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      PONTIUS Pilate, who authorized the execution of Jesus of Nazareth in Jerusalem, was an otherwise obscure governor of a small Roman province on the eastern fringe of a rapidly expanding empire. The Romans at that time were in the middle stages of their long campaign to confer the blessings of the Roman Peace upon the ancient world.

      The Jews were but one of many old civilizations uprooted by Roman ambition. By the time of Christ there were already the beginnings of an internationalized Judaism distinct from the homebound traditions of the Old Testament. Jewish traders and merchants began to appear in the far corners of the empire. Jewish administrators

who had died and risen again. So long as these self-styled Christians from the back country were willing to behave themselves, they could preach as they pleased.

      It soon became apparent, however, that the Christians were an unusual breed of believers. To live and let live was a dereliction of duty for men exalted by the Truth.

      For a Christian there could be no compromise with public law or false gods where matters of salvation were concerned. Consequently, while the transplanted Jews were sharing in the general security and prosperity of the Roman world and practicing their religion in relative peace, their schismatic brethren were being immortalized both eternity and posterity in sacred history of the early Christian martyrs. Saint Paul (Saul Jew) and Saint Peter (Simon the Jew) were among first to go, probably on orders of Nero. Roman Tacitus, who lived during these times. Nero's motives, but shared the general sentiment toward the new sect.

The Emperor (he wrote) punished with every refinement these notoriously depraved Christians, as they are called. Dressed in wild animals' skins. they were taken apart by dogs or crucified. while yet others were turned into torches to be lit after dark as substitutes for daylight. Nero provided his gardens for the spectacle, and exhibited displays in the circus, at which he mingled with the crowd or stood in a chariot dressed as a charioteer. Despite their guilt as Christians, and the ruthless punishment they deserved, the victims were pitied. For it was felt that they


were being sacrificed to one man's brutality rather than to the national interest.

      It took three centuries more for Christianity to achieve any significant success in Rome. In 310 worldly Emperor Constantine, for reasons still known only to himself and Jehovah, announced his conversion to the True Faith and made it clear that he expected all loyal men to do likewise. With imperial preference now reserved for Christians, the aristocratic and agile courtiers of Constantine's retinue made what one one cynic described as an ungofly rush for holy orders. Almost overnight the once despised and persecuted sect of slaves social dregs became the all-powerful and and persecuting official religion the vast Roman Empire. The resistance of false believers soon crumbled before the onslaught of the Truth verified by the imperial sword.

      The only noteworthy holdouts against the new spirit of universal brotherly love were Jews, who remained stubbornly unconvinced of the unique qualifications of the Savior despite the proof offered by the Emperor's sudden conversion. Instead they clung perversely to the God of Moses and the teachings of their rabbis. By remaining as they were--islands of non-belief in the orthodox Western sea-they became a race apart, easily identifiable by their differences from their neighbors and readily available as legitimate objects of popular hatred and murder.

      The spirit of martyrdom sometimes has a less savory counterpart in the spirit of persecution. The history of Christianity until relatively modern times provides some


bloody examples of this double-edged passion. The heroic self-sacrifice of the despised Christian minorities before Constantine was transformed into a zealous pogrom against non-believers with the conversion of that illustrious emperor. And the Jews, naturally, were destined to be a major target. Christianity was built on the ancient Jewish faith. The Jews, however, had refused to accept the radical innovations introduced by Jesus and Paul. It became their function, therefore, to prove the sanctity of such refinements by suffering the consequences of their own rejection of them. The centuries which followed the establishment of Christian orthodoxy in the West were marked by a constancy of anti-Semitic sentiment and intermittent periods of harassment and of persecution climaxed by the horrors described in the preceding chapter.

      In Spain, meanwhile, Jewish life was taking a happier course. In the late sixth century, when Rome and her greatness were but fading memories, Mohammed the Prophet was acquainting his Arabian countrymen with the revelations of Allah. Within a few years after the Prophet's death, his Moorish followers began carving out a world empire which extended from Persia in the East, westward across North Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. In 711 the Moorish tide flooded across the Straits of Gibraltar and did not stop until it reached into the southern stretches of France. The Spanish Jews welcomed the Moors as a relief from the periodic persecutions of their Christian neighbors. Under the rule of Islam a great cultural revival swept over the Peninsula. While the rest of medieval


Europe was subduing the intellect to heavenly dogma, Arabian and Jewish scholars of Cordova and Toledo, Granada and Seville, made Spain the exclusive center of the arts and sciences and the unique home of civilization for the whole of the Western world. Every Spanish city had its prosperous Jewish quarter made up of free citizens subject to none of the economic, social or political restrictions which plagued their kinsmen in the rest of Europe. This was the "Renaissance", the "Golden Age" of Jewry in the European world, now universally admired by the historians of Judaism.

      Even when the Moorish flood began to recede southward down the Peninsula, the Jews continued to flourish under the rule of Christian in newly established kingdoms as Aragon and Castile. Their numbers alone made them an important element of the population, perhaps as much as one fifth of a of million by the late thirteenth century. They lived unmolested in their own communities, with their synagogues, their own law codes and courts, and their own rights of worship without interference. were constantly sought after as administrators, tax-collectors and diplomats in the service of their Christian overlords. The high quality of their craftsmanship in the various trades made them the leaders in such industries as cloth, furniture, clothing and jewelry. They shared with the Moors the reputation of being the best physicians of the Middle Ages and were employed by the princes and kings of the land, who found the Jews' scientific knowledge more efficacious than the Christian methods of prayer and exorcism. In fact, the era of greatest Jewish prosperity-the "zenith of Spanish-


Jewish culture," as Jewish historians call it-came in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries at the height of the Christian Reconquest against the Moors.

      Modern historians -whether Jewish, Christian - or neuter-describe with awe the power and influence which the Jews exercised over Spanish life in this period, as though that apparent domination were a reality independent of everything except the special cunning or superior talents of the Jews themselves. The suddenness of the disasters which subsequently fell upon the Jews seems almost to catch the historians by surprise and they seek to explain it as a spontaneous reversal of history brought about by popular indignation over the reality of Jewish domination. I must confess to a somewhat different view of this matter, namely, that Jewish power and influence was a delusion which the Jews themselves very likely shared, and that the merciless annihilations of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were the inevitable consequence of an anti-Semitic tradition born in the West with the conversion of Constantine.

      Unless we assume that everyone of the million or more Jews of Spain was a combination of Svengali and Rasputin, we must define power in relation to freedom of action. The Jews, despite the seeming independence of their own communities, were the personal property of the Crown-the "King"s Jews." The Jewish magistrate who ruled the ghetto was directly responsible to the royal authority. The latter could do as he pleased with his Jews: he could favor them, exalt or abase them, caress or kick them according to his fancy. The only rights they had were those which the monarch chose to


recognize; the only privileges they enjoyed were those he chose to bestow; the only power they exercised was the authority he was willing to delegate to them in his own name and for just so long as it suited him.

      For several centuries it suited the royal fancy very well to exploit the Jews liberated from Moorish dominion. As merchants and craftsmen they were an economic asset to the state. Accustomed over the centuries to the subtle negotiations necessary to their mere survival, they were astute advisers in matters of state. Their learning and scholarship gave lustre to the royal court and pleasing epithets to kingly patrons like Alfonso the Wise of Castile. Their brains and courage made them valuable allies as supply masters and soldiers in the continuing Crusade against the power of Islam which still held sway over great areas of Spain. But, most important of all, the Jews provided a seemingly inexhaustible supply of money -- a great brood sow pumping out a never-ending flow of gold for her royal owners. They paid all kinds of taxes, special levies for special purposes, taxes for the privilege of being Jews, taxes for war, for peace, tithes for the Church of the True Faith, and confiscatory levies for behavior displeasing to the Crown. "The Jews," said Alfonso III of Aragon, "are the strongbox and treasury of kings." "Without the sons of Jacob," went the royal chant, "our finances would go to ruin."

      The great literary epic of the Spanish Reconquest was (and is still) the "Poem of the Cid." Written by an anonymous patriot around the middle of the twelfth century, it tells of the deeds of a half-mythical hero of bygone days who dedicated his life to the Crusade against the Moors.


     The opening scene shows us two Jews counting their ill-gotten gains in the hand-rubbing tradition of the universal Shylock. Enter the Cid-brave, bold, defender of virtue, pale death of the Saracen. Two chests full of treasure he brings to exchange for Jewish gold. The Jews drive a hard bargain. The Cid accepts. The Jews open the chests to find sand instead of treasure. But the brave Cid is already beyond the horizon exterminating the infidel.

      The "Chronicle of the Cid," which appeared about a century later, is an extended biography in prose of the popular Moor-slayer, and closes on an anti-Semitic note of miraculous proportions. After his death, the Cid's body, in full battle dress and with sword at his side, was placed in an ivory chair and installed in the monastery at Cardena. On the seventh anniversary of his passing, while the abbot of the local monastery was preaching a memorial sermon to a great concourse in front of the cloister, a Jew sneaked into the sacred room to profane the hero by pulling his beard. But he reached out his hand, the Cid pulled out his sword and the cowardly Jew screamed with fright and swooned at his feet. When he was finally revived, he was so overcome by this miracle that he begged for Christian baptism, which was speedily granted amid cries of joy from the assembled multitude. "And from that day forward," our chronicler reports, "he remained in the monastery as long as he lived, doing service to the body of the Cid."

      Similar sentiments, elaborated in more prosaic detail, appear in the famous "Siete Partidas," a lengthy compendium of wisdom and nonsense published in the same golden


era as the "Chronicle of the Cid" and most celebrated of all patrons of Jewish King Alfonso the Wise of Castile. The Jews, wrote King Alfonso, live among Christians only on sufferance. They descend from the ancient Judah, noblest and bravest of all the tribes, the chosen people of God, honored and respected amongst all people. But when Christ came to comer new honors and privileges upon them, rejected Him and dishonored Him by making Him die vilely on on the Cross. Because of this wicked treachery, God them their ancient honors and privileges and decreed that ever since that evil day they should always ruled by Never again would they enjoy the honor high office from which to rule over the of Him whom they had crucified. They would live forever in captivity, a constant reminder to all men that they were descended from that once proud race which crucified our Lord Jesus Christ. And, the wise Alfonso noted, even now they seek to repeat the abomination of Calvary by the ritual murder of Christian children:

We have heard that, in some places, the Jews, on Good Friday, have commemorated and do commemorate the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ in a mocking manner by stealing Christian children and placing them on the Cross, or by making waxen images and crucifying them when they cannot obtain Christian children. Therefore we order that if henceforth there is any report that such a thing has been done anywhere within our domains, if it can be ascertained, that all persons implicated in such


a deed be seized and brought before the king, and after he determines the truth, they shall be executed in the most vile manner, whoever they may be.

     In keeping with his thesis of a perpetual Babylonian Captivity, Alfonso materializes the Divine Will in the form of repressive legislation. Jews must wear a special badge for easy identification. Jews and Christians are forbidden to eat or bathe together under penalty of fine and imprisonment, or to sleep together under penalty of death. Any Jew who becomes a Christian shall enjoy all the civil as well as spiritual blessings of that happy estate. If one spouse accepts Christianity, he (or she) may leave the unregenerated partner and marry anyone else with no legal complications. Any Jew who tries to prevent his well-intentioned kinsman from becoming a Christian, or who would seduce a true believer into the errors of Judaism, shall be burned alive. A Christian who succumbs to such blandishments shall likewise be burned alive. No Jew may say anything critical of the Christian Faith, since Christianity is the Truth and Judaism is a lie. If a consecrated Communion wafer should be carried through the streets in a religious parade or en route to the bedside of an immobilized believer, the Jew must show proper respect to the reincarnated Body of the Lord which his ancestors so disgracefully dishonored. He should kneel down when it passes by or else get off the street. Failure to do one or the other would land him in jail, assuming that he survived the indignation of the devout.


     The deputies to the regional councils ("Cortes") of the new Spanish kingdoms needed no urging to follow the royal lead. The numerous Cortes of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries ground out a comprehensive body of legislation designed to harass the Jews at every turn. They were forbidden to serve as physicians to Christians, to take Christian names, wear rich clothing or furs, or to use fancy saddles for their horses. No Jew could give evidence in court against a Christian and no Jewish judge could preside over a case involving a Jew and a Christian. All material offensive to Christians must be removed from Jewish prayer-books. No Jew could live in a Christian home except as a slave and no Jewish baby could be suckled by a Christian wet-nurse.

      The Spanish Church, brandishing the spiritual sword of excommunication, soon joined the hunt. An ecclesiastical council at Zamora in 1313 denounced the Jews as serpents in the Christian Eden and issued a battery of edicts ordering an end to all social intercourse between the races. Subsequent councils directed the Faithful to drive away Jews loitering near Christian churches, forbade them to attend Jewish weddings and funerals or to act as godparents to Jewish children, or to employ a Jewish physician, since it was well known that the latter employed their medical skill to murder their Christian patients.

      These and similar restrictions, although indifferently enforced, were nevertheless a constant reminder to the Jews of the capricious nature of their existence. The sons of Moses, however, had long ago learned to live with uncertainty as the price of being different. If the


Spanish Jews did have any comforting delusions about their relative immunity from any intimate disaster they must surely have been dispelled by the civil war which broke out in Castile in 1350. Peter the Cruel, who became king in that year. lived down his nickname in his attitude toward the Jews, treating them with special favor. Henry of Trastamara, bastard brother to Peter, launched a rebellion to take the throne for himself. The conflict raged across Castile for almost twenty years, with Henry winning popular support by legalizing his rebellion in the name of a crusade against that "Jew son of a bitch" Peter and the Jew conspirators who were supporting him.

      As testimony to the virtues of their leader, Henry's armies sacked the ghetto of Toledo and slaughtered some twelve hundred of its inmates without regard to sex or age. In 1360, when he seized the Henry further sanctified his Cause by massacred all the Jews in town, and at but calculated intervals during the next ten similar instances of political trimming resulted in the indiscriminate murder of thousands of Jews all over Castile. In 1369, the assassination of the "Jew King Peter seated his rebel brother on the throne of Castile.1

1. Oh noble Pedro, glory once of Spain.
Whom Fortune held so high in majesty,
Well ought men read thy piteous death with pain!
Out of thy land thy brother made thee flee;
And later, at a siege, by scheme crafty,
Thou wert betrayed, and led into his tent,
Where he then, and with his own hand, slew thee,
Succeeding to thy realm and government."
Chaucer, Canterbury Tales.


     Henry of Trastamara, who was never really at the Jews anyway, assumed the burdens of royal responsibility with the assistance of the Jewish talent he employed for the administration of his kingdom.

      Any government which singles out a special group as a legitimate object of hatred and violence is playing a dangerous game. The great masses of the People, encouraged by the example of their betters, are likely to take matters into their own hands. And unless their enthusiasm can be limited to immediate practicable ends, the government runs the double risk of seeing its own authority undermined and of being forced to placate the People by adopting extreme measures hurtful to its own practical interests. The Spanish monarchs were alert to such unpleasant possibilities and they vigorously discouraged unauthorized violence against Jews. By the fourteenth century, however, such acts were becoming more and more frequent. In the northern kingdom of Navarre the exhortations of a Franciscan friar named Pedro Olligoyen in 1328 stirred up a wholesale slaughter of at least six thousand Jews. Twenty years later the Black Death hysteria slopped over the Pyrenees from northern Europe and brought on more killing which was stopped only by the determined action of the royal authorities. The next forty years were punctuated by growing numbers of popular attacks on Jewish ghettos throughout the land. The ferocity with which these assaults were punished suggests a growing sense of royal desperation in the face of a populace ready to explode in mass murder. The People of Spain were about to take up the sword. The cruel year of 1391 was just ahead.


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