Minorities in the Middle East: Religious Communities in Jerusalem 1843–1974

  (13) 978-1-84097-125-5   Extent:  4 volumes, 2,090 pages
Editor: B. Destani    Published: 2005
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish
See sample pages: not available

This is the second of the new document collections available as part of the multi-part set Minorities in the Middle East. In these four volumes the selection of documents combines to give an overview of the interplay within and between the different faiths existing in Jerusalem.
These 2400 pages contain documents exploring the treatment and position of the diverse religious minorities within Jerusalem and more generally in Israel after 1948.
Historically, relations between Muslims and non-Muslims have varied according to political events. Within the confines of Jerusalem and its environs the many different claims of the main faiths of Islam, Judaism and Christianity to parts of the city have exacerbated the effects of the political climate. Furthermore, struggles for rights to minority worship within the State have been diverted as rivalries between churches, particularly within the Christian church, have divided congregations


During the period under review the rights and privileges of religious communities in Jerusalem, both Arab and Christian minorities, were partly regulated by Ottoman statutes, for example those dated 1757 and 1852. However, some rights, privileges and immunities enjoyed by some or all of the Christian communities had never been defined or codified. While to some extent they were covered by various Ottoman firmans or decrees, in some cases the relevant firmans were contradictory and in the others the oral privilege had never been confirmed in writing.
The position of Christian communities during the Mandate was regulated primarily by the terms of the Mandate and the 1922 Palestine Ordering Council. The legal status of Christian communities has since been respected, and in some cases extended, by Israel.
Apart from the Druzes, who were recognized as a separate religious community and were allowed to serve in the Israeli Armed Forces, other Arab minorities have been under constant pressure in Israel, the Gaza and Sinai, and the United Nations has adopted several resolutions regarding human rights in Israel. Over 100,000 Arabs fled the country during the Arab–Israeli war and further numbers have been expelled from Israel since its creation.


This is the second title in a series of more than 30 volumes presenting a documentary record of conditions in modern times for the numerous ethnic and religious minorities in the Arab world. The documentation starts in the mid-19th century and continues up to the last quarter of the 20th century; many governmental records remain closed after this point. Geographically the collection covers the Arab Middle East and the Maghreb countries, but excludes the (non-Arab) states of Turkey and Iran.


Volume 1: 1843–1918
Volume 2: 1919–1954
Volume 3: 1954–1967
Volume 4: 1968–1974


Foreign Office minute, 26 March 1919, entitled “Position of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem” [document 1, volume 2]
The property and privileges of the Orthodox Church in Palestine should surely be held to belong either to the local Arabophone Orthodox Church or to all the existing Orthodox Churches in the world, which while severally autocephalous in administration, use the same creed and rite.
The Orthodox Church of the Greek Kingdom has no valid historical claim to be the heir of the Orthodox Church in Palestine, and it will always remain an inconsiderable fraction of Orthodox Christendom – in which the Russians, in spite of their temporary eclipse, are bound to be preponderant by their number.
The best safeguard against the return of Russian preponderance in Palestine is not to transfer Russia’s former privileges to Greece but to distribute them among all the Orthodox churches.
Translation of confidential despatch from Count Münster, German Embassy, to Earl Granville, 17 July 1882, regarding the Protestant Bishopric at Jerusalem [document 27, volume 1]
…Stress must also be laid on the inequality as regards external position in which the two communities united under the Episcopal See were from the very beginning placed, and which was especially marked in the secondary place assigned to the German Service as compared with the Anglican…
Despatch No. 53 from Consul J. Dickson, Jerusalem, Sir P. Currie, Constantinople, 21 October 1897 [document 53, volume 1]
…the hostile demonstrations made by the Jews against the Hospital of the “London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews”…have recently been revived. Jews visiting the hospital as out-patients have, on issuing from the building, been beaten and their medicines taken away from them and destroyed by groups of Jews on the watch outside the gates…
Despatch No. 30 from Mr C. Blech, Jerusalem, to Sir G. Lowther, Constantinople, 16 April 1909 [document 85, volume 1]
…His Reverence said that as last year the space in the rotunda of the church hitherto reserved for the Copts had been encroached upon by the Armenians, he had waited upon the Mutessarif some days beforehand and had requested His Excellency to see that the encroachment was not repeated this year… on entering the church [he] noticed that the Armenians had again taken up a portion of the space set apart for the Copts…The Superior therefore made a fresh request to the Mutesarrif…asking that the Armenians should be kept to their proper bounds…His Excellency directed the Chief of Police to attend to the Superior’s wishes, but nothing was done.
…I visited both the Greek Patriarch and the (Latin) Custodian of the Holy Sepulchre. Both these dignitaries, though usually unlikely to agree, expressed themselves in the same sense as being adverse to the claim of the Copts; they both said that they did not think that any encroachment had taken place and that they were not aware that the Copts were entitled to any special place.
Confidential despatch No. 177 from Sir K. Helm, Tel Aviv, to Mr Younger, 17 July 1950 [document 32, volume 2]
…report into investigations in the Arab villages of Galilee…It [touches] on Communist activity among the Arabs…but [also] does throw much light on the Arab grievances which are at hand for the Communists to exploit. These amount to disabilities and injustices on a considerable scale.
…A large number of those Arabs who remained in what is now Israel and who took no active part in the Arab-Jewish war have been deprived of their homes and lands. Many who still own land are prevented from cultivating it, yet they still have to pay taxes…thousands are crowded into certain permitted Areas…[and] treated as “absentees” under a law which provides much opportunity for abuse.