Month: November 2006

Spain’s Golden Age ‘lasted longer under Christians’

Writing in the New English Review Norman Berdichevsky claims that ‘Golden Age’ medieval Spain was more tolerant and lasted longer under Christian than Muslim rule.

The term “Golden Age” of Muslim Spain most correctly applies to a relatively short period from the eighth to the mid-eleventh century and is even more accurate when applied to the Christian North of the country for a period of more than three hundred years. (1050-1390).(…)

It is noteworthy that the most successful Christian rulers during the greatest advances made in the Christian re-conquest were also the most tolerant. Their kingdoms derived particular benefit from the active cooperation and participation of their Jewish communities. Alfonso VI, known as “The Brave” (1072-1090) appointed a Jewish minister and treasurer. The “philosopher king” Alfonso X (1252-1284) collaborated on many projects with Jewish scholars and translators and proclaimed them as valuable citizens, specifically forbidding the use of force to bring about conversions to Christianity. Jaime I, the conqueror of Valencia, was an enlightened king who promoted his Jewish subjects to positions of prestige and influence. As a sign of special favor, he offered a distinct part of the town for Jewish residence in 1239 at their own request.

Under Muslim rule, especially following the arrival of the Almoravids and the Almohades, both Christianity and Judaism were scarcely tolerated and regarded as decidedly “inferior” religions. Their adherents were either forced at sword point to convert or paid exorbitant tribute to remain “protected peoples” (dhimmis), who possessed a divinely inspired book of revelation. They had to pay a “head tax” from which Muslims were exempt. The Jews, being more literate and whose Hebrew closely resembled Arabic, felt much more able to adapt to the new State at once and began to specialize in those activities and professions that Arabs regarded as “beneath them” (especially trade and tax collecting), administration, or onerous and “defiling” (working with leather).

The arts, sciences, technology, literature, architecture, navigation, mapmaking, mathematics, astronomy, philosophy and art that flourished in Medieval Spain are often credited to Islam but this is a distortion of the role played by adherents of all three religions. The United Visigothic kingdom of Spain prior to the Muslim invasions had inherited five centuries of Roman civilization and had made use of the achievements of the Greeks and earlier Carthaginians as well as the Assyrians in agriculture, irrigation, mathematics, time keeping, the calender, mining, architecture, road building, mosaic art, pottery, jewelry, law and civic responsibility. The Muslim conquerors who arrived in 711 had inherited these same arts and sciences on their path of conquest across the Byzantine empire, the Near East and Christian-Roman North Africa. Christian and Jewish artisans and scholars made major contributions enabling the Muslim conquerors to make use of these achievements. The Schools of Translation established in Granada and Toledo by Muslim and Christian rulers respectively relied heavily on Jewish scholarship.

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Troubled Yemeni immigrants go before Knesset

Y-net News reports: Jews who immigrated to Israel in recent years told Knesset members Tuesday that they were “deeply disappointed” with the government ministries’ treatment of them and that they regret their decision to make aliyah.

Representatives of the community attended a meeting of the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs and presented to the Knesset members the problems they have been facing since arriving in Israel.

According to current data, dozens of Yemen Jews have been brought to the country in recent years, and there are only 50 families who currently live in Yemen.

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Have your family’s story videotaped for the record

Justice for Jews from Arab Countriesis collaborating with the University of Miami and Professor Henry Green on ‘The Forgotten Exodus’ project, a worldwide campaign to videotape testimonies of Jews from Arab and Islamic lands so as to preserve this important part of Jewish history.

There will be four regional video teams established in North and South America, Europe and Israel to tape family narratives.

The goal is to videotape, collect and preserve the personal testimonies of Jews who were displaced from North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf region in the twentieth century, and in particular, between World War Two and the 1980s.

If you are interested in having your family’s story videotaped, please registerand tick the appropriate box on the form.

Syrian Jew: ‘Israel should talk to Syria’

In a surprising move, a leader of Brooklyn’s large, generally hawkish Syrian Jewish community has lambasted Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for refusing to talk with Syria, as pressure built on multiple fronts on Washington and Jerusalem to dialogue with Damascus.

Jack Avital, a longtime confidante of Ariel Sharon and chairman of the Sephardic National Alliance, told The Jewish Week last week he planned to publish an open letter to Olmert laying out his case against Israel’s rejection of such talks to the Syrian Jewish community.

“Maybe we should remind you, he chides Olmert in the letter, that if any Arab leader is sending signs of peace, maybe the slightest ones, you should respond. You should immediately check his sincerity and seriousness. You do not have the moral permission to avoid him. You must do it for the sake of those you may demand to sacrifice their lives in case war commences.”

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Note : as this articleshows, Jack Avital is known as something of a maverick. He led a 12-man delegation on a visit to Syria in 2004. The Zionist Organisation of America condemned the visit, which included a meeting with President Bashir Assad: ” It is wrong for American Jews or any Americans to help sanitize the Syrian regime by visiting Syria”, said ZOA president Morton Klein.

The last two Jews of Afghanistan

A play by Michael Flexer has opened in London about the last two (mutually-loathing) Jews of Afghanistan, the New Statesman reports.(With thanks: Albert)

“I was researching for a play I still haven’t written about conspiracy theories,” writes Michael Flexer,” when I came across the story which forms the basis of My Brother’s Keeper. A Reuters journalist had discovered the last two Jews of Afghanistan in late November 2001, hiding out in a dilapidated synagogue in Kabul.

“They claimed to be all that remained in the country of a Jewish community dating back to the Babylonian exile, and had survived the terrors of the Russian invasion, the civil war and the Taliban regime. But, most interesting of all, they hated each other.”

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This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

Point of No Return

Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

One-stop blog on the Middle East's
forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.