Jewish Minority Communities

From the book Minorities in the Arab World , A.H. Hourani. Oxford University Press, 1947.  

The book is a survey that covers ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities in Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. These countries formed part of the Ottoman Empire for many centuries and the majority of their populations is Arabic in language and therefore to a great extent in culture.            
These are religious minorities that have resided here or in other parts of the Middle East before coming to these countries, and are nationals of these countries.  

The Jews may be divided into orthodox Jews and semi-Judaic sects: 

(1) The Orthodox or Rabbanite Jews are those whose religious beliefs are based upon the Old Testament as interpreted and applied in the Talmud. Judaism has no official creed and therefore no division into sects.  There are, however, certain differences of practice and tradition between the Ashkenazi Jews form Europe who immigrated to Palestine and elsewhere in recent decades, the Sephardic or Spanish speaking Jews whose ancestors were expelled form Spain in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and the various Oriental communities, long resident in the Arab countries, or immigrants from North Africa, Yemen, Iran and Central Asia. 

(2) The Karaites split off from the main body of Judaism in the eighth century AD. Their sect originated in Baghdad and gradually spread into Syria, Egypt and the Crimea. They aimed at returning to primitive Judaism by going behind the Talmud and oral traditions to the Scriptures. Accordingly, they rejected the claims of the Rabbis to interpret the Scriptures. They also differ from the Rabbanite Jews on various points of conduct. 

(3) The Samaritans accept only the Pentatuch and claim to be repositories of orthodox Judaism. They do not acknowledge the claims f the priesthood and gradually developed their own theology and tradition. Until the time of the Maccabees, their relations with the Jews were very close but subsequently they became hostile. Their religious practices are based solely upon the Mosaic law and differ considerably from those of the Jews. Their language was a dialect of Aramaic. Hebrew is now the liturgical, Arabic the popular and literary language. Part of their religious literature is still in existence.