SARAJEVO, November 8 (FENA) – Presenting 500-year-long history of good Muslim-Jewish relations in BiH with the aim of promoting their coexistence as an integrative part of Bosnian cultural heritage was the aim of the conference “Coexistence of Jews and Muslims in BiH: 200 Years since the Sarajevo Purim” held at the Gazi Husrev-bey Library in Sarajevo.
The event was an opportunity to confirm once again what Bosnia and Herzegovina is and has always been a state that has witnessed the continuity of the common life of Jews and Muslims for more than 500 years.
Professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies, University of Sarajevo, Enes Karić recalled an incident of 1819 when the Ottoman Vali in Bosnia (governor) Mehmed Ruzdi Pasha imprisoned prominent Sarajevo Jews, among them the Hahambasha (Jewish religious leader) Moshe Danon and ten other prominent Jews and threatened to execute them if the Jewish community did not pay him 500 sacks of coins within two days. Practically, he tried to extort a large sum of money and he imprisoned and threatened them with the death penalty.
Sarajevo’s Islamic leaders were outraged with the Vali’s actions.
A day later, the city’s Muslims organized themselves, broke into the prison and freed the captives.
Since then, Jews in the country mark the Sarajevo Purim each year on November 2.
Thus, Sarajevo Muslims freed their Jewish neighbors and filed a formal complaint against Ruzdi Pasha with the Sultan.
“This event is important because there were horizontal, social and social bonds of friendship among ordinary people. It is good when neighbors of other worldviews or religions save us, deliver us from harm and treat us like human beings,” Karić said in his address.
Culture and Religion Advisor of the Jewish Community in BiH, Eli Tauber said that BiH is special for many things and we have to be aware of the significance of this event.
The Islamic and Jewish communities in BiH have signed an agreement and decided to mark it together and thus affirm the coexistence of Jews and Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Prevented by other obligations, Raisu-l-ulama of the Islamic Community in BiH, Husein Effendi Kavazović was not present at the event but his message was read which said, among other things, that the events we remember in connection to the Sarajevo Purim speak of civic responsibility and courage, Abrahamic unity, neighborly solidarity that we must leave to future generations – those are the values upon which Bosnia was built upon and without which there would be none of us, our past, present and future.
Eli Tauber explained that the story was immortalized by Zeki Effendi, otherwise known as Moshe ben Rafael Atijas, a Bosnian Jew who became a scholar of the Islamic faith.
He explained that, out of about one hundred purims, the Sarajevo Purim is special because Sarajevo’s citizens, Muslims, saved their fellow Jewish citizens from oppression.
Head of the Jewish Community in BiH, Jakob Finci underlines that the story “goes to show and prove that there wasn’t always hate in these parts of the world and that we didn’t always wait for opportunities to get some revenge, but that we lived well, helped each other, we proved that it is possible.”
“Even today, Muslims and Jews live very well in BiH. What confuses the world, divided by conflicts on all possible lines, even religious ones, is that they find it hard to believe that Muslims and Jews in BiH live together, share both good and evil and work together to restore memories from the past, and we are proud of that,” said Jakob Finci.
As part of the conference, the exhibition “200 Years of the Sarajevo Purim”, organized by Eli Tauber, opened today at the Gazi-Husrev-bey Library. It is a result of research by the archives of the Gazi Husrev-bey Library, the Archives in Travnik and the Ottoman State Archives in Istanbul.
The exhibition will be on display at the Museum of the Jews in Sarajevo and the City Hall.