Monday, May 26, 2008

Rabbi Yitzhak Sarfati during the Uthmaniyyah

In the year 1454, Rabbi Yitzhak Sarfati of the Ottoman city of Edirne sent a letter to his co-religionists in Europe who were suffering under the persecutions of medieval anti-Semites. “"Leave the torments you endure in Christendom,"” the Rabbi suggested, “"and seek safety and prosperity in Turkey."” This Islamic land was a haven for all, he added. “"Here every man dwells at peace under his own vine and fig tree.”"

Many Sephardic Jews listened to Sarfati's advice in 1492, when they were expelled from the all-Catholic Spain simply because they remained loyal to their faith. Ships carried many Jewish refugees to Ottoman lands, where they were personally welcomed by Sultan Bayazid II, who was one of the most pious of all Ottoman monarchs.

Bernard Lewis, the doyen of Middle Eastern studies in the West, once said: "the Jews were not just permitted to settle in the Ottoman lands, but were encouraged, assisted and sometimes even compelled." For them, the lands of Islam became the lands of safety.

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