‘How can the Hebrews drink from our water?’

In Egypt the Jewish community had protected status and could practise their religion in relative freedom. This was not always the case in Syria-Palestine. This letter, from Syria to Egypt, describes an outbreak of anti-Jewish persecution in Damascus. It occurred when a Bedouin tribe replaced Fatimid rule. Described as ‘tyrants’, the new rulers imposed harsh restrictions against the ancient Jewish community: cutting off access to the water supply, forbidding the slaughter of animals according to Jewish law, and imposing additional taxation. A new Fatimid governor overturned the measures, but only after the community was forced to pay hefty bribes.

Hebrew, paper, Damascus, c. 1050 CE

T-S 13J26.13