The Crusades and modern anti-Semitism – Tisha B’Av Kinah #22

קינה כב – 22

The Crusades and Modern anti-semitism

“החרישו ממני ואדברה”   

“Be Silent and do not answer me so that I may speak”

Unknown author if kinnah #22,  who was a survivor of a massacred Jewish community. Describes the tragedy of parents slaughtering their own children al Kiddush Hashem, in order to save them from torture by the enemy. Torah scholars were murdered,   ספרים (holy books) were burned. Who are these enemies who perpetrated these criminal acts?

This probably occurred during the first crusade by the Christians led by Pope Urban II (1096-1099). The crusades orignated in France and Germany by the Roman Catholic Church, in order to conquer and free the Land of Israel from the Moslems. They captured Yerushalyim in 1099 and managed to kill and expel the Moslem and Jewish inhabitants.

With this background, let’s review some events in France and Brittan:

  • (Huffington Post 2015, Simone Rodan- Benzaquen) ” For more than 10 years, the Jews of France have been living in a state of anxiety. They no longer recognize France, the Republic they love, the country of human rights and of universalism. They see the resurgence of a dark side of the French experience that they had thought was eradicated forever.
  • Anti-semitism is again showing its violent face. Over the course of the past decade France had never had less than 400 anti-Semitic acts a year, including the brutal murder of Ilan Halimi by the “gang of Barbarians” in 2006 and the massacre at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse in 2012. And then there was the outrage in May in neighboring Belgium, where yet another Frenchman, Mehdi Nemmouche, committed atrocious murders.
  • In France, Jewish community leaders and concerned politicians had to work hard to get the reality of anti-semitic violence recognized. But today, the warning signals are on everywhere in Europe. To simply admit the problem is not enough anymore.
  • With this in mind, the American Jewish Committee, held a seminar on the topic to gain a better understanding of the sources of anti-Semitism in France and to develop clear policy recommendations.
  • The results give cause for grave concern. 25% of French people think that Jews have too much power in the economy and in finance; 22 % say that Jews have too much power in the media; 35 % are of the opinion that Jews use their status as victims of the Holocaust in their own interest; and 16 % think there is a global Zionist conspiracy. Even worse, 14 % of French people consider the attacks against the Jewish community that took place during the summer –including the targeting of synagogues and Jewish-owned shops, and the shouting of vile anti-Semitic slogans during anti-Israel demonstrations – understandable.
  • (The Guardian 2015, Ben Quinn) “Nearly 50% of the British population agreed with one of four antisemitic statements presented to them according to a new poll, which found that 13% of those surveyed believe that Jewish people use the Holocaust as a means of gaining sympathy. It also found that 39% Britons believed that Jews chase money more than other British people.
  • The research by YouGov was commissioned by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA), a network of activists in the UK which said that Britain was at a “tipping point” and warned that anti-Semitism would grow unless it was met by “zero tolerance”.
  • The group also carried out its own separate survey of British Jews, which found that 54% feared they had no future in the UK and that a 25% had considered leaving the country.
  • The CAA described the research as “a wake-up call” following the terror attacks in France, in which the victims included 4 Jewish men who were killed in a Paris Kosher supermarket.
  • Jonathan Sacerdoti, a spokesman for the campaign group, said: “Jewish people have contributed to almost every part of British life, yet rising anti-Semitism here and across Europe means that now more than ever Jews are afraid. Some are even reconsidering their future here.
  • 17% felt Jews thought they were better than other people and had too much power in the media, while 11% claimed Jews were not as honest in business as other people.
  • One in five believed their loyalty to Israel made British Jews less loyal to the UK.
  • He added that the CAA had embarked on the research as it was aware that many Jewish people had been saying that they felt increasingly uneasy and it was felt that a “tipping point” had been reached over the Summer. Approximately 269,000 Jewish people live in Britain, making up 0.4% of the population.
  • The number of antisemitic attacks in the UK last year was highest recorded in the past three decades. The Community Security Trust, which records attacks on the Jewish community in the UK, found there had been a 36% rise in the total number of antisemitic incidents, including violent crime and vandalism, to 304 between January and June. That was followed by 130 incidents in July alone, which coincided with the Israeli military offensive in Gaza.
  • The CAA’s own survey of the of 2,230 British Jews found that 56% felt that anti-Semitism in Britain has some echoes of the 1930s, which rose to 64% of Jewish people in the north of England.
  • Some 58% were concerned that Jews may not have no long-term future in Europe, while some 45% felt their family was threatened by Islamist extremism.
  • Last year saw a 20% increase in British immigrants to Israel, according to the Jewish Agency. However, it contrasts with the much large rate of departure from France, where the number of French Jews leaving for Israel more than doubled the total from 2013.”

The Crusades

Now let us return to the crusades in the setting of this kina:

After the Roman Empire disappeared, the Christian Church took over. Pope Urban II who was a native of France, born Odo of Châtillon or Otho de Lagery. He is best known for initiating the First Crusade (1096–1099). In his sermon the Pope declared:

“A grave report has come has come from the lands of Jerusalem and from the city of Constantinople that a people from the kingdom of the Persians, a foreign race, a race absolutely alien to God…has invaded the land…”

(Rabbi Ken Spiro, The Crusades turned into campaigns of slaughter, rape, and pillage to the Jews in the way. The Crusades mark the first large-scale European mob violence directed against Jews which became the pattern for the next hundreds of years. The later pogroms are just going to be a repeat of this idea.

The Jews were not the only victims of the Crusaders. Muslims were. (Why do Arabs paint the doors of their houses blue to this day? To ward off the evil eye. Why blue? One explanation is that it was the color of the blue-eyed northern Europeans that came to slay them.)

There were altogether ten Crusades covering a swath of time between the 11th through the 13th centuries:

  • The First Crusade, 1095-1099, saw the taking of Jerusalem from the Muslims, the slaughter of both the Muslim and Jewish populations of the city, and the establishment of the Crusader-run Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (which lasted only until 1187).

In the first crusade an armed force of 15,000 ― including 5,000 knights and the rest infantry ― set off wearing a large red cross on their outer garments (hence their name Crusaders from the Latin word meaning “cross,” though they called themselves “pilgrims”). They marched from South France to Constantinople.

As they were marching along the way , they got the idea that they might as well get rid of the infidels in their midst ― namely the Jews.

This is how about 30%-50% of the Jewish community of Europe met its end. Some 10,000 Jews of an estimated population of about 20,000-30,000 were slaughtered by Crusaders mobs.

The French nobleman Godfrey du Bouillon. Godfrey ― plus Raymond of Guilles, Raymond of Flanders, and Robert of Normandy ― besieged the gates of Yerushalayim which at that time had a significant population of Jews. Their forces breached the walls and poured into the city.

Hip Hip Hurray ! = Destroy the Jews!

Incidentally, the Crusader cry of “Hep! Hep!” originated at this time. It was an acronym for the Latin of “Jerusalem Has Fallen.” “Hieroslyma Est Perdita” which means “Jerusalem is fallen” or “Jerusalem is lost”. With time it became “Hip, Hip, Hooray!” ― a cheer that Jews should never use !

What happened after the Crusaders entered the city of Yerushalayim (screaming “Hep! Hep!”) ?

We have one account from Ibn Al Kalanisi, the Moslem chronicler, describing hair-raising behavior of unnecessary brutality:

Thousands of men, women and children were slaughtered. The poor Jews had all huddled together in a synagogue and this is where the Crusaders found them, set the place on fire, and burned them alive.

One of the Crusaders, Raymond of Aguilers joyfully recounted:

With the fall of Yerushalayim and its towers one could see marvelous work. Some of the pagans were mercifully beheaded, others pierced by arrows plunged from towers, and yet others, tortured for a long time, were burned to death in searing flames. Piles of heads, hands and feet lay in the houses and streets, and men and knights were running to and fro over corpses.

The Crusaders, once they conquered Jerusalem, embarked on a vast building effort all over Israel. The ruins of the many fortresses and churches they built can be seen today.

The Crusaders established special orders of military monks to look after this kingdom. The Knights Templars were stationed on the Temple Mount (hence their name). Interestingly, Knights Templars did not destroy the Dome of the Rock. Why? They thought it was the “Temple of Solomon,” and that the nearby Al Aksa mosque was the “Palace of Solomon.”

So what did they do? They turned the El Aksa mosque, as well as the vaulted space below the mosque, into a monastery. Consistent with their other errors, they called this space, which had been built by Herod ― “Solomon’s Stables”.

These so-called stables have been recently been renovated by the Muslim Wakf , and then transformed it into another mosque which the government of Israel is powerless to stop.


The Knights Hospitalers were supposed to provide hospitality to the large numbers of Christian pilgrims who would come and visit the Christian holy sites in Yerushalyim, and to care for the sick among them. (Thus we see the word for hospital is a Christian word).

The Knights Hospitalers built their main complex near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Another complex ― consisting of church, hospice and hospital ― was built in what is today the heart of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City Yerushalyim, near the main staircase going down to the Kotel. This ruin has been preserved and is a tourist attraction. Nearby Crusader buildings have been renovated and are in use as apartments, schools and shops.

Needless to say, the Knights Hospitalers did not provide hospitality to Jews. In fact, they brought in Christian Arab tribes to help populate the city with Christians. Jews were forbidden under Christian rule to live in Yerushalayim.

But Jews always yearned to be part of the holy city. One such Jew, who braved the Crusader occupation of the Holy Land, was none other than Yehudah HaLevi (The Kuzari). Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi managed to reach the city, but was trampled to death by a Christian Arab horseman.

Today we see ruins from the Crusader period all over Israel. Some massive and impressive. When one should happen to visit any of these sites, keep in mind while admiring them, what the Crusaders did to the Jews.

“לא זכינו לגדלכם לתורה, נקריבכם כעולה והקטרה – referring to their children:

we did not merit to raise you for the Torah, instead we must offer you as a sacrifice like a olah karban, caused to go up in smoke before Hashem

תנקם דם הנשפך כמים המגרים – we beseech Hashem:

Avenge the blood poured out like water, flowing downhill!

About the Author
Arie E. Pelta, M.D., a Board Certified General and Colorectal Surgeon from the USA , made aliyah with his wife and 7 children in 2013. He is also a active Medical Corps Officer holding the rank of Captain in the IDF Reserves. Currently practicing in Laniado Hospital in Netanya and at Assuta Medical Center in Tel Aviv, part of the Assia Medical group; speciaizing in the surgical care of all problems of the colon, rectum and anus.
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