This article concerns the place of late Ottoman Jews in Palestine on the eve of the 1948 War. It focuses on Israel Ben-Ze'ev (Wolfensohn), a Jerusalem-born educator and Nahda intellectual who led a movement of self-identified native Jews, including both Old Yishuv Ashkenazim and Sephardim, to combat their marginalization by the Zionist institutions. I examine his lifetime struggle to advance the study of Arabic and Arab Jews (yahud ʿarab) under early Islam by creating institutions of knowledge production and educational programs modeled on those he knew from his early academic career in Cairo. It was in the context of these struggles that demands for separate political representation for native Jews and for a specialized field of Arab Jewish studies coalesced as part of a broader project of a shared Arab-Jewish cultural modernization. They culminated in 1948, when Ben-Ze'ev finally realized his Arabic library project, ironically using looted Palestinian books, only to see its destruction four years later by Zionist leaders and Hebrew University professors.
- 1948 Nakba