Letter from End of Napoleon's Campaign in Palestine, Jaffa, May, 1799.Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) , Emperor of France, was born in Corisca in 1769. From an early age he was educated in the military arts and proved to be an excellent student. During his military service Bonaparte earned rapid promotion and became known as a daring young officer. In 1796 he was appointed commander of the French army in Italy. Following his victories in the battlefield he was sent in 1798 at the head of a French army, to conquer Egypt on route to capturing India from the British. It was during this expedition that he invaded the Holy Land from the south-west, rapidly gaining control of the coastal trip up to Acre. There Napoleon and his army were stopped at the foot of Acre battlements by the defenders in the city who were led by Jazzar Pasha and backed by a British Naval Force.

Despite Napoleons two month-long siege of Acre starting March 19, 1799, he did not succeed in seizing the city and thus on May 22, 1799 decided on a retreat from Acre and from the Holy Land altogether. During his campaign Napoleon’s army was struck down by plague. When he retreated he left behind hundreds of wounded and dying men. Napoleon returned to France, where he was hailed as a conquering hero. His defeat in Acre had but little influence on his further glorious career.

According to Napoleon-

“…At the gates of Acre my luck ran out…”

“It wasn’t a pleasant journey. It would have been better if I had stayed in Egypt. Today I would be the Emperor of the East…”

(From the book “Journal de Saint Helene 1815/1818” by A. Gourgoud.)

Tracks to the Promised Land- Selected Maps of the Holy Land, University of Florida, 2003.

Excerpt from Napoleon’s Letter to the Jews

Letter to the Jewish Nation from the French Commander-in-Chief Buonaparte.

General Headquarters, Jerusalem, 1st Floreal, April 20th, 1799, in the year of 7 of the French Republic.

Buonaparte to the rightful heirs of Palestine-

“Israelites, unique nation, whom, in thousands of years, lust of conquest and tyranny have been able to deprive only of their ancestral lands, but not of name and national existence…”

In 1816 Napoleon said about this letter- “My primary desire was to liberate the Jews and make them full citizens. I wanted to confer upon them all the legal rights of equality, liberty and fraternity as was enjoyed by the Catholics and Protestants. It is my wish that the Jews be treated like brothers as if we were all part of Judaism.”