To Come to the Land
Immigration and Settlement in 16th-Century Eretz-Israel
Publication Year: 2010
To Come to the Land makes available in English a vast body of research,
previously available only in Hebrew, on the early history of the land now
known as Israel.
Abraham David here focuses on the Spanish and Portuguese Jews who fled
the Iberian Peninsula during the 16th century, tracing the beginnings of
Sephardic influence in the land of Israel.
After the Ottoman Turks conquered Syria, Palestine, and Egypt in 1516,
the Ottoman regime, unlike their Mamluk predecessors, encouraged economic
development and settlement throughout the region. This openness to immigration
offered a solution to the crisis Iberian Jews were undergoing as a result
of their expulsion from Spain and the forced conversions in Portugal. Within
a few years of the Ottoman conquest, Jews of Spanish extraction, many of
them clustered in urban areas, dominated the Jewish communities of Eretz-Israel.
In this carefully researched study, David examines the lasting impression
made by these enterprising Jewish settlers on the commercial, social, and
intellectual life of the area under early Ottoman rule. Of particular interest
is his examination of the cities of Jerusalem and Safed and David's succinct
biographies of leading Jewish personalities throughout the region.
This first English translation of a ground-breaking Hebrew work provides
a comprehensive overview of a significant chapter in the history of Israel
and explores some of the factors that brought to it the best minds of the
age. Essential for scholars of late Medieval Jewish history, To Come to
the Land will also be an important resource for scholars of intellectual
history, as it provides background crucial to an understanding of the intellectual
flourishing of the period.
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
Series: Judaic Studies Series
Maps and Tables
More than forty years have elapsed since Israel's second president, Itzhak Ben-Zvi, published his pioneering study Erez Yisrael ve-Yishuvah tahat ha-Shilton Ha-Ottmani (The Land of Israel and Its Jewish Community under Ottoman Rule; Jerusalem, 1957), a survey of the entire four-hundred-year period of Ottoman hegemony. ...
The Ottoman Turks made their initial entrance on the Mediterranean scene in the early fourteenth century as Seljuk vassals in western Anatolia. Within a two-hundred-year period their empire spanned the borders of India to the African shores of the Atlantic Ocean, extending to the gates of Vienna in central Europe. ...
1. Immigration to Eretz-Israel
The Jewish population of Eretz-Israel has ever been subject to cycles of contraction and expansion. During the medieval and modern periods especially, because of the harsh living conditions in Eretz-Israel, more than one population low was reached-the outgrowth of constant warfare, natural disasters, and the effects of despotic rule. ...
2. Distribution of Settlement
The extant Hebrew sources, Turkish documents, and Christian pilgrim accounts provide but a partial picture of Jewish settlement in sixteenth-century Eretz-Israel. Demographic data on the size of various sixteenth-century Jewish communities, both urban and rural, derive in the main from partial lists of taxpayers in the tahrir registers ...
3. Economic Life
The inception of the Ottoman regime brought with it significant economic growth. In the absence of restrictions on their choice of economic endeavor, Jews engaged freely in a broad spectrum of occupations. In effect, any branch of sixteenth -century economic endeavor may justifiably be considered a potential Jewish occupation.1 ...
4. Governmental Policy Toward the Jews
The evenhanded policy pursued by the Ottoman regime did not carryover to all aspects of its treatment of non-Muslim minorities. In certain areas the Ottoman rulers, like their Mamluk predecessors, continued to be guided by the discriminatory laws grounded in Islamic doctrine.1 ...
5. The Jewish Quarter
The section on Jewish Jerusalem, one of the two major centers of Jewish life in sixteenth-century Eretz-Israel, sets out first to establish the Jewish quarter's physical location and salient demographic features. It then explores the variegated human mosaic of its social composition, bearing witness to the Sefardi element's rapid rise to dominance. ...
6. The Communities
Small by modern standards, but diverse nonetheless, the divisions in Jerusalem's Jewish community were broadly outlined by Moses Basola in his eyewitness account, recorded in 1522: "The Jewish community includes all kinds of Jews ... Ashkenazim, and many Sefardim, and there are Musta'rabs, the ancient inhabitants of the land, ...
7. Communal Organization
In the last quarter of the fifteenth century, the collective reins of leadership in Jerusalem's Jewish community were in the hands of some eighteen officeholders: the parnas, the dayyanim, the maskilim (the scholars), the rabbis, the shofetim (elders), and the nagid's representative, known as the vice-nagid.1 ...
8. Intellectual Life
Throughout the ages, Jerusalem has ranked as Eretz-Israel's foremost spiritual-intellectual center. At varying times under Muslim hegemony, Jerusalem served as the inspirational center for both local and Diaspora Jewry.1 Its spiritual ascendancy was, however, by no means unbroken. ...
9. The Jewish Quarter
The section on Safed essentially follows the same structure as the one on Jerusalem, opening with a brief excursus on the location of Safed's Jewish quarter and the century's demographic trends. It then proceeds to examine the fabric of its social composition, the multiplicity of congregations that formed its constituent parts. ...
10. The Communities
The extant sources convey the impression that Safed's early-sixteenth- century Jewish community was divided into two main kehalim: Musta'rabs and Sefardim. This in no way implies that members of other kehalim were not represented in Safed at that time, simply that these two kehalim then constituted the leading groups. ...
11. Communal Organization
Unlike Jerusalem, where the Jewish community was administered under a dual system of leadership headed by two main officeholders (the dayyan and the shaykh al-yahud), in Safed, a different arrangement was in effect. Each congregation had its own separate administration, whose leaders handled its collective affairs. ...
12. Centers of Jewish Learning—Structure and Program of Study
Sixteenth-century Safed witnessed the accelerated development of its intellectual-spiritual sphere. It was a center of learning not only for the greatest sages of the day, codifiers and mystics who left their lasting mark on the fields of halakhah, kabbalah, and textual study of the fundamental Jewish texts, ...
13. Brief Biographies of Rabbinic Personalities in Eretz-Israel
Following this survey of the institutional structure of the sixteenth-century communities in Eretz-Israel, we now turn to brief biographies of the major rabbinic personalities active there during this period. As we have seen, many of the sages assumed dynamic roles in communal affairs, and it was the Spanish expellees and their descendants ...