The Ten Lost Tribes and the Return of the Jews to England

Menasseh Ben Israel, known as the “Ambassador of the Jews,” managed to convince the English that the readmission of the Jews to England would bring about Redemption.

Jews being burned alive for alleged religious crimes. German woodcut from the end of the 15th century.

In the year 1290, the Jews of England were expelled from the realm by royal decree of King Edward I. Even after there were officially no Jews remaining on English soil, Christian theologians continued to regard Judaism as a moral peril that threatened the peace of the pious English folk.  The Jewish community had betrayed Jesus and was culpable for his death. The generations of Jews born after the death of the Messiah were equally guilty of his murder and still had his blood on their hands. Jewish-Christian relations became even more contentious with the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and the forced baptism of the Jews who had chosen to remain on the Iberian Peninsula.

During the 16th-century, many New Christians and Jewish converts to Christianity began settling in the British Isles. They developed trade networks to ship all kinds of goods throughout Europe and to the New World. By this time, the attitude towards the Jews had changed somewhat. Many received the New Christians as brothers in all respects, but there were still some who viewed the Christian converts as two-faced shape-shifters, charlatans, and the devil’s henchmen.  This dubious role had, until then, been filled by none other than the Pope in Rome who was viewed by the English as the servant of the devil ever since England broke away from the Catholic Church during the reign of King Henry VIII.

So long as England was ruled by devout Protestant kings, the chances of openly practicing Jews being readmitted to the kingdom was near zero. The relatively small presence of converted Jews was tolerated so long as they did not stand out, to which the bitter demise of Rodrigo Lopez, the real merchant of Venice, stood as proof.

Rodrigo Lopez was tied to a plot to poison Queen Elizabeth I, etching by Friedreich Von Holsen, 1627.

With the execution of King Charles I and the abolishment of the throne in 1649, a rare window of opportunity opened – a historic moment that might have quickly passed had there not been a leader with an iron fist on hand to steer its course. Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Young Republic, was determined to be this leader. He was joined on the historical stage by another figure, a Jewish thinker who was known throughout Europe as the “Ambassador of the Jews,” and who helped to promote resolution of the “Jewish Question.”

Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector, in a painting by Samuel Cooper, 1656.

The Ambassador of the Jews Offers the Jewish People Salvation:

The positive attitude toward the Jews held by the victorious Puritans (who sent the king to his death on 30 January 1649) was an open secret. Their messianic belief had them convinced that the second coming of Jesus would occur only when the conversion of all the Jews in the world was completed. They were less certain of to how to go about making this ideal a reality.

Menasseh Ben Israel in an etching by Rembrandt.

Many found their answers in the short book written in 1650 by Menasseh Ben Israel, a Portuguese Jew whose family had fled to Amsterdam when he was a child. Ben Israel gained prominence in the Netherlands as a rabbi, author and printer. As a consequence of his discussions with the Portuguese journeyman converso Antonio de Montezino, Menasseh Ben Israel became convinced that the native peoples of South America were descended from the ten lost tribes of Israel. He provided dozens of testimonies and references from sources and travelogues in order to convince his readers. Menasseh dedicated his book to the English parliament – but why set his sights on England?

Since the Jews had already been expelled in 1290, Menasseh Ben Israel called for their readmission to the island nation – a return that would confirm the ancient prophecy that tied Jewish settlement in all corners of the world to the coming of the Messiah. The strange ideas spread by the Ambassador of the Jews rang true for the English. Ben Israel had provided a winning plan for those who believed that the conversion of the lost tribes in South America heralded the conversion of Jews all over the world, a necessary precursor for the second coming of Christ.

When the time came for serious discussion of the question of readmission of the Jews to England, Oliver Cromwell sent Ben Israel an official invitation to visit the new republic.

The discussions commenced in December 1655 in Whitehall Palace. The matter of the readmission of the Jews to England provoked a huge outcry among theologians, merchants, and the rank and file citizenry who opposed the prospect that the hated Jews would return once again to British shores.

Menasseh Ben Israel’s pamphlet “Vindicie Judaeorum (The Hope of Israel),” was devoted entirely to one purpose: the systematic refutation of the various accusations made against the Jewish people. This time, Ben Israel abandoned his messianic plea for a more legal-philosophical essay.

Hebrew version of Vindicie Judaeorum, by Menasseh Ben Israel, published in Vienna in 1813.

 

A page from “The Hope of Israel”, by Menasseh Ben Israel, published in London in 1650. From the Valmadonna Trust Collection at the National Library. Click to enlarge.

With the festive conclusion of the meeting at Whitehall, it was decreed that there would no longer be an official law prohibiting settlement of Jews in England. While the government did not necessarily welcome the return of the Jews as many had hoped at the start of the discussions, the door was opened at last for their gradual return. This policy was maintained and later intensified with the reinstatement of the monarchy in England in 1660.


Jerusalem’s First Tourist Map

Where did one go to watch a movie in British-Mandate era Jerusalem? Where could you catch a bus? And what were the popular hot spots? Presenting the map that resurrects pre-state Jerusalem...

Not many maps are capable of visually resurrecting a city. The task is even more challenging when that city is Jerusalem, and not only that but Jerusalem as it appeared eighty-eight years ago. Rare are the maps that show us not only a schematic of a street grid, but also depict buildings, cultural and recreational institutions, as well as government structures, in a detailed and aesthetic fashion. Maps that place a picture of life in Jerusalem as it once was before our eyes. Such are the hand drawn Jerusalem maps of Spyro Spiridon.

But who was Spiridon?

Prof. Kobi Cohen-Hatav has traced the course of Spiridon’s life: He was born in Jerusalem in 1894 and, in his later years, served a President of the Greek Orthodox Society in the city. In his twenties, Spiridion studied electrical engineering and civil engineering in Switzerland. During his time there, he was exposed to a new style of modern tourist map that was becoming popular in the country. When he returned to Jerusalem, Spiridon struggled to make a living in his field and decided to focus on something entirely different – he set out to create a map that would express the urban space of Jerusalem in three dimensions.

His map was published in the 1930s. The very first tourist map of Jerusalem, it was originally printed by the Greek Orthodox Church and, later, by the Goldberg Press.

Below are some stellar examples from Spiridon’s map. Please feel free to click on any of the images to enlarge.

Spiridon’s tourist map from the 1930s. Click the map to enlarge.

 

The “Horva” and “Tiferet Yisrael” synagogues:

 

Spiridon designed a detailed key which marked the religious affiliations of various buildings in the city:

 

Neighborhoods that once existed are reconstructed before our very eyes – here are the houses of the Yemenite neighborhood Ezrat Nidahim in Silwan, accompanied of course, by a Star of David symbol:

 

Here is Djort al-Enab, once a neighborhood of Mizrahi Jews just outside the walls of the Old City, near the present-day location of the artists’ quarter of Hutzot Hayotzer:

 

The Amireh neighborhood on the outskirts of Rehavia:

 

Some of the buildings are depicted in impressive detail – Hansen House, once a Leper hospital, is today a cultural center and museum:

 

The clock tower, which stood until 1934 near the present-day Jerusalem City Hall compound and St. Louis French Hospital:

 

The luxurious Palace Hotel (today the Waldorf Astoria Hotel stands in its place) opposite the Mamilla Pool, next to the US Consulate:

 

The Lemel School opposite the Edison Cinema, referred to here as the Opera House:

 

In the 1945 edition of the map, we see that drawings of buildings continue to occupy a central role. It is interesting to note that the map is east-oriented, an unusual orientation for maps of Jerusalem:

Spiridon’s tourist map from 1945. Click the map to enlarge.

 

Most of the inscriptions on the 1945 map are in English, except for a few instances where a community-adapted caption was utilized – a small inscription in Russian in the area of the Russian Compound, a few Arabic inscriptions in the Old City and in the eastern parts of the city, Greek inscriptions in the Greek Colony and three Hebrew inscriptions – the Meah Shearim neighborhood, Ben Mimon Street and the Zichron Moshe neighborhood which houses the Edison Cinema Building:

 

Here we can see the Alliance school, where the Clal Building stands today:

 

In the center of the city you can see the Egged central bus station, where the “Jaffa Center” light rail station is located today. You can also see the Zion, Eden and Orion Cinemas. Also depicted are the famous cafés of the time – Café Vienna and Café Europe:

 

Not only do the cinemas in the center of the city center receive special attention, the Regent Cinema in the German Colony also has its place on the map (known today as Smadar Cinema):

 

In the Talbieh neighborhood there is a drawing of a leper house known as Moravian Home, and we can also spot the consulates of Turkey, Iran, Spain and Greece:

 

The consulates of Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Switzerland, and Czechoslovakia were located west of the Greek colony in the Katamon neighborhood:

 

In south Jerusalem, the map extends as far as the Dead Sea and includes the potash factory on its northern shore, King Herod’s desert palace of Herodium, and Government House, the seat of the British High Commissioner which serves today as UN headquarters:

 

The Hebrew University compound on Mount Scopus features a drawing of Beit Wolfson, home of the National and University Library at the time:

 

The Citadel and police headquarters in the Old City:

 

The map shows the names of streets as they were known during the British Mandate:

Julian Road = Kind David Street

Queen Mary = Queen Shlomziyon Street

Mamilla Street = Agron Street, Yitshak Kariv Street

Saint Paulos Street = Shabtai Yisrael Street

Saint Louis Street = Shlomo HaMelekh Street

Geoffrey Mavoyon Street = HaAyin Het Street

Sultan Suleiman = HaTsanhanim Street

Chancellor Street = Strauss Street

 

Perhaps due to the Greek origin of the author of the map, the area of the Greek Colony is very detailed:

The Greek Club = next to Avner Street

Beit Safafa Road= Emek Rafaim Street

Greek Colony Road = Rachel Imenu Street

Efthimios Road = Yehoshua Bin Nun Street

 

Information about Spiridon’s life and work is attributed to the work of Prof. Kobi Cohen-Hatav.




When Leonard Cohen Met Ariel Sharon in the Sinai Desert

The story of how the Jewish-Canadian singer-songwriter ended up singing for soldiers and crossing the Suez Canal with the IDF during one of Israel's most desperate hours...

Leonard Cohen performs for Israeli soldiers during the Yom Kippur War. Photo by Uri Dan, the Farkash Gallery Collection, all rights reserved.

“I am in my myth home but I have no proof and I cannot debate and I am in no danger of believing myself … Speaking no Hebrew I enjoy my legitimate silence.”

This was how Leonard Cohen, the Jewish-Canadian singer-songwriter and poet, described his arrival in Israel in the fall of 1973, shortly before the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War. At the time, Cohen was staying on the Greek island of Hydra with his girlfriend Suzanne Elrod and their son Adam. Their relationship was experiencing some turmoil and it was an unhappy period for him.

Cohen’s abrupt decision to book a flight to Israel may have been partly inspired by rising tensions between the Jewish state and its neighbors, but it appears there were other reasons as well. In his unpublished manuscript “The Final Revision of My Life in Art,” Cohen wrote: “…because it is so horrible between us I will go and stop Egypt’s bullet. Trumpets and a curtain of razor blades.”

Cohen didn’t know anyone in Israel. A married couple on the flight offered him to stay with relatives of theirs in Herzliya, a suburb of Tel Aviv. According to his biographer Ira Nadel, Cohen had a string of short affairs with several women during this period, with the singer often spending his evenings wandering the streets of Tel Aviv in a rather lonely state of existence.

One day, after the war had broken out, a group of Israeli musicians including singers Oshik Levi, Matti Caspi and Ilana Rovina, were sitting in Tel Aviv’s popular Pinati Café when Levi spotted a man who looked just like Leonard Cohen sitting alone in the corner. When Levi approached Cohen and confirmed it was indeed him, the local singer asked the international celebrity what he was doing in Israel. Cohen answered that he was looking to volunteer on a kibbutz so that he could help tend to the harvest while the locals went off to war.

The Israeli musicians explained to Cohen that it was not harvest time, adding that they were about to head down to the Sinai desert to entertain the troops who were desperately trying to fend off the surprise Egyptian attack. They offered Cohen to join their group. The visitor was hesitant, offering a string of excuses: He was a pacifist, he had no guitar, his songs were sad and hardly morale-boosting, but all of these were brushed aside and Cohen eventually agreed to join the band.

From left to right: Ilana Rovina, Matti Caspi and Leonard Cohen. Photo by Uri Dan, the Farkash Gallery Collection, all rights reserved.

The singer was popular in Israel even though only a year earlier he had publicly voiced pro-Arab political views. He told the “Davar” newspaper: “I am joining my brothers fighting in the desert. I don’t care if their war is just or not. I know only that war is cruel, that it leaves bones, blood and ugly stains on the holy soil.” Explaining the apparent shift in his political position, Cohen said: “A Jew remains a Jew. Now it’s war and there’s no need for explanations. My name is Cohen, no?”

Cohen spoke of his experiences in Sinai with the Israeli musicians in an interview given a year later to Robin Pike of Zigzag magazine: “We would just drop into little places, like a rocket site and they would shine their flashlights at us and we would sing a few songs. Or they would give us a jeep and we would go down the road towards the front and wherever we saw a few soldiers waiting for a helicopter or something like that we would sing a few songs. And maybe back at the airbase we would do a little concert, maybe with amplifiers. It was very informal, and you know, very intense.”

Matti Caspi, one of Israel’s most popular musicians, would accompany Cohen, who was just one of a chain of performers, on classical guitar. He also acted as Cohen’s translator, whenever the singer would offer a few words to his audiences of weary battle-worn soldiers. In an Army Radio recording, Cohen can be heard introducing his popular hit “Suzanne”: “These songs are too quiet for the desert. They belong in a room with a woman and something to drink. Where I hope you’ll all be very soon”.

Caspi recalls some of their experiences on his website, telling of how Cohen’s famous song “Lover, Lover, Lover” came together during their early performances: “He actually wrote the lyrics and melody onstage during a show for some soldiers, and from show to show he would improve on it”

And may the spirit of this song

May it rise up pure and free

May it be a shield for you

A shield against the enemy

– Final verse of “Lover, Lover, Lover”, by Leonard Cohen

 

 

Caspi also tells of the following experience: “I can remember a surreal image of us next to the landing strip at the airport at Rapidim. We saw a Hercules plane land, and dozens of soldiers poured out of it. They were ordered to sit down on the runway and then I accompanied Leonard Cohen as he sang “Bird on the Wire.” When the song was over, they were ordered onto trucks heading down to the Suez Canal. Right after that another Hercules landed and the scene repeated itself: They sat down on the runway, Leonard Cohen sang the same song and immediately afterwards they got on the trucks heading to the canal.”

 

Photo by Uri Dan, the Farkash Gallery Collection, all rights reserved.

Cohen and Caspi spent the whole day like this, as truckload after truckload of soldiers were treated to a brief performance by an international superstar in the most unlikely of locations. After evening fell the musicians themselves boarded the last of the trucks and headed west. They crossed the Suez Canal, arriving in the enclave on the Egyptian side that had been captured by IDF soldiers under the command of Major General Ariel Sharon, the controversial officer who would eventually become prime minister of Israel decades later. Caspi added: “We found ourselves helping to carry injured soldiers to waiting helicopters. These were the same soldiers we had performed for only a few hours earlier”.

Cohen’s ambivalence towards the war is clear in his recollections of his meeting with Sharon – “I am introduced to a great general, ‘The Lion of the Desert.’ Under my breath I ask him, ‘How dare you?’ He does not repent. We drink some cognac sitting on the sand in the shade of a tank. I want his job.”

Maj. Gen. Ariel Sharon, a controversial Israeli war hero and later prime minister, met Cohen during his time in Sinai. The singer had mixed feelings about the general. Photo by Uri Dan, the Farkash Gallery Collection, all rights reserved.

The singer’s experiences during the Yom Kippur War were a major source of inspiration for his next album, “New Skin for the Old Ceremony,” released in August, 1974. In addition to “Lover, Lover, Lover,” the album also included songs with such titles as “Field Commander Cohen,” “There is a War,” and “Who by Fire,” a song famously based on the Yom Kippur prayer “Unetanneh Tokef.”

 

 

Cohen told Robin Pike about the emotional impact the war had on him:”…you get caught up in the thing. And the desert is beautiful and you think your life is meaningful for a moment or two. And war is wonderful. They’ll never stamp it out. It’s one of the few times people can act their best. It’s so economical in terms of gesture and motion, every single gesture is precise, every effort is at its maximum. Nobody goofs off. Everybody is responsible for his brother. The sense of community and kinship and brotherhood, devotion. There are opportunities to feel things that you simply cannot feel in modern city life.”

Leonard Cohen would continue to visit and perform in Israel throughout the rest of his life. He passed away in November of 2016.

 

You can read more about Leonard Cohen’s life and experiences during the Yom Kippur War in Ira Nadel’s biography, “Various Positions – A Life of Leonard Cohen,” available at the National Library of Israel.

 

You can find the original photos that appear above at the Farkash Gallery:  https://farkash-gallery.com/

 

If you like this article, try these:

The Man Who Would Be King: Delusions of (Royal) Grandeur in Mandatory Palestine

The Secret Nazi Documents Captured in a British Commando Raid

When Buchenwald Was Liberated: A First Glimpse of the Holocaust



Who Are These Unknown Soldiers?

Nathan Fendrich, a Jewish-American photojournalist, happened to be in Israel when the Yom Kippur War broke out. He grabbed his camera and headed for the front. But who are the soldiers who appear in his photographs? Can you help identify them?

Shortly before Yom Kippur this year the National Library of Israel received a personal collection of photographs belonging to Nathan Fendrich, an 84 year old Jewish resident of Eugene, Oregon. This rich and important collection includes hundreds of touching photos taken by Fendrich 45 years ago, when he coincidentally found himself in the midst of a war

At the age of 39, Nathan Fendrich arrived in Israel in 1973 to photograph an archaeological dig at Tel Qasile, but after only a week in the country the Yom Kippur War suddenly broke out. Armed with his camera and press card, Fendrich began documenting the fighting within 24 hours, on both the northern and southern fronts – in the Golan Heights and in the Sinai desert.

His photos captured the difficult battles, the crossing of the Suez Canal, the air strikes and the ground skirmishes, and the collection even includes some pictures of prisoners of war and casualties. But the most striking elements in the photographs are the soldiers themselves – young and old, active duty and reservists – all allowed themselves to be photographed, during fierce battles as well as in periods of rest, in meetings with the high command and in moments of casual comradery.

These photographs join hundreds of important archives and collections preserved at the National Library, including millions of pictures which document the history and society of the State of Israel and the land of Israel going back over one hundred years.

Nathan Fendrich, like many other artists – writers, academics, poets, composers and photographers – donated his collection on his own initiative, without requesting payment, knowing the photographs would reach millions of viewers in Israel and around the world on the National Library’s website.

“The intense experience of the Yom Kippur War, which I had the privilege of documenting with my camera, influenced the course of my entire life to this very day” says Fendrich from his home in Oregon. “All these years I’ve spoken about the war to various audiences in the United States, but I always hoped that the pictures in which I captured IDF soldiers during battle, and that were sitting in my house here on the west coast, would be preserved in an Israeli institution that could ensure they received public exposure in Israel and around the world using 21st century technologies. The National Library is the most professional and suitable institution for this purpose, and I was therefore very happy to be given the chance to transfer my collection to the library and thus return it to its natural home in Israel, where it will be preserved for generations.”

Nathan Fendrich (right) receives medical treatment during the war

The National Library has begun to upload and allow access to this moving collection on its website, and we now turn to you – the soldiers and relatives of soldiers who appear in these photographs – to help us identify those who are pictured and to tell us about the battles, fronts, events and situations that are captured in these fragments of history.

We have put up an initial handful of these photographs here. Can you spot yourselves in the pictures? Can you identify one of your friends in these photos and offer us some information? Any clue you may have can help! Please write the information in the comment section below this article, or you can also contact our Archives department at archives@nli.org.il. Please remember to mention which number photograph you are referring to. You can enlarge any photograph and examine it in greater detail by clicking on it.

If you think you know someone who can help us with relevant information feel free to share this article with them.

 

The photographs:

 

 

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