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Holy War

Discarded History

On 15 July 1099 CE Christian armies of the First Crusade captured Jerusalem from its Fatimid defenders. The city was looted and burned, and many of its inhabitants slaughtered.

Among the Genizah manuscripts are rare accounts of the fate of the Jewish community in Jerusalem following the Crusader occupation. We learn that Jewish captives were taken, and came under pressure to convert to Christianity. Even the community’s large collection of books and scrolls was looted and then ransomed back to them. The Egyptian Jews came to Jerusalem’s aid. Many books previously in Jerusalem ended up in Egypt and eventually in the Genizah itself.

The Crusader conquest was the latest in a series of wars that had afflicted the Holy Land throughout the 11th century. The relative silence of Genizah sources in the immediate aftermath is indicative of the widespread destruction of the traditional centres of Jewish life and learning in Palestine.