As an exhibition on the Jews of Algeria opens in Paristo mark the 50th anniversary of their exodus when Algeria acquired its independence from France, Elder of Ziyon has found this astonishing diary entry by one Signor Pananti – reminding us of how things were for the Jews in 1818 before the French invasion:
“The unhappy sons of Israel, so badly treated in other countries, can
expect little indulgence from the barbarians ; consequently there is no species of outrage or vexation to which they are not exposed. They are prohibited from writing or speaking Arabic, to prevent their being able to read the divine Koran. They cannot ride on horseback,
but are obliged to go on mules and asses ; the first being too noble an
animal for them. When passing a mosque, they are obliged to go
bare-footed. They dare not approach a well or fountain, if there be a Moor drinking there ; or sit down opposite a Mahometan. Their clothing Is obliged to be black ; which colour is held in contempt by the Moors.
The Jewish women are only permitted to veil a part of their features.
The indolent Moor, with a pipe in his mouth and his legs crossed, calls
any Jew who is passing, and makes him perform the offices of a servant. Others amuse themselves by smearing
the hands, visage, hair, and clothes of the Jewish boys, with paint or
mud ; while the Turkish soldiers often enter their houses, insulting the
females, without the heads of the family having the privilege of desiring them to retire.
“It is the business of Jews to execute all criminals, and afterwards bury their bodies. They are also employed to carry the Moors on their shoulders, when disembarking in shoal water.
They feed the animals of the seraglio, and are incessantly exposed to
the scoffings and derision of the young Moors, without the possibility
of resenting it. Frequently beaten by their persecutors, if they lift a hand in their own defence, agreeable to the lex talionis of the Moors, it is taken off.
“But that which is still more irksome, is the never ending contributions
levied on them : the weekly sum of two thousand dollars is exacted as a
general tax upon the whole tribe, besides various other individual
assessments, particularly whenever any Moorish festival takes place.
The Turks insist on borrowing money even by force ; and contrary to the
European maxim, it is not he who forgets to pay, that is incarcerated,
but the man who refuses to lend! A Jew cannot leave the regency without giving security to a large amount for his return.
If any of the sect become bankrupts, and there happens to be a Turkish
creditor, he is almost invariably accused of fraudulency and hung.
Woe to those, who attempt to complain on such occasions : which is no
trifling aggravation of their sufferings. There was once an imposition
laid on fountains; upon which a poet wrote the following address: ” You
are loaded with imposts like us; but more happy than we — you are at
least allowed to murmur.”
“It is, however, astonishing with what stoical fortitude all this is
borne by the followers of Abraham ; many of whom, underan appearance of
the greatest poverty, accumulate large fortunes. ” It is true,” said a
Jew, on my asking how he could remain in a country, where he suffered so
many vexations; ” we suffer a great deal; but then what money we
The exhibition at the Musee d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaisme in Paris runs until 27 January 2013