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The day Napoleon entered the Holy Land and promised to rebuild Israel for the Jewish people


On this day in history, February 25, 1799, French leader Napoleon Bonaparte captured Gaza, subsequently moving north along the coastal plain and defeating Ottoman governor Jazzar Pasha’s troops at Jaffa and Haifa, before retreating back to Egypt after the siege on Acre.

The online Jewish Virtual Library wrote that following the campaign in the Ottoman-ruled territory, the official newspaper of the French government “Le Moniteur Universel” published a manifesto declaring that Napoleon had promised that all Jews would be able to return to their homeland, in the ancient territory of the Israelites.

“Bonaparte has published a proclamation in which he invites all the Jews of Asia and Africa to gather under his flag in order to re-establish the ancient Jerusalem. He has already given arms to a great number, and their battalions threaten Aleppo,” the translation read.

The online encyclopedia raises doubts however whether the French emperor actually made such a statement. With the defeat of the French in Syria, the plan could never be carried out anyway.

Regardless, the military leader, who was raised a Catholic but  who never really practiced his faith, played a crucial role in improving the status of the Jews in his empire, as well as the status of other religious minorities, such as Protestants in Catholic countries and Catholics in Protestant countries. He emancipated the Jews from the ghettos and established laws granting all citizens freedom of religion and free exercise of worship, provided that it did not contradict public order.

Historian Rabbi Berel Wein said the he believes that Napoleon’s actions were intended to assimilate the Jews. Canadian Napoleonic scholar Ben


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