Archive for March, 2018

Joseph’s journal;

12 Marchehvan 4814 (November, 1064)

 Today was a good day. I thank God for it. I spent the morning with the students in my Yeshiva. Our discussion of Talmud was up-lifting. Most of the students were actively involved and thinking, thinking in innovative and creative ways, about both the obvious as well as the hidden meanings of the words. My heart soared and my brain smiled.

Granada has been calm the last few months. The incidents of Jews being attacked on the streets has diminished. The army has been deployed only to answer occasional raids by Arab and Berber tribes with no hope or thought of conquest. We have been able to reduce the numbers of employed mercenaries, since the threat of war with our neighbors has lessened. The economy is in the process of recovering and tax revenues are up as a result. I cope on a daily basis with the details of keeping our complex government and economy operating smoothly but I have been fortunate in recruiting bright, intelligent assistants who are willing to take on responsibilities and reduce my workload.

Lately I meet with the king only once a week, unless there is something that specifically requires his approval or attention. He is content with this arrangement. I am told his drinking has slacked and although he partakes every day he is less often incapacitated.

Prince Abdallah has finished his apprenticeship in my offices, but still shows up on a regular basis to inhabit the library and pour over documents relating to our history. Lately he is requesting access to current documents dealing with ongoing negotiations and intrigues. Occasionally he will come to me with specific questions or background information. I do my best to give him what he asks for and more, when possible.

Abdallah is also spending considerable time honing his warrior and command skills, serving as an aid to General Abu ibn Mohammad. I invited the General to my home this week and over a leisurely dinner extracted the information that he was pleased with Abdallah’s progress and grasp of military tactics and strategy. General Abu was one of my father’s favorites. He understood and put into practice all my father taught him. He told me he feels he is honoring Ha Nagid by being frank and honest with me. He explained that he believed Abdallah should be named successor to Badis. Then cautioned me. His opinion on this must be limited to himself and now me. For obvious political reasons he could not afford to promote any one prince over another. I told him I fully understood. I have the same issues.

General Abu did share that on the last excursion he made to put down a minor insurrection, in a small town near Jaen, Abdallah conducted himself with considerable bravery and skill. Abu told me Abdallah clearly won the admiration and loyalty of the troops he was commanding.

Whenever the opportunity presents I mention Abdallah’s progress and aptitude to King Badis. He takes the information in, but does not indicate interest or pleasure. I never press the issue.

Abu Ishak of Elvira has become more and more a pest. Badis refuses to grant him an audience after asking for my frank opinion of the man. When I told him he nodded. Abu Ishak has taken up what seems to be permanent residence in the city. He is being supported by several wealthy Arabs, as an intellectual and teacher. He also serves as tutor to the children of several of the Berber tribal chiefs who have never been thrilled with the fact that my father, and now I, have greater power than they do. Abu Ishak speaks out against me whenever the opportunity arises. Based on the reports of these activities that I receive I must admit he is eloquent as well as insidious.

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Joseph’s journal;

 23 Tishrei, 4811 (October, 1061)

There were three attacks on Jews in the streets this month. The frequency is increasing but, so far, no persons have been arrested. I tried this morning, during my meeting with the king, to suggest he appoint someone else to lead the investigation. The Zanhadja tribal chief in charge of the investigations had yet to identify any perpetrators.

“Don’t try my patience Vizier. Concentrate on the duties for which you are responsible. None of your people have been killed, have they?”

“Does an innocent need to be killed before we put a stop to these attacks, Majesty?”

“Never mind. The people are angry. I rely on you, as I did on your father. You have my full support. You need to know, however, more and more people plea for me to rid myself and the kingdom of you. I ignore these strident voices. We both pay a price for this loyalty. It seems a significant number of our population need a scapegoat to blame for their problems, especially now with the economy struggling. The Jews have always been scapegoats. Why should it change now? In any case it is impossible for me to put a stop to it. Those that lend money at interest must know they will be resented, do you not agree? I know your father did not allow that practice.”

“I am powerless to stop it Majesty.”

“I realize that Joseph. For now, we must live with these attacks as best we can and pray nobody dies as a result. How goes the collection of taxes this month? The salaries of the mercenaries will be due in nine days. Will we have the funds?”

“Yes Majesty, there is enough in the treasury to cover those expenses for the next three months.”

“Good. Anything else we need to discuss?”

“No your Highness.”

I bowed my way out and retreated through the courtyard of an adjoining building to the rooms that house my official offices. I passed through the waiting room ignoring the three supplicants hoping to gain my attention that day. I entered my outer office and closed the door behind me. Three clerks were busy writing. They all glanced up, saw it was me, and resumed their tasks. The fourth person in the room jumped to his feet. He was a full two inches taller than me, of light complexion, light brown hair and inquisitive eyes, an unusual shade of blue-green. The young man was in his early twenties, Prince Abdallah. He was currently spending time in my offices learning, I hoped, the intricacies of managing the King’s finances and the twists and turns of diplomacy.

“Good morning Vizier. May I have some time this morning to speak with you?”

“Of course Prince Abdallah, please come in and have a seat.”

He followed me into my office and closed the door. I held out my arm to the chair across from my desk and stood until he was seated.

“What can I help you with,” I asked.

“I was wondering about the background of the large stack of documents relating to our current relationships with the king of Carmona. You gave them to me to read two days ago. I know some of the history we have with that Taifa but if I am to understand the realities of our relationship I need more information.”

I smiled inwardly. This young fellow actually showed some promise. He was interested in history, more than I could say about any of the other Princes King Badis  sent to me to be educated. Most of them lacked curiosity and initiative. They just performed the tasks I set for them, usually without enthusiasm or interest. They all had been fundamentally uninterested in the details and importance of financial record keeping.

“Good your Majesty. I am pleased you are interested in the history of our relationships with the other Taifas. They have been and are complicated, depending a great deal on the personalities and aspirations of the rulers and their families. I will instruct my secretary Yacob to give you full access to all our documents relating to any of the Taifas you have an interest in. After you read the written records please come to me and we will discuss your impressions and conclusions. I will be happy to address any questions you may have. I encourage you to write down questions as you go through the materials and I will do my best to answer them. As you know I have, since I was quite young, been privy to my father’s dealings with other countries and I am happy to share with you any insights I may have.”

“Thank you Vizier. I also have some questions about the rationale for the methods of collecting of taxes and the reasoning behind such meticulous record keeping. Why is it necessary to know who paid what amount, when, and the method of payment? But that can wait I suppose.”

“Yes, let us defer the economics discussion until you have satisfied your curiosity about historical issues. Do you resent the bookkeeping tasks I have assigned or do you understand my rationale for insisting you do that rather boring job?”

“The record keeping is quite tedious Vizier, but I know if I am to understand the system you use I must involve myself in the actual chores of keeping the records. I see there is no other way to learn the system. So no, I don’t resent the work.”

“Good, I am extremely pleased you see the benefits of learning the system by working with it.” I stood. “Come I will accompany you to the library and have Yacob show you the system we use so you can find the documents either by the Taifa with whom the events took place or the date when the records were made.”

This one, at least, showed some promise. I would keep close watch on his progress in the office and his activities away from the office, when he was on his own.

I spent the rest of the day reviewing documents relating to ongoing negotiations with three other Taifas. I also talked to several men with information about various ongoing investigations and projects. I checked the current status of our state resources and the logistics of delivering payment to our troops. Finally, I gave instructions to bring in the three petitioners, one at a time in the order of their arrival. They had been breathing the air of my waiting room long enough. The first two voiced heartfelt pleas to reduce their taxes. The first man made a good case for the downturn in his situation and I granted him a reprieve. The second lacked any convincing arguments and was denied. Another enemy made.

The third man was Abu Ishak, an Arab from Elvira, who was hoping, because of his learning and recognition as a scholar and intellectual, to obtain a position at court. He had made a direct appeal to King Badis, in writing, but had not received a response, not even an acknowledgement of the request. His goal was to gain me as an advocate. He tried to impress me with his intellectual credits and accomplishments. I found him to be overbearing and strident. After a half hour or so I managed to get rid of him with a vague promise to mention him to the king at my first opportunity.

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Joseph’s journal;

16 Sivan 4810 (June, 1061)

I spent the first days of my assignment interviewing the tutors and former tutors of six of Badis’ seven legal sons. The seventh is only four years old. Three of his sons are now in their twenties. I have filtered the reports of their tutors for the realities of life. Their intellectual achievements seem to be average, at best. All three are currently appointed as aides to different generals. All three Generals are laudatory about the achievements and character of their charges but, as I evaluated their expressions and body language, I was certain they were hiding their true opinions. Not at all surprising.

All of the teachers and generals were summoned to meet with me in my formal office in the palace. This was not a good choice. All palaces have many ears and nothing said in confidence is ever held secret. I decided to invite each of the generals, individually, to dinner in my home. The results of these private conversations armed me with a much improved idea about each of the three sons. None of the three were without serious flaws in their character, but neither is King Badis.

Today I was summoned again into the King’s presence for the results of my inquiries. He had not forgotten my assignment.

“So Vizier, what have you discovered? Who do you want to be your next King?”

“As I am certain you are aware, Majesty, since nothing escapes your notice, I have limited serious consideration to your three eldest; Abu, Mohammad, and Abdallah. If you wish I can investigate the qualifications of your younger sons and perhaps you also have nephews who could be contenders. I believe it unwise to rush into anything, as you well know. My suggestions would be to assign each of your sons, and possibly some of your nephews, to work in the offices of your various Viziers on a rotating basis. That will give us all the opportunity to make an evaluation of their relative merits and suitability to be rulers.”

“You prevaricate as much as me, Joseph. However, I like this idea. I plan to live at least another ten or twelve years, so we have time. I will order it.”

I returned to my official office greatly relieved. Another crisis at least temporarily averted.

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