15. A Blood Libel in Jerusalem (IFA 15347)
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15 A Blood Libel in Jerusalem T O L D B Y S I M H. A M E Y U H. A S L E V Y T O TA M A R A L E X A N D E R Years ago, the Christians used to claim that we couldn’t make matzah unless we slaughtered a Christian and took his blood. They said that to make the dough we needed the blood of a Christian, that that was the commandment. TA: You’re telling about the Torah scrolls that were found without . . . SMY: Yes, yes. So once, out of their hatred for the Jews, the Christians took a child and slit his throat and put him in the Holy Ark. Where’s that? That’s in the synagogue, where they keep the Torah scrolls. That’s where they put the child. Then they started pretending they were looking for the boy. They hunted everywhere. They went and told the police: “The boy is nowhere to be found! He’s lost!” “Where could the child be?” the police asked. “But of course! This is the season when they [the Jews] start to bake their matzah. They must have kidnapped [the boy] and killed him and used his blood to make their matzah.” And what, the Jews don’t know anything about this. No, estu . . . No, es . . .* TA: No matter, that’s another story. SMY: Estu es another, that too . . . 110 *Here the narrator, confused about which story she is telling, lapses into Judeo-Spanish: “No, this . . . No, it’s . . .” The open Holy Ark, containing Torah scrolls. 15 / A Blood Libel in Jerusalem  111   112  Folktales of the Jews: Volume 1 TA: That too. . . . No matter. Finish this one and then we’ll hear about the Torah scrolls. SMY: Ma maleskea es. Yes, you’re right. TA: What synagogue did they put him in? SMY: Also in the Yoh.anan ben Zakkai Synagogue. TA: Inside the synagogue? SMY: Yes. Why? Because that was the Meyuh.ases’ synagogue. You understand. So they put him there. So when the police came, they found the murdered boy there. The Jews were thunderstruck. “What’s happening? What’s happening? We didn’t do anything!” They went to the kadi* and appealed to him. “We didn’t do this. By no means! On the contrary, we don’t eat anything that isn’t kosher. Absolutely not!” “You murdered him,” retorted the Christians. “Let me check whether Jews murdered him or not,” said the kadi. They took the dead child and laid him on a table in front of the Christians and Jews. The chief rabbi wrote down the Ineffable Name on a piece of paper. TA: Who was this chief rabbi? SMY: Rabbi Meyuh.as. TA: Rabbi Meyuh.as? SMY: Yes. Many Meyuh.ases were rabbis. Back then, all the Meyuh .ases were rabbis. When he [the rabbi] placed the piece of paper on the child’s forehead he came back to life. The dead child sat up. “I want to know who killed you!” he [the rabbi] said to the child. “Point with your finger.” To whom did the boy point? At one of the Christians, one of them. TA: Yes. SMY: He pointed at one of the Christians and fell down dead again and didn’t revive. They took the man [the murderer]—this was under the Turks; even I was born in the time of the Turks. So *An Islamic judge who rules on the basis of Islamic religious law. they took the man and hanged him in the middle of Jaffa Road. Where on Jaffa Road? Where the entrance to the Old City is. That’s where they hanged him. That’s what our ancestors used to say. And this too was a miracle. TA: And it was another miracle that you celebrate. SMY: Of course. It was our miracle. It was in our synagogue, and they accused the Jews. TA: And what happened after that to Rabbi Meyuh.as? How did he die? Was there anything special about his death? SMY: No. Nothing happened to him. On the contrary. On the contrary . From that time on everybody started to praise the Jews. The Christians were always afraid after that. They never said anything. They saw how that man had been hanged. 15 / A Blood Libel in Jerusalem  113   114  Folktales of the Jews: Volume 1 COMMENTARY FOR TALE 15 (IFA 15347) Told by Simh. a Meyuh. as Levy...