A Breach of Faith

Stand for Israel  |  December 30, 2019

The Slaying of the Abencerrajes
The Slaying of the Abencerrajes

Today, the rise of anti-Semitism around the world — even in our own backyards — is troubling. It is a problem that we all, Christians and Jews alike, must unite together to fight. One way of fighting anti-Semitism is through learning about its historical manifestations, so that we don’t allow history to repeat itself. Of course the Holocaust is perhaps the largest occurrence of anti-Semitism, and one we will focus on throughout the month of January. And anti-Semitic actions by rulers even occurred during Bible times. But this history lesson is from about a thousand years ago, resulted in an entire city’s Jewish population being wiped out, and features much of the same anti-Semitic incitement and violence we still see today.

Son of a Rabbi

A city (and province) in Andalusia in southern Spain, Granada is famous for the Alhambra, a historical Islamic palace and site of the depiction of a historical massacre seen above. But while known for its Muslim history, Granada was also once home to a thriving Jewish population. The advisor to the city’s Moorish ruler was Joseph ibn Naghrela. Joseph was Jewish, the son of a rabbi, poet, and warrior named Sh’muel ha-Nagid.

Joseph followed in his father’s footsteps, copying his poetry and heading onto the battlefield with him. While educated by his father, Joseph also received schooling from the renowned teacher, Rabbi Nissim Gaon. And after Sh’muel died, Joseph took over his father’s positions as yeshiva teacher and vizier to the local Muslim king.

An Anti-Semitic Poem

While Joseph enjoyed the trust of King Badis (who history says “was nearly always drunk”), other Muslim leaders did not trust this Jew among them. One of these enemies — a man with the curious name of Abu Ishak of Elvira — not only hated Jews like Joseph, but coveted a palace position such as the one Joseph held. While the drunken king, to his credit, would not be turned against Joseph, the public could. Abu Ishak turned the public sentiment by writing a poem, part of which reads:

Do not consider it a breach of faith to kill them, the breach of faith would be to let them carry on.

Just as today’s terrorist leaders of Hamas and Fatah and Islamic Jihad (not to mention the growing scourge of neo-Nazis and anti-Semitic lone-wolf terrorists in the U.S. and Europe) use hateful language to incite violence against Jews, this poem did the same.

The Granada Massacre

Just as today’s terrorists are incited by the hateful words they are fed, so too was the public in Granada. Joseph took shelter in the royal palace, but on December 30, 1066, angry mobs stormed its gates and carried him outside. Joseph was crucified, just as another Jewish teacher had been a millennium before.

And just as perpetrators of today’s terror attacks all too often target innocent civilians, so too did the angry mobs in the streets of Granada. When the massacre was over, thousands of Granada’s Jews had been killed (some sources say 1,500 people, while others say 1,500 families).

So as we, even today, witness both incitement to violence and the resulting acts of against Jews, let us learn from such historical anti-Semitic events such as the 1066 Granada Massacre and speak out against such hateful words and hateful actions.