The Divergence of Judaism and Islam. Interdependence, Modernity, and Political Turmoil

(Joyce) #1
Jewish Imperial Allegiance and the Greco-Ottoman War of 1897 · 31

Jews during the war matched the hopes of their communal leaders per-
fectly and were featured prominently in their publications; most were
organized and orderly acts of patriotic sentiment that met with the ap-
proval of all authorities and evinced Ottoman Jews’ positive identifica-
tion with the state. This positive identification was marked by signs of
gratitude for the empire, which became a great and beneficent protector
in the eyes of many Ottoman Jews. As I will argue here, it also often trans-
lated into special displays of affection for local Muslims. (In the context
of the war, Muslims came to embody the protective force of the empire
more than ever, as they filled the ranks of the Ottoman army.) Through-
out 1897, such acts received continual praise in the pages of the Ladino
and French Jewish newspapers of Salonica and garnered attention even
from local Ottoman papers and representatives. At this time, the city’s
Jewish journalists announced that their coreligionists across the empire
were proving their unflagging loyalty to the state by outdoing their usual
shows of patriotism.
The first notices of active Jewish involvement in the war effort began
to appear in Jewish periodicals of the city, namely, La Epoka (in Ladino)
and the French-language Le Journal de Salonique, in late April, some two
weeks after the official outbreak of hostilities.^9 At this time, the papers re-
counted the story of two Jewish youths from Salonica who volunteered to
fight “alongside their Muslim compatriots” as soon as the pair had heard
the announcements of war. The pages of La Epoka assured readers that
these two young men, reportedly unable to suppress their intense feel-
ings of patriotism, hailed from “honorable Salonican families.” Their re-
quest was met with flattering words by the marshal in charge (Kazım Pa-
sha), and their departure brought an enormous crowd to the train station.
Immediately before leaving, the two were heard shouting out in Turkish,
“Padişahımız çok yaşa!” (Long live our sultan!). The young men’s cries
had come “straight from the bottom of their hearts” and had inspired the
thousands gathered there to repeat the call, readers learned. The article
concluded enthusiastically, noting that over 50 Jewish men had already
applied to volunteer as Ottoman soldiers. The newspaper predicted that
approximately 150 young Jewish men from Salonica would be enlisted
soon, though it did not explain where this number came from.^10
News of Jewish volunteers to the army soon gave way to other news
of Jewish involvement in the war effort in general and support for the
Ottoman army specifically. Jews joined efforts organized by Muslim men,

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