Ahmed al-Jezzar, or Jazzar Pasha, was initially a Christian slave from Herzegovina who, escaping after committing a murder, sold himself on the slave markets of Constantinople. There he was bought by an Egyptian ruler who converted him to Islam and used him as his chief executioner and assassin. He began his rise as governor of Cairo, but made his name defending Beirut against Catherine the Great's navy. Beirut was honorably surrendered to the Russians after a long siege and the sultan rewarded al-Jazzar with promotion to Governor of Sidon, and at some point also of Damascus. He set up his capital in Acre after the fall of Dhaher al-Omar. He earned the nickname "the Butcher" ("al-Jazzar" in Arabic) for his brutality and bravery in defeating his enemies. He is reputed to have walked around with a mobile gallows in case anyone displeased him.
Hostility to non-Muslims
Historian David Dolan recounts:
Mob violence against the Jews of Hebron broke out in 1775. Safed, which had been restored by a liberal Turkish ruler after the 1660 massacre, was again sacked in 1799. At this time, a sadistic Albanian-born Muslim nicknamed "the Butcher" gained power in the region. He ordered the beheading of any subject who displeased him especially dhimmi (non-Muslim) subjects.
Defense of Acre
Jazzar Pasha is best known for defending Acre against Napoleon Bonaparte during the siege of Acre in 1799. After Napoleon's capture of Egypt, then an Ottoman territory, the French army attempted to invade Syria and Palestine. Although the French captured Al-Arish and Jaffa, and won every battle they fought against the Ottomans on an open field, they were unable to breach the fortifications of Acre. Their army was weakened by disease and cut off from resupply. The success was due to the English Commodore William Sidney Smith and Antoine Le Picard de Phélippeaux, who sailed to Acre and helped the Turkish commander reinforce the defenses and old walls and supplied him with additional cannons manned by sailors and Marines from his ships. Smith also used his command of the sea to capture the French siege artillery being sent by ship from Egypt and to deny the French army the use of the coastal road from Jaffa by bombarding the troops from the sea.
Though both Napoleon and Jazzar requested assistance from the Shihab leader, Bashir, ruler of much of present-day Lebanon, Bashir remained neutral. After several months of attacks, Napoleon was forced to withdraw and his bid to conquer Egypt and the East failed.
With the help of his chief financial adviser, Haim Farhi, a Damascus Jew, Jazzar Pasha embarked on a major building program in Acre that included fortifying the city walls, refurbishing the aqueduct that brought spring water from nearby Kabri, and building a large Turkish bath.
One of the most important landmarks built by Jazzar Pasha was the mosque that bears his name, a massive Turkish-style building. Erected over a Crusader church, the Al-Jazzar Mosque is famous for possessing a hair from the beard of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. It incorporates columns brought from Roman and Byzantine ruins in Caesarea and Tyre, and included a school for Islamic religious studies, later used as a religious court. Al-Jazzar and his adopted son and successor Suleiman Pasha (Acre) were buried in the courtyard. Abdullah Pasha, his other son, served as a governor of the Sidon Eyalet.
- Egypt, 1798-1952
- Acre - Past and Future
- Ferdinand Geramb, "A pilgrimage to Palestine, Egypt and Syria," p. 5 (freiherr von., 1840).
- Jacob De Haas, "History of Palestine: the last two thousand years," p. 301 (The Macmillan company, 1934, 523 pp.)
- David Dolan, "Holy War for the Promised Land: Israel at the Crossroads," p. 51 (B&H Publishing Group, 2003, 280 pp.)
- The Ottoman Centuries: Peace and Stagnation
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jezzar Pasha.|
- Jezzar Pasha and the Jews, The Jews in Palestine in the 18th Century
- Description of the town of Acre, Travels in Palestine, 1821, James Buckingham
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