Jezzar Pasha

Jezzar Pasha

Jezzar Pasha, in Acre, at court. Print from about year 1800.
Entrance to Al-Jezzar Mosque, Acre, Israel

Ahmed al-Jezzar (Arabic: أحمد الجزار‎; Turkish: Cezzar Ahmet Paşa; 1708/1720 – 1804) was a Ottoman Bosnian ruler of Acre and the Galilee from 1775 until his death.


Jezzar Pasha was a Christian slave from Herzegovina who, escaping after committing a murder, sold himself to 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 hit-man. 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 sometimes also that of Damascus. He set up his capital in Acre after the fall of Dhaher al-Omar. He earned the nickname "the Butcher" for his bravery and powerful effort to defeat his enemies.[1] He is reputed to have walked around with a mobile gallows in case anyone displeased him.[2]

Hostility to non-Muslims

Under his rule, Christians were forced to accept Islam.[3] He oppressed minorities in Palestine including Christians (who were massacred) and Jews.[4][5]

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.[6]

Defense of Acre

Jazzar Pasha is best known for defending Acre against Napoleon Bonaparte during the siege of Acre in 1799.[7] 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 too, who sailed to Acre and helped the Turkish commander reinforce the defences and old walls and supplied him with additional cannon 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.

Building activity

With the help of his chief financial adviser, Haim Farhi, a Damascus Jew, Jezzar 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 Jezzar Pasha was the mosque that bears his name, a massive building in the Turkish style. Built over a Crusader church, the al-Jezzar Mosque 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-Jezzar and his adopted son and successor Suleiman Pasha, were buried in the courtyard.[2] Abdullah Pasha, his other son, served as a governor of the Sidon Eyalet.


  1. ^ Egypt, 1798-1952
  2. ^ a b Acre - Past and Future
  3. ^ Alfred Clark, "The finding of Lot's wife," p. 186 (F. A. Stokes Company, 1896, 314 pp.)
  4. ^ Ferdinand Geramb, "A pilgrimage to Palestine, Egypt and Syria," p. 5 (freiherr von., 1840).
  5. ^ Jacob De Haas, "History of Palestine: the last two thousand years," p. 301 (The Macmillan company, 1934, 523 pp.)
  6. ^ David Dolan, "Holy War for the Promised Land: Israel at the Crossroads," p. 51 (B&H Publishing Group, 2003, 280 pp.)
  7. ^ The Ottoman Centuries: Peace and Stagnation

External links

  • The Jews in Palestine in the 18th CenturyJezzar Pasha and the Jews,
  • , 1821, James BuckinghamTravels in PalestineDescription of the town of Acre,
Preceded by
Dhaher al-Omar
ruler of Galilee
Succeeded by
Suleiman Pasha