Tenth Century through Twelfth Century: Continued Conquests and the Crusades
Jewish life in Palestine after the initial Islamic conquest was impacted by several other conquests during the tenth and eleventh centuries. In 970, the Fatimids—a Shiite Muslim caliphate in North Africa—conquered Palestine. In 1073, the Turkish Seljuks conquered Palestine from the Fatimids, who reconquered Jerusalem in 1098.
While various Islamic armies traded Palestine between them, the Catholic Church was also planning to conquer Palestine for Christianity. In the year 1095 C.E., Pope Urban II initiated the first Crusade to reclaim the Holy Land from its Muslim rulers. In 1096, the Crusaders captured Jerusalem.
Though the Crusades were meant to liberate Palestine from Islamic rule, Crusaders decimated Jewish communities along the way. The Crusades were particularly devastating for the Karaite sect of Judaism. The Karaites are a division of Jews who observe only the written law, the Torah, and reject the Oral Law. The Karaites emerged in Palestine after the Muslim conquest as an alternative to the growing rabbinical Judaism. In the year 1099, Crusaders destroyed the Karaite community in Jerusalem by burning people there alive—alongside Jews who held by the rabbinic traditions. Today, a Karaite community of fewer than 10,000 still resides in Israel. After the conquest of Jerusalem, the Crusaders would ransom Jewish prisoners and prayer books to other Jewish communities.
As the Crusades continued through the next century, the Catholic Church became increasingly antagonistic toward Jewish communities. Jews helped defend the cities of Haifa and Tyre against the invading Crusaders and were ultimately slaughtered. Unlike in Haifa, after the 1123 conquest of Tyre, the Crusaders gave the Jews the option of leaving the city with their possessions or remaining. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries were marked by a series of Jewish expulsions and reappearances in Jerusalem and other areas of Palestine. Previously expelled by the Crusaders, Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem after Saladin, a Sunni Muslim, conquered the city in 1187. But Jerusalem’s Jews were expelled again after the city returned to Crusader control in 1229 after the Treaty of Jaffa, though the Turks would reclaim the city in 1244 and the Mongols would later capture Jerusalem in 1260.