Thursday, September 25, 2014

NAMES The Middle East Has Gone By and Their Relations to Jews

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                   

For  400 years the Middle East had been a part of the Ottoman Empire 1299-1917.  Osman I (1299-1326) was the first Ottoman Sultan.  The Muslim caliphate and the Byzantine Empire were in almost a continuous struggle.  Turkish soldiers were the effective advance guard for Islam.  After 1492, when Jews had to leave Spain or convert to Christianity, the sultans of the Ottoman Empire opened their gates generously to the refugees, and later to the Portuguese Jewish refugees.  The Jews were favored as a valuable trading and artisan community and also as a counterpoise to the disloyal Christian minorities.  Jews in Palestine were a part of the Ottoman Empire.  from 1517 as were Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, etc.  After the 16th century things were not as good for the Jews and anti-Jewish restrictions were laid down.  The Ottoman Empire held the 3rd largest population of Jews in the world after Russia and Austro-Hungary having about 350,000 in 1900.  The Empire teamed up with the Germans in WWI and of course they lost the war and the Ottoman Empire was dismantled.

" Controlling much of Southeast EuropeWestern Asia, the CaucasusNorth Africa, and the Horn of Africa, the Ottoman Empire had 28 million people in 1914.  Of those, 15.5 million were in Turkey, 4.5 million in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine-what would cover Israel and Jordan, and 2.5 million in Iraq.   At the beginning of the 17th century the empire contained 32 provinces and numerous vassal states. Some of these were later absorbed into the empire, while others were granted various types of autonomy during the course of centuries."   By 1453  it became an empire.  

Mesopotamia is the old name for IRAQ.  It became a Moslem country in 637.    Mohammad had died in 632.  Before  that it was a part of Babylonia.  Back in the days of being Mesopotamia, the large and ancient Jewish community favored and even assisted the Arab advance in the hope that it would afford them deliverance from the terrible Sassanid persecution.

Sassanid Empire: were the Persians (Iran) before Islam entered their empire.Persia only became Iran in 1935.  They lasted from 224 to 651 CE.   They had been known as the Eranshahr and the Erah long ago.  "The Sasanian Empire, which succeeded the Parthian Empire, was recognized as one of the main powers in the MIddle East , alongside the Roman–Byzantine Empire, for a period of more than 400 years."   These Sasanids of Iran dominated the  area from the Tigris to the Indus and from the Persian Gulf to the Cauacasus and the Urals.  They fought against the Byzantine Empire who had control of Asia Minor, most of the Fertile Crescent, Egypt and North Africa, and ruled from Constantinople.  Both fought what would be a tie, and in fighting had weakened themselves so much that they became easy prey to the Arabs of the desert.  

Safavids of Persia (Iran) 1500 to 1736)  A 1,000 years later, we see the Ottomans fighting against the Safavids in Persia.  They had also fought to a tie, and now these newer fighters  helped the Europeans take over.  Their leaders were Shahs.  The Safavids unified Persia for the 1st time since the Arab conquest and expanded its boundaries to what they were under the Sasanids.  The Safavids saved Iran from being incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.  they made Shi'ism the state religion and imposed it on the population.  They prevented the free exchange of ideas and stifled innovation in many fields of endeavor.  

Babylonia was an ancient state in the Middle East, also known in Bible days as the land of Shinar or of the Kasdim (Chaldees).  In Genesis, it states that it was the cradle of humanity and the scene of the "Tower of Babel."  The story of the Flood in Genesis is also found in Babylonian literature.  Abraham was born in Ur of the Chaldeans, but migrated to Eretz Yisrael where he later fought against Amraphel, King of Shinar (Gen. 14).  The great Babylonian lawgiver was Hammurabi.  The Babylonian, Nebuchadnezzar II (604-561 BCE) inherited the Assyrian Empire.  He overran and took over Judah in 597 and 586 BCE.  Then he exiled many Jews to Babylonia.  There they probably met up with Jews of the 10 lost tribes  previously exiled by the Assyrians who now were living in Babylonia.  King Cyrus had permitted Jews to return to Jerusalem, but some did not, and they had remained.

Assyrian Empire:  Assyria was an ancient state in the Middle East and its people were Semites.  They had an aggressive kingdom in the 20th century BCE which expanded rapidly in the 13th and 10th centuries.  King David of Israel and his son, King Solomon had many successes against the Aramean states in Mesopotamia and Syria.  This probably contributed to Assyria's recovery.  Asshurbanipal II (king from 883 to 59 BCE) had a tactical revolution in the Assyrian army, and overran Syria and the Phoenician cities in 876 BCE.  Then, in 853 BCE, Shalmaneser III attacked Ben-Hadadd II of Damascus and King Ahab of Israel supported him in the indecisive battle of Karkar.  Shalmaneser led a 2nd attack in 848 and failed, but caused Kind Ahab's reign to fall in 842 BCE.  The Assyrian decline was ended by Tiglath-Pileser III in 745 BCE to 27 BCE who overthrew the Syrian confederacy.

Syria  was and still is a Middle East country and in the Bible was called Aram.   The people were the Arameans.  They had intermarried with the Israelites.  " Isaac had married Rebekah, the sister of Laban the Syrian.  Jacob married his daughters (Gen 24:29)  The period when the Arameans first appeared in Syia is uncertain, but was probably later than 2000 BCE.  When Abraham came from Haran, Damascus was already occupied (Gen 15:2), and this may have been the oldest settlement of the Arameans in Syria proper.

The kings of Aram didn't succeed in creating a homogeneous state.  The coastal strip was settled by the Phoenicians.  The Bible in Kings I and II tell of constant friction with the kingdoms of Israel and Judah until the 8th century when Syria was overrun by the Assyrians.  It had a Jewish population , especially at Antioch, that was of importance in the Seleucid era but suffered from the hostility of the Greeks.   Syria became a Roman (later Byzantine) province  in 64 BCE.   The largest Jewish communities in Syria in the 12th century, according to Benjamin of Tudelea, were at Aleppo with 5,000 Jews; Damascus with 3,000 Jews, and Palmyra with 2,000.  The Jewish settlement was increased after 1492 by refugees from Spain and Sicily and became an important center of trade between Europe and Asia.

Byzantine Empire/Byzantium was the Eastern Roman Empire with its capital in Constantinople (today is Istanbul, Turkey) and extended over a changing geographical area up to the year 637, including Palestine. "Constantinople was the capital city of the RomanByzantineLatin, and Ottoman empires. It was reinaugurated in 324 AD at ancient Byzantium, as the new capital of the Roman Empire by Constantine the Great, after whom it was named, and dedicated on 11 May 330 In the 12th century.  The city was the largest and wealthiest European city."   As the Eastern emperors developed their specific  religious  attitudes about the position of the Jews, especially about their religious life,  relations with the Byzantine deteriorated.  They came up with elaborate anti-Jewish laws and issued a decree in 553 which interfered with the conduct of the synagogue services.  In 614 they issued an edict ordering the conversion of Jews.  Judaism was formally forbidden by their successive emperors; by Leo in 721; Basil I in 873-4; Romanus Lucapenus in 932-6, etc.  Even so, Jews reestablished themselves and Benjamin of Tudela in 1170 found communities throughout the Empire, but in Constantinople they were treated with contempt.  The empire was conquered by the Turks in 1453.

Hittite Empire were ancient people in the Middle East from the 15th century BCE with power extended towards Syria.  After the main kingdom fell in 1200 BCE, small Hittite kingdoms continued to flourish in northern Syria and in the vicinity of the Euphrates.  These states were overrun by the Armenians and the Assyrians.  They were connected to the Canaanites (Gen. 10:15) and some lived in Eretz Yisrael  at an early period.  Abraham bought the cave at Machpelah from Hittites.  Esau took wives from among them.  They were one of 7 peoples from whom the Israelites conquered Canaan.  Later, King David had Hittite warriors, and King Solomon had Hittite wives, so they were integrated into the society of Israel.

Reference: 2nd edition of Middle East Past &I Present by Yahya Armajani and Thomas M. Ricks
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
The Settlers by Meyer Levin, telling of condition of Palestine from 1880 on under the Ottoman Empire for Jews and Arabs.
Messages from a Syrian Jew Trapped in Egypt-tells about the Blood Libel in Damascus in the 1800's.
update:; dates

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