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LETTER: Jews indigenous to the Holy Land

May 18th, 2019 5:05 PM

By Southern Star Team

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SIR – Mr Teegan (letters, May 9th) has certainly got Israel in his sights and has managed to include most of the usual cliches in his diatribe. Many, if not all, of his accusations can be challenged, but I would just like to look at the word 'indigenous'.

If any people can claim to be indigenous to the Holy Land, surely it is the Jews who have a good case. Whether one accepts the Bible as credible or not, there is historic record of Jewish habitation going back well over 3,000 years. Arabs arrived only in the 7th century CE during Islam's military conquests of much of the Middle East. 

The area, for centuries a backwater of the Ottoman Empire, has seen various movements of populations. Circassians, Bosnians, Turks and Egyptians were among those who settled in the country when it was under Turkish rule. Family origins can often be traced by translating surnames, such as Hallaby (from Aleppo) or Masri (from Egypt).

With growing Jewish settlement and development of the country from the 1880s  onward, there was a further influx of Arab immigrants who came in search of  work and better conditions.

The story of the population of Israel / Palestine is varied and complicated, as the country has been fought over by various powers for millennia. But the Jews were always there, often against all the odds, clinging to the land and their beliefs, through wave after wave of conquests, massacres, discrimination and desolation.  

The Arab population began to describe themselves as Palestinians mainly during the 1960s – before that, their organisations and representative bodies used terms such as The Arab Higher Committee (their central political body during the British Mandate). 

Both Jews and Arabs served in the Palestine Regiment during World War II, but there is anecdotal evidence that many Arabs objected to the name as they felt ‘Palestine’ referred to the Jews.

As a resident of Haifa, Israel's third city, with a mixed population, I hear as much Arabic spoken as Hebrew; my neighbours are Druze and Russian – another neighbour's carer is from Sri Lanka. We have a peaceful, vibrant and developing city. 

If Mr Teegan would like to add some facts to his repertoire, he is welcome to come and see for himself and I would be delighted to show him round.

Yours faithfully,

R Linda Hart (Ms),

21a Abba Houshi Boulevard,

Mount Carmel,

Haifa,

Israel 34781.

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