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September 5, 2008

100 Years Ago in the forward

A dispatch from Jerusalem indicates that much of the Ottoman-ruled Middle East is thrilled with the new revolution in Constantinople. In Beirut, for example, the city was lit up for three days as the residents partied. But the news was slower to get to Palestine, and the reaction was mixed. Both Christians and Jews were relieved at no longer having to pay the head tax, but the older generation of Jews especially expressed fears that Jews (and Christians, as well) would soon have to begin serving in the Ottoman army together with the Muslims. Also, because the Jews in Jerusalem number fewer than 50,000, they do not have enough to send a deputy to the new parliament. They are now discussing a plan to unite the Jews of Jerusalem, Tsfat, Tiberius, Hebron, Jaffa and Haifa in order to present a united front to the new Turkish rulers.

75 Years Ago in the forward

Jewish assassin Sholom Schwartzbard gained fame seven years ago when he shot the Ukrainian Cossack leader, Semyon Petlura, on a street corner in Paris. To the shock of some and the joy of others, a French court set him free, based on the fact that Petlura had been responsible for a number of terrible massacres of Jews. The Forward interviewed Schwartzbard, who is currently in America as part of a delegation of French war veterans. He told us that personal suffering was not the reason that he shot Petlura. He doesn’t actually know if his family members who were killed during the pogroms were victims of Petlura’s gangs. He does know that Petlura’s gangs were responsible for the deaths of about 100,000 Jews, and that was enough for him to take action. He said, “I shot a Haidamak whose hands were drenched in a river of Jewish blood. Until I took that shot, no one knew of the massacres they had committed. The judge and jury understood the reason why I undertook this act, and set me free.”

50 Years Ago in the forward

The International Bible Quiz came to a close this week in Jerusalem, and Amos Haham, an Israeli government clerk, took top honors. Second and third prize went to French and Brazilian nationals, respectively. In addition to their prizes, the winners all met with Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who told them he knew the correct answer about 40% of the time. A sample question: In what three situations did someone find a wife (for himself or someone else)? Answer: When Eliezer of Damascus found Rivka for Yitzhak; When Jacob found Rachel; When Moses met Jethro’s daughter, Tsipora.

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