a1 Hebrew University, Jerusalem
There have been various anthropological conceptions concerning cultural minorities in the traditional Middle East. One model, the cultural mosaic (Coon 1958), stresses the cultural and religious autonomy of groups in contrast to their interdependence in the marketplace. Another view emphasizes the dominance of Islamic culture which clearly leaves its imprint on the culturally variant groups in its midst (Patai 1971). Both of these viewpoints are useful as starting points, but both oversimplify and overstate the case. The first implies extreme, and hence implausible, separation between the world of work and the rest of social life. The second views the processes of cultural influence in too mechanical a fashion, leaving little room for the dynamics of interaction and reinterpretation of cultural forms in varying milieus. Recent work on Jews and Muslims in Morocco (Rosen 1972; Bowie 1976) has given a more refined picture of the complexities of social contact but has either merged the conceptual level with the interactional, or paid little explicit attention to the intricacies of cultural form. All these views, therefore, ignore the existence of a religious interface and an arena in which cultural forms recognised by both the majority and minority are the subject of “discussion” –agreement and disagreement, negotiation and compromise. We wish to illustrate this point by presenting and analyzing a text dealing with Muslims and Jews in Tripolitania. Our emphasis is on a cultural understanding of the text, not on presenting an example of Jewish-Muslim social interaction.