{Originally posted on the website, The Lid}

This year the Jewish holiday of Passover begins at sunset on Saturday night, March 27th. Throughout Jewish history, the weeks surrounding Passover has been a most dangerous time for the Jews. That’s because of the famous fake anti-Semitic libel that matzah was made from Christian Children’s blood. These accusations usually led to violent attacks against Jewish communities.


The blood libel is a term with a specific and terrible history. It refers to the scurrilous accusation that Jews kidnapped and murdered Christian children to use their blood to prepare Passover matzoh. Charges of blood libel have spurred massacres of Jews throughout the centuries; the myth was revived by Hitler and persists today in places like Russia, the Muslim world.

It even exists in the United States (in a different form) preached by people like Former President Obama in the form of the IDF targeting kids, Louis Farrakhan, and others. College campuses in America, especially the most liberal ones tend to be hotbeds of blood libel (they don’t provide the Jewish Students with safe spaces).

Anybody who’s ever eaten matzah knows that matzah is made from a combination of sheetrock and cardboard (at least it tastes that way).

Like many anti-Semitic lies, the blood libel is based on something Jews can’t do. The Torah forbids Jews from consuming the blood of animals. As is written in Leviticus 17:10-14:

And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among them, that eat any manner of blood, I will set My face against that soul that eat  blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that make atonement by reason of the life. Therefore I said unto the children of Israel: No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood. And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among them, that taketh in hunting any beast or fowl that may be eaten, he shall pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust. For as to the life of all flesh, the blood thereof is all one with the life thereof; therefore I said unto the children of Israel: Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh; for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof; whosoever eat it shall be cut off.

Part of the process of making meat Kosher is salting the meat which is done to get rid of the last traces of blood.

The blood libel springs from an action that occurred 3,500 years ago in the land of Egypt, ” we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt,” the Torah says.

As the biblical account explains, the tenth and final plague hit the firstborn sons of every Egyptian (and their firstborn animals). To avoid the 10th plague, the Jews were told to smear the blood of a slaughtered lamb on the doorposts of the Jewish homes, that way death knew who to pass over, This connected Passover and blood.

About 1,500 years later Josephus wrote that the Greeks spread rumors that the Jews slaughtered a Greek in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and ate his intestines as part of their religious rites.

The story of William of Norwich (d. 1144) is often cited as the first known accusation of European blood libel. Jews in Norwich, England were accused of murder after a Christian boy, William, was found dead. It was claimed that the Jews had tortured and crucified their victim. The Jews of the town who didn’t flee were murdered. Eleven years later, the blood libel resurfaced in England as Jews were attending a wedding in Lincoln. A Christian boy named Hugh was found in a cesspool where he apparently had fallen. After subsequent forced, tortured confessions, 19 Jews were hanged. Soon, the anti-Semites of England accused all of England’s Jews of participating in ritual murder.

The British blood libel spread throughout Europe. France’s first blood libel took place in Blois in 1171, 31 Jews were burned at the stake as Passover approached because they refused to convert. In 1235, in the town of Fulda in what is now Germany, Christians accused Jews of killing two boys and retaliated by murdering 34 Jews.

In the 17th century, catastrophe struck Polish Jewry as Cossack troops attacked and massacred entire Jewish communities during the Chmielnicki Revolt. Rabbi David Halevy Siegel, who lived during that era and authored a commentary on the Shulhan Arukh (Code of Jewish Law) entitled the Turei Zahav, issued a ruling intended to protect Jews from the blood libel. He ruled that the traditional red wine used at the seders should be replaced with white wine in lands of persecution in order not to arouse suspicion. In his own life, Rabbi Siegel managed to flee from the Chmielnicki massacres, but two of his sons were murdered in a pogrom in Lvov, Poland, in 1654.

In 1840 an elderly Italian monk-priest, Padre Tommaso, and his servant disappeared in Damascus, Syria, after having visited the Jewish quarter in the city. A French consul to the Ottoman Empire, Ratti-Menton, promoted a groundless theory of ritual murder of Tommaso that the local Muslim government largely accepted. Jewish leaders were arrested and tortured. Sixty of their children were held hostage and starved to pressure their parents into confessing. One source said that four adults died from the mistreatment; another states that two died and some were permanently disabled. Most of the rest confessed involvement in a ritual murder. The consul then requested permission from the Syrian government to murder the rest of his suspects. (Jonathan Frankel, “‘Ritual Murder’ in the Modern Era: The Damascus Affair of 1840,” Jewish Social Studies Volume 3, Number 2).


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Jeff Dunetz blogs at Yid with Lid