With all the tension and difficulties in Israel that are very real, it is infuriating that the situation is made even worse by complete fabrications. But it’s nothing new. Though just as sinful as everyone else, the Jewish people have suffered countless attacks based on total lies, demonising them with outrageous accusations throughout history. This is known as “Blood libel”.
The concept of the “blood libel” is a phrase full of meaning for the Jewish community. What is the history behind this loaded term, and what should it mean to us today?
Falsely Accused of Killing Christian Children
Even though Jewish people are forbidden by God to eat anything with blood in it, the ridiculous story started circulating in the Middle Ages that Jewish people kidnapped Christian children, killed them, and used their blood to make matzah (unleavened bread for the feast of Passover).
It all started in the twelfth century in Norwich, England:
“A boy named William was found dead in the woods outside of town, and a monk, Thomas of Monmouth, accused local Jews of torturing him and murdering him in mockery of the crucifixion of Jesus. Although many townspeople did not believe this claim, a cult venerating the boy eventually sprang up. At this time the myth began to circulate that each year, Jewish leaders around the world met to choose a country and a town from which a Christian would be apprehended and murdered.
“The blood libel spread throughout the Christian world in the Middle Ages. When a Christian child went missing, it was not uncommon for local Jews to be blamed. Even when there was no evidence that any Jew had anything to do with the missing child, Jews were tortured until they confessed to heinous crimes. Some Christians believed that the four cups of wine that Jews drink at the Passover Seder celebrations were actually blood, or that Jews mixed blood into hamantaschen, sweet pastries eaten on the Jewish holiday of Purim. Others claimed that Jews used Christian blood as a medicine or even as an aphrodisiac. Scholars have documented about 100 blood libels that took place from the twelfth to sixteenth centuries. Many of them resulted in massacres of Jews.”(2)
During medieval times two popes expressly declared such claims to have been fabricated, but nevertheless, these blood libels frequently led to mob violence and pogroms, and have occasionally led to the decimation of entire Jewish communities, according to the ADL.
Blood Libels in the Twentieth Century
But people were primitive and crazy back then in the Medieval era – right? Shockingly, similar incidents have also happened in recent times:
“In 1913 a Ukrainian Jew named Menahem Mendel Beilis was charged with ritually killing a Christian child whose body was discovered near a local brick factory in Kiev. During a sensational trial, numerous respected Russian intellectuals and scholars testified that Jews attacked Christians and used their blood in obscene rituals. Ultimately Beilis was acquitted of the charges, but not before horrific anti-Semitic claims were repeated and broadcast throughout Russia.
“A blood libel even occurred in Massena, New York, in 1928. When a four-year-old girl went missing from her home, a rumor spread that local Jews had kidnapped and killed her. Crowds gathered outside Massena’s police station, where the town’s rabbi had been summoned. A state trooper questioned the rabbi, and asked him whether Jews offered human sacrifices or used blood in rituals. The girl was eventually found alive and unharmed.”
“In 1940, members of the Damascus Jewish community were charged with kidnapping and killing a Christian priest who had disappeared. Several notable Jews from Damascus were tortured to extract confessions, and an angry mob destroyed a synagogue and its torah scrolls. Jews were massacred repeatedly in the Muslim world, partly as a result of this libel, which had been imported from Christian society.(3)
Then of course there was the whole “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” conspiracy: A plagiarism of a French horror story, twisted to accuse Jewish people of plotting to take over the world. It has been proven to be utterly fictitious, yet is constantly repeated as if it were fact, even till this day.
False Accusations against the State of Israel
While Jewish people have been long accused of killing Christian children in these elaborate fabrications, now Israel’s enemies’ favorite accusation is that they deliberately kill Palestinian children, when military experts have agreed that Israel makes every effort to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible. At one point, Israel was accused of “executing” young Ahmed Mansra “in cold blood” when in fact Ahmed was alive and well, being cared for in an Israeli hospital after having stabbed a 13 year old boy very seriously, and injuring another Jewish man. But by the time the truth comes to light, the media has moved on.
Another lie was that Israel deliberately opened dams in the south to flood Gaza with insanitary water, when in fact there are no dams in the south of Israel at all. It was just a lot of rain. But these lies are believed, and young Palestinians grow up reading books in school and watching TV shows about how evil the Jewish people are.
It’s not hard to find things that Israel really is getting wrong, and the frustration of the Palestinian people against Israel is understandable, but there are also many outrageous lies told about the Jewish state which people unquestioningly believe.
The irony is that many times, the ones pointing the finger are guilty of the very things they are accusing Israel of – whether it’s deliberately targeting civilians, endangering children, wanting to take over the whole of the Middle East, plotting for world domination, wishing to wipe out whole people groups, or desecrating holy places. These things are all true of Islamic terrorists, but not of Israel.
These lies are doing great damage, and spurring Palestinian young people on to become murderers and likely end up killed as a result. It is a tragic waste of young lives, and the total opposite of everything that God would have for them, which is to live alongside the Jewish people in peace.
Remember that the enemy is The Enemy
With all of this mess, it’s critical to remember that Israel is the epicenter of spiritual battle. It is vital to keep in mind that the descendents of Ishmael are just as beloved as the descendants of Isaac – both peoples are in deception, and the truth that will set us all free is only found in Yeshua the Messiah. The enemy here is the enemy of our souls, the Father of Lies. Satan hates the Jewish people with a particular passion, and it is no coincidence that they have been subject to these false accusations and blood libels throughout the years by all kinds of people, including Christians. Many of the lies today are coming from the mouths of Islamic extremists, but ultimately they come from the pit. We need to separate out the deceiver from the deceived, and love and pray for all the people in and around Israel – we all need the same salvation.
Jewish people over the centuries have been falsely accused of all kinds of things, from poisoning wells in order to kill entire villages, to world domination enterprises. But at least they are in good company. The Bible is littered with God’s people who found themselves in the same boat:
- Joseph had to run from Potiphar’s wife, who falsely accused him of rape. He ended up in jail for many years, even though he was innocent.
- David had to run from Saul, whose jealousy was driving him to consider David his enemy, even though he too was innocent.
- Mary‘s innocence was not believed, even though God considered her pure enough to choose her to be the mother of Jesus.
- And of course, Jesus himself, our pure, spotless lamb, was accused of blasphemy and killed.
Like every people group, the Jewish people are far from being pure and spotless, and there have been grievous incidents carried out by the hands of Israelis, but nonetheless, there is an awful lot of lying and incitement going on. Please pray for lies to be exposed and for truth to keep coming to light.
(1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12176503 What does ‘blood libel’ mean? 12 January 2011
(2) http://www.adl.org/Anti_semitism/Blood-Libel.asp What is the blood libel? Anti Defamation League website
Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash