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TURKISH JERUSALEM (1516-1917) - page 11 / 36





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Turkish Jerusalem (1516-1917)


From the year 1071 until 1917 Turks ruled Jerusalem. First by Seljukids, Artuqids and Zangids, and after that Mamluks from (1250 to 1516) and lastly Ottomans (from 1516 to 1917). But despite this long rule, the Turkish heritage and contribution to Jerusalem is often overlooked or underestimated in the literature.

During the First World War, Falih Rıfkı Atay, a young Ottoman Officer in The Arab Provinces of Ottoman Empires described in his book Zeytinda÷ı last days of the Ottoman sovereignty over Jerusalem. He writes:

Jerusalem was no more ours than Florence. We wander the streets like the tourists. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is symbolic; every piece belongs to a different religious community and we hold the keys. Everything in these parts belongs to the Arabs or to foreign powers. Only the gendarmes are ours; not even the gendarmes’ only uniforms. The Ottoman Sultanate is solidly bureaucratic, but the bureaucracy is here at least half Arab. I have not seen a single Turkicized Arab, and I have seen precious few Turks who were not Arabicized…. We have neither colonized this region nor made it part of our land. The Ottoman Empire here is the unpaid watchmen of the fields and streets.

Further he writes the sarcastic words:

Ölberg is the German for Mount of Olives. Jabal az Zeytun is the Arabic and Zeytinda÷ı is just the name I gave my book. There never was a Turkish Jerusalem.

These bitter words are understandable against the background of a Turkish officer who was serving a dying empire.

I however completely disagree with the idea that there was never a Turkish Jerusalem. Of course there was a Turkish Jerusalem. And the most prominent marks of Turkish presence in Jerusalem are the


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