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Nevu'at Ha-Yeled. Travelers and Explorers. The Twelve Tribes of Israel. The Great Revolt. The Great Assembly. Oath More Judaico. Urim and Thummim. Juramentum Judaeorum. Hannah and her Seven Sons. The Occupation of Canaan. Weights, Measures, and Coins. The Herodian Dynasty. Weights and Measures. Shiloh served as a sacral center for all the tribes, housing the Ark of the Covenant under the priestly family of Eli.

Under the impact of military pressures, the Israelites felt compelled to turn to Samuel with the request that he establish a monarchy, and Saul was crowned to rule over all the tribes of Israel. Upon his death, Saul's son was accepted by all the tribes as the new king, save Judah and Simeon who preferred David. David's struggle with the house of Saul ended in victory for him and all the elders turned to David for royal leadership.

He ruled from Hebron and later Jerusalem over all the tribes of Israel and following his death was succeeded by his son, Solomon. After the death of Solomon , the tribes once again split along territorial and political lines, with Judah and Benjamin in the south loyal to the Davidic house and the rest of the tribes in the north ruled by a succession of dynasties.

Modern scholarship does not generally accept the biblical notion that the twelve tribes are simply divisions of a larger unit which developed naturally from patriarchal roots. This simplistic scheme, it is felt, actually stems from later genealogical speculations which attempted to explain the history of the tribes in terms of familial relationships. The alliance of the twelve tribes is believed to have grown from the organization of independent tribes, or groups of tribes, forced together for historical reasons.

Scholars differ as to when this union of twelve took place and when the tribes of Israel became one nation. One school of thought holds that the confederation took place inside the country toward the end of the period of the Judges and the beginnings of the Monarchy.

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All of the traditions which see the twelve tribes as one nation as early as the enslavement in Egypt or the wanderings in the desert are regarded as having no basis in fact. This school recognizes in the names of some of the tribes the names of ancient sites in Canaan, such as the mountains of Naphtali , Ephraim , and Judah , the desert of Judah , and Gilead. With the passage of time, those who dwelt in these areas assumed the names of the localities.

Others feel that the tribes descended from the matriarch Leah - namely Reuben , Simeon , Levi , Judah , Zebulun and Issachar - existed at an earlier stage as a confederation of six tribes whose boundaries in Canaan were contiguous. Only at a later stage did other tribes penetrate the area, eventually expanding the confederation to twelve.

A second school grants that the union of twelve existed during the period of wanderings in the desert, but that Canaan was not conquered by an alliance of these at any one time. Rather, there were individual incursions into the land at widely separated periods. However, the covenant among the twelve tribes and their awareness of national unity flowing from ethnic kinship and common history, faith, and sacral practices had their source in the period prior to the conquest of the land.

The number twelve is neither fictitious nor the result of an actual genealogical development in patriarchal history. It is an institutionalized and conventionalized figure which is found among other tribes as well, such as the sons of Ishmael , of Nahor, of Joktan , and Esau. Similar organizational patterns built about groups of twelve, or even six, tribes, are known from Asia Minor, Greece and Italy. In Greece , such groupings were called amphictyony, meaning "to dwell about" a central sanctuary.

Each tribe was assigned a prearranged turn in the provision and maintenance of the shrine.


The amphictyonic members would make pilgrimages to the common religious center on festive occasions. The exact measure of correspondence between the amphictyony of the Hellenic world and the duodecimal structure of the tribes of Israel may be the subject of scholarly controversy, but there can be little doubt that this pattern of twelve attributed to the Hebrew tribes is very real and historically rooted.

Thus, if one tribe were to withdraw from the union or to be absorbed into another, the number twelve would be preserved, either by splitting one of the remaining tribes into two or by accepting a new tribe into the union. For example, when the tribe of Levi is considered among the twelve tribes, the Joseph tribes are counted as one. However, when Levi is not mentioned, the Joseph tribes are counted separately as Manasseh and Ephraim. For the same duodecimal considerations, Simeon is counted as a tribe even after having been absorbed into Judah , and Manasseh even after having split in tw, is considered one.

The confederation of the twelve tribes was primarily religious, based upon belief in the one "God of Israel" with whom the tribes had made a covenant and whom they worshiped at a common sacral center as the "people of the Lord. During the desert wanderings, "the mountain of God," that is, Sinai or Horeb, served as such a place, as did the great oasis at Kadesh-Barnea where the tribes remained for some time and from where the tribes attempted a conquest of the land.

Many sites in Canaan are mentioned as having sacred associations or as being centers of pilgrimage. Jacob built an altar at Shechem and the tribes gathered there "before the Lord" and made a covenant with Him in Joshua's time. Shiloh enjoyed special importance as a central site for the tribes. There they gathered under Joshua to divide up the land by lot, and it was there that they placed the Tent of Meeting and the Ark of the Covenant. Eli's family, which traced its descent from Aaron , the high priest, served at Shiloh, and it was to Shiloh that the Israelites turned for festivals and sacrifices.

The multiplicity of cultic places raises the question of whether all twelve tribes were actually centered about one amphictyonic site. It may be that as a tribe's connections with the amphictyony were weakened for various reasons, the tribe began to worship at one or another of the sites. Possibly, different sites served the several subgroups among the tribes. Beer-Sheba and Hebron , for example, served the southern groups of tribes; Shechem , Shiloh , and Gilgal were revered by the tribes in the center of the country; and the shrine at Dan served the northern tribes.

The likelihood of a multiplicity of shrines is strengthened by the fact that clusters of Canaanite settlements separated the southern and central tribes and divided the central tribes from those in Galilee. It is possible that various shrines served different tribes simultaneously, while the sanctuary which held the Ark of the Lord was revered as central to all twelve.

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The changes which occurred in the structure of the twelve tribes and in their relative strengths, find expression in the biblical genealogies. The tribes are descended from four matriarchs, eight of them from the wives Leah and Rachel , and four from the handmaids Bilhah and Zilpah. It is a widely held view that attribution to the two wives is indicative of an early stage of tribal organization, the "tribes of Leah" and the "tribes of Rachel.

In the list of the twelve tribes, Reuben is prominent as the firstborn, followed by Simeon , Levi , and Judah , the sons of Leah , who occupy primary positions. Reuben stood at the head of a tribal league and had a position of central importance among his confederates prior to the conquest of the land. On the other hand, the same tribe is inactive during the period of the Judges - it did not provide any of the judges and during Deborah's war against Sisera , Reuben "sat among the sheepfolds" and did not render any aid. Possibly, because this tribe dwelt on the fringes of the land, its links with the others were weakened and its continued existence as one of the tribes of Israel was in jeopardy.

Simeon was absorbed by Judah. Levi spread throughout Israel as a result of its sacral duties. Judah was cut off from the rest of the tribes by a Canaanite land strip that separated the mountains of Judah and Ephraim. Reuben's place as head of the twelve tribes was taken by the house of Joseph which played a decisive and historic role during the periods of the settlement and the Judges.

Joshua came from the tribe of Ephraim. Shechem and Shiloh were within the borders of the house of Joseph. Samuel came from the hill country of Ephraim. They revived old allegations and instituted reinvestigations and trials in territories under their rule or influence: at Memel in ; at Bamberg in a revival ; and at Velhartice, Bohemia, in On May 1, , the Nazi daily, Der Stuermer , devoted a special illustrated number to the blood libel, in which German scientists openly served the Nazi aims.

The above-mentioned Handwoerterbuch vol. The epitome appears in the remarkable enquiry: "In conclusion to this shocking list, there remains only one question: for what purpose did the Jews use the blood? The blood libel, in the various forms it assumed and the tales with which it was associated, is one of the most terrible expressions of the combination of human cruelty and credulity. No psychological or sociological research can convey the depths to which the numerous intentional instigators of such libels, and the more numerous propagators of this phantasmagoria, sank.

It resulted in the torture, murder, and expulsion, of countless Jews, and the misery of insults. However, the dark specters it raised were even more harmful in their effectson the minds of Christians. Every Jew who has been brought up among Jews knows as an indisputable fact that throughout the length and breadth of Jewry there is not a single individual who drinks human blood for religious purposes…. Here, you see, the Jews are right and perfectly innocent" Selected Essays , —4.

Today, they are trying to say that these things never happened, and that it was a joke or a lie, but these are the facts of history. In modern times Russia has been the principal perpetuator of the blood libel, both medieval and modern factors see above combining to enable its deliberate dissemination among the ignorant masses. The first blood-libel case in Russia occurred in the vicinity of Senno, south of Vitebsk, on the eve of Passover , when the body of a woman was found near a Jewish tavern: four Jews were arrested on the ground of the "popular belief that the Jews require Christian blood.

The accused were released through lack of evidence. Nevertheless the poet and administrator G. If I for my part consider that such crimes, even if sometimes committed in antiquity, were carried out by ignorant fanatics, I thought it right not to overlook them. Official Russian circles were divided in their views on the libel. A number of inquiries into the charges were instituted, while the views of the czars themselves fluctuated. In an attempt to stop their dissemination the minister of ecclesiastic affairs, A.

Golitsyn, sent a circular to the heads of the guberniyas provinces throughout Russia on March 6, , to this effect. Basing his instruction on the fact that both the Polish monarchs and the popes have invariably invalidated the libels, and that they had been frequently refuted by judicial inquiries, he stated in his circular that the czar directed "that henceforward the Jews shall not be charged with murdering Christian children, without evidence, and through prejudice alone that they allegedly require Christian blood.

The trial lasted for about ten years. Although the Jews were finally exonerated, Nicholas I later refused to endorse the circular, giving as a reason that he considered that "there are among the Jews savage fanatics or sects requiring Christian blood for their ritual, and especially since to our sorrow such fearful and astonishing groups also exist among us Christians. The Hebrew writer and scholar I.

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A special secret commission was convened by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to clarify the problem concerning "use by Jews of the blood of Christian children," in which the Russian lexicographer and folklorist V. Dahl took part. The result of the inquiry, which reviewed numerous cases of blood libel in the Middle Ages and modern period, were published in in a limited edition and presented by Skripitsin, the director of the Department for Alien Religions, to the heads of state.

The council of state which dealt with the case in its final stages announced that it had confined itself to the purely legal aspect of the case and refrained from "anything bearing on the secret precepts or sects existing within Judaism and their influence on the crime. While the case was being considered, between and , various Jews were accused of "kidnapping" on a number of occasions. The special committee appointed in had included a number of theologians and orientalists, among them two converts from Judaism, V.

Levisohn and D. The committee reviewed numerous Hebrew publications and manuscripts, and came to the conclusion that there was no hint or evidence to indicate that the Jews made use of Christian blood. With the growth of an antisemitic movement in Russia in the s, the blood libel became a regular motif in the anti-Jewish propaganda campaign conducted in the press and literature. Leading writers in this sphere were H.

Numerous further allegations were made, including a case in Kutais Georgia in , in which Jewish villagers were accused of murdering a little Christian girl. The case was tried in the district court and gave the advocates for the defense an opportunity of ventilating the social implications of the affair and the malicious intentions of its instigators.

The chief agitators of the blood libels were monks. At the monastery of Suprasl crowds assembled to gaze on the bones of the "child martyr Gabriello," who had been allegedly murdered by Jews in A number of works were published by Jewish writers in Russia to contradict the allegations, such as D. Levinsohn's Efes Damim of was translated into Russian Lutostansky, Despite the growing antisemitism and their officially supported anti-Jewish policy, the czarist authorities during the reign of Alexander III —94 did not lend credence to the blood libels.

It was only at the beginning of the 20 th century that further attempts were renewed.

The trial, which continued from spring to fall , became a major political issue and the focal point for anti-Jewish agitation in the antisemitic press, in the streets, at public meetings, and in the Duma. The whole of liberal and socialist opinion was ranged behind Beilis' defense, and even a section of the conservative camp. Leading Russian lawyers conducted the defense, and in Russia and throughout Europe hundreds of intellectuals and scholars, headed by V. Korolenko and M. The exoneration of Beilis was a political defeat for the regime.

Despite this, the government continued to assent to the instigation of blood libels and support their dissemination among the masses until the Revolution. The Soviet government's attitude toward the blood libel was that it had been a weapon of the reaction and a tactic to exploit popular superstition by the czarist regime. The instigators of the Beilis trial were interrogated and tried at an early stage after the revolution. In later years the specter of the blood libel was raised in the Soviet press in remote regions of the U. After these attempts had aroused world public opinion, they were dropped.

The blood libel was repeated in the Arab countries in modern times in a number of ways in various books, as in Egypt in the s, the titles referring to "talmudic human sacrifices" or "the secrets of Zionism. The book, called "Matzah of Zion" and reprinted in a number of editions and translated into many languages, became an influential and frequently quoted authority on how Jews and Zionists constantly perpetrate cruel ritual murders.

Newspapers as well joined in, with the Egyptian government-sponsored Al-Ahram publishing in October a full-page article called "Jewish Matzah Made from Arab Blood. The image of the Zionist in these visual depictions, watched by millions all over the world, is that of the Der Sturmer Jew, bloodthirsty and frighteningly ferocious.

Samuel, Blood Accusation ; M. Hacohen ed. Mishpatim ve-Alilot Dam ; H. Hruby, in: W. Eckert and E. Ehrlich eds. Domenichino de Val, Patrono di Chierichetti ; M. Seiden, Paradox of Hate Margolin, Jews of Eastern Europe , —; A. Erb ed. Dundes ed. Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica.