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Place Descriptions

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Showing 1 - 20 from 59 entries

> The Hebronite Spirit of Enterprise
> Nablus Revitalised
> Sebastia
> Dayr Tarif
> Ramallah: Palestine’s Bustling Metropolis
> Stroll along Ramallah’s Main Street
> Nightlife in Ramallah
> The Bethlehemian Smile
> Nablus: The Uncrowned Queen
> From the Ottomans to Modem Times
> Ancient Bethlehem
> Beit Sahour
> The Site of the Town of Bethlehem at Its Earliest...
> The History of Nablus
> Nablous
> The Samaritan Creed
> The Samaritan Diaspora and the number of Samaritans
> The Minerals and Climate in Samaria
> The Nature of Samaria
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From the Ottomans to Modem Times
submitted by Turathuna Bethlehem University

The Ottoman Turks had been no more than a small group at the opening of the fourteenth century. By 1453 they had taken Istanbul and ended the thousand-year old Byzantine Empire. On 24 August 1516 Selim the Grim, the Ottoman Sultan, defeated Qansawh al-Ghawri, Mamluk Sultan of Egypt, in battle at Marj Dabiq. Now for 400 years all Syria and Palestine fell under Ottoman rule. Egypt was taken the following year. In January Tuman-Bay, the last Mamluk Sultan, after having been questioned in an apparently friendly fashion about the condition of his country, was cynically hanged by Selim behind a window in the Muayyad Mosque in Cairo. His corpse was left for his subjects to see. A new era had begun.

Mosques and churches in Cairo and Jerusalem were robbed of marble and treasure to benefit Constantinople. In both, and in Bethlehem, behind the hangings in the Grotto of the Nativity, the dowels, or holes that retained the wooden pegs which fastened the marble panels to the wall, can still be seen. In Bethlehem, before spoliation was complete in 1669, Fr Bernardino Amico made a series of engravings in 1596, and a detailed description was written by Fr Francis Quaresmius in 1626. In 1670-71 the Greek Patriarch had to find funds to put the building in repair, but nothing could be done without first satisfying the Turkish lust for bribery, and clergy and pilgrims, irrespective of confession, were robbed alike. Failure to bribe the Turks sufficiently cost the Franciscans the possession of Mount Zion and the Coenaculum in 1552. Somewhat later the Georgians were forced out of Jerusalem altogether. Inability to pay likewise expelled the hapless Ethiopians from the Holy Sepulchre, to take refuge on the roof of St Helena's Chapel, where they still remain.

In 1662 the Patriarch Dositheos founded the Fraternity of the Holy Sepulchre, to assume authority over all Orthodox interests in the Holy Land. As the power of Venice declined, and it had long protected the Franciscans, so the Greeks, who supplied civil servants and even ministers to the Ottoman Turkish Government, were able to increase their influence in the Holy Places. These now came to the forefront in international politics. The struggle began in the seventeenth century, when France began to assume a protectorate over Latin interests. Thus in 1604, 1673 and 1740 the Latins were confirmed in possession of the Church of the Nativity. In 1637 this was temporarily reversed, and finally in 1757 A firman (decree) confirmed the Orthodox in their present possession. Their possession was strengthened in 1774, when Turkey, by the Treaty of Kutchuk Kainardji, conceded to Russia the protection of Orthodox subjects. Shortly the French wars distracted all Europe, and it was not until the mid-nineteenth century that the struggle was renewed. The Latin Patriarchate was revived by the Vatican in 1847. In 1850 the Austrian Ambassador in Istanbul, on behalf of Austria, Belgium, France, Sardinia and Spain, demanded the return to the Franciscans all that they had possessed before the Ottoman firman of 1757, a demand which, with other causes, led to the Crimean War (1853-56).

The Sultan rejected Aupick's demand in 1852, and his firman was further confirmed by the European powers by the Treaty of Paris in 1856. It was yet further confirmed at the end of the Russo-Turkish War by the Treaty of Vienna in 1878. The rights of the different communities in the Holy Places is, the war just mentioned (see also below, p.41). The expression has now gained a were now precisely defined, and for short are spoken of as the Status Quo, a diplomatic phrase for status quo ante bellum—the state existing before the war, that more general currency for the rights of the several parties.

Source: The Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

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