What wonder that they mourn? For nineteen dreary centuries their history has been one almost uninterrupted tragedy. Scattered throughout the world, scorned of all nations, they have been forced to suffer every form of persecution which men have been sufficiently cruel and ingenious to invent. Words fail to depict their sufferings. To torture, rob and exile them, the despotism of a hundred kings has been exhausted. They have been bought and sold as slaves. The plague which devastated Europe in the Middle Ages was ascribed to them, with horrible results. In France, throughout whole provinces, every Jew was burned. In Germany, too, their history for centuries is a hideous chronicle of human cruelty. Even in England their persecution, sketched in outline by Sir Walter Scott in Ivan/toe, is nothing to the lurid picture which he might have drawn.
Jews' Wailing Place.
As for Spain, no land in the world has equaled this, the birthplace of the Inquisition, in wreaking cruel wrath on the unoffending Jew. Many were here buried alive. In one year, in Seville alone, two hundred and eighty are said to have perished in the flames. Hebrews themselves consider their terrible expulsion from Spain a misfortune equaled only by the ruin of their Temple. We shudder at the brutal policy of Russia toward the Jews to-day, but let us not forget that all other Christian nations, except free America, have acted in a similar way when they had reached Russia's present stage of civilization. In the thirteenth century, all Jews were banished from Great Britain and their property was seized. In 1390 they were expelled from France; and in 1492, the very year which witnessed the discovery of America by Columbus, they were cast forth from Spain, where they had lived protected by the Moors for six hundred years, to wander through the world as hated exiles, and frequently to perish of starvation or by the slower agony of the slave-whip. If received at all in many Christian cities, they were hived in certain limited districts, like the Ghetto at Rome. Moreover, by a refinement of torture, Jewish children under fourteen years of age were taken from their parents, and retained in Spain and Portugal to be brought up as Christians, so that, in their madness, Hebrew mothers would sometimes murder their own offspring and then commit suicide. And why was all this misery inflicted on the Hebrew race? Because the Jews were said to have crucified Jesus. But as a matter of fact the Jews did not crucify Jesus. It was the Romans who scourged Him, put the crown of thorns upon His brow, and finally nailed Him to the cross. True, the Jews solicited His death. But how many of them? Only a priestly sect in Jerusalem. Is it fair to condemn an entire people for the sins of a few, and above all to persecute their innocent descendants after hundreds of years have come and gone? That would be a dangerous precedent to establish! According to that, we ought to persecute the Greeks for causing Socrates to drink the hemlock; the Italians, because so many martyrs were thrown to the lions in the Roman Colosseum; the Florentines for burning Savonarola; the English for the flames of Smithfield; the Spaniards for the horrors of the Inquisition.
Jewish Lady And Maid.
Jewish Place Of Lamentation.
The Jews are not the only people who have rejected and put to death their teachers and reformers. Such conduct is as old as history. In any case, what right have certain nations (themselves not without sin) to act as executioners? "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord."
Zion Gate, Jerusalem.
Does it seem credible, therefore, in view of the fact that Christian baptism has usually offered to the Jew an avenue of escape from all these horrors, that after nineteen hundred years of such calamitous persecution, one genuine Hebrew can be left who has not exchanged his faith for the religion of his tyrants ? Even in Russia, now, a Jew may rid himself of many restrictions by becoming a Christian. Here, indeed, is the marvel of it all, - the miracle of history, - that in direct opposition to all motives of self-interest, the Jews not only have remained, but still remain, sublimely loyal to their fathers' faith. Nothing has shaken or divided them. They have survived the empires which sought to destroy them. Without a country, without a common, living language, and without one political bond of union, they nevertheless exist to-day a perfectly distinct and indestructible race, exulting in their glorious past!