A total of 200 years of Sarajevo Purim will be celebrated next year in Sarajevo, and Jewish historian Eli Tauber wants to make sure that all the efforts of Zeki Effendi are never forgotten.
A specific event happened in the history of Jews from Sarajevo when the most prominent people of Sarajevo liberated Mose Danon and a dozen other prominent Jews from prison on November 4, 1819.
Despite faded inscription, the tomb of Zeki Effendi represents a story of the centuries-long cooperation of Jews and Muslims. This story seems to be almost forgotten. Tauber believes that it is the only Jewish grave that contains inscription on Arabic, Hebrew, and Latin language.
“One story that Effendi managed to preserve is the story of Sarajevo Purim,” noted Tauber.
During the year of 1819, the Governor of Bosnia that was under the rule of Ottoman Empire back then, Ruzdi Pasha, detained and threatened to kill several Jews in case that the Jewish community refuses to pay a large amount of ransom money.
A representative of the Jewish community went all over the city the night before the planned execution and asked prominent Muslims to do something to stop executions.
“Since the greedy pasha was planning to execute prisoners at dawn, the angry citizens of Sarajevo, about 3,000 of them, broke into pasha’s palace and liberated the prisoners,” wrote Zeki Effendi.
But that was not the end. Tauber said that 249 prominent Muslims from Sarajevo wrote a letter and sent it to Sultan Mahmoud II, in which they requested from him to replace Ruzdi Pasha. Sultan received their letter and replaced pasha.
Cooperation between Jews and Muslims is not just a reminder of the ancient history of Bosnia. More than 12,000 Jews lived in Sarajevo during the 1930’s, and they made about 20 % of the total population. About 2,000 Jews lived in the rest of BiH. During the World War II, the Holocaust almost completely destroyed Jewish people in BiH.
However, as Tauber remembered, some Jews managed to escape from Sarajevo thanks to the help of local Muslims who disguised their Jewish neighbours in hijabs, typical Muslim clothes, in order to get them out of the city.
The situation was reversed during the aggression on BiH in the early 1990’s. Bosnian Serbs surrounded the capital of Sarajevo, and Jewish people organized convoys in which Jews as well as Muslims and other citizens who wanted to leave the city managed to do so. Tauber also added that, according to his own research, about 1,500 Muslims managed to leave the city through Jewish convoys.