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The Crusades were a series of military expeditions aimed at wresting control of Jerusalem from the Muslims and placing it under Christian jurisdiction. The first Crusade was proposed by Pope Urban II in 1095. Armies of knights, noblemen, lesser warriors and townspeople banded together and journeyed across Europe to the Holy Land. Most of the armies were from France and southern Italy. The first Crusaders traveled by land through present-day Hungary and across to Constantinople. They massacred the Jews and destroyed entire Jewish communities along their route, especially in the Rhine Valley.

In 1099, the Crusaders captured Jerusalem and its Jewish and Muslim inhabitants were murdered. Jews who took shelter in their synagogues were burned alive. The Muslims eventually regained control of Jerusalem. During the years 1147 to 1291, the Christians attempted their Second through Eighth Crusades. Most of them ended in disaster for the Crusaders. The city of Acre (modern Acco on the Mediterranean, north of Haifa), the last Christian stronghold in the area, was finally captured by the Muslims in 1291, effectively ending the Crusades.