important Jewish community; even if Christians, including Latins,81 from the various denominations continued to live there; even if pilgrims continued to flock there from all over the Christian world.
Between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries the churches in Egypt, Syria and Iraq underwent a series of profound upheavals. The process of islamisation turned Islam into the majority religion; political life became dominated by militaristic regimes which were fervently Muslim, despite (or perhaps because of) their reliance on foreign recruits; dhimma status was applied with increasing rigour; the crusades and Latin settlement constituted a challenge to Islam, while the Mongol conquest created a new political order. The different Christian communities did not react in identical ways, but adopted different strategies depending on the time, the place and the setting. Broadly speaking, they attempted to balance the preservation of a distinct identity against the needs of accommodation. On the one hand, the continued use of their own language, or even their own script in the case of karsMnî,82 provided a means of distinguishing themselves from the dominant culture, Arab in language and Muslim in faith, as did keeping alive particular customs and the memory of a rich past -the preservation, in other words, of a cultural heritage - but this sometimes meant withdrawing far from the centres of activity and power. On the other, accommodation required the blurring of cultural boundaries and the promotion of social integration, as quite clearly happened among the urban elite, best documented in the careers ofChristian secretaries and physicians. It made possible the emergence of heavily arabised Christian communities, who had a role to play in the future development of the Near East, but it also favoured conversion to Islam, which, in some sense, was the final stage in the process of assimilation. There was a third solution. This was to seek outside support. The ties established with the papacy and Latin missionaries, the reception of Greek pilgrims and monks at the monastery of St Catherine on Mount Sinai, and the hopes placed in the Mongols when they first arrived on the scene, are all good examples of a strategy which allowed churches to strengthen their position with outside help, but which left them open to the accusation that they were alien to the lands of Islam.
the beginning of the Ottoman period gives 934 heads of families, of whom 616 were Muslim, 199 Jewish and 119 Christian.
81 In the 1330s the Franciscans were authorised to found a monastery on Mount Sion, with responsibilities for the reception of western pilgrims.
82 This is Arabic written in the Syriac script.
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