During the First Crusade, Jews Did Not Go Like Lambs to the Slaughter

In 1095, Pope Urban II called for the First Crusade to wrest Jerusalem from Muslim rule. To some Christians, it seemed unnecessary to travel great distances to fight infidels when there were infidels to attack in their own towns and villages. Thus in 1096 brutal mob violence was unleashed on the Jews of northwestern Europe, and especially the Rhineland. Leading rabbis among the survivors later composed kinot, or dirges, replete with complex biblical and talmudic allusions, to commemorate the resulting destruction. These have since been incorporated into the liturgy of the Ninth of Av—observed this coming Sunday—on which Jews mourn the destruction of the two temples and other national calamities.

In conversation with Nachi Weinstein, the historian Ephraim Kanarfogel explains the context and background of the massacres of 1096, how rabbis addressed the halakhic and moral predicaments they created, the kinot literature they gave rise to, and the ways they were interpreted through the theological lens of the binding of Isaac. He also dismantles the myth that European Jews went like proverbial lambs to the slaughter; in fact, there were instances where Jews—sometimes led by their rabbis—took up arms against their oppressors. (Audio, 62 minutes.)

Read more at Seforim Chatter

More about: Anti-Semitism, Crusades, Hebrew poetry, Jewish Thought, Medieval Jewry, Tisha b'Av

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict