So as I mentioned previously, I am planning to review Maggie Anton’s Rav Hisda’s series next. However, I still haven’t had a chance to actually start reading the book because I had been heads deep in a book not particularly related to the purpose of this blog. My reading agenda is generally pretty varied. I’ve mentally committed to reading at least one blog related book per month leaving myself wide open to other books to keep my imagination flexible and free. Never one to shy away from most genres, I like to add a good dose of non-fiction at least once a month. So I’ve been reading about Queen Isabella of Castile (as seen below).
Here I was merely travelling through Renaissance Spain and thinking to myself, oh man, I can’t wait until I get through this and get back to my blog. Can’t wait to jump into 7th century Babylon! And then of course I remembered who I was reading about. Queen Isabella, the subject of my current book, is of course of the Queen of Spain who orchestrated the expulsion of Jews from Spain, the one who started the Spanish Inquisition, the queen in whose glorious name the Americas were discovered by Columbus. Seems I can’t escape from my blog even when I think I’ve escaped. My own family is Ashkenazi so I guess I’ve always viewed the sufferings of Sephardim (Jews from Iberia – Spain and Portugal) in kind of an abstract. Sure it sucks to have been kicked out of your homes but MY family had to deal with pogroms and Cossacks! Except, obviously I had no idea what I was talking about. We are all one people with same experiences that just happened to take place in variety of points on the globe.
So Isabella. Yeah. What a huge historical figure. She rises to the top against all odds after the death of her brother and manages to seize the throne from her brother’s daughter (who may not have been his anyway) while managing to marry against his wishes to the king next door Ferdinand of Aragon and forming the Ferdinand and Isabella TEAM. Together they conquer Granada, the last remaining Muslim stronghold in Spain. They expand their territory to Caribbean with the discovery of the New World. And they rid their lands of the infidels. By giving them a choice of forcible conversion or expulsion from lands where they’ve lived and prospered for hundreds of years. A real group of mensches. To my surprise, Isabella turned out to be the driving force of the two. It was she in her “admirable” religious zeal that insisted on cleansing her lands of non-believers after spending her childhood and adulthood in close contact and faithful counsel with Castilian Jews. It was she that allowed the Inquisition to seize, question, and burn to the point of where the zeal of her Inquisition was criticized by the Pope. It was she that promised to the Jews in her own lands and then Jews and Muslims in her newly conquered Granada that they would be allowed to practice their religion in peace as long as they submitted to being treated like second class citizens, and then reneged on her promises within a few years and gave them the awesome choice of conversion of expulsion. She is responsible for deaths of thousands of those who chose to leave and were then abused, robbed and killed by Christian captains that were paid by the crown to give them safe conduct. And even when the Jews converted sincerely or otherwise, her Inquisition frequently stormed in and prosecuted them for being fake, regardless of whether this was true.
So here they are in all their glory. And the irony of her being positioned above him is not at all lost on me.