1290 JOSEPH HA KOHANE OF LONDON

Jo Kahone

“Foreigners, go home!” you say. D’you know where we’re from, stranger? We’re Londoners, like you. Two centuries ago that foreigner king, William the Conqueror, William the Bastard, brought our people over from Rouen in Normandy to help him. Actually we may be even more English than you, Sir. I work in Cheapside Market. I live outside the City Wall in Jew Street where our Synagogue has been converted into a Christian Church. And yes, get over the shock, mister, we’re Jews.

And why do we dress so funny with pointy hats and that weird badge sewn on our coats? We have to. By law. The Pope, the Vatican Council and King Henry the Third decided this so people like you could always identify Jews in case you made friends with one by mistake. This “badge of shame” we must wear represents God’s 10 Commandments.

Did I kill Jesus? No, Mr Pontius Pilate, Governor of Palestine a thousand years ago, killed him, not me, Joe Cohen.

So why do we kidnap and murder little Christian children at Easter and use their blood to make our matzos biscuits for Passover? Here we go again, the same old blood libel. We don’t, we never did and never would but that lie has killed hundreds.

Do we steal the King’s gold? No, we don’t. Twelve years ago King Edward said we are all coin clippers. It wasn’t true but 300 of us were still executed for this in the Tower of London.

And why are we lined up here with our families and baggage by the Thames in Wapping? The King has issued an Edict of Expulsion and all Jews in England must now leave the country or be killed. Our properties and all debts we are owed now belong to the King.

Well here comes some help. A ship’s Captain has agreed to take our group downriver and over the Channel to France. We climb aboard. The sail is set, the anchor raised. We are on our way. We’re passing Rochester. But… hold on! O no! Something’s gone wrong! The ship has hit a sandbank in the estuary. “Emergency! Everyone off!” cries the Captain. We adults all grab our things- bundles, boxes, children- then scramble off the ship and wade to the sandbank in the middle of the tideway.

“I’ll sort this out,” says the Captain from the foredeck of his empty ship, “back soon.” The vessel lurches, uprights itself and moves gently away from the shore into the mainstream. It sails away. “Bye- bye Yids!” the Captain yells. The passengers – men, women and children – are on the sandbank. The waves are getting bigger. The tide is coming in…

DAN JONES

This tale is based on a true incident.

About the authors | About Dan Jones | About the project

Please seek permission before using this text in any other format / please inform the author if you use any part of this text in another format.

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