Sunday, April 19, 2015

Daesh (Islamic State) murders Ethiopian Christians in Libya

Today the New York Times reported on a video by Daesh (the Islamic State) allegedly of the murder of Ethiopian Christians in Libya.  
During the last five minutes of the half-hour video, the footage cuts back and forth between scenes in the southern desert and a beach along the coast, at one point displaying both with a split screen. Both settings were filmed with the same sophisticated camera angles and editing that has distinguished other Islamic State films from indigenous Libyan videos. 
Masked fighters lead a row of bound captives dressed in black into the desert and then shoot each of the prisoners in the back of the head. Another group of masked fighters leads a row of prisoners in orange jumpsuits along a beach and then beheads each of them with a long knife, placing the severed heads on the bodies lying on the sand as bloody surf washes over them. 
“You will not have safety even in your dreams, until you accept Islam,” declares a masked figure, speaking English with an American accent and pointing a revolver toward the camera. “To the nation of the cross: We are back again.”
In February of this year, Daesh murdered 21 Coptic Christians in Libya. When I was in the Old City of Jerusalem last month with a friend, we went up to the roof of the Holy Sepulcher, where the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate is located. A banner lamenting the deaths of the Coptic martyrs was strung across the way.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Holy Fire in Jerusalem April 11, 2015

Today is the ceremony of the Holy Fire in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - it's Holy Saturday according to the calendar of Orthodox Christians. Tomorrow is Easter.





Tuesday, April 07, 2015

At the seder table, and the Wise Son

This is another illustration from the same Haggadah, fol. 6 - the participants surrounding the Seder table. The same heimish Jewish faces are represented here.


This is an image of the wise son (from the section of the Four Sons), fol. 8v.



Cute Jewish men identified - the Five Rabbis in B'nai B'rak

My colleague, Stephen Clancy, Professor of Art History at Ithaca College, has identified the source of the image in the previous post. It is taken from MS London, British Library, Add. 14762, "Haggadah for Passover (the 'Ashkenazi Haggadah'), German rite with the commentary of Eleazar of Worms." It is dated to the third quarter of the 15th century, ca. 1460, from southern Germany. The scribe was Meir Jaffe, and the illustrator was Joel ben Simeon Feibush. This is fol. 7v.

The five men are at the bottom of the page. They illustrate the story of the five rabbis in B'nei B'rak, who stayed up all night studying until their disciples came in the morning and told them that it was time to recite the morning Sh'ma.
"A story about R. Eliezer and R. Joshua and R. Tarfon and R. Elazar ben Azariah and R. Akiba who were sitting in B'nai B'rak and were telling about the exodus from Egypt, all that night, until their students came and said to them, 'Our masters, the time has come for the morning recital of the Sh'ma.'"


Cute Jewish men in a medieval manuscript

This is one of my favorite depictions of Jewish men from a medieval manuscript, because they all look so haimish. This image is taken from the cover of Talya Fishman's recent book, Becoming the People of the Talmud: Oral Torah as Written Tradition in Medieval Jewish Cultures. I've searched for the image through Google Images, but I haven't found a source for it other than the cover of the book. I would love to know what manuscript it's from and what it's supposed to be depicting. Who are these five guys, and what book are they discussing? If any of my readers know, please let me know. 



Monday, April 06, 2015

Cats at the Seder

The Jewish Studies Library at Oxford has posted a charming article about depictions of cats at Pesach seders in medieval manuscripts. Here are some of these delightful images.

Forli Siddur, Italy, 1383 (London, British Library, MS Add. 26968, fol. 119v). 

Second Nuremberg Haggadah, Ashkenaz, 1460s
(Jerusalem, Schocken Library, MS 24087, fol. 3v)

From the Oxford Jewish Studies Library:
In some medieval miniatures of the Seder feast, feline creatures appear under the table at the feet of the celebrating family. 
What do these animals do at such an occasion? 
The Pesahim tractate of the Babylonian Talmud discusses at length what to do if a mouse runs into the searched house with a bread crumb in its mouth (bPes 10b). The question is if the house has to be searched again or not. 
In the Second Nuremberg Haggadah, the cat itself comments on its task: “Behold, I bite the mouse, lest he eat the grain” (הנני נושך בעכבר פן יאכל את הבר). Another image on the same folio depicts a man pouring the content of a bowl into a big vessel. The caption says: “One hides the leaven and the grain, lest the mouse drag it away.” Thus it seems that cats are “invited” to catch mice which might bring in some leavened bread crumbs to the searched and already ritually clean house.
Prayer book, Italian rite, 15th century (London, British Library, MS Or. 11924, fol. 153v)

Sister Haggadah, Catalonia (Barcelona), 2nd or 3rd quarter of the 14th century 
(London, British Library, MS Or. 2884, fol. 18r)

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Medieval Maps of Jerusalem - Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Cloister of the Redeemer Church
Last Friday I visited the Old City with a friend, and one of the places I went was a small museum in the cloister of the Church of the Redeemer, the Lutheran Church that was built in the Muristan in the late 19th century. The church is built on the site of the 12th century Latin Church of Mary, and it's very close to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In the museum, there was a facsimile of a map from a medieval manuscript of a pilgrim's visit to Jerusalem late in the 7th century (ca. 670). The pilgrim was Arculf, a Frankish bishop who had visited the holy places.




From the Encyclopedia Britannica (online), the entry on Arculf:
Arculf, (flourished 7th century, Germany), bishop who was the earliest Western Christian traveler and observer of importance in the Middle East after the rise of Islām. Although he most likely was connected with a monastery, some believe he was the bishop of Périgueux, Aquitaine. 
On his return from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (c. 680),  Arculf was driven by storm to Scotland and so arrived at the Hebridean island of Iona, where he related his experiences to his host, Abbot St. Adamnan. Adamnan’s narrative of Arculf’s journey, De locis sanctis, came to the attention of the Venerable Bede, who inserted a brief summary of it in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Bede also wrote a separate and longer digest that endured throughout the Middle Ages as a popular guidebook to the Eastern holy places. 
Among the places Arculf visited were the sacred sites of Judaea, Samaria, and Galilee; Damascus and Tyre; and the Nile River and the volcanic Aeolian Islands (modern Eolie Islands). He drew plans of the churches of the Holy Sepulchre and of Mount Zion in Jerusalem, of the Ascension on Olivet, and of Jacob’s Well at Shechem. His records also include the first form of the story of St. George, patron saint of England.
This illustration is from a 9th century manuscript of De Locis Sanctis, Vienna, Austrian National Library codex 458, f. 4v. The circular area to the left is the Anastasis, the rotunda where the sepulchre itself is located. Outside the rotunda, to the right, is an enclosed rectangle which has the caption "Golgatha" above it - this is the traditionally accepted place of the crucifixion, according to Christian tradition.

Another illustration is found in a different manuscript.


I don't know which plan is original to Arculf or Adamnan, or closest to the original plan.

City of Jerusalem in the Madaba mosaic map. Damascus Gate and
the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are both marked.

My last photo is of the roof of the current-day Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where monks from Ethiopia live.