A.
thesis, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, 1970, p. 111.
23
Amram Blau was the son of the aforementioned Yitzchak Shlomo Blau.
24
Y. Kraus (ed.), Mishnato shel Rebi Amram [The Teachings of Rabbi Amram], Jerusalem, 2012, p. 152.
21
22
579
As I remember it, until the Gerrer Hasids [members of the Gur Hassidic court] – Jews from
Poland – arrived, one could not find a Jew who came to Jerusalem and did not wear the
Jerusalemite clothing. Whoever appeared in Jerusalem would wear the clothes. […] Upon
coming to the city one must dress like the city’s people, especially since it is written about the
Jerusalemite clothes in the books […] that it has been worn from back in the days of Abraham
our Patriarch, may peace be upon him. What is more, it is told about R. Yehoshua Leib Diskin
of blessed memory that he did not get off the train until they brought him the clothes, [for] he
did not wish to enter Jerusalem without the clothes […]25.
While Blau did not see any contradiction between the ancient provenance of the
Jerusalemite attire and its connection to Arab dress, his friend Margaliot took a different approach:
580
And today owing to our many sins […], the latest olim are sages in their own eyes, both the
elderly and the youth, and our attire, too, was destined to be mocked [by them]. And with their
slippery tongue dare call the clothes of the Holy Land «the clothes of the Arabs», just like the
generation’s clowns, the wicked, and the heretics. […] And it is a novelty that the god-fearing
among the olim do not perceive that these are words of scorn and that without intention, they
spread libel and insult the founders [of the Old Yishuv], the brilliant rabbis, righteous and holy
men who resemble angels that were in the Holy Land, who for the sake of adornment would
don the clothes of the Holy Land. Furthermore, the stitchwork of the Ashkenazim’s kaftans is
not at all like theirs [the Arabs’ frocks]. Instead, they have a completely different appearance
[…], and it is accepted that the clothes of the Holy Land were the clothes of Abraham our Patriarch, may peace be upon him26.
Aside from dating the Jerusalemite garments back to the time of the patriarchs,
Margaliot remarked on the difference in workmanship between the Arab and Ashkenazi dress. In all likelihood, he is referring to the special embroidery that the Jerusalem-based Hassidic Grand Rabbi of Lelov instituted in the mid-nineteenth century
for the purpose of distinguishing the Ashkenazi kaftan from similar garments (Arab,
Sephardic and the like). In an earlier text, Margaliot placed an even greater emphasis
on the ancient roots of the Jerusalemite attire and even undertook to anchor it in the
Halakha (Jewish law):
And of what some are saying, that whoever wears the garments of the Land of Israel (the
kaftan and jubbe) violates the injunction of «thou shall not follow their laws» [namely nonJewish customs], and of those among them who open their mouths and with great impudence
say in the words of the free [i.e., non-observant] Jews that the clothes of the Land of Israel are
«Arab clothing» – even though they are not worthy of being answered because it is written «re-
25
26
Ibidem, p. 164.
Y.A.Z. Margaliot, Sefer amudei arazim [Pillars (made) of Cedars], Jerusalem, 1932, pp. 34b-35a.
frain from responding to the fool», I will respond to them, lest they ruin it for others: See Birkei
Yosef 10, letter 178, who writes that there is no fear that these clothes constitute a violation of
this injunction. […] and there is firm proof […] that these garments of the Land of Israel were
the attire of Abraham the Patriarch, may peace be upon him27.
Margaliot’s words were not directed at the «free Jews», i.e. the secular Zionists,
but rather at the Haredi olim from Europe who refused to adopt the Jerusalemite attire (be it due to their preference for Western finery, like the students at the Hebron
Yeshiva, or to their loyalty to the Eastern European attire, like the Gur Hasids), and
even had the audacity to present their refusal as founded in halakha. Needless to say,
an attempt to emphasize difference – such as the attempt made by Margaliot in the
nexus of the Jeruslamite-Ashkenazi and the Palestinian-Arab attire – is often found
in the very instances that such a difference is far from being explicit. And interestingly
enough, the halakhic source that Margaliot turns to – Birkei Yosef, a commentary
by R. Haim Yosef David Azulai (1724, Jerusalem-1806, Livorno; widely known by
the Hebrew acronym the HIDA) on the canonic Jewish Law compilation Shulḥan
Arukh – expressly states that «It is allowed to wear the garments that are unique to
the Ishmaelites [i.e., Muslims/Turks], and there is no prohibition».
In sum, while Margaliot refutes the claim that the Jerusalemite attire consists of
«Arab clothing» by turning to Birkei Yosef, the crux of Azulai’s ruling is that there is
no prohibition against wearing «Ishmaelite» clothing – and not that the Jerusalemite
attire is allowed because it isn’t identified with Muslims or Arabs. And as both Margaliot and Blau well knew, Abraham the Patriarch was also father to his eldest son
Ishmael.
«Ashkenazi» Arabic
As evidenced by the names of the items comprising the Jerusalemite raiment,
clothing and language are closely linked. Yet another case in point is an episode
from the 1920s involving Margaliot and Avraham Simcha, the Hassidic Grand Rabbi
of Baranov, while the two returned from the Western Wall to the Jewish-Orthodox
neighborhood Mea Shearim on Passover Eve:
When the number of buyers fell off, the seller noticed an old rabbi dressed in the festive garments of the Jerusalemite attire, a kaftan, a jubbe girded with a wide silk belt, and
a shtreimel fitted on his head. [...]
– Esh bido? Bido yishtri haruf mish an pessah? the sheep merchant asked his student Reb
Asher’el [i.e., Margaliot] in Arabic.
27
Y.A.Z. Margaliot, Ashrei ha-ish, cit., p. 71b, fn. 10.
581
– He is asking if you want to buy a lamb for Passover – Reb Asher Zelig translated the
Arab’s question for the rabbi28.
582
As the conversation proceeded, Margaliot continued to translate for R. Avraham,
who had recently immigrated to the Holy Land. In all likelihood, the broken Arabic
that is imputed to the seller should be attributed to the Jewish recorder, not the native
speaker29. For the time being, though, I would like to stress that Margaliot, the veteran
immigrant, was indeed capable of mediating between his mentor’s Yiddish and the
merchant’s Arabic, and if he was up to this task, the Ashkenazim born in Eretz Yisrael all the more so. Kaniel posits that as of the 1880s, «the various ethnic groups by
and large spoke Arabic among themselves» out in the street, and «knowledge of this
language even became widespread among Ashkenazim». What is more, «the second
generation that was born in the Land was ready from a spiritual standpoint to acclimate itself to the way of life in the Land and to its inhabitants’ language of conversation, for its members were liberated from the European memories [sic]»30.
Let us survey a few of the many examples that can serve to illustrate Kaniel’s assessment. R. Shlomo Eliyahu Freiman, the sexton of the Ḥurva Synagogue during
the first half of the twentieth century31, recalled the Arabic proficiency of his grandmother, Itte Lilienthal, who was also born in the Old City of Jerusalem: «If someone
fell into [the hands of] the police and there was no one to translate into Arabic, they
would call her to translate»32. Amram Blau’s second wife, Rut, recorded one of her
husband’s memories: «My parent’s house was on Hebron Street in the Old City. The
Jewish and Arab courtyards both open to the street. Jew and Arab cordially bless
one another using the word ‘jarna’ and the Jewish and Arab women using “jaritna”
[neighbour]»33.
As leader of Neturei Karta, Blau was naturally one of the most outspoken supporters of a political alliance between the Old Yishuv and the Palestinian national
movement. However, his stance on this matter was not the only option available to
the Ashkenazim of the Old Yeshuv, even those who did not wish to deny or relinquish
the Arab component of their identity. This is manifest when we look, for example,
at Yosef Yoel Rivlin and Israel Wolfensohn (Ben-Zeev), who had much in common.
The two men were born in 1899, belonged to the fifth generation of the Vilna Gaon’s
students that settled in Eretz Yisrael, and were raised in Jerusalem’s old Ashkenazi
community. In contrast to Margaliot and Blau, they left the Haredi world and identiS. Margaliot, AZaMeR be-shavkhin, cit., pp. 34-35.
See the remarks of Yaakov Yehusha, fn. 35 below.
30
Y.Kaniel, Ha-yiḥasim bein ha-sefaradim ve-ha’ashkenazim, cit., pp. 103-104.
31
Freiman also served as a watchman at Rachel’s Tomb on the way from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.
32
S.E. Freiman, Potei’aḥ she’arim. Zikhronot u’pirkei ḥayyim [The Opener of Gates. Memories and Life
Chapters], Jerusalem, 2009, p. 19.
33
R. Blau, Shomrei ha-ir [Guardians of the City], Jerusalem, 1979, p. 239.
28
29
fied with the Zionist cause, and yet in many respects both maintained much bolder
ties with the Arab world than their ultra-Orthodox counterparts.
As a youth, Rivlin (the father of Israel’s current president Reuven Rivlin) studied in
Rawdat al-Ma’arif, a Muslim school in Jerusalem. In 1917 he was forcibly relocated
to Syria by the Ottoman authorities. During his five years in Damascus, Rivlin took
an active part in the city’s Jewish and Arab cultural scene. After earning a doctorate
in Islamic Studies in Germany, he joined the faculty of the Hebrew University, where
he was heavily involved in translating classic Arabic texts – foremost among them
the Quran – into Hebrew. Wolfensohn, born in Mea Shearim, attended the Arab
teachers’ seminary Dar al-Mu’aalmmin in Jerusalem, and went on to become the first
Jew to complete a doctorate at Cairo University (one of his advisors was the famous
Egyptian intellectual Taha Hussein). In the 1930s, Wolfensohn was a lecturer at this
same institution and published books and articles in Arabic. Upon returning to Eretz
Yisrael, he worked as a superintendent of Arabic studies in Jewish schools for the
British Mandate and subsequently for the Israeli Ministry of Education. Of his childhood years, Wolfensohn offered the following account:
As a native of Jerusalem, I was in an Arab environment from the dawn of my youth. I studied at R. Judah heHasid’s Hurva, I grew up in the Old City, we spoke Arabic […]. I was fluent in
Arabic since childhood, our neighbors were Muslims, on festivals and the Sabbath they would
come to us, and we to them on their holidays. My friends from those days were among the Arab
youth from the distinguished families of the Husseinis, Nashashibis, and others34.
As evidenced by Margaliot’s aforementioned conversation with the sheep merchant, Wolfensohn and Rivlin’s Arabic was much more adherent to the standard
rules than that of the average Ashkenazi of the Old Yishuv in the Land of Israel/Palestine. A more detailed illustration of the character of the Ashkenazi Arabic is given
by Yaakov Yehoshua, a descendent of the Sephardic Old Yishuv (and the father of the
Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua):
The Arabic language spoken by the Ashkenazim was mangled and prompted mockery and
laughter. In their exchanges with the Arabs, the Ashkenazim did not distinguish between male
and female […]. They made much use of the words «min shani», «min shanak» (for my sake, for
your sake). […] The Ashkenazim made much use of the word hanzirah [female pig] instead of
hanzir [male pig]. Upon entering an Arab office or store, instead of the usual greeting «na’harek
sa’id», may your day be blessed, they would say «hatrak» (a courtesy that is said when parting
ways), and the Arabs would answer them «ma’a il salamah», go in peace35.
A. Mashiach, Dr. Yisrael Ben Zeev. Ḥiyuniyut ha-mizraḥ ve-tarbut ha-ma’arav [Dr. Israel Ben-Zeev. The
Vitality of the East and the Culture of the West], «Herut», 1964, February 11.
35
Y. Yehoshua, Yaldut be-yerushalayim ha-yeshanah, II, Ha-bayit ve-hàreḥov b-yerushalayim ha-yeshanah
[Childhood in Old Jerusalem, II, the House and the Street in Old Jerusalem], Jerusalem, 1966, pp. 240-242.
34
583
584
As Yehoshua put it, «the ridiculous language in the mouth of the Ashkenazim was
not a stumbling block on their road to commerce with the Arabs». This assessment,
while exposing a problematic conception of language, nevertheless serves to show
yet again that Arabic was part of the immediate identity of the Jerusalemite Ashkenazi
community. Indeed, not unlike a common attitude towards Haredi or Arab Hebrew
in contemporary Israel, or towards Yiddish in Germany at the outset of the twentieth
century, language purists could make the Arabic spoken by the majority of the Old
Yishuv’s Ashkenazim into a laughing stock36. In this context, however, we should
keep in mind that it is indeed Yiddish that was the mother tongue of the Ashkenazi
Old Yishuv, and that the flexible character of Yiddish was sanctioned in a halakhic
responsa from 1839 by one of the precursors of Ultra-Orthodoxy, the Chatam Sofer
(Rabbi Moses Schreiber; 1762, Frankfurt-1839, Bratislava), while addressing the general issue of linguistic self-differentiation of Jews37.
The term «Ashkenazi Arabic», therefore, seems to be more accurate than «mangled
Arabic», as its very character conveys the fact that Ashkenazi speakers indeed internalized the language. In this context we should remember the important contribution
of Mordecai Kosover, who some fifty years ago documented the profound impact that
Arabic had on the Yiddish spoken in the Old Yishuv38. Another important insight is
the one offered recently by Yonatan Mendel, who contended that Yiddish was rejected
by Zionism’s mainstream groups not because it was «Diasporic», but for the opposite
reason: Yiddish’s flexible nature offered a possible route towards integration with
both the region and its main language39.
Conclusion
The examples that we have considered make up but the tip of the iceberg of source
material that pertains to clothing, language, and many other aspects of shared life
in the Land of Israel/Palestine between the early 1700s and mid-twentieth century.
From a political-historiographic standpoint, these examples cast doubt on the common view according to which the Ashkenazi Old Yishuv constituted a preservation
of a Diaspora-mentality, whereas the Zionist newcomers embodied and represented
Yehoshua’s comments and observation shed light on the question that the Arab merchant posed to Margaliot’s rabbi: «Bido yishtari haruf mish an pesakh [does he want to buy a lamb for Passover]?»; the reconstruction of the exchange attributes the common Ashkenazi Arabic expression «min shan» to the seller,
while mangling it once more.
36
As we have seen, Hirshberg felt the same way towards the Jerusalemite attire.
37
Chatam Sofer Responsa, Even haEzer, part 2, § 11 («In my opinion, the ancients were also proficient at
communicating in the languages of foreign nations, but they intentionally distorted the languages because
of [a ruling] in the Jerusalem Talmud»).
38
M. Kosover, Arabic Elements in Palestinian Yiddish, cit.
39
See Y. Mendel, The Creation of Israeli Arabic, cit., pp. 18-19.
a full acclimatization of Jews to the land and its inhabitants. As we have seen, members of the Old Yishuv (both Sephardim and Ashkenazim) had been part of the local
environment well before the Zionists arrived on the scene, so much so that they occasionally needed to rhetorically stress the differences between themselves and other
groups of the populace.
While certain issues raised in this article have previously merited scholarly attention, only recently have scholars (above all Hillel Cohen and Menachem Klein)40 assayed the local, «native» character of the Ashkenazi Old Yishuv. Klein even posits that
some of its members fit under the broad category of «Arab Jews», which according to
Cohen and Salim Tamari41 encompasses the Sephardic and Maghrebi [North African]
Jewish residents of the Land of Israel/Palestine (and naturally the local-Palestinian
Musta’arabi Jews, who were dubbed «yahud awlad al-arab», lit. «Arab-born Jews»).
Despite its wide scope, I am not convinced that applying the term «Arab Jews» to the
Ashkenazi Old Yishuv is conducive to understanding the special nature of this community in pre-Zionist Eretz Yisrael. The renewed recognition that the Old Yishuv
Ashkenazi community was an integral part of Land-of-Israel/Palestinian society does
not entail throwing all the different cultural and religious groups in the land into a
categorical melting pot – all the more so when the local populace itself was aware
of this heterogeneity and viewed it as part and parcel of the collective life in Ottoman,
and later Mandate, Palestine. If we are to apply a general category for the people of
the land, therefore, I think that the term «Palestinian» will best serve our purpose,
and that is in a sense that predates the national-Arab Palestinian identity that has just
begun to be consolidated during this period vis-à-vis the national-Jewish identity that
was to become «Israeli».
***
As we have seen, the Ashkenazi Old Yishuv in Jerusalem was also not made of
one cloth, and its internal differences had an impact on the kinds of relations that the
community maintained with its Arab surroundings. Often, the very members of this
group that had renounced its traditional lifestyle and religious precepts, and were
therefore able to whole-heartedly embrace the secular Arab language and culture,
were also those that later, or at the same time, joined the modern Jewish national
movement. Conversely, the traditional Old Yishuv’s introverted nature was one of
the reasons that, even when the contacts between Mandatory Palestine’s Arabs and
Jews steadily dwindled and the various Jewish and Arab groups closed ranks behind
See fn. 3.
See S. Tamari, Mountain against the Sea. Essays on Palestinian Society and Culture, Berkeley-Los Angeles, University of California Press, 2009, chapter 9.
40
41
585
the adversarial national movements, the Haredis remained outside these camps and
were more amenable to ties with the Arab-Palestinian society. Needless to say, the
Old Yishuv’s avowed segregation from the Arab populace was often more hermetic
than that of the Zionists. However, under the binary national circumstances that took
shape under British rule, the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox’s middle ground enabled
them to preserve many of their historical affinities with the local Arab communities.
The political stalemate between Arabs and Jews in the State of Israel/Palestine
notwithstanding, the forgotten Arab history of the Old Yishuv’s Ashkenazim from the
1700s to the mid-twentieth century is of relevance to contemporary observers. The
mutual ethnic cleansing of East and West Jerusalem amid the War of 1948 essentially
lowered the curtain on the close ties between Jew and Arab in the city’s shared courtyards, streets, and neighborhoods. But despite the fact that this turn of events was
anteceded by a slower and gradual undoing of the fabric of Arab-Jewish symbiosis,
and that in the years that have passed this rupture has become an incontrovertible
historical fact, the annals of the Old Yishuv remind us that today’s reality can swiftly
become tomorrow’s forgotten past.
586
Ido Harari, The Department of Jewish Thought, Ben Gurion University in the Negev,
Be’er Sheva, Israel (IL)
[email protected]
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