For the Jews of Frankfurt, a Second Purim Once Celebrated a 17th-Century Anti-Semitic Riot

Feb. 26 2019

Few Jewish communities managed to preserve and document their local customs as thoroughly as did the community of Frankfurt-am-Main, one of the oldest in northern Europe. Among these customs is the celebration of a second Purim, just six days after the regular holiday. Josh Weiner writes:

In 1614, a local baker and troublemaker named Vincent Fettmilch, who, [in the Jews’ telling] considered himself to be the “New Haman,” led the city guilds in an uprising against the Holy Roman emperor Matthias. Included in their demands for lower taxes were also demands for fewer Jews in town and lower interest rates on Jewish loans.

When the emperor ignored or rejected the demands of the city guilds, Fettmilch led a mob to ransack the Jewish quarter of Frankfurt, burning, fighting, and pillaging until the entire Jewish population was forced to flee. Two years later, in February 1616, Emperor Matthias had Vincent Fettmilch and five of the other rebels hanged, and the Jews were allowed to return to the city in safety. The proximity of the hanging to Purim that year, as well as the resonances of the Purim story [which ends with the hanging of the wicked Haman after his plan to slaughter Persian Jewry], encouraged the community to celebrate the return as a mini-redemption, with special songs and a long poetic retelling of the story in Judeo-German called Megilas Vints [the “Scroll of Vincent,” after the Hebrew term for the book of Esther, read on Purim].

Frankfurt is not alone. In many Jewish communities throughout history, local episodes of near-destruction and sudden salvation have been marked along the lines of Purim. Reading through the history books one discovers hints of Purim Narbonne, Cairo Purim, Purim Hebron, Purim of Saragossa, and the four Purims of Ancona, Italy, to mention just a few.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, German Jewry, Purim, Religion & Holidays

 

Despite What the UN Says, the Violence at the Gaza Border Is Military, Not Civilian, in Nature

March 22 2019

On Monday, a UN Human Rights Council commission of inquiry issued its final report on last spring’s disturbances at the Gaza border. Geoffrey Corn and Peter Margulies explain why the report is fatally flawed:

The commission framed the events [in Gaza] as a series of demonstrations that were “civilian in nature.” Israel and its Supreme Court, [which has investigated some of the killings that occurred], framed the same events quite differently: as a new evolution in Israel’s ongoing armed conflict with the terrorist organization Hamas. Consistency and common sense suggest that the Israeli High Court of Justice’s framing is a more rational explanation of what occurred at the Israel-Gaza border in spring 2018.

Kites, [for instance], played a telltale role [in the violence]. When most people think of kites, they think of a child’s plaything or a hobbyist’s harmless passion. In the Gaza confrontation, kites [became] a new and effective, albeit low-tech, tactic for attacking Israel. As the report conceded, senior Gaza leaders, including from Hamas, “encouraged” the unleashing of waves of incendiary kites that during and since the spring 2018 confrontations have burned thousands of acres of arable land within Israel. The resulting destruction included fires that damaged the Kerem Shalom border crossing, which conveys goods and gasoline from Israel to Gaza. . . .

Moreover, the incendiary-kite offensive was an effective diversion from the efforts encouraged and coordinated by Hamas last spring to pierce the border with Israel and attack both IDF personnel and the civilian residents of the beleaguered Israeli towns a short distance from the border fence. . . .

The commission also failed to acknowledge that Hamas sought to use civilians as an operational cover to move members of its armed wing into position along the fence. For IDF commanders, this increased the importance of preventing a breach [in the fence]. Large crowds directly along the fence would simplify breakthrough attempts by intermingled Hamas and other belligerent operatives. The crowds themselves also could attempt to pour through any breach. Unfortunately, the commission seems to have completely omitted any credible assessment of the potential casualties on all sides that would have resulted from IDF action to seal a breach once it was achieved. . . .

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Laws of war, UNHRC, United Nations