In the life of Eyal: A Memoir

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
historical fiction short story middle ages first crusade

Submitted: April 24, 2012

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Submitted: April 24, 2012



In the life of Eyal: A Memoir



Thomas J. Kelly



High Middle Ages: History 204-401 Section 601

Professor Martha Carlin

March 25, 2012






This is written in dedication to my Father.

My name is Eyal; I was born on the seventh day of the first week in Kislev in 4842[i] in Jerusalem, a city in a mountainous region[ii] west of the Mediterranean Sea and north of the Dead Sea. My father’s name was Alon and was a Physician in the city of Jerusalem[iii]. He had his own practice and his clinic was a short distance from the Holy Sepulcher. He was married to my mother, Dalia. Together they were a happy couple and my father always made time for the both of us; even though his profession sometimes required him to work late in the evening. When he did have free time, he would spend most of it with me, teaching me how to read and write and sometimes let me come along with him to work where I could learn the trade of medical apprehension. He would often tell me that one day it was his dream for me to take over his medical practice. My grandfather also lived with us after my grandmother passed away from illness a few years prior to the Christian pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the year 4859. Soon however, the world as the three of us knew it would change and none of us could have anticipated what was to come.

My grandfather, before he died from natural causes in the year 4858, would tell the family tales of when Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah had ruled over Jerusalem, when he ordered the destruction of both synagogues and churches in the year 4769.[iv] Rumor had it that a small band of Jews in the city had told him that Christians were going to forcibly inhabit all his lands unless he destroyed churches within the city, mainly the Holy Sepulchre.[v] He recalled stories of the populace in France that were outraged by the destruction of the churches, they cast blame on the Jews and attacked them as if out for revenge. Many Jews were driven from cities, put to the sword, or given the chance for a Christian baptism to which was more often seen as a disgrace in the Jewish faith and took their own lives.[vi] In the year 4781, Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah had mysteriously disappeared, leaving behind only bloody garments,[vii] no one ever discovered his demise. It was then in the year 4802 that the Byzantine Emperor, Constantine IX Monomacho started to rebuild the church of the Holy Sepulchre during a truce with Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah’s son, Ali az-Zah ir.[viii]

For a long while, after the Holy Sepulchre had been rebuilt, my grandfather said that “We as a Jewish people lived comfortably without fear.” Though, some things even as peaceful as they are - don’t last forever. In the year 4856, we heard stories of Jewish communities near the Rhine (more intensely in the city of Xanten), Moselle, and Danube rivers[ix] being attacked by a band of Christian pilgrims on their way to the city of Jerusalem during what they called “the pilgrimage” or “the movement”.[x] During this “movement”, they killed, robbed, or again forcibly tried to baptize the Jewish people.[xi] Much like before in 4769, the Jewish communities saw the Christian baptism as a disgrace to their faith and it was met with violent ends.  They saw their martyred action as a statement to outmatch their Christian brethren.[xii]

A year later, in 4857, word had come that the Christians partaking in “the movement” had amassed together in Constantinople.[xiii] From here, they made their way to Nicea, but not before coming across part of their fellow pilgrims who were massacred in Nicomedia.[xiv] The Christian pilgrims pushed on to Nicea where they besieged it. The Christian pilgrims attacked the walls of the city in multiple attempts in order to reach the city.[xv] Eventually, the pilgrims were able to destroy most of the walls[xvi] and their victory appeared imminent. It was at this time that a peace of sorts had commissioned[xvii] and the siege was essentially over.

Frustrated by the outcome of Nicea, the pilgrims moved forward to Antioch. However, something was amiss. The pilgrims found themselves in a surprise attack in the city of Dorylaeun. [xviii]  At first it was believed that the Christian pilgrims would meet their end on this day but reinforcements would eventually come in after nearly six hours of fighting and turn the course of the battle in the pilgrims favor. [xix]

They eventually made their way to Antioch and began the siege.[xx] Winter soon struck however and left the Christian pilgrims in disarray.[xxi] It wasn’t until the discovery of some Christian artifact[xxii] that turned the tide of battle and morale in the Christian pilgrims favor and they took control of the city. With the city of Antioch now in Christian control, it wasn’t long before the ones who once laid siege to the city became the ones who were besieged.[xxiii] The Christian pilgrims, unwilling to surrender or be defeated, flew out of the city in droves attacking their enemies; with the Christian artifact in hand. [xxiv] The Christian pilgrims would prevail this day[xxv] and ultimately defeat their foes but not before acting in a desolate manner and as if almost possessed by a creature of nature, turn cannibalistic on their fallen enemies.[xxvi] When the Christian pilgrims regained their sensibility, they continued their advancement towards their goal in “the movement”, the city of Jerusalem.[xxvii]

It was the second day in the second week of Sivan 4859 when we heard reports that the Christian pilgrims had set up camp near the Tower of David. [xxviii] Soon after a small group of Muslims spotted a lone Christian pilgrim surveying the nearby area and went after him. The attack was unsuccessful and the Christian pilgrim defended himself victoriously.[xxix] A week later had gone by and the Christian pilgrims had started their initial attack on Jerusalem with a single ladder. This attack on the city failed and they withdrew their group to regroup. [xxx] Nearly two days shy of a month later[xxxi], the Christian pilgrims attacked once again; the sound of trumpets filled the air as they closed in on the city. This time in the attack they were more prepared, they came in larger numbers and had more siege equipment than just a single ladder.[xxxii]

Catapults flung rocks into the city towers, stone from the towers flew into the city like meteorites. A battering ram was heard at the exterior wall as it breached a pathway.[xxxiii] Its banging sounded like a crack of thunder with each bang against the stone wall. At this time, the city was in chaos. Citizens barred themselves in homes as others ran for sanctuary within a synagogue. Amidst the chaos, my father feared we would not be safe in our home so we scurried to find refuge; it wouldn’t be long until the Christian pilgrims made their way in the city. As my family and I ran to find safety, I over looked past my shoulder and stood in amazement. Time appeared to stop as I watched two women attempt to hex the Christian siege equipment. Time fast forwarded back into reality as my father pulled on my arm to keep up. I took once last quick glance behind me, only to witness the two women get cut down by incoming catapult fire.[xxxiv]

We raced to a synagogue and eventually made it inside. It was crowded with a large majority of the Jewish community inside. But something wasn’t right, or at least my father felt that way. “We need to get out of here, I don’t feel safe here.” He said. My mother and I thought that he was just being himself, uneasy in crowded spaces, but he was more persistent than usual that my mother retracted in her disbelief and didn’t question him this time.

We soon found ourselves trying to fight our way out when so many others tried to find their way inside. We got close to the door and that’s when the mayhem overbore us and we started to get separated. As my mother and I got pushed out of the doors of the synagogue we found my father lagging behind us, still inside the synagogue. “GET TO MY CLINIC!!” He yelled. “I’LL FIND ANOTHER WAY OUT OF HERE AND MEET YOU THERE!” My mother and I rushed to the clinic, almost tripping over the numerous amounts of bodies that filled the city landscape and their blood flowed in the city streets like a river.[xxxv] As we came close to the clinic, we saw a group of Muslims had climbed to the Temple of Solomon, only to be shot down with arrows and some falling to their death.[xxxvi]  Our attention was then drawn from behind us; the sounds of screams and the smell of fire were overwhelming. The Christian pilgrims had set the very synagogue we just escaped from on fire.[xxxvii]

My mother dropped to the ground in grief. I mustered up every bit of strength I could conjure and pulled my mother to her feet and pulled her inside the clinic. Inside we hid until the sounds of screams had died down. We stayed within the clinic until the following day; knowing we couldn’t hide in the clinic forever, we decided it was best to leave the city. As we made our way out of the clinic we saw Christian pilgrims force Muslims in to one of the mosques in the city; horrific screams soon followed.[xxxviii] We saw Christian pilgrims go in homes and loot anything in sight.[xxxix] As we made our way to one of the many holes in the wall for our escape, it was almost nauseating, the stench of the dead bodies over took the fresh air and felt almost thick that it could be tasted. Off in the distance there was a huge fire where bodies were being burned. Later it was heard that the Christians believed that the Muslims had ingested precious metals and the Christians thought that by burning the bodies, they could extract the metals.[xl]

My mother and I had nearly reached our freedom but were stopped by a band of Christian pilgrims exiting the Holy Sepulcher as we neared our escape from the city. Captured, we were bound up and put in a group with fellow Jewish peoples. We were all put on a ship and set for Christian lands in the Southern part of Italy. During the voyage across the Mediterranean Sea, some Jewish captives were even thrown overboard or beheaded on the ship;[xli] my mother and I were one of the lucky ones and made it to the ships destination.  Others in the Jewish community were not so lucky; either they were hunted down and killed, taken prisoner or ransomed.[xlii] That day in 4859 felt as though it was almost an apocalyptic woe and if one thing is without a doubt, these lands of Jerusalem will be forever changed.



[i] Sadinoff, Danny. "Hebrew Calendar." Hebrew Calendar.

[ii] Duncan, Frederick and Krey, August C. (1912) pp. 109-115.

[iii]Steinberg, Theodore L. (2008). pp.139

[iv] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). p. 5

[v] Rubenstein, Jay.(2011).p.6

[vi] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). pp.6-7

[vii] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). p. 5

[viii] Ousterhout, Robert. (1989). pp. 66-78

[ix] Haverkamp, Eva. (2009). p.319

[x] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). p. xi

[xi] Haverkamp, Eva. (2009). p.319

[xii]Haverkamp, Eva. (2009). p.320

[xiii] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). p.101

[xiv] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). p.103

[xv] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). p.109

[xvi] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011).p.110

[xvii] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). p.111

[xviii] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). p.128

[xix] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). p.130

[xx] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). p.1143

[xxi] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). p.153

[xxii] Asbridge, Thomas S. (2004) pp. 163–187

[xxiii] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). P. 205

[xxiv] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). P 223

[xxv] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). P.225

[xxvi] Hotaling, Edward. (2003) p.114

[xxvii] Neveux, Franc?ois, and Claire Ruelle. (2008). pp. 186–188

[xxviii] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). P.272

[xxix] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). P.278

[xxx] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). P.280

[xxxi] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). P. 1

[xxxii] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). P.287

[xxxiii] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). P.287

[xxxiv] Rubenstein, Jay. (2011). P.288

[xxxv] Duncan, Frederick and Krey, August C. (1912)pp. 109-115

[xxxvi] Duncan, Frederick and Krey, August C. (1912) pp. 109-115

[xxxvii] F. Gabrieli. (1984)

[xxxviii] Tyerman, Christopher. (2006). pp. 157–159

[xxxix] Duncan, Frederick and Krey, August C. (1912)pp. 109-115

[xl] Duncan, Frederick and Krey, August C. (1912) pp. 109-115

[xli] Goitein, S.D. (1952), pp. 162-177

[xlii] Tyerman, Christopher. (2006). pp. 157–159


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