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Byzantine Rule (313-636)
By the end of the 4th century, following Emperor Constantine’s adoption of Christianity (313) and the founding of the Byzantine Empire, the Land of Israel had become a predominantly Christian country. Churches were built on Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Galilee while monasteries were established in many parts of the country.
Jews were deprived of their former relative autonomy, as well as of their right to hold public positions, and were forbidden to enter Jerusalem except on one day of the year (Tisha b’Av – the ninth of Av) to mourn the destruction of the Temple.
The Persian invasion of 614 was aided by the Jews, who were inspired by messianic hopes of deliverance. In gratitude for their help, they were granted the administration of Jerusalem, an interlude which lasted about three years. Subsequently, the Byzantine army regained the city (629) and again expelled its Jewish inhabitants.
Where to shoot:
Ruins of the New Church near the Jewish Quarter
Church of the Holy Sepulcher
Basilica of the Nativity
New Mosaic floor found near the Mar Elias monastery on the road to Bethlehem
Arab Rule (636-1099)
The Arab conquest of the Land came four years after the death of the prophet Muhammad (632) and lasted more than four centuries with caliphs ruling first from Damascus, then from Baghdad and Egypt.
At the outset, Jewish settlement in Jerusalem resumed, and the Jewish community was granted the customary status of protected non-Muslims, which safeguarded their lives, property and freedom of worship in return for payment of special poll and land taxes.
However, subsequent restrictions against non-Muslims (717) affected the Jews’ public conduct as well as their religious observances and legal status. The imposition of heavy taxes on agricultural land compelled many to move from rural areas to towns, where their circumstances hardly improved, while increasing social and economic discrimination forced others to leave the country.
By the end of the 11th century, the Jewish community in the Land had diminished considerably and had lost some of its organizational and religious cohesiveness.
Where to shoot:
Panorama of Jerusalem from Jabal Mukhaber
Dome of the Rock
Al Aqsa Mosque
Hesham Palace near Jericho
The Crusaders (1099-1291)
For the next 200 years, the country was dominated by the Crusaders who, following an appeal by Pope Urban II, came from Europe to recover the Holy Land from the infidels. In July 1099, after a five-week siege, the knights of the First Crusade and their rabble army captured Jerusalem, massacring most of the city’s non-Christian inhabitants. Barricaded in their synagogues, the Jews defended their quarter, only to be burned to death or sold into slavery. During the next few decades, the Crusaders extended their power over the rest of the country, partly through treaties and agreements, but mostly by bloody military victories. The Latin Kingdom of the Crusaders was that of a conquering minority confined mainly to fortified cities and les.
When the Crusaders opened up transportation routes from Europe, pilgrimages to the Holy Land became popular and, at the same time, increasing numbers of Jews sought to return to their homeland. Documents of the period indicate that 300 rabbis from France and England arrived in a group, some settling in Acre (Akko), others in Jerusalem.
Following the overthrow of the Crusaders by a Muslim army under Saladin (1187), the Jews were again accorded a certain measure of freedom, including the right to live in Jerusalem. Although the Crusaders regained a foothold in the country after Saladin’s death (1193), their presence was limited to a network of fortified les. Crusader authority in the Land ended after a final defeat (1291) by the Mukluks, a Muslim military class which had come to power in Egypt.
Where to shoot:
The Walls of Jerusalem near David’s Citadel
Crusaders architecture in the Temple Mount
Nimrod Golan Heights
Monfort Mishmar Hayarden
Akko, city in the north of Israel
The Horns of Hittim, the site of Salah Saladin’s victory
Mamluk Rule (1291-1516)
The Land under the Mamluks became a backwater province ruled from Damascus. Acre, Jaffa and other ports were destroyed for fear of new crusades, and maritime as well as overland commerce was interrupted. By the end of the Middle Ages, the country’s towns were virtually in ruins, most of Jerusalem was abandoned and the small Jewish community was poverty-stricken. The period of Mamluk decline was darkened by political and economic upheavals, plagues, locusts and devastating earthquakes.
Where to shoot:
Mamluk architecture on the Temple Mount, such as:
the fountain near the entrance to the Al Aksa Mosque
the Mamluk structure in the Moslem Quarter
The cotton market at the west entrance to the Temple Mount
Ottoman Rule (1517-1917)
Following the Ottoman conquest in 1517, the Land was divided into four districts, attached administratively to the province of Damascus and ruled from Istanbul. At the outset of the Ottoman era, some 1,000 Jewish families lived in the country, mainly in Jerusalem, Nablus (Shehem), Hebron, Gaza, Safed (Tzfat) and the villages of Galilee. The community was comprised of descendants of Jews who had always lived in the Land, as well as immigrants from North Africa and Europe.
Orderly government, until the death (1566) of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, brought improvements and stimulated Jewish immigration. Some newcomers settled in Jerusalem, but the majority went to Safed where, by the mid-16th century, the Jewish population had risen to about 10,000, and the town had become a thriving textile center as well as the focus of intense activity.
During this period, the study of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) flourished, and contemporary clarifications of Jewish law, as codified in the Shulhan Arukh, spread throughout the Diaspora from the houses of study in Safed.
With a gradual decline in the quality of Ottoman rule, the country suffered widespread neglect. By the end of the 18th century, much of the land was owned by absentee landlords and leased to impoverished tenant farmers, and taxation was as crippling as it was capricious. The great forests of Galilee and the Carmel mountain range were denuded of trees; swamp and desert encroached on agricultural land.
The 19th century saw medieval backwardness gradually give way to the first signs of progress, with various Western powers jockeying for position, often through missionary activities. British, French and American scholars launched studies of biblical archaeology ; Britain, France, Russia, Austria and the United States opened consulates in Jerusalem. Steamships began to ply regular routes to and from Europe; postal and telegraphic connections were installed; the first road connecting Jerusalem and Jaffa was built. The Land’s rebirth as a crossroads for commerce of three continents was accelerated by the opening of the Suez Canal.
Consequently, the situation of the country’s Jews slowly improved, and their numbers increased substantially. By mid-century, overcrowded conditions within the walled city of Jerusalem motivated the Jews to build the first neighborhood outside the walls (1860) and, in the next quarter century, to add seven more, forming the nucleus of the New City. By 1870, Jerusalem had an overall Jewish majority. Land for farming was purchased throughout the country; new rural settlements were established; and the Hebrew language, long restricted to liturgy and literature, was revived. The stage was set for the founding of the Zionist movement.
Where to shoot:
Walls of Jerusalem
Old train station of Jerusalem
The Mosque in Abu Gosh