Saturday, May 28, 2011

Crypto-Jews, 1492 and Israel

1492 was a monumental year in the history of the world. Not only was America "discovered" but the Muslims were expelled from Granada, and consequently the Sephardic Jews who had lived under the protection of the Muslims in Spain were given an ultimatum: be baptized or be exiled. Some 150,000 Jews were exiled from Spain that year. But many who had grown accustomed to their life in Spain "converted" though they kept (or tried to keep) their Jewish traditions alive. These Crypto-Jews as they are called, were a target of Inquisitions, and I presumed that many saw settling in the New World as a way to put distance between the Inquisitions and themselves. Here is a story of a possible crypto-Jew that settled in Puerto Rico.

The expulsion of Jews from Spain lead to a yearning for the prophetic return to Israel and even a few Jews resettled there. I doubt that Zionism, a semi-secular movement that waited not for a messiah to return the Jews to Israel but took the matter into its own hands would have gained momentum if Jews had had a homeland in Europe. And no place in Europe had been as a good a home for Jews as Muslim Spain.

Growing up Catholic, we read of the stories of El Cid and his battle against the 'Moros' (Muslim Moors) as heroic and just. The expulsion of Muslims from Spain is a "re-conquista" re-conquest, the reclaiming of their own land. Nowhere is the expulsion of the Jews mentioned in that history told to me as a child. Nor is the paranoia that inspired the inquisition into the Crypto-Jews.

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