the course of one day, the 17th of March 1190, all the Jews living in the city
of York were killed. Attacks on Jews had begun six months earlier outside Westminster
Abbey in London, during the coronation of Richard the Lionheart. When their entry
into the abbey was barred, the crowd realised that the Jews, who were identified
by the yellow badges they wore, had lost their royal protection. Jews who had
lived in York for many generations were attacked by their neighbours. Seeking
refuge, survivors fled to the Tower of York, leaving behind a trail of the dead
and dying. Even the King's Guard, whose duty it was to protect the Jews, turned
against them. All hope of survival vanished. After much deliberation, and after
farewells and prayers, all the Jews committed suicide.
It is probable that
in a manner true to the tradition of their faith, adult males killed the women
and children, then setting fire to the tower, killing themselves.
was ever held. No-one was ever punished. No requiem was ever sung over the tower's
smouldering ruin. There was no dirge, no lamentation. This Elegy gathers together
the souls of the living and the dead in a covenant of sorrow and forgiveness.