When and how the Jews were Dispossessed from the Land of Israel

Adin Haykin
28 min readNov 5, 2021

One of the main bases of Shlomo Sand’s theory in his book “The Invention of the Jewish People” is the claim that the Romans expelled the Jews from Judea in 70 AD is a ‘myth’, apparently, there is no evidence that this was the Roman policy and in fact, centuries after the destruction of the Great Revolt, there was still a very large Jewish population.

This claim supposedly proves that the Jews never left, but simply assimilated and have nothing to do with modern Jews and thus, undermines the Zionist claim.

“The Roman exile”, the basis for Zionism?

The origin of the story that the Jews were exiled from their land along with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD is from Christian theologians, it serves as proof that the exile came as an immediate punishment for the Jews rejecting Jesus, also known in the story of “The Wandering Jew”

In fact Shlomo Sand is not the first to reject the common myth of exile, Zionist scholars themselves have reached the same conclusion

Prof. Ben-Zion Dinur, The father of the Zionist historiography and the third Minister of Education of the State of Israel, said that the exile began not with the destruction of the Second Temple, but several centuries later, and the exile only lasted 1,000 years (not “2,000 years”), from the Muslim conquest of Palestine in the 7th century of the Christian era to the beginning of Sabbatai Zevi’s movement in the 17th century, and particularly the migration to Palestine of the rabbi Yehuda He-Hasid in 1700, which, according to him, marked the beginnings of a more realistic messianism.

So if the exile had not begun immediately with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, how it did begun?

The Roman oppression

Researcher Rivka Shpak Lissak in her book “When and How the Jewish Majority in the Land of Israel Was Eliminated” responds to Shlomo Sand’s claims and provides the following data which he ignored:

The Romans were not the first to trade with Jewish slaves, “The Letter of Aristeas” saying that Ptolemy I at the beginning of the 3rd century BC, transferred more than 100,000 Jewish slaves from Judaeato Alexandria

The number of prisoners that Pompey transferred to Rome after the conquest of the Judea in 63 BC is unknown, but it is known that prisoners participated in his triumphal procession. Martin Goodman estimated that these were thousands of captives sold into slavery.
Following the suppression of a revolt in the Galilee in 54/53, 30,000 prisoners were transferred to Rome. After the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC, Cassius came to the area to raise funds for the civil war against Antonius — Lapidus — Octavian. Some of them, at least, were physically released later.

In 40 BC, the Euphrates conquered the country and returned power to the Hasmoneans. The Roman commissioner in Syria expelled the Euphrates. After the conquest of Jerusalem in 37 BCE, he made Herod king and sold thousands of Jews into slavery.

Varos made a military expedition to the Galilee between 6 and 4 BC due to a revolt and enslaved the inhabitants of Birdy, after conquering and burning the city. Data are missing. According to archaeological findings, about 18,00 inhabitants lived in Birdy.

In 43, Cassius, the Roman governor of Syria, sold the inhabitants of Lod into slavery

The population in the Land of Israel on the eve of the Great Revolt was comprised of:
About 2 million Jews
About 1.2 million Samaritans
About 600,000 foreigners
In total, about 4 million people.

Moshe David Har estimated that the prisoners made up 10% of the Jewish population. The Jewish population, according to most scholars, numbered between 2,000,000 and 2,500,000 on the eve of the Great Revolt, meaning that the number of prisoners was between 200,000 and 250,000. Most of the prisoners were from Judah. 5% of Galilee Jews were taken prisoner. (According to the Har, the numbers were larger because he estimated that the Jewish population was larger).
The researchers estimated that the Jewish population in the Galilee numbered about 700,000 people, that is, 5% of them — 35,000 prisoners.
Gedalia Alon concluded that the number of prisoners was 138,000. 97,000 prisoners from the Judean region and 41,000 from the rest of the country.
Data from localities:
In Jerusalem, after the Great Revolt, the number of prisoners, according to the testimony of Yosef ben Matityahu, reached 97,000 in Jerusalem alone. The researchers estimate that the number mentioned by Flavius ​​is excessive. Even if the numbers were inaccurate, the volume of captive slavery sales was significant.

Judaea Capta: A Jewish captive kneels before a Roman soldier, a coin of victory over the great revolt in Judea

Researcher Serena Rofa wrote that 20,000 Jewish slaves, brought to Rome by Titus, built the Colosseum as a monument in honor of the victory over the Jews.
Will appear — 2,130 women and children were sold into slavery;
Yodfat — 1,200 women and children were sold into slavery;
Migdal — After the conquest of the Sea of ​​Galilee, Nero Caesar was given 5,000 captives as slaves;
Araba — All women and children were sold into slavery;
Beit Guvrin — Aspasinos which housed about 1,000 Jews in Beit Guvrin and sold them into slavery;
Caesarea — Florus sold Jews from Caesarea into slavery;
Beit Aris and Kfar Taba — 1,000 prisoners.

Historian Catherin Hezsen has found that Vespasian sold more than 30,000 captives into slavery. Some of the prisoners were given to Agrippa, but he too preferred to sell them into slavery.
According to contemporary sources, 6,000 Jewish slaves were sent to dig the Nero Canal in Corinth, and young 17-year-old Jews were sent to work in the mines in Egypt.

The number of prisoners during Bar Kokhba revolt in 132–136 AD is estimated at 100,000

Hadrian executing a Jew 136 CE

In conclusion, it is reasonable to assume that between 63 BC and 135 CE, about 500,000 prisoners and residents were taken and sold into slavery. This was an exile for all intents and purposes.

The result is that along with the , the Jewish population declined from 2–2.5 million in 66 AD to 800,000 in 136 AD

The Failure of Forced Conversion of Jews Under Christian — Byzantine Occupation

The Conversion Efforts and Their Results

Prof Zeev Rubin wrote in his article “The Spread of Christianity in the Land of Israel”, that following the death of the Emperor Julian (363), Christians continued to be a minority in a population which included pagans (many along the coast and in the south), Jews (most living in the Galilee), and Samaritans (concentrated in the mountainous area of Samaria). According to Prof Moshe David Har in “The Land and its Settlement: Areas and Population”, the Samaritans used the population vacuum formed as a result of the destruction of Jewish settlements after the Bar Cochva revolt and spread into Judaea, the coastal cities and other areas.

To carry out its mission to convert the local population, the Church used its influence and pressured the emperors to legislate against the Jews. The policy was to isolate, humiliate, incite against the Jews and convert them.

The Imperial policy towards the Jews can be divided into three stages:

Stage I: Laws of Constantine the Great (306–337CE).
After Christianity was recognized as the Imperial religion, anti-Jewish legislation dealt with four issues: Conversion to Judaism was forbidden, those converting to Christianity were given protection, Jews were conscripted for service in the municipalities, and Jewish pilgrimage to Jerusalem was forbidden. Rabbi Sharira Gaon speaks of religious persecutions in Israel during the time of Abayey and Rabba, i.e., at the end of Constantine’s rule.

Stage II: Laws of Constantine II (337–361).
On 13 August 339 a law was passed to ensure complete separation between Jews and Christians. It contained three sections: Forbidding marriage between Jews and Christians under penalty of death; Protecting converts; And forbidding the ownership of non-Jewish slaves. This third section had far reaching economic consequences, for Jewish workshop owners and farmers were forbidden the use of slaves in an economy driven by slave labour. In 353 a law was passed that forbade Christians to convert to Judaism. Constantine II’s religious persecutions were the cause of the Gallus revolt that broke out in 351.

the Gallus rebellion 351 AD by Sam Aronow

Stage III: A concerted attack on Jews and their establishments from the end of the 4th century to 429.

Between 451 and 527 the Jews enjoyed a respite while the Christian world was in turmoil over dogmas, which brought about a rift in the Church. However, when Justinian became emperor in 527 the anti-Jewish policy was renewed and continued by his successors, during the 6th century and the beginning of the 7th. This legislation was effective throughout the Roman Empire, although the article explores only its effects in the Land of Israel.

Prof Rubin lists three ways by which the Church, along with the Imperial rulers, tried to convert the province’s population into Christianity: Persuasion, coercion by means of pogroms and terror by gangs of Christian zealots, and governmental coercion by legislation.

By Persuasion
The number of willing converts was relatively greater among the pagan urban
population. Prof Rubin, however, stated that “the tribes of the desert were more amenable to conversion than Israel’s settled population. The desert tribes were a source for soldiers the Empire needed to protect its borders. The Roman military converted them to ensure their loyalty.”

Among the villagers conversion met with much lesser success. Most of the increase in Christian population came from the large number of pilgrims who visited the Christian holy sites in Israel and settled in the country, and from refugees fleeing the Huns following Rome’s conquest in 410. Thousands of monks engaged in widespread missionary works to convert the local population. Their main areas of activity included, at first, Jerusalem and its environs, the Judean desert, the Negev, the area of Jericho, Beth Shean, and the coastal plain. The missionaries worked mostly among the nomads, the Nabataeans, the Saracens (Arabs) in the Judean desert, and the Bedouins in Trans Jordan. Monks were not active in Samaria, the major areas of Samaritan settlement, or in the Galilee, the major centre of Jewish settlement. They came from the Greek-speaking world — Asia Minor and mainly from the centre of the Byzantine Empire — as well as other parts of the Roman Empire.

Coercion by zealot gangs
When persuasion failed, the Church turned to coercion. Groups of Christian zealots formed to spread Christianity by force, backed by the Church. Their gangs travelled from place to place, rioting, destroying Jewish and Samaritan synagogues, murdering and forcefully baptising those who could not stand up to them. In May 363 an earth quake hit the south of Israel and zealot gangs used the opportunity to destroy the few Jewish settlements left in the area. This violence met with conflicting responses from the government. An attempt to prevent these attacks was thwarted by the Church. A monk named Bar Tzoma wrote in his biography that he organised a gang of 40 monks who destroyed Jewish and Samaritan synagogues and burned down pagan temples. Bar Tzoma visited Israel three times, in around 400, in 437/8, and in 438/9. He acted in the regions of Jerusalem and the Sinai, but did not go up to the Galilee to convert the Jews. Instead, he organised a skirmish with Galilean Jews who came on pilgrimage to the Temple Mount during the Feast of Tabernacles (the Empress Theodocia, wife of Theodosius II, gave the Jews permission to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem). Even so, Jews in the Galilee still suffered from the Christian gangs.

Prof Rubin concludes that violence did not bring about a significant wave of conversions either; on the contrary, it created resistance in the population.

Government Coercion — The Imperial government passed laws to enforce Christian conversion.
Jews suffered constant harassment by the Church, as part of its extreme anti-Jewish policy. The aim of the Church was to isolate the Jews, to humiliate them, to break up their central and local organisation, and to convert them. The Church’s Jewish policy was designed during the Christian conferences of 306 and 341. In total, the Church influenced the passing of 17 anti-Jewish laws during the Byzantine period.

Anti-Jewish Legislation
The Emperors repeatedly confirmed existing laws while adding new ones. Jews were forbidden to convert others into their faith, with conversion and the circumcision of converts becoming a criminal act. Marriage between Jews and non-Jews was forbidden, and Jews were not allowed to own non-Jewish slaves, under penalty of death. As mentioned earlier, this had severe economic consequences because Jewish workshop owners and Jewish farmers were prevented from employing slaves in an economy based on slave labour. Purim celebrations were limited in 408 under the pretext that the holiday has elements that scorn Christianity. Construction of new synagogues and renovations of old ones was forbidden in 423, and this law was used by the Church to prevent the reconstruction of old synagogues that had been destroyed or damaged, and to prevent the handing back of synagogues that had been transformed into churches. Archaeological evidence, however, shows that these laws were not always enforced. Emperor Justinian (527–565) confirmed older anti-Jewish legislation and added new laws. One new law declared Jews were heretics, and thereby removed them from the protection of the Christian rule and exposed them to random violence. Justinian forbade the celebration of Passover in years where the holiday fell before or during Easter, and forced Jews to read the Torah from the Greek translation (the Septuagint) or the Latin one (the Achilles translation) in order to prevent their study of the oral commentaries and to force them to favour the Christian commentaries. These harsher conditions caused the rebellion of 556 in which the Samaritans, who suffered religious persecution as well, participated along with the Jews, and which was cruelly suppressed.

Abolition of the Central and Local Jewish Organisation
Jewish local organisation was centred in the synagogues, while the central organisation comprised the Presidency and the Sanhedrin. To destroy the Jewish local and central organisation it was necessary to undermine the Jewish internal autonomy, their independent courts of law and the synagogues. Abolition of the Presidency was meant to bring an end to the central organisation. From 398 Jews were made subject to Roman law in roman courts, and in 415 the Jewish courts lost their authority. Mob attacks on the synagogues and demolition of synagogues were meant to hasten the dissolution of the community autonomy.

For 300 years, the Presidency managed to protect the Jewish population in the Land of Israel by maintaining more or less good relations with the ruling authorities. Presidential messengers were sent abroad to collect donations for the Jewish population in Israel. The Church became interested in the “Presidential Treasures”. Up until 415, the Presidents enjoyed Imperial protection, but from that time on the Presidency was the target of a concerted attack by the Church. Presidents were accused of building new synagogues against the law, converting slaves against the law, and violating other anti-Jewish laws. The death without heirs of the last President descending from Hillel in 429, was used as a pretext to end the Presidency. From then on, the Jewish leadership in the Province was split according to its administrative sections, and the link between the Jewish population in Palaestina Secunda (the Galilee) and the Jewish population in the rest of the country (Palaestina Prima) was thereby severed. The Land of Israel lost its status as leader of the Jewish nation, connections between the different communities were weakened, and the donations collected abroad for the use of the Jewish population in Israel were transferred to the State Treasury.

The Jewish leadership, however, recovered quickly. The attempt to split the Jewish population failed when Jews throughout the country accepted the leadership of the sages in Tiberias. Both the local and central organisation continued to function, albeit informally.

Administrative Measures for Constricting Jewish Life
Other administrative measures for constricting Jewish life included distributing the Province’s land among the cities. The urbanization process which began during the time of the Ptolemy’s and the Seleucids and continued during the Roman period, was completed during the Byzantine period. Urbanisation was accompanied by the process of transforming Jewish cities into Polis. Tzipory, Tiberias, and Beth Shean had become Polis during Roman times; Lod became Diospolis, Emaus became Niccopolis, Bet Guvrin became Eleutheropolis during the Byzantine period. Although only about one third of the population lived in the cities, the country’s population as a whole was divided among the cities and made subject to their municipal councils in which Jews were forbidden to hold office. All of the coastal plain became a region annexed to the coastal cities; Part of Judea had already been annexed to Aelia Capitolina, formerly Jerusalem; Mt Tabor and its environs, including Nazareth, were separated from Tzipori’s region and annexed to the Dabouriye region, which had become a Polis named Helenopolis after Constantine’s mother. Only the rural upper Galilee remained independent of any urban centre. Annexing the cities’ environs to the municipal councils hurt the daily life of the Jews, as the urbanisation had a social and economic impact. For example, tax collection was in the hands of the city councils, which were governed by Christians and influenced by the heads of the cities’ churches.

Forced Conversion Decrees

The Emperor Phocas (602–610) decreed that the Jews must convert. In 607 he sent the proconsul Georgius to Jerusalem and other cities in Israel in order to baptise the Jews by force. Georgius met with representatives of the Jews and demanded their conversion. When they refused, he slapped one across his face and ordered their forced baptism. The motive for this decree was the Persians’ invasion of Syria and the Emperor’s belief that the Jews will not be loyal to the Byzantine Empire. The Jews pretended to accept Christianity but continued to practice the Jewish faith in secret.

The Persians conquered Israel in 614 and were welcomed by the Jews who quickly and openly returned to Judaism. A force of 20,000 Jewish volunteers aided the Persians against the Byzantine army, but when the Persians were forced out in 628 the Jews found themselves in a difficult position. A delegation of Jews from Tiberias, Nazareth, and the Galilee presented itself before the Emperor Heraclius and offered gifts. The Emperor promised not to punish the Jews for their support of the Persians and took an oath to remain on their side, but when he arrived in Jerusalem he came under pressure from the Church. The Church incited against the Jews, claiming they killed the Christians and destroyed churches during the Persian conquest. This claim is rejected by Michael Avi Yona, who points out that the massacre of the Christians in Jerusalem was carried out by the Persians, who afterwards gave temporary control of the city to the Jews. The Jews then evicted those Christians who remained. Heraclius succumbed to the pressures and accepted a legal charge against the Jews for murdering Christians and destroying churches in Jerusalem and the Galilee. Many Jews were executed and others fled to the desert, the mountains, and to Egypt, while others were massacred by a Christian mob. Following the massacre many more Jews fled the country and the number of Jews in the Land of Israel dwindled to a negligible minority. In 634, at the start of the Arabic invasion of Israel, Heraclius’ decree of conversion was made effective throughout the Byzantine Empire, but according to Avi Yona “it remained on paper only, for within a few years the Byzantine Emperor had no power to realise his orders”.

The Jewish revolt against Heraclius 614 AD by Sam Aronow

The Fate of the Samaritans

The attempt to convert the Samaritans in the mountains of Samaria resulted in rebellion. The Samaritans rebelled in 484, 529, and 566 against the religious decrees and the efforts to forcefully convert them to Christianity. These rebellions were cruelly suppressed, many were killed in the battles or massacred by the Byzantine Christian army and many more fled. Twenty thousand Samaritans were killed during the rebellion of 529, 100,000 to 120,000 were massacred following the rebellion in 566. The Samaritan Museum estimates that of 1,200,000 Samaritans living in the Land of Israel, only some 200,000 survived the Byzantine persecution. According to an archaeological survey quoted in Prof Ronny Ellenblum’s book, the number of Samaritan sites dropped by 50%, from 106 to 49, by the end of the Byzantine period.

Failure of the Conversion Efforts

Prof Rubin determined that “the only ones to survive as a significant religious minority in the Land of Israel by the end of the Byzantine period were the Jews. This minority group, whose centre was in the Galilee, suffered government restrictions and sporadic persecutions, and evidence suggest their response was to rebel”.
Most scholars agree only a few Jews converted to Christianity during the Byzantine period. In his book “In Roman and Byzantine Times”, Prof Michael Avi Yona wrote that “the policy of persecution carried out by Justinian and his heirs removed any possibility to bridge the abyss [of hate between the government and the Jews ever since Christianity became the Empire’s religion] and the attempts to turn the Jews into true Christians by force were not successful”.
Epiphanes, a Father of the Church, admitted that the efforts to convert the Jews failed: “There, in Nazareth and Tzipori, one could never build churches because there is none among them who is pagan or Samaritan or Christian”. Yarron Dan wrote in his book, “Urban Life in the Land of Israel at the End of Antiquity”, that “there were few cases of conversion to Christianity. Most of the time, the Jews remained Jewish, except during the time of Heraclius’ decree of conversion”.
According to Avi Yona, at that time the Jews continued to practice Judaism in secret. Their forced Christianity was short lived, and soon after the Arabic conquest they returned to Judaism.

To sum up: The process of decline in Jewish population which began with the Great Revolt (66–70) and the Bar Cochva revolt (132–135) continued with the religious persecution (Aaron Oppenheimer, “Rehabilitating the Jewish Population in the Galilee”), the economic crisis in the 3rd century, the Gallus rebellion (351), the religious persecution in the Christian Byzantine period, and the massacre carried out by the Christians in revenge for the destruction of churches and massacres of Christians (according to Christian sources) or in revenge for their aid to the Persians in 614–628 (Yarron Dan, ibid.; Avi Yona, ibid.). There is no data on the number of Jews executed, murdered, or who fled at the end of the Christian-Byzantine rule in the Land of Israel. It is likely that their numbers during the Byzantine period, estimated at 150,000 to 200,000, declined further on the eve of the Arabic invasion in 638.


1. Michael Avi Yona, “In Roman and Byzantine Times”, 1962, p. 209; Maggen Broshi, “The Population of the Land of Israel in the Roman Byzantine Period”, in “The Land of Israel from the Destruction of the Second Temple to the Arabic Conquest”, ed. Zvi Barras et al., vol. I, 1982, pp. 442–457; Zeev Saffray, “Population Size in the Land of Israel in the Roman-Byzantine Period”, in “Hikrey Eretz — Studies in the History of the Land of Israel”, ed. Zeev Saffray et al., 1997, pp. 277–306.
2. Avi Yona, ibid., pp. 208–209; Ronny Ellenblum, “Frankish Villages in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem”, pp. 256–257.
4. Avi Yona, ibid., pp. 189–190.
5. Maggen Broshi
6. Zeev Rubin, ibid., pp. 251–336; Avi Yona,
7. Avi Yona, ibid., p. 238; Zvi Barras, “The Persian Conquest and the End of the Byzantine Rule”, in “The Land of Israel from the Destruction of the Second Temple to the Arabic Conquest”, ed. Zvi Barras et al., vol. I, 1982, pp. 300–349.
8. The Fate of the Samaritans, Ellenblum, p. 264.
9. Zeev Rubin, ibid., ; Avi Yona, ibid., pp. 236–237; Yarron Dan.
10. Rubin, ibid., ; Avi Yona, ibid.,
11. Yarron Dan, 267–268.

The Arab Chaos

The source is from the book “A History of Palestine, 634–1099” by Moshe Gil.

632–641: Only a few years after the end of the war between the Sasanian and the Byzantine Empires, the Arabs rose from the desert and conquered most of the Middle East from these empires, including the Land of Israel.
The Arabs brought with them a new religion, Islam.

In 637 the Arabs conquer Jerusalem from the Christians. A Jew from an Arab desert who converted to Islam, Kaab al-Akbar, came along the caliph who came to visit the city upon its conquest and showed him where the First and Second Temples had once stood. According to Christian sources, the occupation was accompanied by horrific massacres of the Jewish and Christian population. According to one source, for example, 4,000 Christians and Jews were massacred near Gaza.

The Temple Mount and Temple Mount area was covered with garbage and sewage. For the Christians deliberately dumped their garbage there in order to humiliate the Jews. This custom has existed for centuries.

In 641 the Caliph Omar built a mosque south of the Temple Mount and allowed 70 Jewish families from Tiberias to live permanently in Jerusalem despite the vigorous opposition of the Christians. This unprecedented event made a great impression on the hearts of all the Jews of the world. Many Jews from all over the world hurried to visit Jerusalem to pray there and mourn the destruction of the house. 20 Jews volunteered to clean the Temple Mount of the garbage on it. In return, they were free from the payment of the special taxes imposed on the Jews by the Muslims. The Jews continued to fulfil this role willingly until their expulsion from the Temple Mount in 717.

Since Jews were not allowed to build new synagogues, the main synagogue in Jerusalem was a large underground hall near the Western Wall, which is the only remnant of the Second Temple.

Every year on Sukkot the city was filled with pilgrims.

One of the highest taxes paid by the Jews of Jerusalem was on the right to pray on the Temple Mount. The Jews even sang and prayed aloud and rejoiced, which for the rest of the year was forbidden by the instructions of the Muslim occupier.

According to Muslim and Karaite sources, after the replacement of the 20 Jews responsible for cleaning the Temple Mount, the Jews moved to clean the Omar Mosque, even though it already had 300 servants.

They cleaned the floors, glass, purification pools and candles. It is not clear until exactly when this role was served, but probably until the fall of the Umayyad House. It is known that Bustanai from the Rosh Hagola family also came to Jerusalem at this time, and received the appointment to head the Diaspora on behalf of the Caliph.

It was a short period of messianism, and because there were important Jews from West and Persia who converted to Islam or followed Muhammad, there were Jews who saw Islam as a kind of Judaism, and Arabs as Ishmaelites, and their victory over the Byzantines as the fulfilment of the prophecy of Abraham’s victory over Armilus. Only such a form of thought could have allowed a common house of prayer on the Temple Mount.

The main point of friction appeared in the “pig incident” in which Haman’s men, the then head of the Diaspora, the son of Nehemiah ben Hoshiel, tried to despise the Christians in the eyes of the Muslims, slaughtering pigs and placing their carcasses in the al-Aqsa Mosque. And were executed, and the Jewish factor in Islam diminished and the Christian, anti-Jewish factor, increased.

In conclusion, the Jews were indeed expelled and fled following the Roman conquest, and contrary to Sand’s claim, there is no proof that they converted to Christianity and, as previously presented, to Islam.

717: Caliph Omar II leads the famous “Laws of Omar”, or the alliance between Omar and the Jewish and Christian “peoples of the book”.

These laws were introduced in one form or another before the beginning of the occupation, but apparently only from the days of the second Omar did these laws give religious laws validity. These laws were maintained until the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1917.

1: The Jews were required to pay the jizya, or skull tax which was a fixed annual tax. Sometimes it was a group tax, and sometimes an individual, but the tax was fixed, regardless of income or expenses that year, so it was always difficult to pay that tax. The payer would have received a leash around his neck as proof that he had paid, without the leash any Muslim could have killed him on a charge of rebellion against Islam.

The problem of the payment of Jizia intensified during the Mamluk period, due to a large increase in Jews fleeing Europe on the one hand, but on the other hand a reduction in most of the sources of income available to Jews, due to the great neglect brought by the Mamluk conquest. So that they can pay this heavy tax.

2: The construction of new synagogues or new houses was forbidden, and their renovation was also forbidden, but there were cases in Jerusalem and Ramla where the local rulers allowed it in exchange for a heavy bribe.

3: The Jews were required to wear a yellow badge on their clothes, and were forbidden to wear clothes similar to the clothes of the Arabs.

The Jews had to wear yellow clothes all the time, and they were not allowed to wear the coercion and the ama (the Bedouin veil) to make it clear that they were not Arabs.

4: They are forbidden to ride a horse or carry a weapon. This restriction made the Jews defenseless from attacks by Bedouin and nomadic tribes from the desert, or thugs in the cities themselves and they could not maintain lands they still had. This condition was in the eyes of the Muslims part of the agreement of surrender of members of other religions to the religion of Islam.

But this does not mean that Jews were completely incapable of defending themselves. Apart from the fact that many Jews were engaged in the manufacture of weapons, and especially in trade in it or horses, it is known that from time to time they participated in local revolts, or participated in defending their city from invaders, along with Muslims such as during the Crusades.

In the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, Jews in general all over the world were deprived of the basic right to possess weapons.

5: Jewish testimony in court against a Muslim was not admissible. This humiliated the Jews, and the Arabs could actually harm them without fear of punishment at all.

6: While the entry of Jews into the mosque was forbidden, a Muslim could enter the house
Knesset at will.

In addition, the sale of the wine was banned, which greatly hurt the country’s livelihood.

The Jews were forced to treat every Muslim with great respect, and to make room for him to cross the road or a place to sit. While a Jew was forbidden to enter the Muslim house, the Muslim could enter the Jewish house as he wished, and the Jew had to pay for it for 3 days.

744: An Arab uprising breaks out in Israel and Syria. One of the reasons for the revolt was the defence of the Caliph of the Jews and Christians from extortion and abuse by the Muslims. “I will not tolerate your behaviour which causes the poll-tax payers to exile themselves from their country and see no future ahead of them” said Yazid the Caliph against the rebels.

788: A small Jewish uprising broke out in the south of the country. Reports of the uprising are known only from Muslim sources.

A charismatic Jewish warrior named Yahya ben Jeremiah (“YaQ.ya b. Irmiya) rebelled against the conquering rulers across the Jordan. A Jewish revolt in this area indicates the existence of a Jewish settlement despite its proximity to the dangerous desert. He reportedly had Jewish soldiers, and even two Umayyad Muslim officers joined him as his advisers, despite expressing anti-Islamic views, and even refusing to water his horse in a Muslim trough. The Muslims tried to bribe him to take down his weapon and tried to Islamize him but to no avail. Eventually, Yahya fell in battle in 790.

807: The Abbasid Caliph, Harun al-Rashid, orders the demolition of all non-Muslim houses of worship in the empire. It is very possible that the reference is to houses of worship built after the Arab occupation. It is not clear how this decree was carried out in occupied Israel. In that year there was a revolt of Jews and Christians in the Eilat area.

Between the years 807 and 815, Palestine experienced numerous disturbances in the wake of the revolt of the desert tribes, led by Abu ‘I-Nida’ and one ‘Umar, against the ‘Abbasid regime. The churches in Jerusalem and the monasteries in the surrounding areas were attacked and looted. Then nature in its turn wreaked havoc — severe drought and famine and a heavy invasion of locust. Forced to flee their homes, many Jerusalemites sought refuge in Egypt.

In a record dating from the year 826, we learn that “the church” (apparently, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher) was rebuilt by Christians returning to Jerusalem from Egypt.

Although there is no clearcut evidence as to whether the caliph Ma’mun (813–833) ever visited Jerusalem, it seems likely that he did, since we do know that he stayed for an extensive period of time in Egypt. It would seem that it was in connection with this visit that his brother, Abu Ishaq (who subsequently became the caliph Mu’tasim), then governor of Egypt, ordered the inscription on the Dome of the Rock to be ‘corrected’: Ma’mun’s name was inserted in the inscription so that it would appear that he, and not ‘Abd al-Malik, had constructed the Dome of the Rock.

During 841–842, beduins and farmers rebelled in Palestine, led by Abu Harb Tamim al- Mubarqac (‘the veiled one’) of the Lakhm tribe. Directed against the Baghdad regime and the ‘Abbasid army, the memory of the former Umayyad dynasty became the rallying symbol of the revolt, which was successfully crushed by the end of 842.

Although we have no information on the situation in Jerusalem in the wake of the disturbances, we can assume that they must have affected daily life in the city.

After mid-century, during the decade of 850- 860, there were still anti-’Abbasid revolts in Syria and Palestine.

In 869, Theodosius, patriarch of Jerusalem, wrote to Ignatius, patriarch of Constantinople, expressing satisfaction with the current situation in Jerusalem as well as with the Muslims’ treatment of the Christians, but he added that his lever was being written by order of the amer (i.e., amir).

At about the same time, the Frankish monk Bernard points to the great security in the streets of Jerusalem, noting that even if one’s beast of burden falters mid-way in the journey, he could safely leave all his goods with the animal until alternate means of carriage could be found.

998: The Fatimid caliph al-Hakim completely changes the ways of the Fatimids, and oppresses the non-Muslims, including the Jews. He ruled until 1021 and at that time all the synagogues in the country were destroyed, including in Greater Ramla. He even banned the use of wine, which, although forbidden by Islam, was an important part of Israeli industry, especially among Jews.

Besides various and strange prohibitions and repetition of the humiliating restrictions from the days
The slaves on the non-Muslims, there are even reports of forced Islam by non-Muslims, although a few years later they were allowed to return to their previous faith.

Although he was the son of a Christian woman, he was cruel to the Christians and in 1009 destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which provoked much anger in Europe, and manifested itself in the persecution of Jews. The Jews were ordered to carry on their necks wooden hoops weighing 2 kg.

1024: The Bedouin rebel again and go on a rampage in Ramla and Jerusalem, harming Jews. According to the description:

“The Arabs and all the peoples of Kedar … Hagarites with the sons of Ishma’el, gathered together, numerous like locusts, and descended upon Ramla in the month of Rabi’, both the first and the second [i.e. the first and second months of Rabi’ A.H. 415, mid-May to mid- July 1024]. They attacked with a vengeance and killed all who stood in their path. They took the women and children prisoner, and also imprisoned the elders, beat them mercilessly, tortured them and threw them into dungeons … and [hung them] … by the neck in pits, on rooftops, on trees, in the field. Even women were hung by their breasts and hands. Many died and their bodies were thrown onto heaps of garbage, or into pits, or in the marketplace, or in shrines [i.e. Christian churches and synagogues] … The young girls and boys and youths were taken to satisfy [the enemy’s] appetite …”

1071: Turkish Seljuks conquer Babylon and Israel. The Jews of Jerusalem flee to the coastal area, the Yeshiva of Eretz Israel flees from Jerusalem to the city of Tzur.

The Seljuks mainly controlled the central mountain region in the country, and did not succeed
Occupy from the Fatimids the coastal area whose gates were quite fortified. This military and political fact affected many Jews, as they abandoned their settlement in the center of the country, and concentrated in the coastal area with the Fatimids. Therefore, when the Crusaders arrived in Israel in 1099, they found most of the Jews in the coastal area.

1077: Muslims in Jerusalem rebel against Seljuk. Their cruel reaction
Of the Seljuks also harms the non-combatant and non-Muslim population, such as the Jews.

The contemporary, Rabbi Shlomo ben Yosef HaCohen, describes the atrocities
Committed by the Seljuks to non-Muslims. They cut off noses and ears, stripped prisoners, raped women and children, starved and looted. In Jerusalem, 3,000 people were massacred. Ramla was emptied of its inhabitants, and in Gaza and El Arish the entire population was massacred.

The Crusader Massacre

Jews fought side-by-side with Muslim soldiers to defend Jerusalem against the Crusaders.According to the Muslim chronicle of Ibn al-Qalanisi, “The Jews assembled in their synagogue, and the Franks burned it over their heads.”One modern-day source even claims the Crusaders “[circled] the screaming, flame-tortured humanity singing ‘Christ We Adore Thee!’ with their Crusader crosses held high.”

Some Jews were taken as prisoners of war and deported to southern Italy. Several, there they were sold into slavery throughout Europe, of these Jews did not make it to their final destination as “Many of them were […] thrown into the sea or beheaded on the way

In July 1100, the Crusaders launched a military attack on the city of Haifa


According to the research literature, a large Jewish community lived in Haifa at that time.

Historian Ben-Zion Dinur emphasized her image:

“The city is a Jewish city … its citizens — Jews (Muslims are only in the garrison!), Its defense — the defense of Jews, and its victory — the disgrace of the Christians. This fact is mentioned to each other and repeated” the Crusader leaders and their warriors.

The Crusader attack on the walled city combined forces from land and sea. The navy, which moved about 200 ships to Haifa, arrived from the Republic of Venice.

The Jewish residents joined the small Fatimid garrison; “They stood firm” until the Crusader forces despaired and withdrew. When the Crusaders stormed again, the Jews and Muslims “faced them with relentless heroism.” After the truce, the Crusader occupiers returned and used strong assault forces. Haifa Fortress “as its Hebrew name, or “Castellum Caiphas” as its Latin name, by the Crusader occupiers.

This fragment is the only Crusader-era description we have of the destruction of the Holy Land’s many Jewish communities, though other sources indicate that Jews were slaughtered all over the country, and that those who survived fled. Some made it to still-Muslim Ascalon (Ashkelon) or Tyre; some were seized, sent to Italy, and sold into slavery; and some reached the safety of Byzantine or Seljuk territory. Others, despairing, converted to Christianity. No Jews were left under Crusader rule, which extended to Tyre in 1124 and to Ascalon in 1153.

The Cairo Geniza contains fragments originating in the land of Israel from the 10th and 11th centuries, but virtually none from the 12th. No manuscripts, no liturgical poems — only a few pitiful letters from people searching for relatives captured by Crusaders and probably sold as slaves.


For more than 1,000 years, the Jews suffered oppression by the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader …
The Jews were murdered, fled or kidnapped into slavery until at last they were dispossessed of their land



Adin Haykin

Israeli, IDF soldier and researcher of Israeli history and wars