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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jews and Arabs: Their Contacts through the ages

Reading todays headlines one constantly see and hears news about Arabs and Jews clashing. It was not always so. While the Jews suffered horribly under Christian Europe being faced with pogroms and massacres they tended to fare better under Islamic rule. Life was better but not perfect.

Since biblical times Jews and Arab have been in constant contact with each other. It is believed that when Abraham and his family left Sumeria in order to immigrate to Canaan certain branches of the family wandered into Northern Arabia. In the bible whyen Northern Israel clashes against the Kingdom of Aramea and Assyria they are joined by certain Arab tribes.

Arab tribes have been emigrating from the Arabia Peninsula and living among the host societies of the Fertile crescent since the beginning . They often melted into the host society. Many have thought that Abraham and his family were an Arab tribe that migrated from the peninsula but their semi nomadic ways and settling down to an agricultural life do not match with the bedouin lifestylwe which was to raise camel and roam where ever the camel would take them. While some scholars may hold that the Israelites were one such tribe to migrate out of the peninsula this author believes that certain sections of Abrahams's family migrated into Northern Arabia which woulld explain many of the cultural affinities.

Judaism developed amidst a sea of firece competition as the nation of ISrael was constantly sandwiched between the Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian empires. A good deal of the religion's growth happened living in exile. An important exile was the Roman exile which later sent many Judeans into NOrthern Arabia where they would set up Oases and fertile towns. THis firmly entreched Judaism in Northern Arabia. Muhammad no doubt had to have been influenced by Judaism. Islam is seen by some as a developed Judaism recast. Judaism had the biggest inpact on the developemenmt and birth of Islam.

As Islam grew and the Muslim armies began conquering more and more territiories from the Persians and the Christian Byzantines the religion of Islam and the Jews develo0pped into a very intersting relationship. On the one hand Jews living in Northern ARabia were driven from their town and everything was taken from them. The Jews living in the Byzantine Empire and under the Persians found themselves a new ally in hiopes their brethern would make life easier for them.

When Muslim armies set up a fort pretty soon settlers would follw and set up a town. THe town was based on people setting up businesses which sold good to Muslim soldiers. Most of these settloer were Jews. In fact after a conquest was completed the Jews would often be left behind to help administer and run thing. It was under Islamic rule that the Jews who were primarily an agricultural people became merchants and traders. Arab life seemed favorable toward that. Farmers were often times heavily taxed and subject to raids by bedouin bands. Agriculture became a dying business.

Jizya was a tax levies against Dhimmies or Non muslims. It was usually one gold peice per year. The average family made six gold pieces per year. It was a heavy tax in addition to many other taxes. As a result many Jews would tryu to move around to avoid the tax.

As histopry progressed Arab culture would have an iommense impact on the growth and developement of Jewish religon and. culture. Arabs were not fond of armies and state craft. They were into language poetry and philosophy. Jews were great religious thiners but not that poetic. The ARabs helped them. Modern hebrew was reconstructed on the grammar scheme of arabic. Jews also ndever had dual names like they had in Europe they used just Arabic names. In Europe the Jewish language of Yiddish was peppered with hebrew. In the Arab world they used just Arabic. Commenteries were written in Arabic as well. The reason why Jews did not bother with Two names is because Jews were easily identified by their distinct outfit. In the Islamic world their were many laws on the books that made the status of Jews unequal. The laws were not always applied with full force. Only Yemen were the laws fully enforced. Such laws made Jewish life precarious.

Jews and Arabs have much in common. The author believes they will patch their differences. S.D Goiten is a scholar par excellence who has written a thorough and informative book.

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One blond hair blue eyed Calfornian who totally digs the Middle East.
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