The Law of Return, the Chief Rabbinate and the Status of Non-Orthodox Jews in Israel By Dr Jaafar Hadi Hassan

It is a well known fact that most of the population in Israel are immigrants who came to the country according to the Law of Return which was passed by the Israeli Knesset in 1950. This Law, in conjunction with a later Nationality Law, gives every Jew the right to settle in Israel and acquire instant, automatic citizenship. It is worth mentioning here that the Religious Authority in Israelrecognizes as Jews only those who are born to a Jewish mother or were converted to Judaism according to the Halakhah (Jewish Religious Law) as interpreted by the Orthodox. However, among the groups which emigrated according to this law, were followers of some sects which are not recognized by the Chief Rabbinate, the Religious Authority, in Israel. They are considered non-conformist. This paper will deal with these groups which faced and are still facing problems with the Religious Authority and with Orthodox Jews in general, regarding their Jewishness. The state, nevertheless, still encourages them to emigrate and grants them citizenship in order to help fill the land, in this case, with people whose Jewish origin is not recognized by the Religious Authority.

One of the earliest of these groups which emigrated to Israel according to the Law of Return and has encountered problems with the Chief Rabbinate ever since their arrival in the country, are the Qaraites. The Qaraites are a Jewish sect which was founded in the eighth century AD by Anan ben David in Iraq and subsequently spread to many other countries.1 From its inception this sect did not recognize the Talmud which is considered by mainstream Jews as the second source for the Jewish religious law after the Torah (Old Testament). Consequently when the Qaraites arrived in Israel the Chief Rabbinate refused to recognize their Jewishness. In fact they considered them heretics and as such their marriages and divorces invalid. In addition, their marriage with non-Qaraite Jews is not sanctioned by the Religious Authority. When former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Nissim was asked if there was any way that a marriage between a Qaraite and non-Qaraite could be validated, his answer was that it is impossible unless the Qaraite converts to Orthodoxy. He even said that “the position of a Qaraite is worse than the position of the Christian who wants to become Jewish because of the doubtful legitimate birth.” Additionally, the former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, Ulterman said “Our stand was defined through the generations and ages that our sages cursed any one who would remove the ban on marriage to the Qaraites and, therefore, the ban is impossible to remove.”2 As a result of this, the Qaraites cannot be issued with marriage and divorce certificates which naturally creates problems for them, and also cannot be buried in Jewish cemeteries, serve on religious councils etc. Consequently Qaraite leaders have repeatedly tried to resolve their ambiguous status. They applied in 1960 for separate recognition of their religious council, but were talked out of it by the head of the state, Ben Zvi. He, together with other secular Jews, wanted to avoid a legal distinction between Qaraites and other Jews. Similar appeals were made in 1962 and in 1965 and although the government refused these appeals, it did, however, form a Commission for Examination of the Personal Status of the Qaraites. After a year’s deliberation it issued its recommendations which called for granting the Qaraites legal authority over their own personal status and for recognition of their religious courts. After several years’ delay and several more public appeals by Qaraite leaders, a bill to the effect was introduced in the Knesset. It was not passed.3 The Qaraites nowadays are considered a separate sect and because of this they feel betrayed by the state and treated as second-class citizens. As a result many of them, frustrated by this treatment, have emigrated to France, Canada and the United States.

Another Jewish group which faces problems in Israel with the Chief Rabbinate is called the progressive group, mainly the Reform and the Conservative (Masorti) Jews. These groups have different opinions from the Jewish Orthodoxy regarding the Torah and the Talmud. They recognise female rabbis and have many other different practices which do not conform with the Jewish Orthodoxy. These people have therefore faced discrimination from the Religious Authority since the establishment of the state. When they complained of discrimination against their kind of Judaism in the early years of the state, Ben Gurion and Golda Meir told them that their movements would be accepted in Israel only if sufficient numbers of their members settled in the Jewish state. The Religious Authority considers this group, like the Qaraites, as a separate sect and does not recognise any conversions to Judaism they perform in Israel or outside it as valid. When the Reform Jews demanded that their conversions be accepted in Israel, the conversion authority in the Chief Rabbinate office proposed the recognition of the Reform Jews as a separate religious community in Israel and stated “Reform is anyway a different religion in every manner – it allows intermarriage…and does not believe in the Torah.” The former Sephardic chief Rabbi Itzhak Nissim even stated that Reform is not a religion and said “Freedom of religions is intended for members of all religions, including minorities, but it is not intended to achieve the opposite objective with the result that the dominant religion in the state, Judaism, be jeopardized and torn asunder…Reform is not a religion”.4

Orthodox Rabbis and politicians have used every opportunity to delegitimise and harass progressive Jews. The Chief Rabbinate in Israel is always warning practising Jews not to attend Reform and Conservative services. A statement circulated in 1984 proclaimed that “it is strictly forbidden to pray in Reform and Conservative synagogues. Whoever prays in such a place almost certainly has not fulfilled the obligation of Torah reading, or prayer”.5 Progressive Rabbis are not permitted to serve as army chaplains, officiate at marriage ceremonies, serve on religious councils etc. According to this group, Israeli schools and textbooks portray them in a very stereotyped way, as inherently assimilationist and anti-Zionist, in spite of the fact that they are very active Zionists and have two Zionist organizations, one called ARZA which belongs to the Reform Jews and one called Merkaz which belongs to the Conservatives. The followers of progressive Judaism number many thousands in Israel and in spite of the stance of the Religious Authority towards them, the government still encourages those outside to emigrate.

The followers of Reconstructionist Judaism are considered to be in the same category and treated in the same way. This movement was established by Rabbi Mordacai Kaplan in the 1930s in the United States after he had published his book “Judaism as Civilization”. This book provides the foundation for the Reconstructionist ideology. According to Kaplan, Judaism should be understood as evolving religious civilization. He believes that in order for the Jewish community to survive, Judaism must eliminate its authoritarian dogmatic features. In particular, Judaism must divest itself of supernatural beliefs such as belief in a supernatural God. Kaplan also believes that the Bible is the work of many people in many ages and does not believe that the Halakhah (the Jewish Religious Law) is holy and unchangeable. In their prayer book the Reconstructionists have eliminated all references to the Revelation of the Torah on Mount Sinai and the doctrine of the personal messiah and the Jews as the chosen people. Kaplan and his followers were excommunicated by the Orthodox for expressing atheism, heresy and disbelief in the basic tenets of Judaism.6

Yet another of these groups is that of the Ethiopian Jews who are known as the Falashas and who call themselves Beta Yesrael. These Jews were brought to Israel, according to the Law of Return, in two operations in the nineteen eighties and early nineties of the last century. Their number is estimated now at about 70,000. Ever since their arrival in Israel the Chief Rabbinate has cast doubt on their Jewishness. The reason given was that the Ethiopian Jews had totally lost contact with Jewish laws (implying non-recognition of the Talmud). In the eyes of the Rabbis they were considered “mamzerim” (illegitimate children) and their marriage contracts were not recognized and, consequently, neither were their divorces.7 They were asked to convert to Orthodox Judaism. One of the requirements for conversion to Orthodoxy is circumcision, which the Ethiopian Jews have practised. However the Chief Rabbinate did not recognize the manner in which circumcision was practised by them. There were also other rituals which they had to undergo and observe. Some of them conformed to this conversion but the majority of them rejected it as they considered it to be insulting and humiliating. Some declared it to be pure racism, protested and demonstrated and about 30 people committed suicide in 1985-1987 because of the discrimination against them.8 Because of these problems some of the Ethiopian Jews began to join Reform or Conservative Judaism for recognition and some began to shun Judaism in general, and Israelis in particular, and have begun looking for an identity and culture of a mixed African and Caribbean type. They have begun to talk about black nationalism, stating their belief in that, rather than in Judaism.

The Messianic Jews are another group which faces problems in Israel with the Religious Authority. These people who number several thousand in Israel today consider themselves Jews, but also believe in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, whereas all other Orthodox Jews are still waiting for the Messiah to come. Because of this group’s belief in Jesus, the Chief Rabbinate does not recognize them as Jews. In fact, some ultra-Orthodox want the followers of this sect to be forced to become orthodox or be deported and they have established organizations to fight this group, to spy on them and inform the Ministry of the Interior about their proselytising activities. The best known of these organizations is called “Yad L’ahim” (Strength for the Brothers). Messianic Jews are often harassed and persecuted by the Orthodox. In 1997 two Knesset members proposed a bill which makes the printing, possession, reproduction, distribution or import of religious material that induces conversion criminal offences, punishable by a year in jail. The Messianic Jews criticized this bill and said “The bill criminalizes basic human rights and limits the freedom of people to tell about their beliefs”.9 Nevertheless, despite all this, their number is on the increase and they have many places of worship.

A further group of non-conformist Jews who emigrated from the United States to Israel, according to the Law of Return, are the Black Jews who call themselves Hebrew Israelites. The first group of these people arrived in Israel about 1969 and since then others have followed. Although the authority doubted their Jewishness they were allowed to stay temporarily and recently were granted residence. They now number a few thousands and their number is increasing because of their high birthrate. They too, like other non-conformist Jews, are not recognized by the Chief Rabbinate in Israel because they believe only in the first five books of the Old Testament and the Talmud has no authority over them. They also differ from the Orthodox Jews in believing that Jesus is a prophet of God. In addition they do not celebrate some of the important Jewish festivals and do not practise all Jewish rituals. They believe too that the founder of the sect and their current leader, Ben Ammi, is a prophet. The Chief Rabbinate asked these people to convert to Orthodox Judaism as otherwise they would not be recognized as Jews, but they rejected this suggestion fiercely and considered it an insult. Now they live in Israel as residents but not as citizens, nonetheless there is no doubt that the government will eventually grant them citizenship.10 A well known incident occurred recently which confirms the non-recognition of this group by the Orthodox Jews, when one of their members was killed on 17th January 2002 and was not allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery by the Religious Authority and was buried outside it.11 Another group that I would like to mention here are followers of Secular Humanistic Judaism which appeared in the sixties of the last century in the United States. This sect, like the majority of those already discussed, has many followers all over the world including Israel. These people believe in a Judaism devoid of a divine element. They profess to be atheists and believe that Judaism was the creation of the Jews. They also deny the existence of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and consider the Exodus account to be a myth. According to them, the Biblical account is not authoritative, rather, it is a human account of the history of the Israelites.12 Although the beliefs of this sect go against the basic tenets of Judaism they are active in Israel and work for their brand of Judaism publicly and have their own synagogues.

Another group which emigrated in the latter years of the last century came from Russia. Many thousands of them are not considered proper Jews. According to the head of the Conversion Authority at the Chief Rabbinate, Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, up to 300,00 of the recent arrival (of Russians) maybe gentiles, (non-Jewish) but only 5,000 have converted. Many of these arrivals are Christians and others are not interested in becoming Jews.13 Others say that almost 50 per cent of the total population of the Russian immigrants are non-Jewish.14 But these immigrants have, nevertheless, been granted citizenship, given accommodation and all kinds of help and are very active in supporting and maintaining the State. The fact that the Religious Authority does not recognize any of these groups and sects did not and does not in any way deter the State from encouraging them to emigrate, welcoming them and assisting them to settle in every way. In other words, using the Law of Return as an instrument in order to fill the land with people who say they are Jewish. This policy is a deliberate one and it is not new. In fact it has been pursued by Israel for a long time so that displaced Palestinians or their descendants will have no land to return to. This goes against the UN Resolution No 194 which demands that Israel allow them to return to their homeland.


  1. On the Qaraite history and belief see Jacfar H Hassan, The Jewish Qaraite Sect (Arabic). 2. S.Z. Abramov, Perpetual Dilemma pp.282-3. 3. D. Ross, Acts of Faith p.142. 4. W. Frankel, Israel Observed pp.217-8 5. M.A. Meyer, Response to Modernity, A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism p.468. 6. Dan-Cohn-Sherbok, The Future of Judaism pp.135-137 7. R.S. Feuerlicht, The Fate of the Jews p.206 8. T.G. Wagaw, For Our Soul : Ethiopian Jews in Israel pp.118-9 9. The Jerusalem Report 29/5/1997 10. On the history and beliefs of the Hebrew Israelites see M. Launds (Jr) Israel’s Black Hebrews. 11. The Jerusalem Report 11/2/2002 12. The main reference on the subject of Secular Humanistic Judaism is “Judaism Beyond God” by Sherwin T Wine (a prominent exponents of this sect). 13. the Jerusalem Report 25/12/1997 14. D. Siegel The Great Immigration , Russian Jews in Israel, p.64 *This paper was given at the international conference on the Israeli Law of Return, which was held at the University of London in April 2002.


The Jerusalem Wall Cuts Off Thousands of Palestinians From Their City By Dr. Jaafar Hadi Hasan

It is no coincidence that the decision by the Israeli cabinet, to accelerate completion of the wall surrounding the city of Jerusalem, was made on the first anniversary of the ruling by the International Court of Justice in the Hague that it was illegal and contravened international law, and demanding it be dismantled. However, Sharon showed the world his customary disregard of international decisions, by not complying and rejecting them.


The stepping up of the construction of the wall came after the majority of the temporary injunctions by the Israeli court were lifted. These had only halted work while the government introduced cosmetic changes that did not change its nature or effects.


Once complete, the Jerusalem wall that will surround this city, will be 48km long, and rising to nine metres or more in height. It is part of the wall Israel was putting up between itself and the West Bank over the past two years; totalling 680km in length, and grabbing 8% or more of the lands of the West Bank, while cutting of some Palestinian villages and towns, and scattering their inhabitants once complete.


The main objective of the Jerusalem wall is to expel as many Palestinians as possible from within the city boundaries, while absorbing Jewish settlements, some with high population density like Maa’leh Adumim; population 30 thousand. On its completion, areas like Kafr ‘Uqab, Qalandiya, Sha’faat refugee camp, and others will be outside the city limits of East Jerusalem. Israel says that the inhabitants of these areas number 55 thousand, while the Palestinians assert that the number is more than double that.


These Palestinians will be denied all education, health, and other services that they had been receiving when they were a part of Jerusalem; in the long term, some of them will lose their jobs or their businesses. Some had expressed the fear that Israel may declare them absent and so confiscate their possessions. Their entry into Jerusalem will depend on the whim of the soldiers manning the entry points Israel will put in the wall. There they will be subjected to rigorous search and identity checks, their fate no different from their compatriots in the West Bank; standing for hours in long queues, suffering difficulties and persecution making their life hellish.


According to Lubulianski, mayor of Jerusalem, the number of those entering and leaving stands at 65 thousand, including 3,500 schoolchildren – this will mean waiting for many long hours. This mayor – a Haridim Jew – had earlier described the wall as a talisman of good fortune, or one of the “gates of life”, even though it would provoke the anger of Palestinians and their hatred.


These words are in harmony with the mentality that builds the wall. In the sight of these persons, whatever causes torment and anguish to the Palestinians, is considered a gate of life. This torment will not only lash those leaving their city, but will be visited on those staying in it as well.


In addition to what the inhabitants of East Jerusalem were subjected to for many years, in terms of persecution in living space, their homes subject to demolition on the pretext of unauthorised building – the latest being the decision by the mayor a few weeks earlier to demolish 90 homes – prohibiting construction of new dwellings or extensions, then the geographical area will most definitely cease to accommodate them, especially after many of them had been displaced to the city centre, having learnt that the wall will be built in their areas, and will expel them from these.


In addition, their siege by the Jews will become more acute in future,, especially as the orthodox/Haridim Jews were slowly taking the place of the secular Jews, who had started to vacate the city many years ago. These Jews give birth to large number of children, twelve or more per family. Their model is the mayor himself, a Haridim Jew, with twelve children, and from them fifteen grandchildren until now, and he is expecting more.


According to what he has mentioned, the number of births in Jerusalem reached 18 thousand in 2004, and according to predictions more than two-thirds of these were to Jews, the population of the city was 700 thousand, of which two-thirds were Jews.


It goes without saying, that the objective behind building the wall is the Juda-isation of the city, and expulsion of the Palestinians from it by any means, so that Israel presents the Palestinians with a fait d’accompli, and ends all aspirations that East Jerusalem could be the capital of their future state.


What Israel is doing today is not only a contravention of international law, but contrary to the spirit of the times that rejects all forms of racism; its actions are an embodiment of such racism. The individual in face of the inaction of the world – despite the voices of criticism and courageous decisions to boycott – can only hope that the wall will cease to be one day, as other walls before it were also made to come crashing down.


  • Iraqi academic living in London – this article was first published in Al-Hayat newspaper, and is re-published here by kind permission of the author.


Jerusalem in the Second Millennium BC By Dr Jaafar Hadi Hassan

The archaeological evidence indicates that settlement developed at Jerusalem in the last centuries of the fourth millennium BC. It is difficult to say who were the first people to settle in the area which later became the city of Jerusalem. But pottery, tombs and other remains found in the Jerusalem area which are attributed to the third millennium BC were associated with the Amorites.1 The Amorite people made their appearance in history during the 3rd Dynasty of Ur in the third millennium BC although there was an occasional mention of them in earlier texts. At that time their homeland was Syria. From the historical records found in Mesopotamiait appears that the name “Amuru” is of northwest Semitic origin and their language was Semitic, perhaps the predecessor of Canaanite, Hebrew or Aramaic. The word Amorite is also found in inscriptions from the first millennium BC2and also in the Old Testament in which it occurs 85 times. One of the well known references to the Amorite people, in connection with Jerusalem, is in the Old Testament in Ezekiel 16:1 “Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem : Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was Amorite and your mother a Hittite”. According to the British archaeologist K. Kenyon, these nomadic people put an end to town life in Palestine from 2300 BC and the revival of city life was due to new people coming into Palestine c 1900 BC whom she identifies with the Canaanites.3 During the nineteenth century BC settlers had begun to build and inhabit towns once again. These towns were autonomous and each of them (including Jerusalem) had its own ruler. Although Jerusalem was not a province of Egypt it was at this period under its political and economic influence. The first mention of the city of Jerusalem is in the so called Execration Texts which were discovered in Luxor in Egypt. They belong, according to their hieratic script, to the reign of Pharaoh Sesostris III (1879-1842 BC). These texts contain the names of alleged enemies of the pharaoh and their localities and were written on pots which were then broken as part of a rite of execration. Among the chiefs of localities in Syria and Palestine, two are named in connection with Urushalimmu (Jerusalem). The two chiefs are Yaqir-ammu and Shayzanu.4 These names are Semitic and are of Amorite origin. Urushalimmu is usually translated “Shalim has founded”. The name is compared with the name of the god “Shalim” (Salim) now known as an Amorite god. The first part of the name is taken as cognate with a South Arabian root with this sense.5 The first mention of the name Salim in the Bible is in Gen.14:18 in connection with Abraham’s meeting with Melchizedeq, king of Salim and “the priest of the most high God”. There is no definite proof that Salim here is to be identified with Jerusalem6. Although some scholars believe that the name Salim here is meant to be Jerusalem. The Hebrew name Yerushaleim is based on the name Urusalimmu. The popular later midrashic explanation of the name Jerusalem as the foundation of peace (Shalom) is associated with the poetic appellation given to the city.7 During the seventeenth and sixteenth centuries BC the Hyksos, a mixture of Semitic and Indo-Aryan people, ruled Syria and Palestine as well as Egypt. Very little is known about the background and nature of these invaders whom the Egyptians called “The Rulers of Foreign Lands”. There are different opinions regarding the position of Jerusalemduring the Hyksos period. Some scholars believe that Jerusalem may have been a Hyksos stronghold for two centuries.8 The Egyptian priest and scribe, Manetho (c 300 BC) who calls the Hyksos “King-Shepherds” also believes these people had inhabited Jerusalem and even built it.9 But some scholars are of the opinion that the city was destroyed by the Hyksos and not rebuilt by them. The latter rely on the archaeological evidence, because no ruins of their special type of defence system or traces of habitation have been found in Jerusalem.10 It is a well known fact that the Hyksos were known for their unique type of fortification system in which deep ditches were dug around glacis. A special type of ceramics is also attributed to them. These were some of the main features which distinguished the culture characteristic of the rule of the Hyksos in Egypt and in Palestine.11 By the end of the sixteenth century BC the Egyptians had expelled the Hyksos from Egypt and then from Palestine and Jerusalem became an Egyptian vassal, a small city state. The ruler of Jerusalem like other Canaanite rulers bowed down before the pharaohs “to beg breath for their nostrils” as an Egyptian inscription boasts.12 It is interesting to note that Josephus identified the Hyksos as the patriarchal Jews, equating their appearance in Egypt with the story of Joseph in Genesis and their subsequent expulsion with the Bible tale of Exodus. Josephus made this identification partly following Manetho who describes a brutal, savage invasion of Egypt by a people from the east, their period of domination of Egypt, and their subsequent expulsion by the rulers of the 18th Dynasty. Following the assumptions of Manetho and Josephus, some scholars have attempted to set the Israelite Exodus from Egypt within the chronological framework of the 18th Dynasty (c 1580 BC)13. About the beginning of the fifteenth century BC the Hurrians from the kingdom of Mitanniin Anatolia, whose distinctive names are well attested in documents from the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries BC, from north Syria to Palestine, started to establish themselves in Canaan. These people are called Hurites in the Old Testament and may be referred to as Hittites in loose usage.14 Unlike the local people they were of Aryan origin. Although they did not come as conquers they exerted a great influence on the local people and Jerusalem felt their impact. Extensive building activities were initiated and improved fortifications were introduced. It seems that these people brought with them the Akkadian language and taught it and the cuneiform script to the local people and it became the official diplomatic tongue.15 In the fourteenth century BC Jerusalem continued to be one of the city states of Canaanand its territory extended southwards and westwards. Our knowledge of it during this time is derived from cuneiform tablets discovered at Tell-al Amarna in Egypt in the nineteenth century AD. Almost all these tablets belong to the royal archives of Amen-Hotep III and his son Akh-en-aton. The tablets which are dated to the fourteenth century BC consist of a few hundred letters, many of which are from the princes of Canaan, who were apparently dependent on Egypt, to the pharaoh. One of these princes was Abdu-Hipa, ruler of Jerusalem, whose name is Hurrian and means “worshipper of Hipa”, Hipa being a Hurrian goddess well known and worshipped also by the Hittites in Anatolia. It seems from these letters that the city-states were at war with one another and in his six letters Abdu-Hipa, appealed for help from Egypt against his enemy16. In one of these letters he mentions gifts he had sent to the King and begs him desperately for help “At the two feet of my King the Lord seven times and seven times I fall …I delivered ten slaves…..twenty one maids and eighty captives I delivered into the hand of Shuta (an emissary) as gifts for the King my Lord. Let my King take thought for his land ….There is a war against me… I have become like a ship in the midst of the sea.”17. And in another letter he complains about a people called the Apiru (Habiru) “Let the King turn his attention to the archers and let the King my Lord send out troops of archers for the King has no land left. The Apiru (Habiru) plunder all the lands of the King.”18 It was thought when the Amarna tablets were deciphered that the Apiru might be identified with the Hebrews of the Old Testament. But it is now known that the name refers to groups of people of different backgrounds who were unsettled and had mostly lost their freedom. They could be found anywhere in the Near East.19 They were more numerous than the Biblical Hebrews and their presence was attested to in documents from the second millennium BC from Mesopotamia to Egypt where they were called Apiru.20 In the case of the enemy of Abdu-Hipa, the Apiru may have been a tribe trying to penetrate into Jerusalem or which had been displaced from somewhere else. Whoever they were, however, they did not succeed in conquering the land around Jerusalem or the city itself.21 During the thirteenth century BC, the entire Middle East was shaken by the incursion of people who are called “The Sea Peoples in the Egyptian records. They overwhelmed the Hittite empire in Asia Minor and marched down the coast of Canaan and attacked Egypt, which was weak at this time, both by land and sea and forced it to negotiate. One major group of these people had settled on the coastal plain west of Jerusalem and became known to history as the Philistines.22 In many parts of the country the Canaanites were pushed back inland by these people in the land that came to be called Palestine.The Philistines were metioned in the Bible as people who fought many battles with the Hebrews and their troops were described as “like the sand on the seashore in multitude” (I Samuel, 13, 5). They were also refered to as skilled people in making metal tools as stated in I Samuel, 13, 19-21. ” Now there was no smith to be found throughout all the land of Israel; for the Philistines said “lest the Hebrews make themseleves swords or spears”, but everyone of the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his ploughshare, his mattock his axe or his sickle; and the charge was a pim for the ploughshare and for the mattocks, and a third of a shakel for sharpening the axes and for setting the goads”. In some parts of Palestine furnaces for making such tools were unearthed. Pottery from 11th and 21th centuries BC and clay coffins, which were peculiar to them, were also uncovered from 13-10th centuries BC.23 Forts belonging to them were likewise discovered north of Jerusalem. Also, during this period, until the phase of the Israelite occupation of the Central Highlands, Jerusalemrelapses into obscurity and there is no mention of it at this time in the Egyptian records. But an Amorite King of Jerusalem, called Adonisedeq is mentioned in the Bible.24 This king, according to the Book of Joshua (10:1ff), was head of the coalition of Amorite kings which fought against Joshua for the control of Giboan. It seems that in the last two centuries of the second millennium BC, Jerusalem, like other city states of Canaan, was inhabited by different groups of people. Apart from the ancient people, the Amorites, there were the Hittites and the Hurrians, the Habiru and the Jebusites and others, as it is attested in the Bible. The Bible refers to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, before David’s men took the city, as the Jebusites. It is possible that the Jebusites settled in Jerusalem in the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries BC. The identity of these people is a matter of debate. The Bible considers them to belong to the Canaanites. But some scholars, on the basis of the names of kings connected with Jerusalem, see the origin of the Jebusites in the Hurrians. Others believe they are closely related to the Hittites and claim, on the basis of literary evidence, that they did not arrive in the country until after the fall of the Hittite empire which was situated in what is now northern Turkey in about 1200 BC.25 Others think that the Jebusites were a professional military class who protected the ruler and who were recruited from different sections of the population and to whom the control of the city may have fallen after the defeat of King Adonizedeq.26 The Book of Judges 1:21 refers to a situation in which the Benjamites and the Jebusites lived together, it says “As regards the Jebusites living in Jerusalem, the sons of Benjamin did not drive them out and even now the Jebusites are still living in Jerusalem with the sons of Benjamin”. In fact it was not until King David captured the city that it fell into Israelite hands which probably occurred early in the first millennium BC, at which time a new era for Jerusalem had begun.


  1. J. Gray, A History of Jerusalem, p26
  2. H J Franken, “Jerusalem in the Bronze Age 3000-1000BC” in K J Asali (ed) Jerusalem in History, pp21-22
  3. Ibid, p22
  4. J Pritchard, The Ancient Near East vol 1, p225
  5. J Gray, op. cit. p.66
  6. D Bahat, The Archaeological History of Jerusalem, p36 in A. L

Eckardt (ed) Jerusalem City of the Ages

  1. Encyclopaedia Judaica, Jerusalem
  2. N. Kotker, The Earthly Jerusalem, p17
  3. Encyclopaedia Judaica, Hyksos
  4. H J Franken, op.cit. p37
  5. Encyclopaedia Judaica, Hyksos
  6. N Kotker, op.cit. p20
  7. Encyclopaedia Judaica, Hyksos
  8. J Gray, op cit. p68
  9. K Armstrong, Jerusalem, One City Three Faiths, p13
  10. J Gray, op. cit. p69
  11. J B Pritchard, op. cit. pp272-273
  12. Ibid, p270
  13. H J Franken, op.cit. p24
  14. J Gray, op. cit. p77
  15. H J Franken, op.cit. p24
  16. N Kotker, op.cit. p27

23.Encyclopeadia Judaica,Philistines 24. J Gray, op. cit. p72

  1. K Armstrong, op.cit. p14
  2. J Gray, op.cit. pp76-77