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Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

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.

Peres Wants ‘Soccer Game for Peace’ with Israel and PA vs. Spain

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

President Shimon Peres and the head of the Barcelona soccer club announced on Thursday a special soccer match for peace that will include players from the Palestinian Authority.

President Peres told club president Sandro Rosell at a press conference, “I am delighted that we will have the opportunity to launch this project together. Your club motto is “Mes Que un club” and it’s true. Barca is ‘more than a club. It is a message. A message of togetherness. A message of friendship…

“A soccer club is also a school. It is educational; it teaches our children to play together despite their differences.”

He then turned to his vision of peace and stated, “Real peace is between people and not just between governments and as our children love Barcelona, so, too, do children in the Palestinian Authority.

Rosell announced, “Tomorrow, Friday, we are going to Ramallah to meet his excellency Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority. We would like, with the Palestinian and Israeli leadership, to promote the idea of a football match for peace. We understand that peace will only be possible if we build confidence, respect and understanding between the two peoples. We believe with all our heart that a match involving Barca, with the collaboration of Israelis and Palestinians, can contribute to reestablish those links which are indispensable for people to live together peacefully.”

At the end of the statements President Peres and Rosell exchanged shirts, with President Peres receiving an FC Barcelona shirt with his name on the back and Rosell receiving a shirt with his name on the back from the PeresCenter for Peace.

Blasphemy as a National Security Threat

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Spain has begun deportation proceedings against Imran Firasat, a Christian refugee from Pakistan, for making a documentary about Mohammed and thereby threatening the national security of Spain. If Firasat is deported back to Pakistan, he will face the death penalty proving that it’s a short step from the Spanish Inquisition to the Pakistani Inquisition.

The United States has a man sitting in prison for making another blasphemous movie, which the government spent weeks blaming for worldwide attacks on American embassies. And he isn’t the first man persecuted or prosecuted for offending Islam. Offending Islam has become a national security issue involving all levels of government. When Bubba the Love Sponge, a Tampa DJ, proposed to burn a Koran, the commander of the Afghanistan war contacted his girlfriend (who would later be stalked by Petraeus’ girlfriend) to contact the Mayor of Tampa to keep Bubba from burning a Koran. Instead of explaining how the American system works to the Lebanese temptress and her four-star general, the mayor wrote back that the city was working on it. That month 50 percent more Americans were killed in Afghanistan in the long slow death march of the war, but a Koran was not burned in Tampa. Mission accomplished.Muslims did not have to kill a great number of Americans to enforce blasphemy law in this country. Counting the various reactions to burnt Korans, rumors of a flushed Koran and assorted things of that nature, the number is still well below a hundred. Even counting every casualty in the war from September 11 onward, it took fewer deaths to make the United States give up on the Bill of Rights than it took to liberate it in the War of Independence.

But it’s not really about the deaths, if it were then the United States wouldn’t be senselessly squandering the lives of American soldiers in Afghanistan to avoid offending the natives. It’s not the death of men that our leaders are worried about, but the death of stability.

Knowing that a hundred men will die today in car accidents does not alarm anyone, but knowing that somewhere a dozen men might die in a bomb explosion, anywhere and at any time, can bring a nations to its knees. That is the difference between predictable and unpredictable death. Predictable death makes it possible for most everyone to go about doing what they normally do. Unpredictable death however erodes daily order.

Blasphemy makes terrorism seem predictable. It delivers that false sense of control that is at the root of Stockholm Syndrome, the seductive illusion that the thug can be reasoned with and that we can restore control over our perilous environment by accepting responsibility for the enemy’s violence. If we meet a set of conditions then we will have peace. And what kind of lunatic wouldn’t want peace? The kind who needs to be deported or locked up in the name of peace.

When an entire country goes Stockholm then it is no longer interested in winning the war, only in surviving the peace. In a Stockholm country, national security consists of locking up anyone who can be blamed for sabotaging the peacemaking. The less peace there is, the more the peacemakers go on the hunt for “extremists” who are to blame for the lack of it. The more their vision of a better world fails, the more stern measures they must take against their own people. Peace is always one more denunciation of extremism away.

The same countries whose leaders have spent a century and a half blathering incessantly about a truly progressive order under international law have shown no ability to cope with the old-fashioned kind of war. They can quote verbatim the laws of war, but understand poorly that war makes its own laws. War’s simplest law is that you pick a pretext, any popular pretext, make your demands and then go on the attack. If the other side is foolish enough to meet your demands, then it has shown its weakness and must be attacked again and again.

Muslims have restored blasphemy prosecutions to the United States and Europe through violence. Like Khrushchev banging his shoe on the United Nations delegate desk, they did their best to convince the rest of the world that they were violently irrational and liable to do all sorts of things if their demands weren’t met. And their demands were met. Rather than going medieval on their asses, the civilized world instead went medieval on anyone who offended the medieval cult of Islam.

Grace Aguilar: The Spirit of Judaism

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Her family descended from Portuguese Marranos who had sought asylum in England in the eighteenth century. Grace Aguilar was born there at the onset of the nineteenth century (1816), and her remarkable work would exercise an impact on the historiography of Jewish life in the ensuing three decades of that century.

What made this young woman dedicate her short life to the study of Judaism and extolling its ethical, intellectual and theological values? Was it the impact of her family’s Marrano history? Perhaps the personal circumstances of her life contributed to the extraordinary focus of her philosophical and literary endeavors.

Grace Aguilar’s sickly youth necessitated her being educated at home, mainly by her parents. Her mother, a cultivated woman of strong religious feeling, trained her to study the Torah systematically; and when she was fourteen her father read aloud to her regularly, chiefly Jewish history. As a result, young Grace’s knowledge, especially in history and foreign literature, was quite extensive.

At the age of seven Grace started to write a diary, which she continued almost uninterruptedly until her death in 1847. Before she was twelve, this child prodigy had written a drama, Gustavus Vasa, undoubtedly under the influence of the ancient historical volume, Josephus Flavius, that had been read to her by her father in early childhood.

Grace Aguilar also wrote poems on religious Jewish subjects, which were published under the title The Magic Wreath. Her tales, founded on Marrano history, were widely read. The most popular of Grace Aguilar’s Jewish tales is The Vale of Cedars or The Martyr: A Story of Spain in the Fifteenth Century. This volume was written before 1835 and twice translated both into German and Hebrew. Her other stories founded on Jewish themes are included in a collection of nineteen tales, “Home Scenes and Heart Studies,” “The Perez Family,” “The Edict” and “The Escape,” “The Mother’s Recompense” and “Woman’s Friendship.”

Then came her scholarly endeavors – all on Jewish historical and theological themes. The first of Miss Aguilar’s religious works was a translation of the French version of Israel Defended, by the Marrano historian Orobio de Castro, closely followed by her own extensive historical study, The Spirit of Judaism, published in Philadelphia in 1842.

A second edition of this work by the author was issued posthumously in 1849 by the American Jewish Publication Society. Much later (in 1864), a third edition appeared in Cincinnati with an appendix containing thirty-two of her poems (bearing the dates 1838-1847).

In 1845 Grace wrote a series of portraits of Biblical and post-Biblical women entitled, The Women of Israel, soon followed by The Jewish Faith: Its Spiritual Consolation, Moral Guidance, and Immortal Hope. This volume was composed in the form of thirty-one letters, the last dated September 1846, one year before her death.

During the last year of her life, Grace Aguilar, suffering and feeble, continued to immerse herself in Jewish history, ultimately leaving behind an unfinished sketch of the “History of the Jews in England.”

In 1835 Ms. Aguilar had an attack of illness, from the effect of which she never recovered. Finally her increasing weakness necessitated change of air, and in 1847 she was taken on a Continental trip. Before her departure some Jewish ladies of London presented her with a gift and a touching address recounting her achievements on behalf of Judaism and Jewish women. She visited her elder brother at Frankfurt, and at first seemed to benefit from the change; but after a few weeks her condition deteriorated and she died in Frankfurt on 16 September 1847. She was buried there in the Jewish cemetery, the last line of “Woman of Valor” inscribed on her tombstone.

Grace Aguilar ended her life as she lived, with words from the Bible. She whispered as she lay dying: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him,” (Job 13:15).

Al Qaeda in Spain

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Three suspected al Qaeda terrorists arrested in Spain in early August were allegedly plotting an airborne attack on a shopping mall near Gibraltar, the British overseas territory on the southernmost tip of Spain.

In recent weeks, the Obama Administration has claimed that al Qaeda “is on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse” and the US State Department has even declared that the “war on terror is over.” Advisors to President Obama have also boasted of “the end of al Qaeda in any meaningful sense of the word.”

The arrests in Spain, however, indicate that al Qaeda continues to pose a serious threat and that Obama’s triumphalism may be premature. Jorge Fernández Díaz, the Spanish interior minister, put it this way: “The terrorist organization al Qaeda represents a major threat globally and in particular to the entire Western world.”

Spanish counter-terrorism officials say an attack near Gibraltar, home to 30,000 British citizens, was likely intended to coincide with the London Olympic Games, and would have been a more feasible alternative to attempting an act of terrorism in the heart of London.

In addition to Gibraltar, the suspects were credibly also plotting to attack the joint US-Spanish naval base at Rota, strategically located near the Strait of Gibraltar.

The foiled plot shows, among other revelations, that, contradicting the claims of some within the Obama administration that al Qaeda and its offshoots are dead, al Qaeda and its affiliated organizations continue to pose a threat to Europe and the United States.

Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz has called the case “one of the biggest investigations carried out until now against the al Qaeda terrorist group at an international level.” At a news conference in Madrid, he said the three men “have experience in the development of chemical explosives, manufacture of car bombs, handling of poisons, and sniper training,” and that together they constitute one of the most skilled and experienced terrorist cells seen in recent years.

The suspects involve two Chechen-Russians named Eldar Magomedov (also known as Ahmad Avar) and Mohammed Ankari Adamov, both of whom were arrested on August 1 on a bus near Almuradiel, a town situated halfway between Spain’s southern coast and Madrid.

The third suspect, a Turkish national named Cengiz Yalcin, was arrested on August 2 in the province of Cádiz, near Gibraltar.

Police say the two Chechens “resisted fiercely” and hid their true identity after they were arrested; they claimed they were in Spain to apply for political asylum, but Spanish authorities established their real names after obtaining help from American and Russian intelligence agencies.

Magomedov, the suspected leader of the cell and a former member of Spetsnaz (Russian Special Forces), has training as a sniper and is an expert in poisons. After leaving Spetsnaz, according to the Spanish Interior Ministry, Magomedov joined training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including camps run by the Pakistani militant group and al Qaeda ally, Lashkar-e-Taiba. Police say that before his arrest, Magomedov had been living in Spain for two months.

Adamov, the other Chechen, received “intensive training in the camps of Afghanistan where he became an expert in managing explosives,” according to Spanish officials. He is also believed to have been involved in the January 2011 bomb attack at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, a strike that killed at least 35 people and injured more than 100, many critically.

Yalcin, the Turk, who police believe was in charge of managing logistics for the cell, had been living legally for the past six years in a Spanish town that borders Gibraltar, La Línea de la Concepción, where he worked as a site manager for Profield Contractors, a local construction company. A police raid of Yalcin’s apartment yielded enough explosives “to blow up a bus,” three motorized paragliders, and a video in which Yalcin is filmed flying a large remote-controlled model airplane.

Spanish investigators suspect the cell was testing a remote-controlled airplane as a potential bomber. The video footage showed the aircraft – about three meters, or nine feet, long — being maneuvered into a descent during which two packages were dropped from both wings of the airplane.

Muslim Forced Marriages in Spain

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Police in the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia have intervened to prevent the forced marriage of a 13-year-old girl belonging to a Muslim immigrant family from Morocco.

The girl was one of nine reported victims of forced marriage in Catalonia during the first six months of 2012. Seven of the reported cases involved minors, but in several instances when police were alerted, they were unable to intervene in time to prevent the marriages from taking place.

Catalan police, known locally as Mossos d’Esquadra, have reported a cumulative total of more than 50 forced marriages involving minors since the regional government began compiling official data in 2009. Police, however, say this figure represents only “the tip of the iceberg“; many victims are unaware of their rights and most of the cases go unreported.

The issue of forced marriage is especially acute in Catalonia, where the Muslim population has skyrocketed in recent years. Catalonia, a region with 7.5 million inhabitants, is now home to an estimated 400,000 Muslims, up from 30,000 in the 1980s.

The Muslim population in many Catalan towns and cities now exceeds 20%; and the town of Salt, near Barcelona, where Muslim immigrants now make up 40% of the population, has been dubbed the “new Mecca of the most radical Islamism” because of efforts by Muslims to enforce Islamic Sharia law there.

According to Catalan officials, the majority of forced marriages in Catalonia involve Muslim girls from North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. The majority of the cases involve immigrants from Morocco, followed by Pakistan, Gambia, Guinea and Senegal. Marriages are often arranged with a cousin or another family member to continue the tradition, to prevent the Europeanization of the girls, or to pay outstanding debts.

According to Catalan police, four of the cases of forced marriages during the first six months of 2012 occurred in the Catalan province of Gerona, one of the most heavily Islamized regions of Spain. Police say they were able to prevent only two of the four weddings. Three of the others occurred in the city of Barcelona, and two were within the province of Barcelona. All nine involved Muslim immigrants.

Children, on their own initiative, have even approached the police for help. The situation involving the 13-year-old girl, for example, began in January 2012, when the girl’s mother, with whom the child had been living in Gerona, died, and the father, who was residing in neighboring France, took the girl to live with him in Toulouse.

Once in France, the girl discovered that her father was planning to marry her off to a man in Morocco in early July. The girl alerted police in Toulouse, who transmitted the information to the Spanish consulate in the city. Spanish authorities then devised a scheme in which the girl persuaded her father to take her to Gerona on the pretext of completing some official paperwork. Once across the border in Spain, police arrested the father, and the girl was transferred to a foster home in Gerona.

As forced marriage is not an offense under the Spanish Criminal Code, police have been trying to use other legal avenues such as pursuing crimes involving sexual assault, unlawful detention, gender violence and kidnapping. In the instance of the 13-year-old, police determined that the girl was being subjected to physical violence, and arrested the father for child abuse. But as is often happens in Spain, the judge overseeing the case ordered the father to be released from jail.

Many reports of forced marriages of children reach police through schools: victims often confide in a trusted teacher. In one such case in 2011, police in the Barcelona suburb of L’Hospitalet arrested a 27 year old Moroccan man for forcibly marrying a minor.

The case came to public attention after a former teacher of the girl, who lives in the same apartment complex as she, alerted the police. A subsequent investigation found that the girl’s family had taken a trip to Morocco where the child was forced to marry against her will. Once back in Spain, the girl contacted the teacher, who then called the police.

Investigators found that the girl was being detained in her new husband’s apartment against her will and that she was a victim of rape. Once again, the judge hearing the case ordered the husband released from jail.

Europe’s Financial Crisis Weighs on Israel’s Economic Outlook

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

The austerity package passed by Spain’s parliament last Thursday has done little to calm economic jitters worldwide, with the effects being felt in Israel as the Bank of Israel (BoI) is set to decide today whether to lower its key interest rate for a second straight month.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative People’s Party pushed through the controversial plan to cut state spending by some $80 billion, despite stiff resistance from opposition parties. The package includes a rise in the Value-Added Tax (VAT) rate from 18 percent to 21 percent and the reduction of unemployment benefits. Spain is struggling with an unemployment rate of around 25%, and has sought to ease its banking crisis by obtaining a bailout from the Eurozone.

On the same day that the austerity package was passed, German parliament approved an aid package for the Spanish banking sector worth approximately $146 billion. Many commentators in Germany expressed concern over the utility of another bailout. German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented: “The reality is that Spain is getting aid with loosened conditions. Soon Italy will ask, too. And the other reality is that, instead of investors, once again (mainly German) taxpayers will have to pay for the faulty speculation of banks.”

In Israel, the opening of the trading week on Monday morning saw the shekel-dollar exchange rate crossing the NIS 4/$1 line. The current shekel-dollar rate is at a three-year high, while the shekel-euro rate is 0.68% lower, at NIS 4.8705/€1. Later on Monday, the BoI is expected to announce its key interest rate for August, with some analysts speculating that the rate will be lowered for a second straight month, from 2.25% to 2%. Last month, the BoI cut the rate from 2.5% to its current rate.

Moti Bassok and Ram Ozeri, writing in Haaretz, explained that while a cheaper shekel makes Israeli imports more enticing, lower interest rates diminish foreign demand for shekel-based investments – which in turn tends to lower the shekel’s value. Supporters of an interest rate cut cite recent slower economic growth and weak foreign trade figures. The recent performance of Spanish government bonds have heightened fears that Spain will require much more assistance than last week’s $146 billion bailout, and Spain’s fiscal difficulties are causing the Euro to tumble, reaching a new low of approximately $1.2083/€1.

Israel is watching the continuing European debt crisis warily, as the European Union is Israel’s top trading partner. But despite Europe’s economic woes and trepidation in Israel, the EU is set to intensify relations with Israel by approving up to 60 new cooperative initiatives, according to AFP.

The initiatives are expected to be endorsed on Tuesday at the the annual Israel-EU Association Council meetings in Brussels. Predictably, they are sparking indignation from certain corners, as they come only two months after the EU’s statement condemning Israel for actions that “threaten to make a two-state solution impossible” – ie. settlement building, “settler extremism,” and “provocations against Palestinian civilians.”

According to AFP, the initiatives will include heightened cooperation in the energy and transportation sectors, and more closely-coordinated relations with a variety of EU agencies.

A European diplomat, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, was critical of increasing bilateral relations, saying: “Once again we’re hearing critical words on the one hand but it’s business as usual on the other…EU statements on the peace process are no more than theatre.”

Paul Hirschson, deputy spokesman at Israel’s foreign ministry, pointed out that the increased cooperation “is related to the existing work plan rather than some sort of upgrade, because that way the EU would have to find a way of delinking it from the peace process.”

In 2008, Israel’s attempt to enhance ties with the EU was stifled when the bloc suspended discussions because of Israel’s offensive against the Hamas regime in Gaza. It thereafter declared that any progress in bilateral relations would be conditional on progress in the Middle East peace process.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman left for Brussels on Monday and will be attending a meeting of the Israel-EU Association Council.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/europes-financial-crisis-weigh-on-israels-economic-outlook/2012/07/23/

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