Three Centuries Ago, Jewish Gravestones Were Used to Repair a Historic Landmark. In the 1960s, They Were Desecrated a Second Time

In 1960, the Italian city of Ferrara undertook the renovation of the columns that flank the entrance to the ducal palace—which are among the city’s most important architectural landmarks. Workers soon discovered that one of the columns had been constructed using 36 fragments of local Jewish tombstones from the 16th and 17th centuries. Henry Abramson writes:

A noted patron of the arts, [the 15th-century duke Borso D’Este] and his immediate successors also made Ferrara a haven for Jews, especially those expelled from Spain and refugees from the Inquisition in Italian territories to the south. Under the House of Este, Jewish life flourished in Ferrara 1598, when the Papal States exerted control over the northern Italian city. The Jewish badge was instituted shortly thereafter, and Ferrarese Jews who once lived and worked throughout the city found themselves shut in the confines of yet another ghetto.

The column was first erected in the 1450s, and it had stood for over 200 years before it was heavily damaged by a fire on December 23, 1716. A chronicler of the period, Nicolò Baruffaldi, mentions that Marquis Francesco Sacrati secured the stones from the Jewish graveyards, “paying in full for their value to the masters of the ghetto.” It is highly unlikely that the Jewish community would have willingly surrendered the gravestones of their ancestors, especially since many of the graves belonged to people the contemporary Ferrarese Jews would have actually known—the grandparents and even parents of the generation alive at the time.

As Abramson explains, there is evidence of the confiscation of Jewish tombstones in contemporary Jewish records, although there is no extant mention of those used for the column. He adds:

Amazingly, [the fragments] were not returned to the Jewish community; they were rather put back into the column where they remain to this day. In fact, they were desecrated still further, with pieces removed and discarded to make room for a reinforced concrete core to protect the column from seismic activity (a devastating earthquake had hit Ferrara in 1570, which Pope Pius V blamed on the Este family for their historic protection of the Jews).

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Catholic Church, Italian Jewry, Jewish cemeteries

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror