The Damascus Blood Libel: Part 2

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Scales and Gavel
12 Apr 2007

A Lesson For the Children:

Summary of Part 1: The monk Tomaso disappeared in the Jewish section of Damascus, and the Jews were accused of killing him in order to use his blood for making matza. Seven leaders of the community were arrested, including Rabbi Yaacov Antebbi, and various “proofs” and false witnesses were gathered to show their guilt.

And then the investigation took a sharp turn. One of the prisoners, by the name of Mushon, the son of one of the rabbis in the city, cracked. He converted to Islam, and he told the investigators that he wanted to testify against his former colleagues. He asked that Rabbi Antebbi be called, and he stood in front of him and said:

“Now that I have converted to Islam I can tell the truth. It is a very tightly kept secret among the Jewish leaders of this generation that the blood of a Gentile must be mixed into the dough of the matzot. You make sure never to reveal this to the community, but both you and I know that this is the reason you always participate in baking the matzot on the eve of the holiday and you do not allow others to take part in the work. It is only so that you can put the blood into the dough when nobody else is looking!”

The agitated Mushon sat down for a moment, and then he stood up again. “And now I will tell what happened on that terrible night. You, the rabbi, called me in secret and asked me to go to the home of David Harari and do anything that I would be told. Poor Tomaso was already tied up. They slaughtered him and poured his blood into a bottle, which I was told to bring to you. I took the bottle and brought it to you. You were waiting, awake, in your house, which was dark, and you quickly took the bottle and hid it.”

Of course Rabbi Yaacov vigorously denied the entire story. “Nowhere in the Torah is or ever was there such a cruel law!” he said over and over. “It is our holy Torah that forbids eating any blood, and also forbids hurting any living soul. How could it command us to slaughter a man and then to eat his blood? This is utter nonsense! It is a group of evil men who have gathered together in order to make a false accusation against the Jews! And clearly nobody should listen to this group of cowardly Jews who cracked under the pressure of torture and joined the conspiracy. Perhaps they wanted to save themselves in this way, but nothing can change the truth!”

But nobody would take the rabbi’s words seriously. He was taken back to his cell, and it was clear that very soon he and the rest of the Jews would be sentenced to death. In the meanwhile, the riots expanded, together with the hatred for Jews in Damascus, in all of Syria, and in other lands. The entire world of Jewry was upset and agitated by the terrible libel, and a wave of hatred against them swept through many different lands.

Many missions of Jews from around the world tried to influence the leaders of Syria and the ruler of Egypt, Mohamed Alli (who was also in control of Syria) but to no avail. Pressure was also put on many foreign governments to use their influence to free the Jews. Prominent among those who applied pressure was Moshe Montefiori, who met the Turkish Sultan and other leaders many times.

In the end, the pressure helped. The group of Jews was released, and all the Jews were happy once again. Relative peace and quiet returned for a long time. The amazing thing is that until this very day some Gentiles are still not convinced that this entire story is a libel. Just a few years ago, the Syrian Minister of Defense wrote a book where he claimed that the Jews used to kill people in order to use their blood for matzot.

A lie never seems to die…

Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute (

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.