SEDER OLAM - Revisited

סדר עולם - חדש



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Index of names


Generations  1-14
(3760 - 2080 BCE)

Generations 15-21
(2080 - 1240 BCE)

Generations 22-28
(1240 - 400 BCE)

Generations 29-35
(400 BCE - 440 CE)

Generations 36-42
(440 - 1280 CE)

Generations 43-49
(1280 - 2120 CE)

Generation 50

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The Sefer ha-Kabbalah
(4921 AM - 1161 CE)

The Jews of Beziers
(4922 AM - 1162 CE)

The Jews of China
(4923 AM - 1163 CE)

Benjamin of Tudela
(4925 AM - 1165 CE)

The Cathars
(4927 AM - 1167 CE)

(4930 AM - 1170 CE)

Ritual murder in Blois
(4931 AM - 1171 CE)

Third Council of Lateran
(4939 AM - 1179 CE)

The Jews of Toledo
(4940 AM - 1180 CE)

The Jews are expelled from France
(4942 AM - 1182 CE)

Conquest of Jerusalem by Saladin in 1187
(4948 AM - 1187 CE)

Massacre of London
(4949 AM - 1189 CE)

Massacre of York
(4950 AM - 1190 CE)

The Jews of Narbonne
(4950 AM - 1190 CE)

End of the Third Croisade
(4952 AM - 1192 CE)

The Exchequer of the Jews
(4954 AM - 1194 CE)

 Previous <<   Generation 42   >> Next

Hebrew years 4920 to 5040 (1160 - 1280 CE)

--- Part I --- Part II ---

This 42nd Generation falls into the cycle of 7 generations.[7] This generation is however the only one of this cycle of 7 that also falls in a change of millennium since the Creation. This is a generation that witnessed on one hand a drastic increase of persecutions and discriminations against Jewish communities and in another hand a strenghening of the faith with a great number of Jewish scholars, the development of the more mystical Kabbalah and overall better erudition in the Diaspora communities.

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Year 4921 – 1161 CE – The Sefer ha-Kabbalah (the Book of Tradition)

Abraham ibn Daud (nicknamed the Rabad, Rabbi Abraham ben David), born about 1110 in Toledo, Al-Andalus, was a philosopher, astronomer and historian. In 1161, he published a book called Sefer ha-Kabbalah to contradict those who argued against the validity of the Oral Law (the Talmud) and would only accept the Written Law (the Torah). In Jewish philosophy, he derived some of his principles from Aristotle,[1a] and can be considered as a precursor to Maimonides.

The Sefer ha-Kabbalah is particularly interesting for this study because it contains chronological and historical information about the Jewish communities until the current age. About the Biblical and Temples era, it derives its sources from the Seder Olam and from the Talmud.

The book also presents the theory that Jesus was a student of the nassi 
Joshua ben Perachiah at the time of the persecutions of Alexander Jannai against the Pharisees, about 100 BCE.[1b] As we know, all the scholars of the time fled to Egypt before returning to Jerusalem some years later, and this is where Jesus' family also fled at that time.[1c] In Egypt, he would have been taught in the school of the nassi in exile, but then all the Pharisees returned to Judea some years later, after 80 BCE. This is when Jesus, then a yound scholar, returned to Judea too and got himself in trouble for some unknown reason. Except that, if this theory is correct, it would potentially make Jesus the founder of the Essenes sect which, like the Sadducees, fled Jerusalem about 76 BCE, during the regency of Salome. The founder of the Essenes sect is only known in the Dead Sea Scrolls scriptures as the Teacher of Righteousness.[1d] The association of the Essenes, who were the followers of an ascetic leader whose name has strangely disappeared from human memory and who built a community devoid of materialistic ambition, is certainly well fitting the figure of Jesus as Christian tradition has taught it. According to the Book of TraditionJesus died at the age of 36, after the reign of Alexander Jannai, but the reason for the Christian scholars to have positioned the lifetime of Jesus in the time of Herod was to make it a point that his crucifixion was followed a few years later by a divine punishment against the Jews with the destruction of the Second Temple.   

In the Epilogue of the book, the following sentence gives an idea of the extent of the Jewish communities of this time in the Muslim dominion:

You will note that Rabbanite communities extend from the city of Sala [Sale, Western Morocco] at the extreme end of the Maghreb, as far as Taher [Tangiers] at the very beginning of the Maghreb [this is modern-day Morocco and Western/Central Algeria, to the end of Ifriqiya [this is from modern-day Eastern Algeria, to Tunisia and Tripolitana Lybia], Egypt [also included modern-day Eastern Lybia in these days], the Holy Land, Arabia, Iraq, Khuzistan, Fars [Persia], the land of Dedan [Yemen], the land of Girgashite - which is called Jurjan - Tabarestan and al-Daylam, as far as the Volga. In the latter area, there was a nation of Khazars who converted to Judaism and their king Joseph sent a letter to R. Hasdai the nassi ben R. Isaac ben Shaprut informing him that he and all of his people pursue Rabbanite usage scrupulously. (We have also seen some of their descendants in Toledo, scholars who informed us that their legal practice conforms to Rabbanite usage). They are also found in all the islands of the Greek sea from the land of Venice and Genoa as far as Constantinople and Byzantium, as well as of the Slav country, Togarma, France, Apulia, Messena, Sicily, Lombardia as far as the River Rhone and Spain at the extreme end of the Maghreb.
--- Abraham ibn Daud, Book of Tradition, Epilogue, 23-36, translation by Gerson D. Cohen, Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, London, 1967 

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Year 4922 – 1162 CE – The Jews of Beziers

Beziers is a city located in the Southern part of modern-day France. In these times, its control was disputed, like the rest of the Occitan region, by the Count of Toulouse. The clergy used to take side one way or another, and was really the local ruler for some time until Guillaume III came to rule the region from 1159. He then put an end to some practice that the clergy of Beziers had instaured against the Jews whereas, every year at Palm Day, the bishop preached the mob against the Jews and invited them to attack and destroy their borough where they used to live in a part of the city. The perpetrators were given his episcopal blessing before they marched onto the Jewish quarter to destroy, kill or steal in this sacred mission. But the motivation of the new ruler to stop this practice was not humanity or Christian charity: instead he taxed the Jews for him to decree the end of the practice and thus give them his protection. What else could be expected from a landlord? [8]

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Year 4923 – 1163 CE – The Jews of China

Jews arrived in China from Persia well before 1000 CE, probably no later than 200 CE for the earliest ones. The only Jewish settlement was in Kaifeng, capital of the Henan province, which was located on the Silk Road. In 1163, they built their first synagogue. It was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the years, and after a flood in 1852, it remained in ruins.

The Kaifeng synagogue
The Kaifeng synagogue (source: Kaifeng Torah Scroll)

The Jesuit missionary Jean-Paul Gozani had an opportunity to visit this Jewish community in November 1704. He sent a letter to his superior, Joseph Suarez, in Portugal to report what he saw and learned. The contents of this important letter shows that the Jews of Kaifeng had by that time, some 500 years after their arrival in the region, adopted Chinese names of the ritual items. The synagogue was called the Li-pai-sou, the religious books were called the kims, the head of the synagogue or rabbi was called a cham-kiao, the names of God were Tien, Cham-tien and Cham-Ti. The Jews told the missionary that they had adopted Chinese names for their service, so that it would have a meaning to them: they obviously had lost the practice of the Hebrew language as it had happened long ago to the Jews of Alexandria who spoke Greek and had translated the Torah into the Septante. The books of the Torah were however named in Hebrew (for example Bereshit for Genesis), and the rabbi explained that the Torah was divided in 53 [weekly] portions, of which Genesis with12 
portions, Exodus with 11 portions, and then the three next books with 10 portions each. Here are more details extracted from this letter:

These Jews, who are called "Tiao-kin-kiao" in China, who are either Talmudists or not, also maintained several traditions from the Old Testament; for example the circumcision, that they say had started with the Patriarch Abraham, which is true; the matza bread, the Paschal lamb in memory and in graces for the Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea dry foot; the Shabbat and other festivals from the ancient Law.
The first Jews who came to China, as they told me, came under the Ham-chao or the Han dynasty.[4] At the beginning, there were several families but their number had decreased and today there only remain seven of them. Their names are: Thao, Kin, Che, Cao, Theman, Li and Ngai. These families unite one with another without mixing with the Hoei-hoei, or the Muslims, with whom they have nothing in common, whether concerning the books or for the ceremonies of their religion; even their moustaches are turned in a different way. [...]
They told me that their ancestors came from a kingdom in the West, called the kingdom of Judah, that Joshua conquered after having come out from Egypt and crossed the Red Sea and the desert, that the number of Jews who came out of Egypt was 60 Vans, which means six hundred thousands.
--- Lettres édifiantes et curieuses écrites des missions étrangères, Mémoires de la Chine, tome XVIII, Paris, 1781, pp. 31-48 (translation Albert Benhamou)
Letter from Jesuit Gozani in 1704
Letter from Jesuit Gozani in 1704

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Year 4925 – 1165 CE – Benjamin of Tudela

Benjamin of Tudela was a learned Jewish traveler who visited Southern Europe, the Holy Land, Babylonia and the Arabian Peninsula, from 1165 until he returned to Castilla in 1173. He wrote invalable witness account of his visits in a book that is known as The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela. The book, originally written in Hebrew, was  translated in Latin in the Middle Ages and in other languages in more modern times.

The itinary of Benjamin of Tudela
From: Adler, Marcus Nathan, "The itinary of Benjamin of Tudela", London, 1907
Here are some extracts from the translation cited above of how he described the Jewish communities he visited during his travels:

- Montpellier, France [2a]The Jews of this city are among the wisest and most esteemed of the present generation. [...] Others are very rich, and benevolent toward all who apply to them for assistance. It is four parasangs hence to Lunel, a city containing also a holy congregation of Jews, who employ all their time upon the study of the law. [2b]

- Beaucaire, France: a large town, containing about four hundred Jews, and a great university under the presidency of the great rabbi, R. Abraham, son of David.

- Rome, Italy: Two hundred Jews live there, who are very much respected, and pay tribute to no one. Some of them are officers in the service of Pope Alexander. [...] Another remarkable object is St. Giovanni in Porta Latina, in which place of worship there are two copper pillars constructed by King Solomon, of blessed memory, whose name, "Solomon, son of David," is engraved upon each. The Jews in Rome told Benjamin [of Tudela], that every year, about the time of the 9th of Ab, these pillars sweat so much that the water runs down from them. You there see also the cave in which Titus, the son of Vespasian, hid the vessels of the Temple, which he brought from Jerusalem.

- Acre, Holy Land: There are here about two hundred Jewish inhabitants, of whom R. Zadok, R. Jepheth, and R. Jona are the principal.

- Haifa: One side of this city is situated on the coast, on the other it is overlooked by Mount Carmel. Under the mountain are many Jewish sepulchers, and near the summit is the cavern of Elijah, upon whom be peace.
[...] On the summit of the hill you may still trace the site of the altar which was rebuilt by Elijah, of blessed memory, in the time of King Ahab, and the circumference of which is about four yards.

- Sebaste: This is the ancient Shomron [Samaria, capital of the kingdom of Israel], where you may still trace the site of the palace of Ahab, King of Israel. It was formerly a very strong city, and is situated on a mount, in a fine country, richly watered, and surrounded with gardens, orchards, vineyards, and olive-groves. No Jews live here.

- Nablus: The ancient Sichem, on Mount Ephraim. This place contains no Jewish inhabitants, and is situated in the valley between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. It is the abode of about one hundred Cutheans, who observe the Mosaic law only, and are called Samaritans. [...] They pretend to be of the tribe of Ephraim, and are in possession of the tomb of Joseph the righteous, the son of our father Jacob.

- Jerusalem: a small city strongly fortified with three walls. It contains a numerous population, composed of Jacobites, Armenians, Greeks, Georgians, Franks, and indeed of people of all tongues. The dyeing-house is rented by the year, and the exclusive privilege of dyeing is purchased from the king by the Jews of Jerusalem, two hundred of whom dwell in one corner of the city, under the tower of David.

Jerusalem in Medieval time
Jerusalem in Medieval time
(source: Wright, Thomas, "Early Travels in Palestine", London, 1848)

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- The Cave of Machpelah, Hebron: with a burning candle in his bands the visitor descends into a first cave, which is empty, traverses a second in the same state, and at last reaches a third, which contains six sepulchers, those of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah, one opposite the other. All these sepulchers bear inscriptions, the letters being engraved: thus, upon that of Abraham, we read, "This is the sepulcher of our father Abraham, upon whom be peace"; and so on that of Isaac and upon all the other sepulchers. A lamp burns in the cave and upon the sepulchers continually, both night and day; and you there see tubs filled with the bones of Israelites, for unto this day it is a custom of the house of Israel to bring thither the bones of their relicts and of their forefathers, and to leave them there.

- Tiberias: contains about fifty Jews, the principal of whom are R. Abraham the astronomer, R. Muchthar, and R. Isaac. The hot waters, which spout forth from under ground, are called the warm baths of Tiberias. In the vicinity is the synagogue of Khaleb, son of Jepuneh; and among numerous other Jewish sepulchers are those of R. Jochanan son of Zakhai and of R. Jonathan son of Levi. These are all in Lower Galilee.

- Mosul, Iraq: mentioned in Scripture as Assur the great, which contains about seven thousand Jews, the principal of whom are R. Sakhai, the prince, a descendant of King David, and R. Joseph, surnamed Borhan-al-Phulkh, who is astronomer of Seifeddin, the brother of Noureddin, King of Damascus. This city, situated on the confines of Persia, is of great extent and very ancient; it stands on the banks of the Tigris, and is joined by a bridge to Nineveh.

- Babylonian Jewry: Pumbedita, in Nehardea; it contains about two thousand Jews, some of them eminent scholars. [...] Five days to Hardah (or Hadrah), containing fifteen thousand Jews. [...] Two days to Akbara, the city which was built by Jeconiah, King of Juda; it contains about ten thousand  Jews. [...] Bagdad contains about one thousand Jews, who enjoy peace, comfort, and much honor under the government of the great King. Among them are very wise men and presidents of the colleges, whose occupation is the study of the Mosaic law. The city contains ten colleges.

- German Jewry:  These [German] cities contain many eminent scholars; the congregations are on the best terms with one another, and are friendly toward strangers. Whenever a traveler visits them they are rejoiced thereat and hospitably receive him. They are full of hopes, and say: "Be of good spirit, dear brethren, for the salvation of the Lord will be quick, like the twinkling of an eye; and, indeed, were it not that we had doubted hitherto that the end of our captivity had not yet arrived, we should have assembled long ago; but this is impossible before the time of song arrive, and the sound of the cooing turtle gives warning; then will the message arrive, and we will say, The name of the Lord be exalted!" They send letters to one another, by which they exhort to hold firm in the Mosaic law. Those that spend their time as mourners of the downfall of Sion and the destruction of Jerusalem are always dressed in black clothes, and pray for mercy before the Lord, for the sake of their brethren.

The narrative of Benjamin of Tudela preceeded the one of Marco Polo by about 100 years.

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Year 4927 – 1167 CE – Catharism in Southern France

Christianity, from its origin until the Middle Ages, was not a fully unified religion: other "streams" existed that, although based on the faith in Jesus, had different beliefs upon some fundamental principles. The Arianism, which was fought against as an heresy during the time of Emperor Constantine, believe in the One God, as the Jews did, and that Jesus was simply a prophet. Gnosticism in the other hand believed that Jesus was the One God, but who revealed Himself to the world within the shell of a human being, Jesus. The Roman Catholic Church, the main stream of Christianity, wanted to impose its view which was based on the concept of Trinity (or the mystery of it) and stated that God is the Father, Jesus is the Son, and in addition there is the Holy Spirit, and finally that all three elements were actually the One God. Not evert Christian movement followed the Roman Catholics on this belief of Trinity, nor eventually on the virginity of Mary mother of Jesus, and thus divergences existed. In the Byzantine Empire, there was also a Gnostic movement led by a certain Bogomil in Bulgaria which started to gain momentum in the regions around the Mediterranean Sea. 

The spread of Bogomilism in Europe
The spread of Bogomilism in Europe (source: Wikipedia)

Bogomilism, or one form of it, reached the Languedoc region in Southern France, were a great number of Jewish communities also existed, around Narbonne and the region. This movement developed itself greatly and created a specific church called Catharism. Over the following years, and because of the amplitude that these once isolated movements became more organised and structures, Rome started to look at them as enemies to the faith and declared them as heresies, as their precursors had done centuries before against Arianism and other Christian "sects".

As for the Jews, they lived peacefully in the Languedoc Cathar region. Some of them even had official positions in Toulouse, Narbonne, as their brethren did in Christian and Muslim Spain.

While the Cathars preoccupied themselves in spiritual discourses, the Jews too developed the Kabbalah which was initiaited in Spain and carried to Languedoc by way of avoiding persecution. To this effect, both for Judaism and Christanity, the Languedoc sheltered the development of these spiritual doctrines. But as the Catharism disappeared by the effect of the persecution orchestrated by the Roman Catholic Church, the Kabbalistic movements continued to develop and increase over the years and over the Jewish world.

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Year 4930 – 1170 CE – Maimonides and the Mishneh Torah

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, called Maimonides in English and Rambam in Hebrew, was born in 1135 in Cordoba, at a time considered to be the end of the golden age for Spanish Jewry in Al-Andalus. To avoid persecutions and forced conversions to Islam, he fled to Fes, Morocco, in 1160 because the kingdom was more tolerant there. He then travelled to Jerusalem, which was under the control of the Crusaders at that time, and finally settled in Cairo, Egypt, in 1168. This is where he started to compile, from 1170, his major work Mishneh Torah.[3]  He was also appointed leader of the Jewish community of Cairo in 1171. Maimonides was also knowledgeable in medecine and was appointed as the personal physician to the Vizir of of Egypt, and then of Saladin himself.

Mishneh Torah
Manuscript of Mishneh Torah, signed by Maimonides, c. 1180 -- found in the Cairo Genizra
(source: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Ms. Heb. d.32, fols 53b-54a)

His other known religious works are Moreh Nebukim (The Guide for the Perplexed) in 1180, various Responsa for questions sent by Jewish communities of the world regarding the forced conversions, the afterlife, and so on, and more. He also wrote books of medecine and philosophy. Maimonides also gave his advice about the way Education should be driven:

"One who wishes to attain human perfection should study Logic first, then Mathematics, then Physics, and lastly Metaphysics."
--- Maimonides, The Guide for the Perplexed

This advice from a Jewish scholar of the 12th century, at a time when education was essentially religious and in Latin in Christian Europe, is really what has been implemented in schools programs when state schools were first established in the 18th century.   

Maimonides died in Fustat (near Cairo) on 12 December 1204. Following his last wishes, his ashes were transported to Tiberias, Israel, where he was reburied near other great religious scholars. 

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Year 4931 – 1171 CE – Accusation of ritual murder in Blois - the 20 Sivan

In 1171 CE, the French people of Blois (in the Loire Valley of France) accused one of the Jews of blood libel. This was one of the first of such accusations in the continent, following the ones that already circulated in England. As a reprisal, a mob caught many of the Jewish community of Blois and burned them to the stake on 2 June 1171 (20 Sivan 4931).

This event had a considerable effect on the minds of the times, Jews and non-Jews, in France and Germany where many Jewish centers had existed and prospered for several centuries. The accusation was unfortunately repeated in many other communities elsewhere. The date of 20 Sivan was declared as a day of fast in the Jewish communities of Europe and England.

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Year 4939 – 1179 CE – The Third Council of Lateran (Latran)

This council aimed to restore peace in the Roman Catholic church and prevent that political powers would get involved in the election of a Pope, a task which was now left to bishops only. The council also condemned all heresies such as the one among the Cathars in the Languedoc region. Concerning the Jews (and Muslims), the council forbade them to employ Christian servants, and also stated that the evidence of Christians against Jews in case of tribunal will always be accepted and will prevail.

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Year 4940 – 1180 CE – The synagogue of Toledo

While Jewish communities were being discriminated in the Christian world, the ones of the Moorish dominion were thriving. One example of their prosperity is the construction of a synagogue in Toledo, in a traditional Moorish style. It is said to be the oldest synagogue still standing in Europe. The city had been conquered by Alfonso VI of Castile in 1085 but he was a tolerant king. The Muslim and Jewish communities were allowed to continue their cultural activities and only required to pay a tribute to the king.

This synagogue of
Toledo was built under the reign of Alfonso VIII, grandson of Alfonso VI, when he succeeded to unify most of the Christian states of Spain under one kingdom. An inscription on wood, found in the structure of the building, states: "Its ruins were raised up in the year 4940" [1180 CE]. So the assumption is that there was a Moorish style synagogue at this place, built at the time when Toledo was Moorish, but it had been destroyed during the Reconquista of the city. Then the King of Spain authorized the Jews to rebuild their synagogue as it had been. According to Solomon ibn Verga in his chronicle Shevet Yehuda (the Scepter of Judah) written in the 15th century, Alfonso VIII was particularly tolerant to the Jews, having one of his closest advisor a certain Joseph and a beautiful Jewess, Rahel la Fermosa, as a mistress for several years. But the nobility was jealous of these favours, and arranged to poison the Jewish mistress in 1195 before starting to persecute the Jews. Her story has also been reported in Spanish chronicles (see Wikipedia) and even a film, The Jewess of Toledo, in 1919. In these times, many Jews from Spain started to move north beyond the Pyreneans into Languedoc and Provence, regions that were more tolerant and not yet part of the French dominions.

Several years later,  in the wave of persecutions that increased against the Jews of Spain, the Christians turned the synagogue into a church, Santa Maria la Blanca. 

Synagogue of Toledo
Synagogue of Toledo (source: Wikipedia)

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Year 4942 – 1182 CE – Philip Augustus expels the Jews from France

In 1182 CE, the king of France, Philip Augustus (Philippe Auguste), decreed the expulsion of the Jews from his royal domains. The motives were mostly pecuniar because he confiscated their assets and nullified the debts that Christians had contracted with them. The borders of the French kingdom were much smaller han modern France so most of the Jews found refuge in the Eastern (Alsace), Central (Burgundy) and Southern (Provence) regions. For those Jews who were left in France, Philippe Auguste later forced them to wear a distinctive sign, the "rouelle", instituted by the 4th Council of Latran in 1215. It was shaped as a "roue" (wheel) and generally of yellow colour.

A Jew wearing the rouelle
A German Jew wearing the rouelle
(source: Wikipedia)

Philip Augustus however allowed the Jews to return to France a few years later.

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Year 4948 – 1187 CE – Saladin conquers Jerusalem

After a crucial defeat of the Crusaders at the Horns of Hattin on 4 July 1187 in Galilee a few kilometers before Tiberias, Saladin put an end to the Christian dominion over the Holy Land which lasted 88 years and entered Jerusalem on 2 October 1187 (the last day of Sukkot Festival, 21 Tishri 4948). According to a popular legend, Pope Urban III died of a heart attack on 19 October 1187 when he learned of the loss of the Holy Land. His successor however called promptly for a Third Crusade. He got positive response from all major rulers of the time: Richard of England, Philip Augustus of France, and Frederick Barbarossa of Germany.

Battle of Hattin
Battle of Hattin -- by Gustave Doré

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Year 4949 – 1189 CE – Massacre at the coronation of Richard in London

When Aaron of Lincoln died in 1186, King Henry was so indebted to him that he seized all his money. This came at a time when Henry wanted to financeyet another of his campaigns, this time against the French King Philip Augustus. But the boat carrying the stolen war money sunk. So the English king had to have recourse to the landlords to supply the finances. But Aaron, the defacto banker of Henry II, had been so rich that some of his money and estate was managed by the so-called "Aaron's Exchequer".

Henry died some time afterwards, and was succeeded by his son Richard, the "Lionheart" in July 1189. At his coronation day, in September 1189, leaders of the
Jewish community thought to do well by bringing gifts to the new king, as they would have done for his father. But Richard had a different attitude, and this act was seen as an offense and these Jews were flogged publicly. The coronation soon turned into violent anti-Jewish riots in London when rumours spread that Richard ordered the killing of the Jews. The mobs were led into Jewish quarters, fulled by greed, and killed, burned, destroyed and stole all what fell in their hands.

But Richard too wanted to go to wars, and needed financing for this purpose. Beside he was preparing to join the Third Crusade. So, he ordered the most violent perpetrators of the massacre of London to be hanged. Yet the damage was done and the greed against the Jews was high. Other massacres and riots occurred in the rest of England in the weeks and months (for example in Lynn and in Bury St Edmunds) that followed Richard's coronation. Meanwhile he left to the Crusade and the authority was missing to maintain order. In Lincoln, the town that owed so much to one member of the Jewish community, the Jews saved their life by being sheltered in the castle. 

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Year 4950 – 1190 CE – The massacre of York

The most significant attack on Jews took place in York, in the week that preceded the Jewish Festival of Passover, in the night of 16-17 March 1190. They were given refuge in the Clifford's Tower by the warden of York Castle. However the tower was isolated and soon became surrounded by the mob who demanded the immediate conversion of the Jews hidden in it. The soldiers didn't come to rescue the Jews and left them to their fate. What ensued was reminiscent of what happened in Masada over 1000 years before: each head of family killed his wife and children, then was killed by the leader of the Jewish community, Rabbi Yom Tov of Joigney, who finally killed himself too. 

Clifford's Tower
Clifford's Tower, York, England

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Year 4950 – 1190 CE – David Kimchi and the Jews of Narbonne

Narbonne is a city in the Languedoc region in France where the first road linking Italy to Spain was laid by the Romans in the 2nd century BCE. Jews probably arrived there when Narbonne was part of the Caliphate of Cordoba ibefore 759 CE and remained there when the Franks pushed the Muslims back over the Pyrenean mountains. It was led by a scholar called Makhir who some say came from Babylon. The Jewish community enjoyed a golden age in the 11th and 12th centuries when Narbonne had a reknown Talmudic school. The region was altogether tolerant towards Jews because they too sought to separate themselves from the Roman Catholic Church due to the expansion of the Catharism doctrine.

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Year 4952 – 1192 CE – End of the Third Crusade

The Third Crusade, although have started with the good omen of the coalition of the three most powerful kings of Europe, ended in failure. The German army lost their leader Frederick who died en route. Philippe of France reached the Holy Land but could not agree with Richard of England about a strategy. So he returned to France, leaving some of his army behind with the English. Richard succeeded to recapture some of the coastal cities but failed to reach Jerusalem to confront with the army of Saladin. Nonetheless he managed to negotiate his departure from the Holy Land with an agreement (Acre, 1192)  that the Muslims will no longer prevent Christians to make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem and that the Christians will keep the coastal cities they had reconquered.. 

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Year 4954 – 1194 CE – The Exchequer of the Jews

In 1194, after the Crusade and his return from captivity, Richard changed the "Aaron's Exchequer" into the "Exchequer of the Jews" as a mean to protect the Jews, in case of murder (his debtors would still be indebted to the Jewish family), but it also served the purpose to tax the Jews as the king had a complete view of their wealth. This system will be in operation until their expulsion from England one century later in 1290.

Everywhere across Europe, Medieval Jews became associated with money lendering and were the subject of jalousy and greed. The powers, political and religious, benefited from their skills until a time when they too became greedy over all the wealth that was in their reach. A blessing from the religious authority was missing to turn their desire into political means, and grab this wealth. 

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[1a] The works of Greek philosophers were not made available in the Christian world because the Church censured them, but they were spread by the Muslims in their dominions

[1b] To read the related section, click here ; it may also be reminded that, during these persecutions, Alexander Jannai had people put up alive on trees to die a slow death, which was assumed to be a form of crucifixion

[1c] The case has also been analysed by a Christian scholar in the following book: Mead, G.R.S., "Did Jesus live 100 B.C.?"; the author born in 1863 was a Cambridge graduate, scholar of the Theosophical movement; he died in 1933

[1d] The theory has also found echo in a more recent and controversial book: Wise, Michael O., "The First Messiah: Investigating the Savior Before Christ", HarperCollins, 1999

[2a] Benjamin of Tudela called this city Har Gaash (הַר-גָּעַשׁ), which is the name of the Biblical mount where Joshua had been buried (see Joshua 24:30 or Judges 2:9); Gash means "eruption" in Hebrew, although the Medieval chroniquers translated it in Latin as Mons Tremulus (shaking mount); there is no obvious connection between the word Gaash and the word pellier, or pelhier in old Occitan language; yet someone could possibly see a reason for this name by looking of the topography of the original location of the city, on top of a hill that look like surged (or erupted?) from the ground; ironically, and although Montpellier is a city not as old as Beziers and most of other cities of the region, it is the only one that we have lost the exact origin of its name; a legend however states that the city was founded in 990 by the Count of Maguelone after his consultation with a Talmudist Jew who showed him the location where to build a new city for the refugees of his county (source: Fabre, Albert, Histoire de Montpellier, 1897, page 33); in any case, what is sure is that the Jews were much involved in the development of the city, if not in its early foundation, and, in the 12th century, it was the Jews who built a first college for the city in 1150. They taught medecine, a field where they famously excelled in the Medieval times. Other schools then opened by the Gentiles to teach other subjects and, in 1289, all these schools were merged into the University of Montpellier which was officially opened  at that time

Topography of Montpellier
Topography of (erupted?) Montpellier

[2b] A local medieval legend stated that the Jews of Lunel were originally refugees who came from Jericho after the Second Temple had been destroyed in 70 CE; more probably, most of them at the time of Benjamin were Jews from Christian Spain who came to the region as it was more tolerant; Lunel was the home of famous rabbis such as Rabbis Meshullam, Zerachia ben Isaac Halevi Gerondi (the Baal Ha-Maor), Abba Mari ben Moses ben Joseph (wrote Minchat Kenaoth), and more; the Jews of Lunel were later expulsed by the French King Philippe Le Bel, and found refuge in Provence 

[3] To read this work on line, click here

[4] The Han dynasty lasted from 206 BCE to 220 CE

[7] God intervened in His creation every 7 generations of mankind, as it is shown in various pages of this site; to check this cycle, click here

[8] The account of this barbaric practice, with the blessing of the local clergy, is given in medieval texts such as the chronicle of Geoffroy de Vigeois and the memoirs of Catel

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