How a Medieval Jewish Convert Fled Her Own Family and the Crusaders

Among the countless treasures found in the genizah—a depository for discarded documents—in Cairo’s Ben Ezra synagogue are a few fragmentary letters that tell the story of Christian woman who converted to Judaism in the 11th century. Henry Abramson writes:

Held in the remarkable Cairo Genizah collection of Cambridge University, the first letter was transcribed and published in 1931 by the pioneering scholar Jacob Mann (1888-1940) and described how this woman—she is strangely never named—left her wealthy Christian family (probably living in the northwestern region of Normandy) and became a convert to Judaism. She settled in the large Jewish community of Narbonne in the south of France, where she met her husband David, a member of the prominent Todros family, and had three children. Her brothers and others pursued her there, so the young family left the city. This was likely in the fateful summer of 1096.

Beginning in May of that year, a horrific new series of persecutions were unleashed on the Jews of Ashkenazi lands. For months, inspired by the call of Pope Urban II to impose Christian rule on the Holy Land, nobles and peasants alike were planning to make the long march to the land of Israel to defeat the “infidels.” . . . [A] group of frenzied Crusaders made a deathly calculation: why should they endure the arduous journey across land and sea to Israel, when there were unbelievers in their own midst, that is, the Jews?

It seems that David and two of the children—a son named Jacob and a three-year-old girl named Justa—took refuge in the synagogue [when Christians attacked the Jewish community of the village where he and his family lived]. David was murdered, and his children were kidnapped, presumably baptized and never seen again. Our heroine was spared, possibly because she was pregnant, but she and her infant son were left penniless.

The second fragments describe how she makes her way to Cairo, where she gives birth to a daughter. A refugee from the Crusades, she is supported by the community, presumably to the end of her days.


More about: Anti-Semitism, Conversion, Crusades, French Jewry, Middle Ages

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security