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Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of Palestine

By Rabbi Joseph Schwarz, 1850

Perjury And Treason.

In the year 5586 (1826), when the people of Jerusalem had rebelled against the Pacha of Damascus, and the city was besieged by Abdalla of Akko, the Pahkid, i.e. the President of the Jewish Congregation, was one day in his room, when an officer of the rebels unexpectedly entered, and requested him to go into a private room with him, as he had something of importance to communicate in secret. The Pahkid rose trembling, and led him into a side-room, when the rebel ordered him to lock the door, and, seating himself near him, spoke as follows: "I entrust thee a secret, and ask thy advice at the same time, because thou art a very sensible man;" and indeed the Pahkid was considered as a very intelligent man, and many sought his counsel at every opportunity. "But know that, should this affair be discovered, my wife* shall be prohibited to me, if I do not take revenge on thee by taking thy life." The terrified Pahkid then said, "I pray thee, do not communicate to me thy dangerous secret, and seek advice from some other person." "No," replied the rebel, "none can counsel me as well as thou;—be still. I have observed that we shall not be able to defend our city, and the Pacha is sure to take it soon. I am therefore resolved to disguise myself and to escape by flight, so as not to fall into the hands of the Pacha; but I know not in what way I shall be able to save my money and ready means, and to carry it securely beyond the city." To this the Pahkid replied "To do this there is but one way: the Armenian and Greek convents here have strong connexions in Constantinople, and have at the same time friendly relations with the Pacha, and have therefore nothing to dread from hostilities or persecution. Carry thy money to them, take a draft for it on Constantinople, and thou canst then receive it back there with perfect ease and security." "Taib, taib, taib katir" (good, good, very good), was the other's reply. "This is well advised. Thou seest thus that I was right to ask thy good and sage counsel; but, if thou valuest thy life, keep silence, so that no one hears the least of this." He thereupon left him.

* This is the greatest and holiest oath of the Mahomedan, holier and greater than to swear by Alla and the Nebi, since in case he violates this oath he is not permitted to enter the house where his wife resides, wherefore she is at once considered as divorced and at liberty to marry another man.

A few days after this he brought along another dreaded rebel, and both rushed furiously into the Palikid's apartment. "Kelb!" (dog) cried the first, drawing his sword, "I will murder thee on the spot! Thou hast betrayed me. I have heard already to-day my intention discussed in public places, and my whole plan is frustrated." "Chansir!" (hog) roared out the other, placing the point of his weapon against his breast, "I will slay thee! Thou knewest the whole intention of this traitor, that he would leave the city to its fate, merely to save himself and his money, and thou hast kept the matter a secret, and said nothing of it to the city authorities; but all you Jews are such traitors." Thus one cried out "betrayer," the other "traitor;" the one threatened to kill him because he had revealed the secret, the other because he had not.

The poor Pahkid was quite beside himself, and said, "I swear by God that I have not spoken a word of thy business; and, as regards thy accusation of high treason," addressing the other, "how could I know that his intended escape was not with the knowledge and consent of all the other leaders?" They, however, pushed him about among them, and he was terribly maltreated, whilst they swung over him their naked weapons in a menacing manner, and the pitiable Jew thought that his last hour was certainly come. Still he exclaimed, "Surely I cannot be guilty of both charges; I have either revealed the secret or not, but to do both is impossible." But they continued their beating a long time, till at length the enraged Arabs made the proposition that he might succeed in atoning for this twofold crime by the payment of money; and they then insisted that he should give to both parties interested a large amount of ready cash on the spot, in order to repair the injury he had done them. The Pahkid, seeing that it was a plot, merely contrived to extort money, and the whole transaction was nothing but a falsehood and base deception, was not slow in paying over what was demanded, and was very thankful that, nothing else had been intended when his sage counsel was demanded, with no other view than to find a pretext against him for an extortion. But he had to keep silence, as the rebels were of the highest rank, and held even judicial appointments, and had, consequently, everything their own way.

Jews and Muslims in Palestine