Monday, February 10, 2014

Killing Jews in the Crusades Over Jerusalem

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                  

The European Middle Ages are marked by the many crusades of Christian rulers to win Palestine from the Moslems.  Mohammad had died in 632 and by 638 the city of Jerusalem  had fallen to the Caliph Omar who set up a place of prayer in the Jew's 2nd Temple esplanade.  this was rebuilt in 691 as the Dome of the Rock by the Umayyad caliph Abd-el Malik.  Under Arab rule, the Jews were allowed to return; but the city began to decay after the transfer of the center of Abbasid rule to Baghdad in 750.  The Fatimids in the 11th century built the 2nd main mosque, the El-Aksat, on the Temple site.  In 1099, Jerusalem was stormed by the Crusaders under Godfrey of Bouillon. He made it a capital, which it had been  for the Jews, but for the Christians it was the capital of the Latin Kingdom.

The first Crusade caused by the stimulation of religious passion resulted in the deaths of many Jews.
1096-1099:  The 1st Crusade led to attacks on Jews in northern France and especially in the Rhineland where massacres happened in the cities of Mainz, Worms, Speyer, Cologne, and others.  Similar attacks took place in Prague and later in Salonica where the reports of the Crusade started a messianic ferment.

1099:  Jerusalem was captured.  Jews and Karaites were massacred because of it.  A Crusading Kingdom was established which led to toleration being extended to the Jews.
1147-1149:  The 2nd Crusade.  This was organized to succor the Crusading Kingdom and similar outbreaks happened in France and the Rhineland as the result of the agitation of Rudolf, a monk.  At the outset of this Crusade, the Pope urged that the debts of Crusaders to the Jews should be remitted.
1187 found the Ayyubid sultan,  Saladin,  retaking the city for Islam again and it remained in Moslem hands till the middle of the 13th century.  

1189-1192:  The 3rd Crusade: Jews had lived in York since 1170.   This one had wide support in England where it led to attacks by the Crusaders on the Jews in many places, especially York in 1190.  "July 1189 when King Henry II, a protector of the Jews, died. Richard I was crowned his heir and he refused to grant Jewish representative admission to Westminster Abbey, when they came to offer him gifts. Riots were started and mobs threw stones at the Jews and burned the straw roofs of their houses. Many Jews were murdered, some allowed themselves to be baptized. Twenty-four hours later, Richard I found out about the riots and ordered that the Jews be protected.  As soon as Richard I left to join the Crusade in 1190, riots began again throughout England. In March 1190, a mix of Crusaders, barons indebted to the Jews, those envious of Jewish wealth and clergymen conspired to kill the Jews of York. They burned several houses and approximately 150 Jews fled to the royal castle in York. Led by Richard Malebys, a noble indebted to the Jews, the mob besieged the castle. The Jews had little rations and many killed themselves. On March 16, the citadel was captured and those Jews left alive were murdered. The mob then stole the records of debts to Jews from a nearby cathedral and burned them."

 Another story that surfaced was that on the Sabbath before Passover on March 16, 1190, the York Jews, headed by Rabbi Yom-Tov of Joigny, were surrounded by armed men  in the Castle Keep by a bloodthirsty mob and killed one another rather than surrender.

 Later crusades involved the Jews only incidently.  A small community was re-established later and continued until another expulsion was ordered in 1290.   Few Jews live there today.
1320:  The 4th Crusade or The Shepherds' Crusade, resulted in wide attacks on the Jews in southern France and northern Spain.  The crusades were said to have begun the age of unmitigated suffering for medieval Jewry.  They helped to displace the Jewish merchants from their former favored position and thus stimulated the economic decline of the Jews.  The good side of it all was that there was a demand for credit on the part of the participants and this stimulated Jewish financial operations in some countries of Europe.

In the Mameluke Period of the 14th to 15th centuries, many new buildings were erected and the water supply was improved.  Under Ottoman rule of the last 400 years it decayed, till in the 18th to 19th centuries, the city reached its nadir.  Its population sank below 10,000 and part of its area lay in ruins.  The Jewish community, destroyed by the Crusaders and almost non-existent in the 13th century, was reinforced by pious immigrants from many lands, especially after 1492 when Spain expulsed them.

Resource:  The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia

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