A recent New York Times headline linked public health precautions in modern Israel to the bloody clash between Islam and Christianity during the Middle Ages.
We’d like to assume the New York Times editors who came up with a headline for a dispatch describing Ramadan in Jerusalem were referring to the Crusades as a time frame, and not comparing Israel to the Crusaders. (“In Jerusalem, Ramadan Restrictions Last Seen During the Crusades Return.”)
Jews tend to be sensitive to even a whiff of comparison between the two.
The Crusades were a religious war between Christians and Muslims. Each hated the other. And Jews, being everybody’s “other” were despised even more.
How exactly does this headline pick at the festering scars of traumas old and new?
The word “crusade” comes from the French word, croisade (literally, way of the cross), referring to a holy war. Thousands of European Jews in places like Speyer, Mainz, Worms and Cologne were massacred by Christian mobs en route to the Holy Land. In 1099, following a weeks-long siege, the Jews of Jerusalem were massacred by the Crusader knights and the survivors sold into slavery.
The equivalent term in Arabic is the better known word, jihad. In our time, an unimaginable amount of Jewish blood has been shed by radical Islam in the name of jihad.
The New York Times dispatch is otherwise well-written, making clear that the Temple Mount was closed by the Islamic Wakf for reasons of public health, not because of the tyranny of Israeli bureaucracy. Mosque director Omar Kiswane is quoted saying he doesn’t begrudge 300 Jews worshiping at the Western Wall under looser restrictions even as Muslims pray at home because otherwise, “we risk infecting our whole society.”
Earlier this year, Big Media described how the faithful of Jerusalem marked Passover and Easter in the shadow of the coronavirus. Ramadan is no less deserving of an apolitical look.
There’s an element of religious freedom at play too. The Crusades were originally sparked by reports reaching Europe that Christian pilgrims were being mistreated and denied access to holy sites. Who would have imagined that hundreds of years later, Jews would rule the Holy Land and be the ones guaranteeing the safety and freedom of worship of Christians and Muslims?
It’s well-known that headlines matter. Hopefully, New York Times headlines writers will be a little more sensitive.
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