The Tower of London and the Jews

March 22 2023

Constructed in the 11th century, the Tower of London is one of the city’s most distinctive buildings. It also looms large in Jewish history, as Robert Philpot explains:

The first hard evidence of the relationship between Jews and the Tower dates back to 1190. In that year, the constable of the Tower of London—the royal official who was responsible for taxing and protecting Jews in the capital—recorded various receipts from Jews. . . . The powers of the constable were . . . wide-ranging. They included the right to arrest Jews—both in London and elsewhere in the country—and imprison them; to bring Jewish defendants and witnesses to court at the exchequer of the Jews and to enforce judgments against them; and to levy fines against Jews, as well as assist with the collection of . . . taxes.

In September 1189, Jews were offered shelter in the Tower when they came under attack during Richard I’s coronation in London. So serious was the killing that the 12th-century chronicler and diplomat Roger of Howden recorded that only those Jews who hid in the Tower or in the homes of friends escaped death.

The only practicing Jew known to have worked at the Tower was Jurnet, the son of Abraham, who was employed as a sergeant. Ironically, he had had a previous spell at the fortress, when he was imprisoned there for tax arrears.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Anglo-Jewry, Anti-Semitism, Jewish history, London

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan