Jews in the Arab Lands – a Brief Historical Perspective from the mid 7th Century until the 19th century, According to Jewish Sources By Dr. Jaafar Hadi Hassan


Both Islam and Judaism have their origins among the Semitic peoples of the Middle East. Differences between the two faiths obviously exist, of course, but in spite of these, the followers of both religions were able to live side by side for many centuries in the lands governed by Muslim rulers. One of the most important reasons for this co-existence is that Islam considers the followers of Judaism “Ahl al-kitab” (people of the Book) and believers in one God and regards their prophets as both holy and as messengers of God. Indeed, there are some Quranic verses to that effect. As people of the book, therefore, it is not surprising that the Jews were usually left alone to practise their religion and regulate their internal affairs according to their own customs and traditions.

According to Abraham Halkin “The extension of internal autonomy to the Jewish communities under Islam made possible the continuance of a Jewish way of life or at least the semblance of it” and in the words of one of the Jewish leaders in Palestine, Yehudai, “When the Ishmaelites (The Muslims) came they left them (the Jews) free to occupy themselves with the Torah”. ( N.Rejwan, The Jews of Iraq pp. 87 and121 ). There is little information about the condition of the Jews in the Arab lands in the first two centuries of Islam. But the little that we do have shows that the Jews had welcomed the Muslim rulers. According to one report, the Jews of Iraq who had suffered from persecution at the end of Sassanian Persian rule (226-642AD) sympathetically received the Muslim conquerors of the land. It is reported that in 658 AD the head of Punbeditha Academy, R. Isaac (d. 660AD), went out to welcome the fourth Caliph Ali b. Abi Talib with many thousands of Jews and was recognized by him as the spiritual leader of the Jewish community. (S.W.Baron A Social and Religious History of the Jews vol.3, p.99).

A statement in an apocalyptic book called “Mysteries of Rabbi Simon bar Yohai” apparently written in part during the days of the Arab conquest of Palestine in the seventh century says “The Holy one blessed be He, is only bringing the kingdom of Ishmael in order to help you (the Jews) from the wicked one”. (S.W. Baron,op. cit. vol 3, p. 93) A remarkable development that one ought to mention here is that soon after the Islamic conquest the Jews in general in the Middle East gave up the languages they spoke such as Aramaic and adopted Arabic. This was in striking contrast to the situation in medieval Christendom, where the Jews made very limited use of Greek and virtually none of Latin. The period discussed in this paper had witnessed a number of Muslim empires in the Arab Lands. First of these was the Umayyad Dynasty which lasted until the middle of the eighth century and ruled from Damascus. We have very little information about the situation of the Jews during this period. However, it is related that the Umayyad Caliphs exercised tolerance towards non-Muslim subjects and employed both Jews and Christians, some of whom obtained high posts in the government hierarchy. It is attested that several Jews were in the court of Maawiya the first Caliph of the dynasty and during the reign of Abdul Malik a Jew was in charge of the mint . When Fustat (Old Cairo) was founded in the seventh century a relatively large Jewish community established itself there. The Abbasid empire which followed, lasted from the eighth to the thirteenth centurie. When Baghdad was founded by the second Caliph al-Mansur in 762AD many Jews moved to the city to live . Baghdad soon became the centre not only of the Muslim Empire but also of Babylonian Jewish learning and life. Shortly after its emergence as a capital and metropolis, it gradually became the seat, first of the Exilarch (head of the Jewish community) and then of the Geonim (Heads of Jewish Academies) (N.Rejwan, op. cit. p. 99). The traveller Benjamin of Tudela writing in the second half of the twelfth century about the Jews of Baghdad says “There are approximately 40,000 Jews in Baghdad, among them scholars and exceedingly wealthy people. They live in peace and tranquillity and honour under the great Caliph and there are twenty eight synagogues and ten yeshivot (religious schools).” Then he goes on to tell us about the elaborate procession of the Exilarch through the streets of Baghdad. He also mentions that the Muslims called him “our master” (sayyidna) the son of David. In Kufa a major centre of trade and learning, the Jewish community there grew very rapidly. Of even greater significance though was the Jewish community in the city of Basra which rivalled Kufa as an intellectual and commercial centre.

In all these centres of Islamic culture and literature, educated Jews developed a considerable taste for literature in Arabic whether it was poetry, philosophy, history or other subjects. They even used the Arabic language to discuss Jewish theology. David Sasson says the following about the Jews in Basra in the ninth century: “We find scholars and medical men who were born in Basra officiating in Palestine and in Egypt”. ( N.Rejwan op. cit. pp. 83-84). In this period some important works were written by Jewish scholars such as the first Arabic translation of the Bible by Saadia Gaon who lived in the tenth century in Iraq. It is worth mentioning here that some Jewish authors in this period, encouraged by the tolerant scholarly climate, felt free to criticise the basic tenets of the Muslim faith and were often outspoken in their critique while enjoying a wide circulation of their work without any overt hindrance by the authorities. An example of this is a book, written by a prominent member of the Jewish community, the philosopher, Ibn Kammuna (d.1285) who lived in Baghdad, entitled “Critical Inquiry into the Three Faiths”. The author allotted to Islam almost two thirds of the book in which he defended Judaism and criticised the Muslim faith. (N Rejwan, op. cit p. 161). Such literature did not cause any immediate reprisals from the Muslim authorities and, most significantly, we have no record of the burning of any Jewish books by Muslim authorities ( S.W.Baron, op. cit.vol.3, pp 133-134). A good deal of easy social intercourse particularly in earlier times existed amongst Muslims, Christians and Jews who, while professing different religions, formed a single society in which personal friendship, business partnerships, intellectual discipleships and other forms of shared activity were normal and, indeed, common. A testament to this social cooperation is the fact that Jews often attended Muslim festivities and family celebrations, and entertained Muslim friends in their homes (S. W. Baron op. cit.vol 3 pp.132-4). In the sphere of trade Jewish merchants were free to travel throughout the empire to do business in different types of merchandise. In this regard the Jews were not subject to occupational restrictions such as we find in Europe in the period we have discussed. After the Mongol conquest of Iraq in1258 the Jews suffered and indeed did the rest of the population. We have little information about the Jews in this turbulent period. In Palestine, another centre of Jewish learning, religious schools were established and their academy in Tibarias, headed by Gaonim, flourished. This city was also the centre for a group of scholars who for the first time developed vocalization for the Hebrew Bible and standardized its text around the eighth century. Some scholars believe that this work was influenced by what the Muslims had done in regard to the Quran a century earlier. (See J. H. Hassan “The Jewish Qaraite Sect pp.83-84 ). The Jews in Palestine also began to build new synagogues, the most famous of which was the synagogue of Anan b David, (founder of the Jewish Qaraite sect) which was built in the ninth century. This sect also called on its followers to emigrate to Palestine from many different countries.Cosequently it became the main centre of their activities and learning. In Egypt the number of Jews increased when according to documents from Cairo Geniza a considerable number of Iraqi Jews emigrated there from the mid eighth century and established a separate community called the Iraqi congregation ( N.Rejwan, op.cit. p 98). During the Fatmid Period many Jews who had only recently settled down in North Africa moved to Egypt with them in 969 AD when they conquered the country.

At this time Egypt became the centre of a vast and powerful empire which at the end of the tenth century, included Syria and Palestine as well as almost all of North Africa. The unification of these countries brought a period of prosperity to the region in both industry and commerce from which the Jews also benefited. Of even greater importance perhaps was the characteristically tolerant attitude adopted by the Fatimids towards non-Muslims. They permitted the construction and repair of non-Muslim houses of prayer, and according to some Jewish sources they even granted financial support to the (yeshivot) Jewish religious schools in Palestine. Encyclopaedia Judaica, Fatimids). They also intervened to solve Jewish sectarian disputes. The only ruler of this dynasty to depart from the policy of tolerance towards non-Muslims was al Hakim (d.1020) who, in fact, also discriminated against some sections of Muslim society, such as women. Towards the end of his rule, however, he did change his policy. The first vizier of the Fatimids was Jacob ibn Killis (991), a Jew who converted to Islam but remained loyal to his former coreligionists. He appointed a Jew “Menassah al-Qazzaz” to head the administration in Syria. (Encyclopaedia Judaica, ibn Killis) Al-Kazzaz utilized his power on behalf of the Jews and granted many of them positions in the government. His son Asiya was also a high ranking official. In the eleventh century the office of the Nagid (head of the Jewish community) was established and some of these Nagidim also became court physicians.

During this period some Jews reached very high positions among them Abu Sa’ad al-Tustary (Abraham b. Yashar) who had the power to make and break viziers, a power which he did in fact exercise (N.Stillman,The Jews of the Arab Lands, p.51). In the early 12th century the chief minister of agriculture was a Jew called Abu al-Munajja (Solomon ben Sha’ya) who ordered the digging of the canal which still bears his name. According to some Jewish authors the Jewish community of Egypt in the Early Middle Ages was affluent, influential and on the whole stable and secure and well organized. There was a sizeable Jewish population in Egypt during the eleventh and twelfth centuries and over ninety cities, towns, villages and hamlets with Jewish inhabitants are known (N.Stillman op. cit. p. 48-52). Life continued to be well organized and Jewish cultural and religious activities were maintained during the time of the Ayyubids (1121 AD-1250 AD) who ruled from Egypt to East Asia in the East and Yemen in the South. This new dynasty showed tolerance towards Jews and Christians. In 1190 Saladin allowed the Jews to settle again in Jerusalem after the Crusaders had compelled them to leave the city and consequently their numbers in Palestine increased. In Syria a lengthy list of physicians and government offcials is mentioned by the Hebrew poet Judah al-Harizi when he visited the country in the 1st quarter of the 13th century. Egyptian Jewry benefited from the stable regime and Jewish scholars from Christian countries came to join the communities. The most famous Jewish scholar and philosopher who lived at this time was Maimonides, who was also a physician of Saladin. The autonomous organisation of the Jewish communities in Egypt remained intact and continued under the leadership of the Nagidim during the rule of the Mamluks. This dynasty were former slaves brought by the Ayyubids from Russia and the Balkan peninsula who came to power in Egypt in 1250 AD and also ruled over Palestine, Syria and adjacent regions in North Africa and Asia Minor.

Although the Jews in this period did experience limitations and restrictions imposed on them by the government and there occurred the occasional violent popular outburst, these never turned into massacres such as took place in the wake of the Crusades (75). Any discrimination that did take place in this period against the Jews was not aimed specifically at them but also included Arabs who, for example, were not allowed to dress like the Mamluks or ride horses. In Spain the Jews not only welcomed the Muslims when they conquered the country in 711AD but in fact they actively made alliance with them against the Visigoths.This seems to be a very rare occurance in the history of the Jews.(N.Stillman, The Jews of the Arab Lands. pp.24and54) The immediate sequel to the conquest was that many Jews who had left Spain at the time of religious persecution by the Visigoth kings and their descendants, returned from North Africa where they had found shelter. The economic situation of the Jews in Spain prospered and they were successful in many occupations including medicine, agriculture, commerce and crafts. Jewish scholarship and culture flourished alongside its Arab counterpart and was influenced by it. A real Jewish cultural revival began in the tenth century when Cordoba was a centre of both Arab and Jewish culture. This was the time of the political rise of the court physician, diplomat and statesman Hasdai b. Sharput who headed diplomatic negotiations with Christian rulers on behalf of the Caliphate. Another personality who should be mentioned here is Samuel Hanagid (d.1055) ( known by the Arabic name of Ibn Nagrila) who was both scholar and poet and served as vizier and commander of the army of Granada for more than 25 years. Furthermore, he was also head of the Jewish community in Islamic Spain. It is interesting to note that he too was the author of a criticism of the Quran which was cited by the contemporary Muslim historian and philosopher ibn Hazm. (Encyclopedia Judaica ,Ibn Nigrila ). Some Jewish contemporaries of Samuel Hanagid in Saragossa and Seville also rose to the ranks of Vizier and in the words of Norman Stillman, author of “The Jews of Arab Lands” “no office, except that of the ruler, seemed out of the reach of a talented and ambitious Jew”(. p. 57). B.J. Bamburger states in his book “The Story of Judaism”, “Oppressed for centuries under the Christian Goths, the Spanish Jews began a new and happy era in the eighth century when the peninsula was conquered by the Arabs. Under a series of enlightened Moslem rulers they attained a status of security and honour such as they had not known since their own national life was destroyed. In numbers, wealth and prestige the Jewish community of Spain became by far the greatest in the world. The civilisation to which they belonged was the most advanced seen by Europe between the decline of Rome and the Renaissance.”(p.154).

In North Africa, the Jews in general led a relatively peaceful existence and those of Hafside Tunisia, in particular, enjoyed the most tranquillity of any North African Jewish community during the period of the Middle Ages. Only the narrow minded al-Mohads who ruled in North Africa and Southern Spain at one point forced Jews and Christians to convert to Islam. The later al-Mohads, however, modified their stance and permitted non-Muslims to practise their religions. (Lewis 52) . Jewish authors stress that the al-Mohad period was a definite aberration in the history of the Jews in the Arab lands, or any Muslim country for that matter. Salo Baron says that al-Mohad extremism was exceptional and proves the general rule that under Islam the Jews resided in their respective countries as of right, and not merely on temporary sufferance (111. p.127). In the 13th and 14th centuries, some Jews in the Further Maghreb, as Morocco was called in Medieval Arabic, rose to high positions. One of these was Aaron b. Batash, who was a Vizier during the reign of Abd al-Haqq b. Abi Sa¢d (1421-1465) (N. Stillman,op.cit. 79) and Abraham Cabassa, head of the Spanish community in the Kingdom of Marrakesh who was minister to the First Saadian Sultan in the 16th century. His brother Samuel was financier of the court and another brother Isaac controlled Morocco’s foreign trade.

The fifteenth century saw the rise of a new and powerful Turkish Dynasty, the Ottomans, who conquerd much of the Middle East and North Africa. As Muslims they continued to allow the Jews in their domains to practise their religion and regulate their internal affairs. The The Ottoman government was happy to provide a haven for large numbers of Jewish refugees from the Iberian peninsula. Sultan Beyezid II (1481-1512) welcomed the Sefardic Jews into his realm and issued firmans (decrees) to his provincial governors specifying the terms of Jewish settlement and ensuring the protection of the newcomers (87) Beyezid is said to have considered Ferdinand of Spain a fool for impoverishing his own kingdom while enriching his (N.Stillman,op. cit. 87). The Jewish refugees from the expulsions of 1492 and 1496 were soon followed by Marranos (Jews who had been compelled to accept Catholicism) fleeing the terror of the Inquisition. When Egypt, Syria and Palestine all became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1517 large numbers of refugees began taking up residence in these countries as well. (N.Stillman,op. cit pp.82-88) The prosperity and relative security of the sixteenth century was enjoyed by Jews in most of the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire. In each province, Jews lived their own independent communal life (Stillman p.90). and some of them such as Don Joseph Nasi, Soloman b. Ya’ish and Moses and Joseph Hamon became very influential at the Sublime Porte. The Turks created the position of Hakham Bashi (Chief Rabbi) and the position of Sarraf Bashi (Chief Banker) a position which usually had a Jewish occupant. Jewish communities were internally organized and stable but the decline of the Empire after the sixteenth century was, of course, reflected in the life of Jews in the provinces of the Empire. The rise and fall of the False Messiah Shabbatai Zvi in the seventeenth century, whom many Jews believed in and followed from Poland to Yemen did nothing to help their situation and in fact caused harm to many of their communities. Few prominent scholars are known to us from this period. One of them is Joseph Caro (d. 1575) the author of a well known manual on Jewish law called ‘Shulhan Arukh”. Another is Isaac Luria (d.1572) the famous Cabbalist. Both of these scholars lived in Palestine. After reforms were introduced by Sultan Muhamuad II (d. 1839) and continued by Sultan Abd al-Majid (d.1862) the situation of the Jews and the Christian minorities greatly improved and they participated fully in cultural and economic life and began to hold government posts, to establish businesses and to found schools for their children.

Throughout Ottoman times the situation of the Jews in Arab lands was generally peaceful and undisturbed. In summary one can perhaps state the following points: Throughout the centuries Jews lived in the Arab Lands and managed to live together in relative peace and harmony. They did not experience anti-Semitism, expulsions or massacres nor were they forced to live in ghettos as Muslim law never called for segregated quarters for different faiths. Also they were not forced to convert as the overwhelming majority of Muslims accept the Quranic dictum “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256) Those that did convert were usually welcomed and well treated and they were absorbed rapidly into Muslim society. Of course there were some exceptions but these, fortunately were very few.

* This paper was presented at a seminar held in the House of Lords on the 25th of March 2004. Other speakers were Ms. Karen Armstrong and Professor Bernard Wasserstein.

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