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Damascus Affair (1840)

(843 words)

Author(s): Moshe Ma'oz
In February 1840, an Italian Capuchin monk named Padre Tomaso and his servant disappeared in Damascus. Local Christians, abetted by the French consul Benoît Ulysse-Laurent-François de Ratti-Menton (a rabid antisemite himself), accused Jews of murdering Tomaso and using his blood to bake matza for Passover. Blood libels of this kind were not uncommon in medieval Christian Europe, but only found their way to Syria in later centuries, possibly brought there by European priests or missionaries. The incident in Damascus was probably influenced …

Farḥī, Ḥayyim

(365 words)

Author(s): Moshe Ma'oz
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, members of the Farḥī family were important bankers (Ar. ṣarrāf) and treasury officials in Damascus and Acre (Akko). Saul Farḥī and his sons Ḥayyim, Joseph, and Raphael were active in the financial administration of the pashalik (province) of Damascus. In addition to keeping the provincial accounts, they engaged in banking and moneylending, which included helping to finance the annual pilgrim caravan ( ḥajj) from Damascus to Mecca. Ḥayyim Farḥī, Saul’s eldest son, moved from Damascus to Acre toward the end of the eighteenth …

Syria

(7,961 words)

Author(s): Marina Rustow | Moshe Ma'oz
1. Medieval Geography and Nomenclature In medieval texts in Arabic and Judeo-Arabic, Syria is called al-Shām. Geographical works of the period define the region as falling between the Euphrates River and the Mediterranean Sea north to the Taurus Mountains and south to the Gulf of Aqaba (modern Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Jordan), but in practice, the southern desert region was principally a thoroughfare for nomads and pilgrims to Mecca, and the northern border with Byzantium was…