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Katz, C. V. (1988) The Life of the Jews in Nineteenth Century Palestine as Described in Halakhic and Rabbinic Literature. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This work is a study of Jewish life in Palestine in the nineteenth century, based on contemporary halakhic and rabbinic documents. The period under consideration begins with the arrival of the followers of the Gaon of Vilna - the Perushim - beginning circa 1806, and ends in the late 1890's with the ascendancy of the new Yishuv, For the Jewish community, the entire period was marked by struggle. This work focuses on three aspects of this struggle: spiritual, material, and social. Section I describes the Jewish community's confrontations with ideological forces. Chapter one describes the most influential and far-reaching of these forces: the rise of the philosophy of messianic activism. The Perushim brought with them a novel perception of the role of the Jewish people in its own salvation. Instead of passively waiting for the arrival of the Messiah, they wished to rebuild the ancient Jewish homeland and thereby expedite the arrival of the messianic age. Had this radical new philosophy become the mainstream of Orthodox thinking, the subsequent history of the Jewish people might have been very different. In spite of the attempts of such proto-Zionist thinkers as Rabbi Akiva Joseph Schlesinger, however, most fundamentalist circles came to reject this revolutionary ideology. Chapter two describes what was, perhaps, the greatest threat to traditional Judaism until secularism began to dominate Jewish life towards the end of the period discussed in this thesis - the missionaries. This was a central preoccupation for the Jews of Palestine throughout the century. Chapter three recounts the controversy surrounding proposals to introduce the Jews to modern education. Section II describes the struggle of the Jews to cope with the difficult material conditions which prevailed in Palestine throughout the century. Chapter four shows the pervasive influence of what was, for many Jews, their only source of income - the halukkah charity system. Chapter five discusses the growth of the Jewish population, and the demographic changes it experienced. Chapter six describes the commercial life of those Jews who were not totally dependent on the halukkah, particularly the dramatic growth of the export trade in etrogim. Section III describes the society the Jews lived in during the period and the events that moulded it. Chapter seven describes Jewish society at the level of petty politics. Chapter eight outlines the Jews' relationships with their Abstract - iii Gentile neighbours as well as their Turkish or Egyptian rulers. Chapter nine discusses several subjects, including the string of natural disasters which befell the Jewish community, from plagues to earthquakes. The chapter also discusses many aspects of everyday life, including marriage, communications, and health. Finally, Chapter ten describes the division between the Sephardim and the Ashkenazim, and the rise of the Ashkenazi community to its position of parity. The chapter analyzes the causes of friction between the two communities, as well as the bonds that united them. At the suggestion of my supervisor. Dr. T. V. Parfitt, I have limited my primary source material to rabbinic documents produced in Palestine during the period. This approach has allowed me to present the Jews of Palestine as they described themselves, rather than as outsiders saw them, and has provided a fascinating new perspective on this important historical subject. Contemporary material from non-rabbinic sources and modern historical analyses have been included only for illustrative or comparative purposes. Almost all of the translations in this thesis are mine. In certain places, I have made minor adjustments to the literal translation for the sake of clarity. The body of relevant rabbinic and halakhic literature encompasses a wide variety of texts. The rabbis and scholars of this period had many means of expressing their opinions on halakhic and other issues. This research has uncovered books, sermons, obituaries, novellae, responsa, letters, and numerous hand-written manuscripts, many of them never previously researched.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:20

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