When Crusaders Massacred European Jews

In 1096, thousands of Western Europeans set off on the First Crusade to conquer Jerusalem from Muslim rule—with devastating effects for Ashkenazi Jewry. Tamar Marvin writes:

Unfortunately, while massing in the Rhineland in preparation for travel east, groups of Christians decided to seize the opportunity to attack the infidels already in their midst: Jews. In northwestern Europe, Jews were practically the only religious minority and their low social status and legal precarity made manifest the Christian claim to supersession. This made them a vulnerable target. Despite some attempts at ensuring Jews’ physical safety on the part of local ecclesiastical officials, Christian mobs succeeded in decimating multiple Rhineland Jewish communities. The extreme violence led Jews to acts of heroism and martyrdom.

Marvin analyzes the chronicles Jews produced to memorialize these massacres, while noting that these were not especially popular texts in their own day:

They did not speak to medieval audiences in the same way that they have reached and touched modern audiences. Instead, the vehicle most meaningful for commemoration for medieval Jews was piyyut—liturgical poetry.

This body of poetry often cast the violence of the Crusades as or against exemplars from Tanakh, in particular, the Akeidah or Binding of Isaac. While literary and refined, there is often a rawness to the piyyut of the Crusades and other paroxysms of violence in Ashkenaz during the period.

Read more at Stories from Jewish History

More about: Anti-Semitism, Crusades, Jewish history, Piyyut


Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security