Yearning from paradise: Zion’s Philosophical roots in Sepharad

What was life like for Jews in the Muslim Diaspora? Why was Spain considered a Golden Age for the Jews? Why did some Jews still yearn for a State?
The Lasting Contribution of the Jews of the Muslim Empire: For over 500 years, the Jews of the Muslim Empire enjoyed stability, prosperity and religious autonomy. As opposed to the oppressive atmosphere in Northern Europe, the Jews lived, for the most part, in a tolerant civilization, one that valued excellence in the arts, the sciences and trade. In these fields the Jews were welcome participants. Thus Judaism developed as part of society, not as a secluded ghettoculture as was the case in Christian Europe. The cultural crosspollination benefited both sides. Because of the dialogue with Islam, the Jews became more aware of their philosophic and linguistic heritage. The new methods that developed in the vast Muslim Empire for the communication of knowledge and the codification of law were employed by the Rabbis in order to keep in contact with the ever-expanding Jewish Diaspora. Thus, they could preserve and sustain Talmudic Law, while creating new vistas of Jewish literature and thought which were instrumental in forming the structure of Judaism as it is today.
http://hsje.com/Great%20Rabbis.html>

‫?איך אטעמה את אשר אכל‬

Religious poetry like My heart is in the east, and I in love poetry included the element of pining the uttermost west-for a lost object, How can I find savour in food? sometimes Zion, particularly the How shall it be sweet to me? Temple and its cult, How shall I render my vows connected with both memories of the past and my bonds, while yet messianic hopes Zion lieth beneath the fetter of and the future. Judah for Edom, and I in Arab chains? Halevi's odes to Zion A light thing would it seem to represent some of the important me to leave all the good things most examples of this of Spain -genre. These hopes Seeing how precious in mine for a return to Zion, where ever they eyes to behold the dust of the appear are often accompanied by desolate sanctuary. polemical utterances, --Yehuda HaLevi (c.1141) in coded language, against Muslims and Christians
<http://www.jafi.org.il/education/juice/hi story1/week10.html>

I'd Suck Bitter Poison from the Viper's Mouth I'd suck bitter poison from the viper's mouth and live by the basilisk's hole forever, rather than suffer through evenings with boors, fighting for crumbs from their table.
-- Shmuel HaNagid (993-1056 c.e.) was…the Prime Minister of the Muslim state of Granada, battlefield commander of the non-Jewish Granadan army, and one of the leading religious figures in a medieval Jewish world that stretched from Andalusia to Baghdad. < http://www.pupress.princeton.edu/titles/5707.html>

Muslim Andalusia: In 10th-12th century Muslim Andalusia (in southern Spain), the cross-cultural interaction between the rabbinic world and the Muslim surroundings reached its summit. The society was rich in knowledge and the sciences. Their religious leadership followed in the path of R. Saadiah and delved into all possible fields of knowledge, including the arts, in addition to the Talmud….Yehudah Halevi Abu-al-Hassan (c. 1075-1141)…’s contribution to Jewish life was not in the area of halacha, but in poetry. He is probably the best known Jewish poet, biblical and classical liturgists from the Land of Israel included. Some 750 of his poems are extant; many have found their way into the standard Jewish prayerbook, particularly his festival hymns. Among these hymns are poems portraying the innermost yearnings of Jews to return to the Land of Israel. Some 35 of these poems are known to us; many are recorded in the Tisha B’av service. They reflect a rekindling of the Zionist spirit at a time when Jews watched the struggle between the Crusaders and the Muslims over the Jewish homeland. According to legend, Halevi achieved his highest aspiration by immigrating to Israel towards the end of his life. Zionism was also a central motif in Halevi’s philosophical treatise Kitab alHujja waDlil fi Nsar aDin Aldh’lil (Book in Defense of the Downtrodden Religion). Here, the basic tenets of Jewish belief and worship are set in a polemic drama, recounting how the King of the Asian Kuzari tribe chose Judaism over Christianity and Islam. [See 3 for more]
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The Nature of the Golden Age: Though Moorish Spain was clearly a key center of Jewish life during the early Middle Ages, producing important scholars and one of the most stable and wealthy Jewish communities, there is no clear scholarly consensus over whether the relationship between Jews and Muslims in Spain was truly a paragon of interfaith relations, or whether it was simply similar to the treatment Jews received elsewhere at the same time. Mark Cohen, in his landmark 1995 book on the subject, Under Cross and Crescent, discusses how the idea of the Golden Age was bolstered in the twentieth century by two sources. On one side, Jewish scholars like Heinrich Graetz used the story of the Golden Age to draw contrasts to the increasing oppression of Jews in mainly Christian Eastern Europe, eventually leading to the Holocaust. On the other side, Arab scholars who wanted to show that modern State of Israel shattered a previously existing harmony between Jews and Arabs in Palestine under the Ottoman rule pointed to the supposed utopia of the Golden Age as an example of previous relationships. Cohen argues that the utopian Golden Age image is overstated, but that the "countermyth" of Jewish persecution is also an oversimplification.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_age_of_J ewish_culture_in_Spain>

A Lament for the Jews of Palestine During the Bedouin Rampages of 1024 Weep, my brothers, and mourn Over Zion, all of us together, Like the mourning of Hadadrimmon And Josiah the son of Amon Weep for those tender, genteel ones Who barefoot tread on thorns. They draw water for Black slaves, And they hew wood for them. Weep for the man who was forced into slavery, But was not prepared for it. They told him, “Suffer and bear it!” But he could not shoulder the burden. Weep for men who must see Their praiseworthy sons Who are like fine gold Desecrated at the hands of Black slaves. Weep for the blind who wander Through Zion, soiled With the blood of pregnant women disemboweled And with the blood of old men and infants. Weep for those pure ones who were made Impure—forced to eat their abomination, So that they should be made to forget the Covenant of their Rock, And their Homeland, the place of their desire.
[Norman Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands, (205)]

From the Arab conquest, hundreds of thousands of Jews in the Arab world managed to survive between traditional ravages. Most had religious affiliations. The-Arabs' general prohibition against political activities by their Jewish dhimmis might have been a factor that inhibited and submerged the growth of Zionism as a political phenomenon among the Sephardic Jews. But what may be called "spiritual Zionism" took root in biblical times in the Sephardic Jewish community; those Jews, who are uniquely indigenous to the terrain that now is the Arab world, have retained in their liturgy the steady longing for "return" to the Land of Israel, a longing that has been mistakenly assumed to be exclusively "European." Jews from Arab countries often become incensed when confronted with the argument that Zionism originated in Europe. Every Sephardic Jew interviewed had the same immediate reaction: the Sephardim are just as truly believers in Zion, and their ancient uninterrupted Jewish history led directly from the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem. <http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~peters/oriental.html>
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Muslim Andalusia In 10th-12th century Muslim Andalusia (in southern Spain), the cross-cultural interaction between the rabbinic world and the Muslim surroundings reached its summit. The society was rich in knowledge and the sciences. Their religious leadership followed in the path of R. Saadiah and delved into all possible fields of knowledge, including the arts, in addition to the Talmud. Their interest and activity in linguistics may have been an answer to the linguisticallypure Koran. Shmuel ibn Nagrela (Abu Ishak Ismail) (993-1056) was one scholar who studied these subjects. He is known to have debated with the Muslim theologian Ibn Hazzam about the relative merits of the Bible and the Koran. He was appointed Rais alYehud (Head of the Jews), for which he is better known by the Hebrew title Shmuel Hanagid. He served the Berber King Habus for 19 years as Foreign and Interior Minister, and commanded the army of Granada, which became the dominant power in Andalusia. He corresponded with R. Hai Gaon and with the masters of the Kairouan school. In addition to books of poetry and Hebrew grammar, Shmuel Hanagid published a code of Talmudic law oft-cited by subsequent Spanish Talmudic authorities. But it was not until the arrival of R. Yitzhak Alfasi (1013-1103) that Andalusia developed a yeshiva of the magnitude reminiscent of the ancient yeshivot of Babylon. A disciple of R. Hananel, he arrived at Lucena, an exclusively Jewish town near Cordoba, around 1078. The academy founded there was to become the world center of Talmudic activity until it was destroyed in the Almohad uprising in 1148. Alfasi’s Hilkhot Rabbati (Great Lawbook) became the final work of this genre, giving him the historical stature of ‘batrai’ – the bottom line of Talmudic law. Knowledge of the Alfasi code was a standard requirement for rabbinical ordination throughout the Jewish world for the next five centuries. In fact, it was copied and studied more often than the Talmud itself. This masterpiece combines an abridged Talmud updated with latter-day decisions of the Geonim and the commentaries of R. Hananel. Alfasi’s outstanding longevity bridged the last generation of the Geonim with the generation of the great European commentators. One of Alfasi’s most famous disciples at Lucena was Yehudah Halevi Abu-al-Hassan (c. 1075-1141). Halevi’s contribution to Jewish life was not in the area of halacha, but in poetry. He is probably the best known Jewish poet, biblical and classical liturgists from the Land of Israel included. Some 750 of his poems are extant; many have found their way into the standard Jewish prayerbook, particularly his festival hymns. Among these hymns are poems portraying the innermost yearnings of Jews to return to the Land of Israel. Some 35 of these poems are known to us; many are recorded in the Tisha B’av service. They reflect a rekindling of the Zionist spirit at a time when Jews watched the struggle between the Crusaders and the Muslims over the Jewish homeland. According to legend, Halevi achieved his highest aspiration by immigrating to Israel towards the end of his life. Zionism was also a central motif in Halevi’s philosophical treatise Kitab alHujja waDlil fi Nsar aDin Aldh’lil (Book in Defense of the Downtrodden Religion). Here, the basic tenets of Jewish belief and worship are set in a polemic drama, recounting how the King of the Asian Kuzari tribe chose Judaism over Christianity and Islam.
<http://www.wujs.org.il/activist/features/articles/muslim.shtml>

Prepared for: History of Israel, by Ariel Beery

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Prepared for: History of Israel, by Ariel Beery

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Jewish communities develop under Muslim rule. The Golden Age of Spain produces a rich culture of Jewish poetry and philosophy. Jews settle in northern and western Europe. Religious persecution leads to the expulsions of Jews from areas in Europe and also Spain. 733 750 c. 760 800 c. 900 Muslim Attacks on France Fail Abbasid Dynasty Rises to Power in Baghdad Karaism Founded The Jewish sect the Karaites develops in opposition to the talmudic-rabbinical tradition. Its religious precepts are derived directly from the Bible and are based on the literal meaning of the text. Charlemagne Crowned Holy Roman Emperor; First Charters for Jews in Northern Europe Golden Age of Jews in Spain With the beginning of the Golden Age, Jewish life shifts towards Spain. Through the 1100s, Jews flourish as traders, merchants, doctors, poets, and philosophers within Muslim society. Sephardim are descendants of Jews who lived in Spain or Portugal. Yiddish Language Develops Yiddish is used among the Ashkenazim, Jews living in Northern Europe. Written in Hebrew letters, the basic grammar and vocabulary of Yiddish is German, along with French, Italian, and Hebrew influences. Toledo Conquered Toledo shifts from Muslim to Christian control. The situation remains largely the same for Jews, who continue to be prominent members of the city. First Crusaders Massacre Jews in Rhineland Rashi Death of Rashi, acronym of Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac (1040-1105), France. Leading commentator on the Bible and Talmud. Judah Halevi Death of Judah Halevi (1075-1141), originally from Spain, emigrated to Israel. Poet and Philosopher. Blood Libel in Norwich, England Franciscan and Dominican Orders Founded Maimonides Death of Maimonides, also known as Rambam, acronym of Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (1135-1204), Spain. Rabbinic authority, codifier of Jewish law, rationalist philosopher, and royal physician, Maimonides is the most illustrious figure of medieval Judaism. Magna Carta, England; Jews of Europe Forced to Wear Special Badge Jews Expelled from England With an increase in violence, economic restrictions, and Church hostility, Jews are expelled from areas in Western Europe. Some Jews move east towards Poland, Lithuania, and Russia. Jews Expelled from France Death of Dante (1265-1321) Black Death; Persecution of Jews Forced Conversions of Jews in Spain Civil unrest effects Jews in Spain, Jewish prosperity is resented. Jewish property is destroyed and Jews are given the choice of embracing Christianity or death. Many Jews become conversos, forced converts to Catholicism. Jews Expelled from Cologne Printing Invented in Europe Spanish Inquisition Established The Inquisition is established to investigate and combat heresy, and to root out conversos who continue to practice Judaism.

c. 1050

1085 1096 1105 1141 1144 1200-1225 1204

1215 1290 1306 1321 1348 1391 1453 c. 1460 1481

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