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Jeffrey Levine
CFO | Seeking a just world I Author

Understanding the Arc of History

When examining the arc of history, it becomes evident that individual leaders bear significant responsibility for wars and hardships. These outcomes often stem from various factors, including economic needs, the pursuit of power, intentional decisions, and, sometimes, a lack of understanding of complex situations.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks provides further context by referring to Amy Chua’s book, Political Tribes, which highlights the recurring failures in American foreign policy. Chua documents disasters in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the broader Middle East, arguing that attempts to transform these regions into liberal democracies through war are futile. Misunderstanding the intricate ethnic and cultural dynamics leads to wasted resources and tragic loss of lives.

“The Yale law professor argues that if the U.S. wants to avoid making foreign policy blunders and getting embroiled in unwinnable wars, it must stop being blind to the realities of political tribalism abroad.

“The problem is when tribalism takes over a political system. That’s dangerous because then you start to see everything through the lens of your own tribe, and facts start not to matter.”

https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/amy-chua-tiger-mom-political-tribes-interview-the-national-1.4611169

Chua emphasises the dangers of political tribalism, noting that ethno-nationalist movements and the transformation of democracy into zero-sum games can blind a nation to the realities of global political dynamics. This blindness can result in costly and unwinnable conflicts.

This is an interesting perspective on two different extremes– on the one hand, our fixation with Western Democracy and on the other fixation of tribes – Muslim extremism, the anti-Jewish or Israel Hate gatherings on the streets and campuses which ignore the facts and the truth.

This is expressed in BDS, ignorance of the Jewish history of the land, false trials of genocide, and accusations of occupation, creating famine. All without due reference to the facts and reality of complex situations.

Historical Precedence of Evil

I have just finished reading a book about the Spanish Inquisition, which highlighted the cruel treatment of “Heretics”  or “non-believers” by the Church in what was a cruel, dark period of history of the church and the people of Spain.

So, it is not ironic that one country that has been very vocal in the opposition to Israel is Spain. Spain has shown consistent irrational hate against Israel, never fully recognised its existence, and only established diplomatic ties in 1986.

So, it is not only now, but before. It’s not pretty when you look at the skeletons in Spain’s closets, from the Inquisition to colonialism and civil wars.

Indeed, on a walking tour of Spain, one encounters wars and murders. A colleague said that when he went on these tours, he commented about the Jews in the history of Spain. The guide said, basically, with the Jews, the death and the hate were much worse.

I recently finished a book, Sacred Swords, by Mayer Abramowitz.

It is not a well-known book. The author himself has a very interesting life story. Rabbi Mayer Abramowitz, known as the “father of the Cuban Jewish community,” passed away at 97 in Miami Beach. Renowned for his positive energy, Abramowitz led Temple Menorah for 45 years, opening its doors to Cuban Jewish youth arriving during Operation Pedro Pan from 1960 to 1962. Born in Jerusalem in 1919, he moved to New York in 1928, earned degrees from Yeshiva University and the Jewish Theological Seminary, and served as an Army chaplain post-World War II, aiding Holocaust survivors.

In 1951, Abramowitz and his wife Rachel moved to Miami Beach, where he became a key figure in the local Jewish community and established strong ties with Cuban Jews. His efforts in building bridges among different groups were widely recognised, notably by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Abramowitz also authored books on the Spanish Inquisition and post-Holocaust life and founded the Jewish Leadership Institute. He is survived by his wife, three children, 11 grandchildren, and 22 great-grandchildren.

sourced – https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/obituaries/article130701584.html

The book is fascinating to read. It’s a fictional history (and I am a sucker for historical fiction books). “Sacred Sword” presents a compelling tale of resilience and persecution, depicting the complex interplay of religion, politics, and economics during a dark chapter in Spanish history.

The book traces the influential role of Don Isaac Abravanel in 15th-century Spain. The narrative explores Abravanel’s interactions with Spanish royalty, focusing on his efforts to rebuild Spain’s economy. His financial acumen was pivotal in providing the resources needed to defeat the Moors, who had invaded North Africa and unified Spain as an emerging economic colonial power.

Abravanel faced the harsh realities of the Spanish Inquisition despite his contributions, which were strongly influenced by its leader’s hold on Queen Isabel. The Inquisition targeted Jews and those accused of supporting them, framing them as a fifth column from the era of the Muslim (Moor) invasion from the 9th century of Spain.

The Jews were portrayed as evil and subhuman. One can point a direct line from the Inquisition to Nazi Germany and today’s hate fest against Israel and the Jews.

 

 

 

 

 

Notice the swords on both images – sourced from social media.

This period from 1492 was marked by public burnings, floggings, and torture, often driven by economic motives to seize property for the church and the monarchy, particularly benefiting King Ferdinand. The Spanish Inquisition officially ended on July 15, 1834. This marked the conclusion of an institution established in 1478 by the Catholic Monarchs, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, primarily to maintain Catholic orthodoxy and consolidate their power through often brutal methods.​

Spain and Israel established diplomatic relations on January 17, 1986. This significant step came after decades of Spain maintaining a pro-Arab stance during the Franco era. Establishing ties marked a turning point, reflecting Spain’s broader efforts to integrate more fully into the European community and adopt a more balanced approach in its foreign policy towards the Middle East. (Really??)

And, it’s interesting that when you see the prisms of Spain’s actions against Israel, it’s almost like a cover-up of their past sins.

We see that following biases, ignoring the truth or facts can have disastrous implications.

 Biblical Insights: The Spies and Misreading Situations

This week’s Bible reading focuses on the story of the spies in the Book of Numbers. Upon returning, the spies reported that the Israelites could not conquer the Promised Land, leading to widespread fear and doubt. They said:

וְשָׁ֣ם רָאִ֗ינוּ אֶת־הַנְּפִילִ֛ים בְּנֵ֥י עֲנָ֖ק מִן־הַנְּפִלִ֑ים וַנְּהִ֤י בְעֵ֙ינֵ֙ינוּ֙ כַּֽחֲגָבִ֔ים וְכֵ֥ן הָיִ֖ינוּ בְּעֵינֵיהֶֽם׃

“We saw the Nephilim there—the Anakites are part of the Nephilim—and we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.”

This perception was incorrect and self-defeating. In contrast, Rahab’s words in the Haftorah (Joshua 2:9) highlight the actual fear felt by the inhabitants of the land:

וַתֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אֶל־הָ֣אֲנָשִׁ֔ים יָדַ֕עְתִּי כִּֽי־נָתַ֧ן יְהֹוָ֛ה לָכֶ֖ם אֶת־הָאָ֑רֶץ וְכִֽי־נָפְלָ֤ה אֵֽימַתְכֶם֙ עָלֵ֔ינוּ וְכִ֥י נָמֹ֛גוּ כׇּל־יֹשְׁבֵ֥י הָאָ֖רֶץ מִפְּנֵיכֶֽם׃

“I know that GOD has given the country to you, because dread of you has fallen upon us, and all the inhabitants of the land are quaking before you.”

Interpreting Events: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The misinterpretation of situations is not limited to ancient times. As Israelis, there is a significant failure to understand the deep-seated hatred felt by Palestinians. Properly interpreting events is crucial for achieving moral clarity and finding peace. The ongoing conflict is exacerbated by the reward and support of terrorism, which continues to be a source of immense frustration.

Spain’s Historical Context and Its Modern Stance on Israel

Spain’s contemporary anti-Israel stance can be viewed through the lens of its historical context of anti-Jewish sentiment. Spain’s vocal opposition to Israel reflects a deeper, irrational hostility that dates back to the Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition, which began in 1478, was marked by the persecution of Jews and conversos (Jews who had converted to Christianity).

Conclusion

Understanding historical contexts and accurately interpreting contemporary events are vital for leadership and conflict resolution. By examining the failures of the past, such as those detailed in the story of the spies, Amy Chua’s Political Tribes and Mayer Abramowitz’s Sacred Sword, which documents the evil and blind hatred, we hopefully can gain new understandings which could influence ourselves and the world contrast to strive for better outcomes in the present and future. Reflecting on these lessons, we must seek moral clarity and wisdom in our actions and decisions.

 

Further Historical notes

Spain’s history, with its periods of conquest, cultural flourishing, and conflict, offers valuable lessons for understanding the complexities of Christian intolerance, religious wars, nationalism, and identity.

The Cover Photo – was found and sourced on social media. The Muslims have a strong history and connection to Spain. It is time to call their rights to return to Spain and establish a state there.

The period of Muslim rule in Spain from 711 to 1492 left an indelible mark on the region’s history and culture. Al-Andalus was a period of extraordinary cultural and intellectual achievements, characterised by a unique blending of Islamic, Christian, and Jewish traditions. The advancements made during this era laid important foundations for the Renaissance and significantly shaped the course of Western civilization.

Colonization and South America: Spain’s empire in the New World was established with the voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1492. This led to the colonization of vast territories in South and Central America. The Spanish conquests were marked by the brutal subjugation of indigenous populations and the establishment of a colonial system that relied heavily on the forced labor of enslaved Native Americans and Africans. The wealth extracted from these colonies, particularly through the mining of silver and gold, significantly boosted Spain’s economy but at an immense human cost.

The Inquisition: The Spanish Inquisition, established in 1478, aimed to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in the kingdom. It targeted converted Jews (conversos) and Muslims (Moriscos) suspected of secretly practicing their former faiths, as well as Protestants and other heretics. The Inquisition became notorious for its use of torture and executions and significantly impacted Spanish society, fostering an atmosphere of fear and intolerance.

Wars and Conflicts: Spain has been a battleground for various conflicts, including the Reconquista, the series of campaigns by Christian states to recapture territory from the Muslims who had occupied most of the Iberian Peninsula since the early 8th century. The culmination of the Reconquista was the fall of Granada in 1492, marking the end of Muslim rule in Spain. Spain’s involvement in the European wars, such as the Thirty Years’ War and the Napoleonic Wars, also shaped its history and influenced its political landscape.

Key Players and Events:

  1. Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile:
    • Initiated the Spanish Inquisition to enforce Catholic orthodoxy.
  2. Tomás de Torquemada:
    • The first Grand Inquisitor who fervently supported the expulsion and persecution of Jews and conversos.
  3. The Alhambra Decree (1492):
    • Ordered the expulsion of all Jews from Spain who refused to convert to Christianity, leading to the displacement of approximately 200,000 Jews.
  4. Expulsion and Persecution:
    • The expulsion disrupted Jewish communities and led to economic and cultural losses for Spain.
  5. Seizure of Property:
    • The Crown seized the properties of expelled Jews, financing campaigns and contributing to the royal treasury.

Don Isaac Abravanel: A Jewish Leader in Tumultuous Times

Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a prominent Jewish scholar, philosopher, and financier. His career highlights his resilience and adaptability in the face of persecution:

Career and Relationships:

  1. John II of Portugal:
    • Abravanel served as the royal treasurer but fled to Castile after being falsely accused of conspiracy.
  2. Ferdinand and Isabella:
    • Served as a royal financier, helping to fund the campaign to reconquer Granada.
  3. Alhambra Decree:
    • Despite his influence, Abravanel could not prevent the expulsion of Jews from Spain.

Impact on His Family:

  1. Expulsion and Relocation:
    • The Abravanel family was forced to relocate multiple times, facing further persecution in Naples and other regions.
  2. Legacy:
    • Abravanel’s descendants continued to contribute significantly to Jewish scholarship and European history.
About the Author
Jeffrey is a CFO | Seeking a just world I Author -living in Jerusalem. He is a young grandfather who has five kids and seven grandchildren. Jeffrey is promoting a vision for a better and fairer world through https://upgradingesg.com and is the author of Upgrading ESG - How Business can thrive in the age of Sustainability
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