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I begged and pleaded until my throat was hoarse. I implored the king: "PLEASE," I begged him, "do not force such a terrible act on your subjects. Impose hardships on us: gifts of gold and silver and all they possess will the Israelites gladly give you if only you will allow them to remain in their native land."

     I implored my friends who enjoyed the royal favor to intercede for my people. They held a council and agreed to speak to the king to persuade him to withdraw his savage order and abandon his project to exterminate the Jews. But like a deaf viper he stopped up his ears and would not change his mind. Also, the queen remained at his side to see that he did not change his mind, and she used the most powerful persuasions to make him carry the task to its conclusion.. We worked with frenzy, but without success. I had no peace or rest. The disaster fell upon us.

      So wrote Isaac Abravanel, colleague of Abraham Seneor and like him, a favored adviser of the Catholic Kings.

      The Jews had four months to leave Spain. The original deadline of July 31 was moved forward to August 2, a grim coincidence for the Israelites. August 2, 1492, fell on the ninth day of the Jewish month of Ab. According to Jewish tradition, this day was a double anniversary of the destruction of the first Temple of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. and of the second Temple by the Romans in 70 A. D. It was, and still is today, a day of mourning for orthodox Jews all over the world.

      While the dazed Jews began preparing for their exit, Christian missionaries descended on the ghettos, preaching salvation from disaster through union with the Redeemer. The Jews were required by law to attend their exhortations. They listened, but they did not hear. The People's historian Andres Bernaldez, who will be at our elbow (as he was at the Jews') during the first stages of the new diaspora, was indignant at this stiff-necked attitude.

Before their very eyes (he writes) they could see their own ruin and exile. And even though they were. urged and admonished by preachings and exhortations, they persisted in their pertinacity and unbelief and refused to accept the opportunity


held out to them. Instead, when the preaching of the Evangel concluded, their rabbis preached the opposite, filling them with vain hopes. They told them that their exile was an act of God, who had decided to free them from captivity and take them to the Promised Land and that God would perform many miracles for them and guide them across the sea as He had done with their ancestors in Egypt. Under no circumstances were the Jews willing to convert, except for a very few of the most hard-pressed.

      The most hard-pressed Jew of all was Don Abraham Seneor. Most of us, fortunately, can coast through life without having to face up to the horrors of self-revelation. But History played a cruel trick on the royal Jew. Ferdinand and Isabella alternately pleaded and threatened. The Jewish community was silent, waiting and watching. Don Abraham had to decide between hard principle and damnable expediency. He waited to the end, hoping in vain for a way out. Finally, he resigned himself, with death in his soul, to baptism and Christian brotherhood with Torquemada, scourge of his own people.

      In Segovia the Jewish community succumbed to a collective compulsion. They literally went underground, carving out large caverns among the tombs of their fathers in the local cemetery, hoping to hide out there and somehow avoid expulsion. They were soon discovered and rooted out of their caves. A few accepted baptism; the others joined the weary march of their comrades, preferring exile to the conversion which brought Torquemada's Inquisition in its baggage train.


      Ye cannot serve God and mammon, says the Gospel. But a man could hardly be expected to turn his back when mammon was standing at the right hand of the Lord. The Jews were allowed to take with them only what they could carry, except for gold and silver, the most important equipment for survival in strange lands. Their Christian debtors, of course, wrote off all their obligations. The clergy made preparations to transform the synagogues into churches. Some municipal governments agreed to accept deeds to Jewish cemeteries for use as pasturage, and promised to leave the dead undisturbed. Others simply waited until the Jews were gone and then confiscated their burial grounds for local real estate needs. Wonderful bargains were to be had in Jewish houses and land, and Bernaldez tells us that the market price for a house was a mule, while a whole vineyard could be bought for a piece of cloth or linen. In many instances it was impossible even to get that kind of price and some Jews burned their houses down to the ground rather than let them fall into waiting Christian hands. This was only a petulant minority, however, and as soon as the Jews left, their Christian neighbors took over their houses and lands. The Catholic Kings were sorely vexed over this, because abandoned property rightfully belonged to the Crown, and private expropriation amounted to illegal theft. After the Jews had gone, King Ferdinand began a thorough investigation to determine what Jewish property had been usurped from the Crown. He even addressed lengthy inquiries to the authorities in the many places where the exiles had settled, asking them to solicit the cooperation of the Jews in the interests of justice.


      By July the roads of Spain were choked with Jewish columns reliving the memories of Egypt.1 Some slipped across the northern border into the small (and unfriendly) kingdom of Navarre, only to be expelled from there six years later. Others bought the uncertain sufferance of the king of Portugal but ultimately were massacred and driven from that country too. The main army headed for the seaports of the east and south. They staggered along, says Bernaldez, "big and small, old and young, on foot, on horseback, mounted on asses, riding in carts, stumbling and falling and getting up again, some sick, others dying, and new ones being born." Through town and country, Christians came to watch, calling on them to save themselves now and forever in the forgiving arms of the Redeemer. But the rabbis moved among them urging them to hold fast, lacing their exhortations with allusions to Egypt and the Red Sea and the Promised Land of milk and honey. And the women and children sang and beat their tambourines to keep up their courage.

      When they saw the sea at Cadiz, says Bernaldez, the Jews "gave a great shout, crying out to God for mercy." For hours they stared at the waters, waiting for the Lord to part the Mediterranean. But Jehovah stayed His hand, and they embarked on a flotilla of vessels waiting to carry them to North Africa?

1. Estimates of the number of exiles begin at 100,000 and stop at 800,000. The mean is around 000,000.
2. The morning after the last Jews departed, the three caravels of Christopher Columbus sailed out of the Gulf of Cadiz on their way to the New World. On board was a ship's physician named Maestro Bernal. A Converso. Bernal had been penanced as a secret Judaizer in an Auto de Fe at Valencia in 1490. Also with Columbus was Luis de Torres, a recently baptized Jew who apparently chose the perils of the unknown as his way of escape. Torres was a man of much linguistic talent, and is said to have been an expert in Eastern languages. Columbus hired him to serve as his interpreter between the Spaniards and the exotic aborigines they might encounter. Torres never returned to Spain; instead, he settled down for the rest of his life among the natives of Cuba, who cared little about his religious idiosyncrasies.


      The blue Mediterranean became a death trap for many. Sea rovers attacked their ships, plundered them and threw their victims into the sea. Storms scattered their fleets, and their ship captains dumped them on the beaches of North Africa, where roving Berber tribesmen swopped down on them, killing the men and carrying off the women. At the African ports of Oran and Algiers the inhabitants, who objected to the threatened overcrowding of their cities, attacked the fugitives, wounding and killing many of them as they disembarked.

      A large body of exiles struck inland for the Moroccan capital at Fez, eighty five miles to the south. After a harrowing march through a hostile land, abused by the elements and freebooting Berbers, they climbed up the rolling hills about Fez, where the olive gardens and orange groves of the city stretched out before them. But the city gates were closed against them, for the same "practical" reasons that impel modern nations to protect their economic integrity against the influx of the earth's disinherited. So the Jews camped in the fields, feeding on grass and roots like cattle. The modern Jewish historian Heinrich Graetz tells us that on the Sabbath they stripped the plants with their teeth, so as not to violate the holy day by gathering them. Fathers sold


their children as slaves for a loaf of bread, and mothers killed their infants rather than see them die of hunger.

      It was more than the Jews could bear. They would return to the land of their birth rather than die like starving animals far from home. Somehow they did get back, and our priestly historian, Andres Bernaldez, was on hand to baptize the repentant prodigals and record the miracle of their return:

They came back bare-footed and naked and crawling with lice. Along the way they were plundered by the Moors, who stripped them to the skin, raping the women and killing the men. They ran their fingers inside their mouths and in the women's lower regions and cut open their victims' bellies looking for the gold the Jews were known to have hidden on their persons. And the women told of other ugly things which those brute animals had done to them-things it were better not to describe here. Finding themselves once again free in the land of civilized people, they gave thanks to God for having led them out of their sufferings among such beasts.. Behold the dishonor, the calamities and the grievous punishments He has visited upon this generation of Moses for their wicked unbelief and the obstinate pride with which they deny the Savior and true Messiah, our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ, whose arms are always open to receive them. But never before, until now, when compelled to do so by disaster, have they been willing to accept Him.. But now we are witness to the fulfilling of the prophecy of King David when he said of wicked transgressors "They return at evening; they make a noise like a dog and go round about the city."


      With the words of King David and Father Bernaldez still ringing in our ears, we leave our priestly guide at this point to pick up with a young Jewish boy whose history is preserved for us in the records of the Inquisition at Valencia. Luis de la Isla was eight years old when he took up the tambourine on the long road to Cadiz. Somewhere in the horrors of North Africa he apparently became separated from his parents and began a lifetime of wandering in search of them. For two months he tramped the Barbary Coast without success, and finally slipped aboard a ship bound with a load of refugees for Italy. Italian sea captains had already acquired a reputation for brutality toward Jewish exiles, robbing them and flinging them into the sea for the sheer sport of murdering the helpless and downtrodden.

      The Italian cities swarmed with Jewish refugees. Pope Alexander VI, whose scandalous life even today chills the hearts of the Faithful, set a tolerant example by allowing the Jews freely to enter Rome. Other cities either followed or ignored the papal precedent according to local sentiments too complex for the human mind to unravel. For four years young Luis wandered through Italy. We catch brief glimpses of him in Venice and finally in Genoa where, by his own account, he became a convert to Christianity. It is only from other sources that we learn something of these strange circumstances: the republic of Genoa forbade Jews to remain within its boundaries for more than three days. Baptism nullified the ban, of course, and the starving Jewish children who haunted the streets were rewarded with a loaf of bread for opening their hearts to the Savior.


      Perhaps his parents had returned to Spain with the naked remnant from Fez. Luis de la Isla, now twelve years old and a nominal Christian, went back to his homeland. For ten years he moved from city to city, working at irregular intervals as a weaver of textiles. Four times he returned to Toledo, near to his boyhood home at Illescas. In 1506, now twenty two, he returned to Italy and visited Rome, Bologna and Ferrara, where the narrative of his odyssey begins to fill out. He applied for work at the shop of a Spanish Jewish exile who now ran a prosperous millinery in Ferrara:

He asked me about my previous experience, in this kind of work. He also asked me where I came from. I told him l was a Castilian, a native of Iliescas, that I had formerly been a Jew and was now a Christian.

      The Jew courted Luis for two weeks, trying to woo him back to the synagogue. Nothing came of it except that Luis declined to return to Judaism and his new friend decided he already had all the help he needed at the shop. Luis set out for Venice to try his luck in the lands of the Grand Turk.

      In those days the domain of the Sultan spread from the Balkan States on the Adriatic eastward through Turkey and Asia Minor, and south into the ancient kingdom of Egypt. The Sultan welcomed Spain's Jews, and vast numbers of them found happy refuge in the great cities of the East. Under Turkish law they were protected against the many oppressions which had made their lives miserable in Spain. The Sultan not only invited the Jews


in the cities of Greece and Asia Minor. Luis declared himself. to be a Jew, took the name of Abraham, and joined them in a caravan of Jews, Greeks and Turks headed for Constantinople. In Salonika, Adrianople, and other cities on the way, he found old acquaintances from Spain who told him about others of his countrymen in places still farther on. From Constantinople, against the advice of the Jews there, he struck out alone. Southward he wandered around the western crescent of the Sea of Marmora and across the cruel sands of "Old Turkey" to lonely desert towns with strange names. At Kutayah a Spanish Jew from Castile spoke of others who had passed that way for the southern coast and beyond, to Cyprus and Egypt. From Antalya he crossed the Eastern Mediterranean and landed in Alexandria. Soon after his arrival there, he fell ill. When he recovered, he was blind. Luis de la Isla decided to go home. In 1512 he was back in Toledo at the scenes of his childhood. He was a sick, blind old man. He was twenty eight. Soon after, he was seized by the Inquisition. The records of his trial break off at the year 1514, at which time he was languishing in a dungeon at Toledo. We never hear of him again.


to settle on his lands, but he further insulted Spanish honor by publicly doubting the legendary wisdom of the Catholic Kings who drove such an industrious people from Spain. The royal tutor, Peter Martyr, was so stung by this slur on the reputations of Ferdinand and Isabella that he hastened to inform the world that the Sultan was a blind fool just asking for trouble:

      If the Sultan knew how diseased these Jews are, how pestiferous and contagious, he would drive them from Egypt a second time as happened in the days of Pharaoh. By their touch alone they spread dirt. They corrupt everything they look upon. Their words destroy everyone. They upset everything human and divine. If the Sultan lives long enough he will come to realize what kind of people he has mixed with his own, and how filthy and cursed and vile and abominable they are, worthy only of being removed from all contact with humanity. Then he would have to admit the wisdom of the Catholic Kings in driving out such cattle.

      In Venice, the abominable Luis hired himself out as a servant to a pair of abominable Portuguese merchants and they sailed together across the Adriatic to the port of Aulona in Turkish Albania. The three confessed their Jewish origins to one another and cemented their bond by spending the Lenten season at Aulona eating meat and unleavened bread in celebration of the Passover. A band of Jewish exiles passing through Aulona on their way to new homes in the East, brought tales of friends and kinsmen from Spain who had found a new life.


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