Sunday, April 23, 2006

Other Massacres

As we in Israel near the solemn day of Yom HaShoah it is interesting to note that it nearly coincides with another anniversary of a Jewish massacre. Last week was the commemoration of the 500th year since the Lisbon massacre of thousands of Jews. This in a time where a few thousand people was equivalent to tens or maybe even hundreds of thousands today.
The massacre took place in a most hoffific manner and the details that we have on record on that day are too grizzly to recount. Suffice to say the ovens of Auschwitz had a prelate in the massive bonfires in the Rossio Square in Lisbon where any Jew: Man, woman and child was literally flung onto the pyre. The commemorations garnered so little attention because there are so few Jews of Portuguese descent left in the world, to a large extent we can chalk this off as a victory for those that butchered, burned and literally ripped apart the Portuguese Jewish community; physically and spiritually. As a Jew of Spanish and Portuguese ancestry I am constantly met with blanks stares when I mention my heritage, history, culture and traditions.
My main point in mentioning all this is to garner attention to other massacres and events in Jewish history outside of the Holocaust. While we should not diminish the Holocaust one iota, time and space should be given to Jewish suffering in other places and other times. There is not a single monument in the whole of Israel to the massacres, inquisitions and expulsions from the Iberian Penninsular. One must not forget that before all these catastrophes, Iberian Jewry totalled over 80% of world Jewry and many vanished overnight. I have heard it mentioned from a few historians that the psychological effects from these events had greater reverberations for the Jewish people than the Holocaust.
Even leaving the travails of Sephardic Jewry aside, how many Jews are knowledgeable of the Damascus Blood Libel, the Chmielnicki massacres, the massacre of thousands in Fez, Morrocco and many many other sad and bloody chapters in Jewish historical suffering.
Throughout Jewish history there have been many expulsions and massacres and whole Jewish communities were wiped out within a blink of an eye. We would do well as a people to remember them because sometimes there were no survivors to carry the torch of memory.
As we enter the week of Yom HaShoah we should concentrate all our sadness to the attrocities of Nazi-controlled Europe, however it should behoove us all to spend a little time learning about the many other massacres and suffering of Jews not from our particular familial background.

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