Clifford's Tower in the heart of the city of York, England
The site of York's Jewish community massacre 1190 AD

York 1190 Remembered
(To connect to the "Sh'maa!" Text Click Here)



During the course of two days– the 16th and 17th of March, 1190—all the Jews who lived in the city of York were killed.

The attacks on Jews had begun six months earlier– outside Westminster Abbey in London, during the coronation of Richard Coeur-de-Lion. Their entry to the Abbey was barred– and the crowd realized that the Jews– identified by the yellow badges they were forced to wear– had lost their royal protection.

The hundreds of Jews who had lived in York for many generations were suddenly attacked by their neighbors. Seeking refuge, they fled to the tower of York’s royal castle, leaving behind them a trail of their dead and dying.

Some of the Jews, in a desperate attempt to save themselves, cried out that they would forswear their own faith and become Christians. But they too were slaughtered.

Even the King’s Guard, whose duty was to protect the Jews, turned against them. All hope of survival vanished.

After much deliberation, after farewells and prayers, 352 Jews committed suicide. It is probable that they did so in a manner true to the tradition of their faith– adult males killing the women and children, then setting fire to the tower and killing themselves.

No trial was ever held.

No one was ever punished.

No requiem was ever sung over the tower’s smoldering ruin. There was no dirge, no lamentation. This elegy gathers together the souls of the living and the dead in a covenant of sorrow and forgiveness.

The Recording of "Sh'maa!"




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Tracks 13 through 50 only available on CD-ROM
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The Planting of the Daffodils




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805th Annual Remembrance Day
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Gyora Novak- Artist Designer
  • 1934 -Born in Nahalal, Israel
  • Citizen of- Israel, USA, UK
  • Early life as shepherd boy, later a soldier
  • 1954- As outstanding cadet finishing officer’s school, volunteered to serve in the just formed first commando paratroopers regiment # 890 under Captain Ariel Sharon.
  • 1955-1960- Self taught in painting & sculpting and English and French languages
  • 1961- Left Israel for Paris, the Old World art center
  • 1962- Settling in New York City, the New World art center
  • 1965- Studying, working in Japan
  • 1964-1972- Nine one-man shows, several group shows, in New York City
  • 1973- Moved to London, focused study on 19th C arts and crafts
  • 1973-1995- Forming several Victorian English and Japanese Meiji collections
  • 1979-1988- Heading the Jerusalem Gate Foundation project
  • 1992- Sparked by a chance TV viewing of world scholars’ briefing on English Jewry in Medieval
    England. The mention of York Jews’ annihilation (“the second Massada”) captured, consumed , and possessed Novak to create “York 1190 Remembered”.

Novak’s creations for “York 1190 Remembered”

  • “Sh’maa!” (The Dirge of York)------ it’s writing, composing & recording 90 min. CD
  • Setting up “York 1190 Remembered”------- A Florida, non-profit corporation
  • Organizing a four figure core of volunteers
  • “The Yellow Hill of York each March”, daffodils in the grass, covering York Tower
    mound, the massacre site
  • Designed, planned , & pursued authorization for a fence around the massacre grounds
    as a sculptural remembrance---- delayed by opposition
  • Designed, planned, and pursued authorization of commemorative Jerusalem stone to
    replace the abominable plaque now in place------- delayed by opposition
  • March 17, 1995 ------ created the 805 years memorial service inside York Tower
  • Organized with an outstanding team an appeal to repeal the 1290 Edict which “expelled England’s Jews never to return”------denied by opposition
  • Compiling the book “York 1190 Remembered” , accounting the little record left by
    history of the York massacre, interwoven by events and encounters ,in the pursuit of
    this unique memorial and anti-bigotry act
This brief introduction was outlined by Gyora Novak and composed as a group effort by contributing volunteers to serve as the opening text for the ‘Dirge of York’ , titled “Sh’maa!” (Hebrew for : Hear, Listen)


“Sh’maa!”, the dirge of York, came first, to be followed by other projects and tasks, within the greater project of “York 1190 Remembered”. Each portion and step of which dictated the assembly of the suitable volunteer groups, at times select advisors or the hiring of specialists, be it a few ,or tens, or even hundreds of individuals.

“York 1190 Remembered” was an evolving larger idea, whose independent subjects in progress toward a growing focus of expressed solutions, began most unexpectedly by a chance viewing of a television program. That viewing eventually took over my life from February 1992 and for several years thereafter. For weeks my initial difficulty was to recognize that which was happening to me, a state of mind, which later culminated in a kind of acquiescing to a collaboration by possession. None of which I was about to do I have ever done before in my life, nor considered any part of it to be the work of an artist, which I am. It was me here and now who was mysteriously joined by the spirit of the man that I was in York, eight hundred and two years earlier, a joining without which all that I have instigated, created, and accomplished, with the help of two or more thousand others, for and in York, could not have happened.

We created a commemoration for untold numbers of from many hundreds to possibly thousands of massacred Jews in York. First by creating “Sh’maa!”, then by creating a remembrance day on the site of the mass suicide in York’s tower, on the day and the hour eight hundred and five years on, acts which released York’s stranded souls. We also created “the yellow hill of York each March”, as a local editor wrote, converting that hill of shame to a living, blooming, act of anti-bigotry, like nowhere else on Earth.

What mostly captured my creative imagination about York 1190, other than being joined by the spirit of the man that I once was in York, enabling me to journey into years of colossal grief by which force “Sh’maa!” and all that followed came about, was the inspiring recognition of the extraordinary stand for human dignity and for their cherished values and beliefs for which the Tower captives took their lives “in the sanctity of God”.

This book is the record of the selected chapters which I chose to represent and bring into light the massacre of York 1190, as the only justice to a wrong whose inheritors labored to keep in the dark, and are still wrongly trying to perpetuate it’s silence.

This book comes to illustrate by contrast, the kind and giving spirit of those who joined the remembrance idea in small to large measures, at times in risk to their future welfare, by speaking out the buried truth, to accomplish “York 1190 Remembered”.

This book comes to record the step by step creation of Y 1190 R, like the assembly into position of all puzzle pieces of a vast and most extraordinary event, most parts of which were segments of repeatedly inspirational nature, some of which were genuinely of the ugliest encounters. This book also records from my own agonizingly painful reliving of York’s hell on Earth time, to the uncomparably rewarding sense of privilege by the accomplished creation. I write here as the one in the center of a wheel of countless spokes, overseeing from instigation through completion or failure ,of our various goals, entirely within the reaching toward the grace of mitzvah (meritorious deed).

Casting the Die

One February day in 1992 entering my London flat, I turned on the TV while changing clothes for my next appointment. As fate would have it, I was listening to a program already in progress , which was a discussion of world renowned Medieval scholars about the Jews of England in the Middle Ages. Within the time of my listening, less than two minutes were devoted to the York massacre, a description which included the taking of their own lives of those who found refuge in York’s tower, presuming safety in the Royal compound. This most momentous of English Jewry historical events lasted thirty hours.

These brief two minutes acted as a trigger to an eventual total takeover of my life for a few years. And here, ten years on, I go at it again, to tell it all.

For days and weeks on, I kept coming back in my mind to that most undetailed event in history. Being disinterested in the vagueness due to non-existing details, while being consumed by it’s essence of my imagined horror, I had never heard of it before and as it turned out, I never knew a soul in my life who knew about the 1190 massacre of the Jews.

I was born in 1934 in the village of Nahalal, Israel to parents of the dreamers generation. Idealist immigrants in their late teens who believed in Israel as a revived country and nation, devotedly gave their lives to make their dream a reality. Our one room shack was full of riches which money can’t buy, of loving care, kindness and belief, sharing, and the like, were the surroundings in which I grew to be a shepherd in the hills near Nazareth. Then came soldiering, which culminated as a volunteer officer in the newly formed first commando paratrooper regiment #890 under the command of Captain Ariel Sharon. Good shepherd and good soldier as I was , all along I believed my life’s destiny to be that of an artist. I taught myself all that I knew always. First came art, then French and English languages, which I needed as I left behind my Hebrew and Arabic ,going to France, then to America, then Japan, then the USA again, then England, with much travel back and forth, living an artist’s life of most diverse pursuits, until that fated day in February of 1992 when destiny chose me, and seemingly I had no say about it.

The Dream

For days and weeks, I kept remembering York 1190 not knowing why? why me? what could I possibly do about it? Such and other questions kept arising, as an ever repeated looming, insisting, questioning, while having no answer to any of it. Until one night weeks on, came a dream, a dream in the clarity to never possibly be forgotten, a dream like reality of which I not only observed, but was singularly the object of observation. In my dream I sat at my elaborate six foot high by eight foot wide nineteenth century Japanese parketry desk, looking at a solid black book of some 18x18 in. scale. As I began to open the book, the textless solid black pages which I turned, became pure white. One of me then asked the other one of me”what are you doing?”

“I’m writing a book” was the answer. “What kind of book is it?” I asked. “A symbolic book” was the response by the me of the answers. “What does it mean?” came the last question. “It means that when you do it you will light up great darkness, you will justly cleanse great harm of evil”.
At which point the two of me of questioning and answering ,united to literally shout out: “ It’s York!” The sound and mouth action of which woke me up.

For weeks on, somewhat frustratingly so, I still had no idea what any of it had to do with me, and what I could possibly do about it.

Priming the Pump

By that time, of spring 1992, compounded troubling events for a few years ,pushed me to the limits, as a kind of priming the pump toward my eventual immersion in the most troubling notion of York 1190. I had experienced multi difficulties of life, which came my way as unavoidable lumps to be dealt with, while dealing with one, another one appeared, and so on, they went in parallel. These troubles began on October 5th , 1987 at 10:30 a.m. I was saying kadish at my father’s funeral, a most fit person of longevity genes, who encountered the misfortune of lousy medical care, who neglectfully ignored symptoms treatable by antibiotics ,which were never given. By October 11th we stopped sitting shivaa even though for days and weeks on we were still within it’s spirit. By October 18th I received a phone call from my London neighbor, Ergin Neng, to inform me that a freak accident during a storm broke, our building’s chimney flue, which severely damaged my flat . It took me until October 20th to find an airline seat back to London, and to open the door to my flat at 4:00 p.m., to find one of the two rooms flooded through a hole to the sky, which funneled in drainage from the roof. Six months in a hotel room followed, mostly being engaged in legal battle with my landlord company, which saw an opportunity to evict me, without success.

About that time came along a legal battle drag in Florida ,which as clear as it seemed to anybody who cared to look at it, and in spite of overt anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli commentary through out the proceedings, the perpetrators of wrong against my Florida domicile won. Then to top the list, in the spring of 1991, a New York taxi jumped the rails of my apartment building, the famed Dakota, to crush my air conditioning system, which was set off the street within a moat around my building, a peculiar event that took well over a year to straighten out. Shortly thereafter, a cigar butt was put on my studio window frame, near the 72nd St. subway station stairway entry, the ash of which, undetected for hours, caused tremendous smoke damage, some fire damage, and even greater firemen’s damage. Being in Florida at the time, I rushed back to New York, to yet again deal with that lump of harm. I encountered no help from any quarter, even my own lawyer chose to stay aside to pick her timing and best advantage for her own financial gain. My insurance broker would not return my calls. The insurance company sent over a teenage girl who was instructed not to talk to me, only to take a few photographs. Finally a public assessor bombarded me with thirty some “experts”, to beef up the claim, and orchestrated a nasty and corrupt deal between the insurance company, my own lawyer, and himself ,on how to stall, manipulate, and then eventually to create the best financial advantage to the three of them.

All of the above described events seemed to have primed me for York.



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Tracks 13 through 50 only available on CD-ROM
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Art Projects

Fragments Art 1966 | Claims 1967 | Model Art Shows 1968 | Captured Moments 1969
The Jerusalem Gate 1979-1989 |
Galei-Ed 1980 | York 1190 Remembered 1992-2000


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