A modern-day crusade?

"This is a way to study the Middle Ages while making it interesting."

crusades 88 (photo credit: )
crusades 88
(photo credit: )
Amid calls of "hail to the king" and outfits ranging from colorful flowing robes to crowns perched on the heads of men and women, a group of mostly Anglos gathered last week in a recentlyrestored crusader-period hall in East Jerusalem to relive the Middle Ages. Called the Shire of Ma'ale Giborim, the 30 men and women, including one family visiting from Germany, reenacted a renaissance-period court, sat down for a festive meal on bronze plates, and sang songs while sipping ale. The group is the Israeli chapter of the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA) - an international group dedicated to recreating and researching the arts and skills of pre-17th century Europe. The Israeli chapter is part of the Kingdom of Drachenwald which covers Europe as well as South Africa and the Middle East. "This is a way to study the Middle Ages while making it interesting," said Michael Murphy who came with his wife and son from Germany to participate in the Israeli chapter's festivities last week. Murphy has been a member of the SCA for the past 20 years and attends the annual SCA international gathering in Pittsburgh where members don armor and hold sword fights. His SCA name is Viconte Michael Diezanberzunge Ritter Von Essen - a German man who based in the 13th century and is preparing to leave for his third crusade to the Holy Land. "Over the past 20 years I have learned more about the Middle Ages than I ever would have learned in school," he claims. The Israel chapter was founded by Zach Kessin, a 32-year-old computer programmer and his wife Devorah who he met after responding to an ad posted on the Internet looking for people interested in dressing up in costumes to reenact the Middle Ages. "It is just a lot of fun," said Kessin decked out in a hat, vest and pants rolled into his socks befitting his SCA character Yehoshua ben Haim haLevi - a Dutch Jew expelled from Spain around the 14th century. "It is one thing to go to renaissance fairs and watch them but it is a lot more interesting to get dressed up and to participate in them," said Devorah. The event was held last Thursday the same day as Thanksgiving. But instead of Turkey, which Kessin said was a "New World" food, the group dined on goose, rice and pumpkin. Another interesting part of the event was its location - held in a Crusader-period hall recently renovated by the Ir al Tilah Company in the Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem's Old City. The hall - which was purchased and used by Lithuanian Jews in the 19th century - was taken over by Arabs following the War of Independence in 1948 and was only recently reoccupied and restored by Jews.