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

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Introduction · 5

the European Union. Modest progress, such as the 1993 Oslo peace pro-
cess, however encouraging, was short-lived to be interrupted by military
confrontation. Other efforts toward better understanding in the Muslim
milieu and beyond showed no better results and ended in intercommu-
nal animosities, religious extremism, and narrow political interests. At
this juncture, the beginning of the second decade into the twenty-first
century, the situation remains clouded.
The first section of the book, “Common Interests versus Latent and
Overt Tensions,” begins appropriately with Avigdor Levy’s chapter, “Ot-
toman Attitudes toward the Modernization of Jewish Education in the
Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.” This study has a dual purpose: to
assess the extent of modernization through education among the Jews of
the Ottoman Empire, and to show the interdependence and common in-
terests manifested both by the Ottoman authorities and the Jewish com-
munities in promoting modern learning. In the modern schools that they
created, as well as in the French-inspired AIU school network, the Ot-
tomans envisioned the essential vehicle to reinforce European-oriented
reforms aimed at halting their decline vis-à-vis Europe. The AIU schools
depended on the Ottoman administration for granting them legitimacy
to operate their oeuvre throughout the empire in the Jewish milieu. The
Ottomans who needed the influence of the AIU readily obliged. They re-
garded the Jews as loyal forces anxious to achieve social mobility, a vital
element to further Ottoman aspirations.
Julia Phillips Cohen’s “‘Zeal and Noise’: Jewish Imperial Allegiance
and the Greco-Ottoman War of 1897” and Ömer Turan’s “Sharing the
Same Fate: Muslims and Jews in the Balkans” fit well with Levy’s open-
ing chapter. They, too, elaborate upon Judeo-Muslim interdependence
and a sense of common destinies. As shown by Cohen, Jews constituted
the single largest ethno-religious group in Salonica and a smaller but
active minority in Izmir during the late nineteenth century. Cohen cor-
roborates Levy’s findings regarding Ottoman patriotism and loyalty and
explains the motives behind Jewish support for Ottoman Muslims in the
context of the empire’s war with Greece in 1897. In fact, she suggests
that many Jews went so far as to identify with Islam itself during this
period as an expression of their commitment to the empire. This pattern
of Jewish allegiance to multilingual and multireligious empires can be
found elsewhere and is perhaps most notable in the Hapsburg context.
Under the late Ottoman state as well, Jews sometimes even surpassed

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