Sunday, December 17, 2017

Portrait of Arabs' Entrance into Palestine: Ramla

Nadene Goldfoot                                                 

Muhammad, b: 570, died in Medina, Arabia on June 8th 632 CE. He was the Arab prophet of Islam.  Arabs are a Semitic people, like Jews.  Our bible shows that we Jews are distant cousins of Arabs through Ishmael, first son of Abraham and Sarah's Egyptian handmaiden, Hagar.  Sarah was Abraham's niece and also his wife.  Later, Sarah became the mother of Isaac, Abraham's 2nd son.    Ishmael's nature was nomadic.                                                 
Israel at the top left hand corner in yellow, barely visible.
Saudi Arabia  is a peninsula of SW Asia.  There was a period when Arabs were converting to Judaism.  Jews lived in Yemen from the 1st century CE.  There was a large Jewish community in Medina. Most of Hejazi Jews were either expelled or annihilated from Arabia.  Those allowed to survive had to pay special taxes for the privilege.

From the earliest historical times, they lived in the Arabian peninsula and certain adjacent regions, but shortly after the advent of Islam, burst forth from their homeland to conquer the greater part of the then civilized world.  

They spoke Arabic, a cognate to Hebrew and forms a branch of the Semitic languages.Shalom is a Hebrew word for peace.  Salaam is the Arabic word.    Arabs and their homeland are mentioned repeatedly in biblical and talmudic literature.  

A few Arabs could have even been living in Israel at the time of the 2nd Temple when Jews returned from Persia after a 70 year imprisonment by the Babylonians.    
Ofra Haza b: 1957 d: 2000, Jew from Yemen,
immigrated to Israel and became a famous singer

Jews were found in Arabia by the 1st century CE.  Then they were expelled from North Arabia shortly after the rise of Islam but continued to live in the South in considerable numbers until recent times.  

By 716 Muhammad's  followers had entered  Palestine (a name  for Israel and Judea) created in 125 by Romans after a 3 year battle with the Jewish  General Bar Kokhba)   and founded the town of Ramlah, Ramla,  (Ramleh).  It soon became the capital for Arabs of Palestine.  The inhabitants of nearby Lydda, which had been the previous capital, moved into this new town of Ramlah.  It's road has an intersection where it leads from the port of Jaffa to Jerusalem.  
During the Middle Ages,  of "476–800  when there was no Roman (or Holy Roman) emperor in the West or, more generally, the period between about 500 and 1000, which was marked by frequent warfare,"  its population was composed of Arabs, Samaritans and Persians.  Samaritans were descended from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, part of the 10 Lost Tribes.  We know of the remaining tribe of Judah , which was the largest of the 12 tribes, the ancestors of the Jews.  It had included  some of the Benjamin tribe.  
Ramla is in Israel, not Judea or Samaria which is the shaded region.  It's in central Israel in the narrow neck between the sea and Judea/Samaria.  
They were people with their capital at Samaria, which was the capital of the Northern kingdom of Israel that was founded in 880 BCE by King Omri.  The city on 25 acres.  It had fallen in 721 BCE to Sargon II of Assyria who had resettled it with Cutheans who intermarried with the remnants of the former population. "Cutheans were a people brought by the Assyrian emperor Shalmanessar from their native Cutha to Israel to populate the area of Israel left desolate by his exile of the Ten Tribes. Since then lived in Samaria, they are also called Samaritans. "Kutha lies on the right bank of the eastern branch of the Upper Euphrates, north of Nippur and around 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Babylon."

 While in Israel, they were attacked by mountain lions, and they decided to convert to Judaism. They basically followed the written Torah the way they understood it, and in these areas they were even more meticulous than the Jews. However, they differed in matters of interpretation, which caused them to observe some laws incorrectly. Eventually, it was discovered that they still served idols, and they were declared to be non-Jewish, but prior to that they were a subject of long-standing disagreements."

 It had become an administrative center in the Persian Period and then a Macedonian colony in 331 BCEl.  King Herod 73 BCE-4 BCE  had renamed it Sebaste which is Greek for Augusta in honor of Augustus Caesar.  

In the 10th century, a Jewish and a Karaite community were founded here.  By the 11th century, the town suffered from Bedouin attacks and was almost destroyed by earthquakes in 1016 and 1033.  People built it up again, and it was then taken by the Seljuk Turks and then later by the Crusaders under whose rule the Jewish, Karaite and Samaritan communities almost disappeared.  
Turks of Ottoman Empire-400 year Rule over Palestine
Ending 1917 end of WWI
PIcture illustrating " the Young Turk Revolution

The next conquerors to come along were the Mamelukes, and later Ramlah came under Turkish rule and was part of the Ottoman Empire that lasted 400 years until the end of World War I in 1917.  Ramleh had remained an important station on the way to Jerusalem.

The 19th century, known to us as the 1800s, Ramleh was inhabited by a Christian community.  "In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, ‘’Ramleh’’ had a population of 7,312 inhabitants; 5,837 Muslims, 1,440 Christians and 35 Jews. The Christian were 1,226 Orthodox, 2 Syrian Orthodox (Jacobites), 150 Roman Catholics, 8 Melchites, 4 Maronite, 15 Armenian, 2 Abyssinian Church and 36 Anglicans.
It had creased in the 1931 census to 10,347; 8,157 Muslims, 5 Jews, 2,194 Christians and 2 Druze, in a total of 2339 houses.
                                                                           Year         Population
                                                                         1945....  .15,300
                                                              2004.. .....63,462
                                                              2009..... ..65,600
                                                              2014..... ..72,293
Then it was occupied by Israeli forces in 1948, a time when Arab leaders told the Arab population to leave their homes as Arab soldiers would attack the Jews and take over all the land, and then they could choose whatever homes they wanted to live in.  Some didn't fall for such bragging and remained.  They are part of Israel's population today and are full citizens.  .
About 1,000 of the Arabs living there remained in the town and were soon augmented by large numbers of Jewish immigrants.  By 1990, 44,500 people lived in the town which included 7,500 Arabs. " In 2001, 80% of the population were Jewish and 20% Arab (16% Arab Muslims and 4% Arab Christians).  "  As of 2000, the total population of Arab refugees and their descendents with origins in Ramla was estimated by Benny Morris and other historians at 635,000." The ratio of Jews to Arabs living in Israel today is 80% Jews and 20% Arabs.  

The Open House in Ramla is a preschool and daycare center for Arab and Jewish children. In the afternoons, Open House runs extracurricular coexistence programs for Jewish, Christian, and Muslim children
A Karaite marriage tradition

 Ramla has become the center of Karaite Judaism.  They are a group that rejects the Jews' Oral Law.  It originated in the 8th century in and around Persia.  Here, the Jewish community was quite a new group of people and they didn't accept the discipline of the Babylonian gaonate (Jewish Babylonian leadership).  They do not discuss ethics.  They do not celebrate Chanukah because this holiday comes after the bible was created.  They do not use tephillin or mezuzot.  However, time has marched on and they have come to have their own Oral Law.  In some instances it overlaps rabbinical tradition.  

Resource: The New standard Jewish Encyclopedia

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