Death of a Bishop/Death of a Monk
Posted by worriedlebanese on 16/03/2008
I went back to the Paris book-fair today for a book reading and signing. Alon Hilu, an Israeli-Jew of Syrian origin was presenting his book, “Death of a Monk“. This work of fiction written in 2004 was inspired by the real historical event know as the “Damascus Affair”. This affair occurred in 1840 and was triggered by the disappearance of Father Tomaso, an Italian monk, on the eve of Passover in the Jewish quarter of Damascus. It led to a blood libel against the Damascene Jews. The Damascus affair was much publicised in Europe and led to the mobilisation of European Jews who decided to come to aid of their brothers in faith by exerting pressure on their governments. This mobilisation induced the creation of the Alliance Israélite Universelle.
It seems that this was the first blood libel against Jews in the Ottoman Empire. Some people present it as an example of imported anti-semitism. In his presentation, Alon Hilu spoke of the way the blood libel was distorted while imported: in Europe, the accusation revolved around a supposed ritual murder (sacrificial) of Christian children. In the Damascus affair, the supposed victim was an old man.
Through an odd coincidence, I had learnt about the book signing on Friday, minutes before noticing the cover of the French catholic newspaper, La Croix, that announced the death of Faraj Raho, the Chaldean Archbishop of Mossul. Many politicians and communal leaders condemned this murder. But what steps are they likely to take to protect Iraq’s rapidly declining christian population?