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[Thousands of Jews who fled Spain went to Turkey, which historically has been very nice to the Jews. Opening his doors to them, the Sultan of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, Bayezid II, declared: “They tell me that Ferdinand of Spain is a wise man but he is a fool. For he takes his treasure and sends it all to me.”

How did the movement of the Jews affect these countries? Spain, which having discovered and colonized the new World should have been the wealthiest of countries, was bankrupt within one hundred years of the expulsion. Turkey, on the other hand, prospered. The Ottoman Empire became one of the greatest powers in the world. The next two sultans, Selim I and Suleiman I, expanded the empire as far as Vienna, Austria.

(Incidentally, it was Suleiman – known as “Suleiman the Magnificent” – who, in 1536, re-built the walls of Jerusalem – the same walls that stand today and define the Old City.)]

Every American child knows about King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella – they are the monarchs who backed Christopher Columbus in his discovery of America. However, here are a few things that most people don’t know about them.

Isabella was a “fervent” Christian and, in 1478, she asked the Pope for permission to set up an Inquisition to weed out heresy in the Christian world. The Pope obliged, issuing on November 1, 1478, a papal bull called Exigit Sincere Devotionis. Ferdinand and Isabella followed that up with a royal decree on September 27, 1480.

(One of the most fascinating and depressing sub-plots of this drama is how many of the major Christian personalities in this story had either Jewish ancestry or were actually Jewish according to Jewish law. In addition to Torquemada, Jewish blood also flowed through the veins of:

  • King Ferdinand V
  • Queen Isabella I
  • Diego de Raza-Grand Inquisitor after Torquemada
  • Hernando de Talavera-Isabella’s personal confessor (mother was converse)
  • Pedro de la Caballeria and Alanso de Cabrera – (both converses)who helped arrange the wedding of Ferdinand and Isabella
  • Gabriel Sanchez (converse) – chief treasurer or Aragon
  • Luis de Santangel (converse) – Ferdinand’s budget Minister. (Sanchez and Santangel were responsible for financing the voyage of Christopher Columbus – also of Jewish ancestry – more on this later!)

While Columbus was off discovering America, what was happening to the Jews newly thrown out of Spain? The day after the expulsion, August 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus left on his famed voyage of discovery. His diary begins:

In the same month in which their Majesties issued the edit that all Jews should be driven out of the kingdom and its territories, in the same month, they gave me the order to undertake with sufficient men my expedition of discovery of the Indies.

Many people like to speculate that Columbus was of Jewish ancestry, and there is a good case for it. (For those interested, there are a lot of fascinating tidbits about Columbus collected in a book called Christopher Columbus’s Jewish Connection by Jane Francis Amler.) Here are some examples:

  • Although he was born in Genoa, Italy, his first language was Castilian Spanish. Many Jews had been forced to leave Castile about hundred years before his birth and some went to Genoa. (Incidentally, 14th century Castilian Spanish is the “Yiddish” of Spanish Jewry known as “Ladino.”)
  • When he wrote, Columbus made funny little marks on the page that resembled the markings that religious Jews put on top of the written page even to this day – an abbreviation of besiyata d’ishmaya, which means “with God’s help” in Aramaic.
  • He talked a great deal about Zion in his writings.
  • In his crew, he had five known Jews, including his doctor, navigator, and translator.
  • Columbus hired the translator, Louis de Torres, (who had converted to Christianity the day before he set sail) because he spoke twelve languages including Hebrew. And Columbus was sure he was not going to bump into Hebrew-speakers. He thought he was going to go to the Far East and he expected to find at least one of the ten lost tribes there and needed a Hebrew speaker.

Furthermore, there’s no question that Columbus’s voyage to America was spiritually linked to the expulsion. Just as one of the greatest Jewish communities of Medieval Europe is being destroyed, God was opening up the doors of what is going to eventually become the greatest Diaspora refuge for Jews in history – America. This is another tremendous pattern we see in history: God making the cure before the disease.

Incidentally, Columbus’s voyage was not financed by Isabella selling her jewels as is often stated. The major financiers were two court officials – both Jewish converses – Louis de Santangel, chancellor of the royal household, and Gabriel Sanchez, treasurer of Aragon.

The first letter Columbus sent back from the New World was not to Ferdinand and Isabella, but to Santangel and Sanchez thanking them for their support and telling them what he found.

The voyage of Columbus is a landmark in the Age of Exploration when numerous discoverers opened up the New World. While no other is believed to be Jewish, their discoveries were, to a significant extent, made possible by Jewish inventions or Jewish improvements to existing inventions.

For example, the key tools of navigators – the quadrant and the astral lobe used during this period- were of Jewish manufacture. In fact, the type of quadrant then in use was called “Jacob’s Staff”; it had been invented by Rabbi Levi ben Gershon also known as Gershonides.

The famous atlas that Columbus and the other explorers used was known as the Catalon Atlas. It was the creation of the Cresca Family, Jews from Majorca, Spain. Not only was the Catalon Atlas considered the greatest and most significant collection of maps at the time, it had no competition to speak of. Jews had a virtual monopoly at map making then, culling information from Jewish merchants from all over the known world.

The Christians began to call converted Jews “New Christians” to distinguish them from the “Old Christians” i.e. themselves. Derogatorily, Jewish converts to Christianity were called converses meaning “converts,” or worse yet marranos, meaning “pigs.” The basic accusation was that these Jews were not real converts to Christianity – they were secretly practicing Judaism. That was certainly often the case. There were large numbers of Jews who would be outwardly Christian but who would continue to practice Judaism secretly. Source: Aish(dot)com, by Rabbi Ken Spiro. (History Crash Course #48: The Inquisition)

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Comments on: "Jewish-Ottoman Turkic Alliance against Europeans and the World" (1)

  1. Perhaps all men are brothers because they all have at least a drop or two of Jewish blood. Haha.

    In 1484, there was the infamous Witches’ Bull from Pope Innocent VIII (I think). A number of poor women were killed because of this insane paranoia. The late 1400s were a difficult time to say the least.

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