History

The 1834 Hebron Massacre

Caught between the Egyptians, the Ottomans, and the Bedouins, the Jewish community struggled, but survived.

4.4.17, 19:00
(PHOTO: "Jews in Jerusalem, 1895." Source: The Jewish Encyclopedia / Wiki Commons.)
 
The invasion of Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt stirred up conflict in the Ottoman controlled land of Israel, leaving many Jewish civilians dead in its wake. Riots took place in Jerusalem, Tzfat and Hebron in what is now called by historians the Peasants' Revolt. 
 
The violence began on July 24, 1834 when the forces loyal to Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt attacked the city of Hebron in order to crush the Peasants' Revolt and massacred the Jews while doing so. The calamity was remembered by the Jews of Hebron as Yagma el Gabireh, or the "great destruction," as noted by Hyam Zvee Sneersohn in his 1872 book Palestine and Roumania, a description of the Holy Land.
 
Although the Jews had not been involved in the rebellion, the Egyptian soldiers who entered the city made no distinction between the inhabitants. For three hours, troops plundered, killed, raped and maimed Muslim and Jew alike.

The book Annals of Palestine, 1821-1841, by the Jerusalem-based monk Neophytos of Cyprus,  discusses atrocities committed by both the "Fellaheen" or Arab peasants, and Egyptian soldiers against the Jewish community, as well as pillaging and rioting in Jewish communities of Jerusalem, Tzfat, Nablus and other places. 
 
Isaac Farhi also described the violent attacks on the Jews of Hebron committed by the Egyptian soldiers. He writes that the pogrom in Hebron was even worse than the Plunder of Tzfat which began on June 15, 1834, the day after the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, and lasted for 33 days. 
 
In Hebron, the troops "vented their anger on the Jewish quarter which they pillaged with terrifying cruelty." He reports of the desecration of Torah scrolls and the decapitation of an aged sage, Rabbi Issachar Hasun, the cantor of Hebron, while he lay ill in bed. For twenty hours they "slaughtered European Jews and publicly raped their wives."
 
Synagogues were desecrated, their houses were ransacked and plundered, and valuable items, including gold and silver, were stolen. None of their plundered possessions were returned, neither did they receive any compensation. The Jewish community of Hebron was left destitute and their number "greatly reduced." 
 
According to Louis Finkelstein in his book The Jews: their history, culture, and religion. (1960 Harper. p. 674.) "During the war of Ibrahim Paha, when the Arabs of Hebron revolted against the Egyptians, the Jews of Hebron suffered more than any other Jewish community in the land. Ibrahim Pasha ordered his troops ruthlessly to suppress the revolt, and when they attacked the city with permission to plunder and slaughter at will, they did not distinguish between Arabs and the Jews, who had no part in the rebellion. This calamity united the Hebron Sephardim and the Habad Hasidim, and in 1834 they jointly sent Rabbi Nathan Amram to seek aid in Western Europe for Jewish Hebron. The community did not fully recover until Rabbi Elijah Mani arrived in the city in 1858."

Sherman Lieber author of Mystics and missionaries: the Jews in Palestine, 1799-1840 (1992 University of Utah Press. p. 217.) states: "During a ferocious onslaught of three hours, Ibrahim Pasha allowed his troops to slaughter Muslims, plunder the population, and defile the women. When Muslims sought safety in the Jewish quarter of Hebron, the soldiers pursued them, indiscriminately killing and looting all in their path."
 
Edward Robinson states in his 1841 book Biblical researches in Palestine, mount Sinai and Arabia Petrea, "Many were slain; and the Jews especially are reported to have suffered the most cruel outrages from the brutal soldiery."
 
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (1836) said: "After the battle the city was given up to the plunder and licentiousness of the soldiers. They fell upon the poor Jews with special violence, the rebels having made their strongest resistance in the Jewish quarter of the town fighting from…"

Joseph Schwarz in his 1850 publication "A descriptive geography and brief historical sketch of Palestine states:
 
"In 5594 (1834), Hebron met with a heavy calamity, since it was taken by storm on the 28th day of Tamuz (July), by Abraim Pacha, and given up to his soldiers for several days. One can better imagine than describe the scenes which were then enacted. Nearly all the Mahomedan inhabitants fled into the depth of the mountain range, but the Jews could not do this; besides which, they entertained but little fear, since they could not be viewed as rebels and enemies by Abraim, wherefore they fell an easy prey into the hands of the assailants. When the Pacha marched out to take Hebron, a petition was presented to him by the officers of the Jewish congregation in Jerusalem to take these unfortunate people under his protection, which he faithfully promised to do; but, notwithstanding this, they were not spared at the taking of the town, so that five Jews were purposely murdered, and all their property which had not. been buried under ground was either stolen or destroyed in the most wanton and cruel manner."
 
"Abraim did then indeed place a guard around their quarter of the town, but it was too late; and he said, "Whatever is already in the hands of the conquerors, the soldiers, cannot be demanded back again of them;" wherefore the whole Jewish community was sunk into poverty."
 
John D. Paxton wrote in his 1839 Letters on Palestine: "A few years ago, when Ibrahim Pasha's troops took Hebron, they committed great outrages on the Jews, by plundering them of all they could find. They broke into their synagogue, and opened all parts of it in which they thought anything could be found, mutilated and tore their roll of the law, and perpetrated many other enormities."
 
John Lloyd Stephens noted in his Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia Petraea, and the Holy Land  published in 1837: "...during the revolution two years before, when Ibrahim Pacha, after having been pent up several months in Jerusalem, burst out like a roaring lion, the first place upon which his wrath descended was the unhappy Hebron ; and while their guilty brethren were sometimes spared, the un-happy Jews, never offending but always suffering, received the full weight of Arab vengeance. Their houses were ransacked and plundered ; their gold and silver, and all things valuable, carried away ; and their wives and daughters violated before their eyes by a brutal soldiery."
 
Menachem Mendel of Kamimitz personally experienced the riots and described what happened in Jerusalem, Shechem, Tzfat and Hebron.  In his 1839 book Korot HaItim he wrote the following: 
 
"The residents of Hebron did not want to heed the Egyptian general, as the men of Shechem had done in Jerusalem, (as written above), and they [the army] attacked them. When successful, he gave his army permission to loot the city of Hebron for 6 hours; thus 'they drank the cup of wrath' and the Jews of Hebron were plundered as well and all the women they found were desecrated. Nothing of theirs was left except for that which was hidden. When the army of the Egyptian general arrived in Jerusalem to defeat the plunderers, the eminent Rav Yosef Miladi was killed by one of the soldiers, shedding blood of war in peacetime, when one of the soldiers came to the door of the above-mentioned Rav Yosef and knocked on it, saying 'open up'. When he opened it for him they killed him with a rifle and left without taking anything. And the goodness of God was upon the remainder of the People of Israel so that no further harm came to them.
 
On the 17th of Tammuz we wailed in mourning and also cried at the report that the city of Hebron was once again put to ruin by the [Egyptian] commander’s army which had routed the plunderers, and which also plundered the Jews in Hebron and desecrated the women whom they found during the 6 hours allotted them. Rav Yisrael, author of Taklin Hadetin and Pa’at haShulhan, eulogized them.
 
Our brothers, Children of Israel!: If I were to elaborate upon all the suffering which had occurred it would not fit on the page; everyone would be embittered and every person’s hair would stand on end. However, in order not to burden the one who reads my writing by elaborating, I will keep [silent], without relating what happened to them, 'A truthful witness for a time that will come.'

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