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May 23, 2015 / 5 Sivan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

King Carlos of Spain Abdicates After 40 Years

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

In a surprise announcement, King Carlos of Spain has told his prime minister he is abdicating in favor of his son, Prince Felipe.

The announcement was made Monday by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. “His majesty, King Juan Carlos, has just communicated to me his will to give up the throne,” he said. “I’m convinced this is the best moment for change.”

The 76-year-old Spanish monarch, whose health is failing, has led his people for 40 years from the throne. Rajoy said he is stepping down for personal reasons.

Ancient Mikveh Discovered In Spain

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

A 15th century mikveh was discovered at the location of the last synagogue in the old Jewish quarter of Girona in Catalonia, Spain.

The discovery of the Jewish ritual bath is significant since there are very few preserved mikvehs left in Europe, and it further highlights the importance of Girona’s rich Jewish heritage.

Girona is a town near Barcelona which was known for its thriving Jewish community before the expulsion of Spain’s Jews in 1492.

A recent archeological dig permitted the discovery of the mikveh at the site of the synagogue, which was founded in 1435 and abandoned in the summer of 1492, when the expulsion decree was carried out by King Fernando against the Jews of Spain .

It forced the community of Girona, consisting of about 20 families, to sell the synagogue along with the surrounding community spaces before fleeing the country. Thanks to records of the sale, the exact location of the synagogue, which now houses the Museum of Jewish History in Girona, is known.

Israeli ambassador to Spain  Alon Bar attended the public presentation of the finding, along with the Minister of Culture of the Government of Catalonia Ferran Mascarell, and Girona Mayor Carles Puigdemont.

“I commend the discovery of more evidence of a Jewish presence and want to encourage this cultural treasure in order to maintain links between our peoples,” said Bar.

According to officials at the museum in Girona, very few ritual baths of this type have been preserved in Europe and in the Mediterranean area; they have been found in Sicily, Montpellier, and Besalu which is also in Catalonia.

Spain to Vote on Making Holocaust Studies Obligatory

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Spain’s ruling People’s Party recently submitted a proposed amendment to the education law that would make Holocaust studies obligatory for Spanish students.

If passed, the proposed amendment would introduce the genocide of Jews by Nazi Germany into the curriculum “at various stages of basic education,” the Spanish news agency Europa Press reported Thursday.

The proposed amendment to the Organic Act for the Improvement of Educational Quality is part of a wider effort to include more materials that pertain to the prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts and values underpinning democracy and human rights, Europa Press reported.

The president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, Isaac Querub, said the proposal “certainly represents progress,” but added that the federation would have liked to see a “more comprehensive amendment, explaining the general history of the Jewish people.”

“Unless the Holocaust is contextualized, it will give a distorted image of the history of the Jewish people,” he said.

Prerequisites for Muslim-Jewish Reconciliation

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

I appreciate the fact that this Jewish publication was willing to publish my article. I’m not sure how easy it would be for a Jewish pundit to get his or her work published in a Turkish, Egyptian or Iranian magazine. I believe it’s high time someone gave it a try.

History buffs among us know all too well that the best time for Jews over the past two millennia—ever since they were overcome by the force of the Roman empire following two bloody rebellions—was under the rule of the Arab caliphates, both in Spain and in North Africa. So much so, that Jewish sources refer to that time as “The golden age.”

The various Muslim caliphates, which began ruling a very large chunk of the known world in the 7th and 8th centuries, were driven by a single, fundamental, religious mission: to spread Islam. But their agenda for the pagans populating Asia, Africa and Europe was different from their agenda for the “peoples of the book,” followers of Christianity and Judaism. While, most often, the heathens were given no choice about conversion: you became Muslim or you died – Christians and Jews who refused to convert to Islam only had to endure a kind of second class citizenship, with different features in different locales.

It would be helpful to recall that while Jews in Muslim territories at the time were forced to wear articles of clothing that set them apart, and were forbidden to ride horses or use the main public sidewalks—a few miles up north, in Christian Europe, they were being raped, pillaged and burned alive on a steady basis. And while in Christian Europe Jews were blocked from most of the professions, under the caliphates their economic options were much more exciting, hence the term “golden age.”

While Jewish culture in Christian Europe centered almost strictly around the houses of study, with little evidence of a robust culture, in Spain and North Africa the Jews wrote songs and books of philosophy, and excelled as military generals and court politicians—in addition to their flourishing business as traders and bankers.

It is true that Islam had its low point even during that golden age, and every once in a while the mainstream in various provinces—for a variety of geopolitical and social reasons—would take on an ominous spirit of fanaticism and start harassing the “peoples of the books” with fanatical impatience and zeal, threatening their lives unless they converted. But even those waves of fanaticism are dwarfed by the pogroms and expulsions that marked the lives of Jews under Christian rule.

Indeed, the demise of the thriving Jewish culture in Spain came not under Muslim rule, but only after the Christian invasion of the late 1300s, which ended with the expelling of all the Jews of Spain and Portugal in 1492.

What followed was particularly grim for Islam. Just as the original Muslim invasion of the Middle East, North Africa and Southern Europe was enabled by the decline of the Roman Empire, so did was decline of the Caliphate an invitation to a new force, the great Ottoman Empire, to quickly overtake those same areas, and to push far north into Central Europe, only to be blocked, finally, at the gates of Vienna.

But something went wrong in Muslim history at that point. Historians will continue to argue over the precise reasons – the reality is that sometime around the Renaissance period, while Christian Europe began to emerge from its barbarism, to usher in an age of discoveries, inventions and the rise of the human spirit—at a high cost to many indigenous peoples on several continents—Islam began its sad and disheartening decline that set aside Muslims in general and Arabs in particular as the second class citizens of a developing world. Instead of setting the tone in science and scholarship, as it used to do in the middle ages, Islam was relegated to the position of a spectator in a game it could not hope to win.

We have a big problem with cognitive dissonance in most Arab countries, which are trying to be simultaneously Muslim and modern. By “modern” I mean doing all the things a normal Western society takes for granted: publishing books, making movies, starting businesses, dining in restaurants, driving cars, writing laws to serve the community, delivering state services. Every single one of these aspects of your life which you take for granted represent a potential clash with Islam.

Israel Gives up ‘HaTikvah’ Anthem for the Sake of Peres’ Peace

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Israel set itself up for humiliation last week by staging a visit of the Barcelona soccer team at Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield stadium without the playing of the HaTikvah national anthem.

The visit was headlined around the world as another effort by the Peres Peace Center to try to convince itself that the Palestinian Authority really wants co-existence with Israel. The soccer team also played in Bethlehem, where the Palestinian Authority anthem was sung, according to the Hebrew-language Yediot Acharonot  newspaper.

Obviously, the Israeli anthem would be sung in Tel Aviv, Israel’s capital according to the entire world outside of Israel, but it was not so obvious to the office of President Shimon Peres and the Foreign  Ministry.

Before the game in Tel Aviv, a meeting was held at the stadium, where representatives from other governments said that if the Israeli anthem were to played, then the same honor would have to be extended to the Palestinian Authority , Spain and an autonomous community of Spain, with the official status of a nationality.

“After discussions with the production team and the Foreign Ministry it was said that said it would be unpleasant,” senior officials from the office of President Peres reasoned. After all, playing four anthems would drag things out a bit, so they got by with playing only the Catalan anthem.

But why didn’t the same reasoning apply when the Barcelona team played in Bethlehem?

No one really had an answer for that, but it can be assumed that the Palestinian Authority would have threatened to cancel the soccer team’s visit if anyone had dared even mentioning the word HaTikvah.

Israel, of course, is always ready to make peace, and who needs a Zionist anthem anyway? That would only contradict  chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s terms for peace.

So even though organizers had agreed for it to be sung in Tel Aviv and even though singer David D’or was to sing HaTikvah, the announcement arrived that that it was cancelled.

Education Minister Shai Piron, of the Yesh Atid party, was not so condescending and announced that his ministry would not pay its share of 1 million shekels to finance the visit.

“If there is someone whose feelings are hurt hearing the Israeli national anthem, then they shouldn’t come at all,” ministry officials told the newspaper. “It is first-class chutzpah to come to the heart of Tel Aviv and then ask us not to play our anthem. And it is even a greater audacity by the organizers and the people of the Peres Center that they lowered their heads and agreed to it. It’s a scandal that would not have  passed quietly in  any civilized country. “

How to Say ‘Disgusting Abuse of Public Trust’ in French?

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

When you next hear European politicians, and particularly the French, declaring their total and absolute opposition to terrorism, bear in mind this little story emanating from Paris.

An exhibition entitled “Death” (on the web here) and made up of 68 photographs created by one Ahlam Shibli, opened at the Jeu de Paume Museum of Contemporary Art in Paris on May 28. It will run until September 1. The museum is funded by France’s Ministry of Culture [source]. Shibli describes herself as “a Palestinian Bedouin photographer based in Haifa“. Translation: she is an Israeli. She was awarded the Nathan Gottesdiener Israeli Art Prize in 2003 [source].

Its website (here), according to a JTA report, describes the people in the pictures as suicide bombers, a galling name for anyone who understands the religiously-inspired hatred-rich process by which they carry out their acts of murder.

Playing the usual black-is-white games, the catalog notes say the people depicted are “those who lost their lives fighting against the occupation,” and the exhibition as being about “the efforts of Palestinian society to preserve their presence.” As far as we can tell, the idea that the people who carried out armed attacks on generally defenceless Israeli civilians are in fact terrorists who were sent by terrorist organizations and whose terrorism is celebrated by all branches of the two Palestinian Arab statelets is never mentioned.

The exhibition is a joint effort of the Jeu de Paume people as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (MACBA), and the Fundação de Serralves, Porto, Portugal.

CRIF, the umbrella body of French Jewish communities, says the the people in the pictures are drawn principally from al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is a unit of Fatah, the political faction headed by the non-moderate Mahmoud Abbas otherwise known as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority; from the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, which is a unit of Hamas, and from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The European Union calls all three of them terrorist groups. But in France, Spain and Portugal, such designations are not taken seriously.

There is a deadly-serious cognitive war underway in Europe. The people who run and fund some of Europe’s publicly-funded museums are foot-soldiers in that war, though they (some of them at least) probably have no idea that’s what they are doing and would scream in protest when it’s pointed out to them. They make terrorism safe, and for this they deserve our utter scorn.

Visit This Ongoing War

March 31 and Dona Gracia

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

At first glance, March 31 is not a day that particularly stands out in Jewish memory, but it is actually a day of significance.

In 1492, the Alhambra Decree (also known as the Edict of Expulsion) was signed by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, which led to the expulsion of all Jews from Spain 3 months later on Tisha B’Av 1492.

Some Jews at the time also went into hiding as Crypto-Jews (Conversos). Many went to Portugal, which welcomed Jews in.

Two such Converso families were the Nasi (de Luna) and Benveniste (Mendes) families who eventually joined together in marriage.

In the 1500’s Dona Gracia (Hanna Nasi) took over her husband’s (Francisco Mendes) spice business after his death, building it up, and ending up becoming one of the richest Jewish women in Renaissance Europe.

But what stands out most about Dona Gracia is that she bought the entire city of Tiberias from the Sultan.

She began to rebuild the city, and invited the Jews of Europe to go to Tiberias, where she would give them start-up funds and land, in the hope that the Jews of Europe could finally come back to their home in the Holy Land, and find refuge from unfriendly Europe. Unfortunately, it appears that very few people took her up on her pre-Nefesh B’Nefesh offer.

Dona Gracia herself never visited Israel.

Today there is a Dona Gracia museum in her honor, located in Tiberias.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/march-31-and-dona-gracia/2013/03/31/

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