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Near East Kingdoms

Levantine States


Israelites & Israel

Today's Israel and Palestine are irrevocably linked in terms of their history. The former was carved out of a large proportion of the already-expanded latter from 1948. Before that though lies four thousand years of history, sometimes recorded, sometimes alluded to, and sometimes a complete mystery. Unpicking it to establish a relatively stable story has been the work of decades, and even today there are differences of opinion regarding many of the details.

The region in which both names came to be created was Canaan, the long Mediterranean coast between ancient Syria and Egypt which today is known as the Levant. Various independent or united Semitic-speaking city states formed in this region from around 3000 BC onwards, reaching a peak of independent development in the second millennium BC. It was during the climate-induced social collapse of the late thirteenth century BC that both a state known as Israel and a region known as Palestine emerged, giving both terms similar founding dates (very approximately), with the Phoenicians emerging to the immediate north during the same period.

Then came the Jewish Diaspora and the age of great empires in the form of the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Eastern Romans, Islam, and the Ottomans, until the twentieth century saw the most recent phase of empire-building come to an end and individual sovereign states emerge.

The term 'Israelite' is often used interchangeably with the terms 'Hebrew' and 'Jew', but these terms are not strictly interchangeable. The specific term 'Israelites', or 'people of Israel', is best used only for periods after the followers of Yahweh undertook their exodus from Egypt. It can also be used conveniently for the earlier period in which these people were subject to patriarchs (approximately between the eighteenth and sixteenth centuries BC).

The term loses its accuracy after the united kingdom of Israel under David and Solomon divided into the kingdoms of Samaria and Judah around 927 BC. The Old Testament tends usually to use the term 'Hebrew' for the entire period before 1000 BC, but it is best to avoid it here due to controversy surrounding its origins (regarding whether it descends from 'Eber', the ancestor of Abraham, or habiru, a general term for brigands and the dispossessed).

Phoenicians shifting cedarwood from shore to land

(Information by Peter Kessler and from the John De Cleene Archive, with additional information by Sean Bambrough & Wayne McCleese, from The Amarna Letters, William L Moran (1992), from the Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, Geoffrey Wigoder (Gen Ed, 1986), from Jewish War & Jewish Antiquities, Flavius Josephus, from Unger's Bible Dictionary, Merrill F Unger (1957), from Easton's Bible Dictionary, Matthew George Easton (1897), from Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times, Donald Redford (Princeton University Press, 1992), and from External Links: Encyclopædia Britannica, and Bible Atlas.)

Mütesarrifs of Jerusalem (Palestine)
AD 1810 - 1917

The early Israelite kingdom of Israel and its divisions of Samaria and Judah were conquered by Near East empires in the first millennium BC. A puppet Herodite dynasty was installed by Rome in the first century BC, but major revolts in the first two centuries AD saw Jerusalem destroyed and Judea being renamed as the province of Roman Palestine. The Eastern Roman empire lost the region to the Islamic empire in AD 636.

For much of the next millennium and-a-half Islamic Palestine remained dominated by Muslim leaders. The First Crusade created the domain of Outremer, and a Christian kingdom at Jerusalem in 1099 which ruled over Crusader Palestine before the tide turned and Islamic Palestine was restored. The Jews were again accorded a certain measure of freedom until the arrival of Mameluke domination before the thirteenth century had ended. The region suffered badly before the Ottoman empire took control in 1517.

The Ottomans maintained the previous administrative and political organisation while carrying it out effectively (in contrast to Mameluke efforts). Attached administratively to the province of Damascus and ruled from Constantinople, Palestine was divided into five sanjaks (provincial districts, also referred to as liwa' in Arabic): Gaza, Jerusalem, Lajjun, Nablus, and Safad, The sanjaks were further subdivided into sub-districts or nawahi.

The mütesarrifs were the Ottoman lieutenant-governors of Jerusalem during the later Ottoman period. Overall governance of modern Israel, Lebanon, and Syria was initially handled by the wali of Damascus, with the mütesarrifs acting as sub-commanders in various districts. Jerusalem's territory covered southern and central Ottoman-controlled Palestine and included the cities of Beersheba, Bethlehem, Gaza, Jaffa, and Hebron (the ancient city of the Jebusites, and then the Judeans, and then Edomites).

The mütesarrif of Jerusalem was not generally resident in Jerusalem. Officials in the post preferred nearby Ramla for this, a city which had been founded between AD 705-715 by the Umayyad caliphs, probably Sulayman (today the city is inside the borders of Israel). This is perhaps not surprising, as Jerusalem (and the Holy Land in general) had declined so far that it was now a backward state. The land outside the city was largely deserted and poor, with banditry a common problem. Plagues were an even more common problem, sometimes taking a heavy toll in lives. Cities and towns other than Jerusalem and Gaza dwindled, and entire villages in the largely rural economy were abandoned.

The nineteenth century saw medieval backwardness in Ottoman Palestine gradually give way to the first signs of progress, with various western powers jockeying for position, often through missionary activities. British, French, and American scholars launched studies of biblical archaeology, and Britain, France, Russia, Austria, and the United States opened consulates in Jerusalem. Steamships began to ply regular routes to and from Europe, postal and telegraphic connections were installed, and the first road was built to connect Jerusalem to Jaffa.

Consequently, the situation for Palestine's Jewish population gradually improved, and their numbers increased substantially. By the mid-nineteenth century, overcrowded conditions within the walled city of Jerusalem motivated them to build the first residential neighbourhood outside the walls (from 1860) and, in the next quarter century, to add seven more, forming the nucleus of the new city. By 1870, Jerusalem had an overall Jewish majority. Land for farming was purchased throughout the country, new rural settlements were established, and the Hebrew language was revived after long being restricted to liturgy and literature. The stage was set for the founding of the Zionist movement which would push for a dedicated Jewish homeland.

Cairo's Sultan Hasan Mosque, Egypt

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Allan Rousso, from Palestine, Joshua J Mark (available via the Ancient History Encyclopaedia website), from Easton's Bible Dictionary, Matthew George Easton (1897), from Meqorot u-Meḥqarim be-Toldot Yisrael, Simha Assaf (Jerusalem, 1946), from the Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, Geoffrey Wigoder (General Ed, 1986), from A History of Palestine, 634-1099, Moshe Gil (Cambridge University Press, 1997), from The Land of the Negev, Yehuda Gardus & Avshalom Shmueli (Eds, Ministry of Defense Publishing, 1978-1979, in Hebrew), from Ottomans in Syria: A History of Justice and Oppression, Dick Douwes (I B Tauris, 2000), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and History: Foreign Domination (Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, now available only via the Wayback Machine), and Israel (Worldstatesmen).)


Kanj Ahmad Agha

First mütesarrif of Jerusalem. No details available.


Abdul Karim Agha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


Hakimoglu Mustafa Agha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


Sülayman Afand

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


Ali Afand

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


Muhammad Sa'd

Acting mütesarrif.

1822 - 1824

Abdallah Pasha has extended (or soon will) his authority to cover all of Palestine (noted as being directly in control here in 1827-1831, and gaining Gaza and Jaffa in 1824), plus Sidon and Damascus. He survives an Ottoman-supported siege of Acre which has been instigated by the Farhi family in retaliation for his execution of his mentor, Haim Farhi. In 1824 he also suppresses a revolt in Mount Lebanon.

Beyrout and Mount Lebanon
This print displays the town of 'Beyrout' (Beirut) and Mount Lebanon, originally drawn by J Lewis Farley in 1860


Ismail Bey

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


Uthman Agha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


Still increasing his reach as a highly loyal and useful servant of the Ottomans, Abdallah Pasha is ordered to suppress a revolt in Jerusalem which has already begun in the previous year. The city is currently outside Abdullah's jurisdiction, but the governor of Damascus is unable to quell the rebellion. The rebels have ousted Jerusalem's mutasallim and control the city before Abdallah manages to restore order with very little bloodshed.

1826 - 1827

Abdul Ibrahim Agha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


Ismail Afand

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


Safi Muhammad Agha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1827 - 1831

Abdullah Pasha

Governor of Gaza & Jaffa (1818-1821). Damascus & Sidon.


Mustafa Afand


1829 - 1831

Abdul Ibrahim Agha

Mütesarrif for the second time.

1830 - 1834

Hüseyin III has attempted to placate the Europeans in their interest in Algiers by ensuring that the Jewish population there enjoys religious freedom and some hostages are released. It does him little lasting good, however. France invades Algeria and conquers it in progressive stages between 1830-1834.

Algiers in 1800
Algiers came under bombardment several times during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, usually due to its role in leading Berber piracy raids

1831 - 1840

Husaum 'Abd al-Hadi



Sheykh Said al Mustafa



Yahya Bey



Muhammad Sa'ad Agha

Mütesarrif. Ousted by an Arab revolt.


Qasim al-Ahmad seizes Jerusalem after leading his forces from Nablus during an Arab revolt in Palestine. Less than a month later, Jerusalem is captured along with Damascus by Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt (between May and June) on behalf of Muhammad Ali Pasha.

They are annexed to Egypt and Jerusalem subsequently operates on an autonomous basis. The Ottomans retain only nominal suzerainty. The highly influential Abdallah Pasha is removed from office and exiled to Egypt. The relative freedom in the city now allows the first foreign consulates to be founded, and four Jewish synagogues are given permission to be renovated soon afterwards (in 1836).

Despite being the favoured residence of the mütesarrifs, Ramla was not especially well-developed in the nineteenth century outside the residence itself


Qasim al-Ahmad

Captured Jerusalem during the Arab revolt.


Muhd al-Qasim bin Qasim al-Ahmad



Yusuf al Qasim bin Qasim al-Ahmad



The Peasants Revolt is the result of various groups banding together to oppose Muhammad Ali Pasha and rule from Egypt. All of them have been negatively affected by Egypt's recent reforms so they take control of much of Palestine. Muhammad Ali arrives to negotiate with them, securing a truce in July 1834.

A good many regional leaders are arrested during the truce, so Qasim al-Ahmad, sub-governor of Jabal Nablus, continues the revolt. He and most of his fellow revolt leaders are captured and executed, while Nablus sees some of its previous freedoms being restricted.


Jabr Abu Ghosh

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


Mustafa Agha al Sa'ad

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


Muhammad Ali Agha al Dizdr

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1838 - 1840

The position of governor of Damascus falls vacant again. On 10 October 1840 the Ottoman empire regains direct authority over the city and its territory, including Jerusalem. Despite this, increasing numbers of Jews begin to drift back to Jerusalem, and become the subject of international political interest and support.

1838 - 1839

Ahmad Agha al-Asal al Dizdr

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


Having now regained full control over Palestine, the Ottomans separate the Jerusalem district from the Damascus eyalet and place it directly under the administrative authority of Constantinople.

Postcard of Constantinople around 1900
The scene in this early twentieth century hand-coloured postcard of Constantinople still carries much of the feel of the previous century

1841 - 1842?

Mehmed Tayyar Pasha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1843? - 1843

Reshid Pasha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem. In office until Dec.

1843 - 1844?

Haider Pasha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


As'ad Pasha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1845 - 1847

Mehmed Pasha Kibrizli

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1847 - 1848?

Mustafa Zarif

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1847 - 1849

Bahri Pasha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1849 - 1851

Adham Pasha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


The district of East Jerusalem outside the Old City walls is only able to begin to appear after 1850 when the Ottoman authorities allow structures to be built within eight hundred and fifty metres of the walls. Construction is not begun immediately, however, and probably takes more than a decade to become appreciable.

1851 - 1853

Hafiz Ahmed Pasha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1853 - 1854

Rashid Pasha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


Yakub Pasha Osmanoglu

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem. Between Mar-Oct.

1855 - 1857?

Kiamil Pasha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1857 - 1864

Surayya Pasha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


Jerusalem has become an intensely crowded city within its old walls. Sir Moses Montefiore, an Anglo-Italian philanthropist in the Holy Land, builds an almshouse in what becomes the Mishkenot Sha'ananim district, and settlement outside the walls begins, but some outward migration also takes place, to distant colonies such as Jamaica.

Damascus Gate in 1860
This view of the Damascus Gate in 1860 shows that Jerusalem was still confined behind the Old City walls, afraid to develop outside due to the high levels of banditry

The migration out of the Old City is slow at first, with many scared of bandit raids against the undefended suburb. A gate which is built around it and which is locked at night assuages some of the fear, while payments smooth the way for the rest.


Mehmed Hurshid Pasha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1864 - 1867

Izzet Pasha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1867 - 1869

Nazif Pasha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1869 - 1871

Mehmed Kamil Pasha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


Two more suburbs outside the Old City are started. Mahane Israel comes first, built by Jews from the Mahgreb in Africa (part of today's Mizrahi Jews grouping which covers all of North Africa's former Jewish Diaspora communities, but by now heavily intermixed with Sephardi Jews who had entered North Africa in large numbers from 1492).

Nahalat is next, built by a cooperative of Jewish families in the Old City. The fear of banditry has been replaced by now with a spirit of building new and better neighbourhoods in a rapidly expanding Jerusalem.

1871 - 1872

Ali Bey

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


The Jerusalem sanjak is formally replaced by an independent mütesarrifate of Jerusalem, having been a sanjak within the Syria vilayet since 1864 following administrative reforms.

Jerusalem's Golden Gate
Jerusalem's Golden Gate was sealed at least fifteen hundred years ago, with a Muslim cemetery being laid in front of it because the Messiah is due to ride through the gate on a donkey

1872 - 1873

Nazif Pasha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem. Second term of office.

1873 - 1874/75

Mehmed Kamil Pasha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem. Second term. Died 1879.

1874/75 - 1876

Ali Bey

Second term of office.

1876 - 1877

Faik Bey

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1877 - 1889

Mehmed Rauf Pasha

Later an Ottoman senator.


The first modern-era wave of Jewish migrations back to the Holy Land begins with an event known as the First Aliyah. The Jews are fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe, most notably in the territories of the Russian empire under Alexander III and his imposition of anti-liberalisation reforms.

For the past century Russia has been operating an area known as the 'Pale of Settlement', largely territory to the west which has been acquired from the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Today this forms Russia's western border region, and from 1791-1793 it has incorporated modern Belarus (eastern Poland at the time), eastern Latvia, Lithuania, the province of Bessarabia (modern Moldova), and western Ukraine.

Second Aliyah to Palestine
Poland-Lithuania's long-standing Jewish population was gradually forced to emigrate during the later Russian empire period, with most either going west or returning to Palestine

The Jewish Diaspora population of the 'Pale' (mainly Ashkenazi Jews) is restricted from moving eastwards into Russia proper and is now being discouraged from remaining in the western border regions of the empire.

Several months prior to this event however, migration by Yemenite Jews to Palestine has already begun. Communities are drawn back from Ottoman-controlled Yemen by improving standards and employment, especially due to European backing in the region.

1890 - 1897

Ibrahim Hakki Pasha

Later Ottoman grand vizier (1910-1911).


The question of a homeland for the Jewish Diaspora is gaining international recognition, helped on by the founding of a political form of Zionism (Jewish support for the creation of a Jewish homeland) and the first meeting of the World Zionist Congress in this year, held in Basel in Switzerland. The impression of the mütesarrifate of Jerusalem as an emerging country in its own right begins to grow in the mind of educated Arabs in the region.

1897 - 1901

Mehmet Tevfik Bey

Later Minister of Finance for last Ottoman government.

1901 - 1902

Mehmed Çevad Pasha

Later Minister of Finance (1909-1911).

1902 - 1904

Osman Kazim Bey

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1903 - 1914

The Second Aliyah to Palestine is triggered in 1903 by an anti-Jewish riot in the city of Kishinev (modern Chişinău), the capital of the province of Bessarabia (modern Moldova), part of the Russian empire. Something like forty thousand members of the Jewish Diaspora settle in Palestine, although only half remain permanently.

Modern Chișinău
Modern Chișinău bears all the hallmarks of mass Soviet-era concrete construction, carrying little resemblence to the city of the early 1900s

Many others, evicted from their settlements in the ' Pale' head towards western Poland or America (something which is dramatically highlighted, if with a touch of artistic licence, in the film musical, Fiddler on the Roof, 1971. which has its final scenes set in 1905).

1904 - 1906

Ahmed Reshid Pasha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


The mütesarrifate of Jerusalem has its southern border redrawn, with the authorities being urged to do so by Britain. They are focussed on protecting their interests in the region, and making the border as short and easy-to-patrol as possible is one readily-achievable safeguard.

1906 - 1908

Ali Ekrem Bey

Died 1937.

1908 - 1909

Subhi Bey

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1909 - 1910

Nazim Bey

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1910 - 1911

Azmi Bey

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


The Shiraz Pogrom or 'Shiraz blood libel of 1910' is the result of increasingly aggressive anti-Jewish pogroms in Iran. The Jewish quarter in Shiraz is the victim of the 1910 pogrom, on 30 October 1910, although it also spreads to other towns. It is sparked by accusations that Jews there have ritually killed a Muslim girl.

Shah Ahmad Qajar
Ahmad Shah Qajar came to the Iranian throne in 1909 at the tender age of eleven, attempted to govern a land which was suffering increased levels of turmoil thanks partially to the First World War, and was deposed just shy of his twenty-eighth birthday

Twelve Iranian Jews (or thirteen, accounts differ) are killed and around fifty more are injured, while thousands are robbed of everything they possess. An increased level of migration from the Jewish Diaspora takes place after this, mainly focussed on a return to Palestine.

1911 - 1912

Çevdet Bey

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.


Mehdi Frashëri

Albanian. Later prime minister of Albania.

1912 - 1913

Tahir Hayreddin Bey

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1913 - 1915

Ahmed Macid Pasha

Mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1914 - 1915

In Europe, the German empire moves swiftly to support its ally, Austria-Hungary, in a long-anticipated Great War (later more readily known as the First World War, or World War I). The Ottoman empire sides with them, with Britain, France, and Russia arrayed against them. As the majority of Jewish communities in Palestine have originated from the territory of now-hostile nations, they are expelled by the Ottoman authorities.

The hanging of a number of patriotic intellectuals by Jamal Pasha, wali of Damascus, is intended to put an end to local opposition to the 1908 Ottoman programme of Turkicisation in the region. Instead it has the opposite effect, raising tensions and nationalistic feeling against the Ottomans.

Arab Revolt
With the Ottoman empire fading in power and prestige, the time was ripe for the Arab Revolt, led by the Hashemites and TE Lawrence

1916 - 1917

Midhad Bey

Last mütesarrif of Jerusalem.

1916 - 1917

Palestine, the ancient land of the Philistines, is taken from the crumbling Ottomans by the British and the Arab forces of the Hijaz. The Jewish Legion (an unofficial name), has elements in the field of operations within the British army, although all are dismissed at the end of the war. Surviving expelled Jews are able to return to Palestine, although many have suffered three years of incredible hardship.

Four hundred years of Ottoman rule is ended and, in 1917, the British Parliament's 'Balfour Declaration' gives backing for 'a national home for Jewish people' (including those of the Jewish Diaspora) in what is now mandate-controlled Palestine.

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