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Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of Palestine

By Rabbi Joseph Schwarz, 1850

A Sequel to the False Accusation Against the Jews of Damascus, in 5600 [1840].

This charge of murder arose from the sudden disappearance of a certain Father Thomas, who lived there a long time as a Catholic priest, and it was reported that the Jewish congregation of that city had murdered him to mingle his blood with the Passover bread, though the festival was celebrated long after the disappearance of this priest, wherefore his blood must have possessed a peculiar property if it could be kept so long without being spoiled. The torture and the tyrannical proceedings of the chief of Damascus, Serif Pacha, which he practised against that unfortunate congregation, were indeed stayed by the interference of the supreme authority of the state; but as no trace of the body of Father Thomas could ever be found, notwithstanding the most careful and diligent search, the suspicion that he had been made away with by the Jews has always remained, although the fact could not be proved.

About four years later, a Christian boy at Alexandria, who had been seen for the last time at the house of a Jewish merchant, suddenly disappeared. As may be expected, the suspicion fell again on the poor Jews, that they had murdered him according to their custom; and the consequence was nearly a riot of the Christians of Alexandria against the Jews. But the tolerant Mahmud Ali Pacha interfered by force of arms, and protected the unfortunate. To pacify, however, in a certain degree, the excited Christians, and since a suspicion was attached to the Jews, because the boy had been last seen in the house of one of them, he ordered them to use all possible efforts to trace him out; set them a long term when they should be held to answer the charge against them; and gave them all possible protection to carry on the investigation in every direction. The Jews were nevertheless in the greatest perplexity, as the problem was a most difficult and important one to discover the lost boy. They had therefore recourse to the power of money, the potent general solvent, and they promised a large reward to any one who should produce to them the missing child. And they were actually right in this mode of proceeding; for a compassionate young man, one of the rioters, who pitied the hard fate of the unfortunate Jews, after he had heard of the large prize offered by them, promised to deliver them from their dilemma, in order to obtain the reward. He only required a few sensible men among the Jews as also a few men as a guard for his protection to accompany him, and then set out on his search. When he had come to a Greek convent at a considerable distance from Alexandria, he said, "Here is the boy, as he has been taken under the protection of the holy and pious fathers." It, however, required a great deal of trouble and stratagem to get the boy to come out of the precincts of the convent, which, however, the young man at last succeeded in by the address with which he entrapped the priests; and as soon as the boy was outside, he was at once firmly detained by the escort. But it would not have answered any good purpose to employ force; since these saints were fully capable to murder the boy and conceal his body sooner than let the innocence of the Jews be proved. In brief, however, the boy was delivered up to the Jews in Alexandria perfectly sound and well; and every one was thus clearly and fully convinced that the whole was nothing but a wicked contrivance to have a pretext to torture and persecute the helpless Jews. What a commentary this on the conduct of the servants of the sole saving church! The young man then obtained the promised reward, when he said, "O ye unskilful Jews! give me a greater prize, and I will procure you the body of the long-since-consumed Father Thomas of Damascus, fat and sleek as he was years ago." But the poor Jews were glad enough in the happy finding of the boy, not to require the reproduction of the other party, and for fear of stirring up the nearly forgotten affair, they left it untouched, although they were greatly blamable for so doing.

When I learned these particulars at a later period, I took all the pains possible to reveal this mystery to the world. But I could not succeed, from various causes; first, because I could not be on the spot, Alexandria; and secondly, and this more especially on account of the very large sum which the discoverer demanded, which he did probably, because he would in all likelihood not have been safe any longer in the country, and in every other place else where he would have come in contact with monk or friar, who might have been interested in the business; and he was therefore compelled in a measure to demand enough means to procure himself an asylum abroad. This flagitious act was therefore passed over with indifference, and remains a mystery to the world.

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