Posts Tagged ‘history of Andalusia’

Joseph’s journal;

9 Tevet, 4816 (December, 1066)

The situation worsens. I was not harassed on the way to the palace this morning, a departure from what happened all this week. However, I could hear the shouting and screams of pain from the direction of the Jewish quarter of the city. My bodyguards hustled me along while glancing nervously over their shoulders. I was unable to determine if they, the guards, were more concerned for my safety or for the danger to themselves should I be attacked.

As soon as I was inside my offices in the palace the guards all disappeared. I sent one of my clerks to ask if I could have an audience with King Badis. The clerk returned to report that Badis was away, at one of his horse farms, and was not expected to return for several days. I sent three apprehensive clerks out to discern which, if any, generals were in the palace. They all returned to report none of the generals were expected at the palace today. I then ordered the commander of the palace guard to come to my office.

After about twenty minutes the man sauntered in, a man I know well. Chief of the Lambuni Zanhadja tribe. His name is Yaha ibn Umar al-Lambuni and I have crossed verbal swords with him on several occasions. I know he speaks ill of me to King Badis.

Salem al echem sir,” I greeted him.

Salem al echem Vizier. What can I do for you this morning?”

“I was wondering what the situation is in the Jewish quarter and what, if anything, you are doing to gain control of that situation. On my way in this morning it was obvious rioting was occurring and people were being injured.”

“I was not aware there is a situation in the Jewish quarter, Vizier. Do you have information about what is happening?”

“Nothing specific. I know that the mood of the population of Granada is increasingly anti-Jewish and this morning on the way to the palace I could clearly hear evidence of unrest and violence emanating from the Jewish quarter.”

“Really, I am not aware of this. I will send some people to investigate. However perhaps your people have brought this on themselves with their superior attitude and stiff-necked insistence on exercising power and control over my people.”

I did not respond, simply stared at him waiting.

“Oh, very well, I will look into this for you Vizier and see what can be done.”

He turned and left, but not in a great hurry. Forty minutes later I could hear a crowd approaching the building. Somehow, they had gained entrance into the Alcazaba. They were gathering outside our building. Soon the shouting began:

“Kill the Jew, kill all Jews.” Their chant was repeated over and over, gaining in strength and volume.

As I write this I’m sitting at my desk, my clerks are huddled on the floor of my office. Outside the office the sounds of a confrontation can be heard. A strong voice with a Nubian accent orders the crowd to disperse. There is angry shouting interrupted by the rhythmic thumping of swords against shields and the sound of marching leather-soled sandals on the pavement. There is a cacophony as objects, clubs and perhaps swords, strike shields and helmets then the scream of someone stabbed and shouting from the crowd as they retreat.

The door to the outer office opens and I heard the Nubian commander order the door shut and barricaded. Then a knocking at the closed door to my office. A loud voice with a Nubian accent shouted through the door.

“Vizier, it is Captain Appou ibn Naojil I served your father Ha Nagid. Do you remember me?”

“Yes Captain, I remember you very well. Please come in, I am very happy you have arrived.”

I went over, unlocked and opened the door. A tall ebony man stood in the doorway his glittering white teeth bursting from his mouth in a wide smile.

“I have only twelve men with me but we are resolute. We will defend. We do not forget all you and your father have done for us. The situation is not good. The mob outside is huge and it will be impossible for us to force our way through it to bring you to safety. Unfortunately, many of the Berber soldiers are joining the rioters. We will do the best we can.”

“I understand Captain, and I am extremely grateful for your support.”


It was 9, Tevet, 4816 (December, 1066). A mob, numbering hundreds, stormed the Alcazaba. Captain Appou ibn Naojil and his twelve Nubian infantrymen cut and slashed and fought valiantly. The mob pressed ever forward, stepping on and jumping over their wounded and slain comrades. They took advantage of the close quarters of Joseph’s outer office. So many infuriated men were jammed into the small space, the Nubians, despite their skill, training and discipline, were unable to maneuver and fight with efficiency. They were smothered by the overwhelming number of men who, crazed by the wounding and death of their comrades, kept pressing into the office, slipping on the blood and bodies of the slain but pressing, pressing forward until the Nubians were unconscious or dead on the floor, their blood mixing with the blood and severed body parts of the mob.

Joseph, following the instructions of Appou ibn Naojil, barricaded himself and his clerks into the inner office. Once the Nubians were neutralized and dispatched the mob broke in the door using a doorjamb ripped from the wall of the outer office as a battering ram. Joseph stood in front of his desk, his clerks cowering behind it. He held the sword given to him by Appou ibn Naojil in his right hand, a dull ceremonial knife in his left. Driven by fear, frustration and rage he stabbed and slashed and screamed to God to make him as strong as Sampson. He managed to inflict superficial wounds on three attackers but using clubs, and weapons taken from the fallen Nubians, they beat him to the floor and continued striking him until he was unconscious.

They drug him into the courtyard where two beams from the now destroyed outer office had been fashioned into a large cross. Two ends rested on the pavement stones and a third bean held the cross upright at a twenty-degree angle. From an unknown source spikes and a hammer were produced. They stripped Joseph naked, nailed him to the beams, then stabbed him with knives in the abdomen and chest leaving him to die slowly.

Before crucifying Joseph, they beat to death all of his clerks, none of whom were Jewish. While the murder of Joseph was taking place mobs, incited by rabid Imams and disenfranchised Arabs and Berbers, rampaged through the Jewish quarter of Granada, murdering an estimated four thousand Jews, destroying homes and shops and a synagogue. In front of the synagogue the mob ignited a bonfire of religious scrolls and books. No troops were ever dispatched to control the mobs or to deter them.

Joseph’s wife Sarah managed to flee the city with their son Azariah. Mother and son arrived safely at Lucena where they were taken in and protected by the Jewish community of that city. Azariah died of an unknown illness before his Bar Mitzvah.

There is no written record of King Badis’ or Prince Abdallah’s response to Joseph’s death. Badis continued to rule until his death in 1073. Abdallah inherited the kingdom and ruled from 1073-1090.

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Joseph’s journal;

4 Kislev, 4816 (December, 1066)

The situation for Jews in Granada is deteriorating. Badis has assigned body guards for me, a unit of infantry who guard my home and another who accompany me back and forth to the palace. The increased level of anti-Jewish sentiment appears to have been incited by a poem published by Abu Ishak. He is determined and never ceases his efforts to castigate me and my people. A copy of his most recent effort was brought to me by one of my scribes this morning. It reads:

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

They have violated our covenant with them, so how can you be held guilty against the violators?

How can they have any pact when we are obscure and they are prominent?

Now we are humble, beside them, as if we were wrong and they were right!

 This morning on my way to my offices a crowd of people followed us shouting for the soldiers to leave me so they could give the dirty Jew what he deserves. Fortunately for me the soldiers ignored the taunts and did their job. However, they were stoic, I could not determine if they harbored the same feelings of resentment or not.

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Joseph’s journal;

20 Kislev, 4815 (December, 1064)

This month was historic for Granada. King Badis named Prince Abdallah as his successor. I am pleased and relieved. Abdallah continues to come to me with questions and to ask for guidance as he grooms himself to assume responsibility for the kingdom. I am vindicated.

I am not yet thirty years old. Unfortunately, I feel more and more like an old man. I sneeze often during the day and night, my nose runs almost constantly, I have fits of coughing. I have trouble sleeping because of this annoying illness and the result is I am easily distracted. The incidents of anti-Jewish rhetoric and physical attacks are increasing again and I am frustrated with all the attempts I make to lessen them.

My inability to effect change in the Jewish community is also frustrating. I do not have the influence over the community that my father enjoyed, no demanded. Most of the Jews in Granada who enjoy some measure of authority were given their positions and power by my father. They seem to feel little allegiance or loyalty to me. My proposed solution to lessen the anti-Jewish attacks by encouraging stricter adherence to the Torah, particularly with reference to the lending of money for gain, are met with derision. I have spent considerable effort trying to convince the money lenders to stop charging interest, or at least to charge only minimally. They ignore my logic despite the danger to themselves.

King Badis is still content to leave all the details of operating the government in my hands. The demands on my time, and the complicated decisions that must be made, weigh heavily on me. I often wonder how my father managed to do this job so successfully for so long. I feel inadequate and with my uncle now gone there is nobody with whom I can let off frustration by talking through the problems I am struggling with. I know I served that purpose for my father. My son Azeriah is too young to understand. My wife Sarah, bless her, is a woman, concerned only with problems women face. A few weeks ago I was desperate. I tried to unburden myself by sharing some of my concerns with her. I know she is intelligent and capable of analyzing. I sometimes talk with her about the various interpretations of the intellectuals about points raised in the Talmud. She learned much about these matters from her father, my teacher. She is not stupid but this time she just stared at me. Her face was shrouded with the inability to understand what it was I wanted or needed. We sat in silence with our knees touching. The lavender scent she uses in her hair assaulted my olfactory senses, causing me to sneeze repeatedly. I sniffed and fumbled for the piece of linen in my pocket that I use to wipe my nose.

“I don’t know what it is you want me to do or say Joseph. Your nose is running.”

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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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Joseph’s journal;

16 Iyar 4810 (May, 1061)


My young brother Elyasaf is making good progress in his studies. The whole family is looking forward to his Bar Mitzvah next year. For his age he is already a Talmudic scholar of some accomplishment. He expresses much more interest in the Torah and Talmud than in government service. My son Azeriah is still too young to start grooming for anything. I’m far from certain I want Elyasaf to take on the life’s work my father chose for me.

My mother’s health is still good, although she is now showing her age. I did not realize until recently how close she was to her brother, ben Judah. I also long for his calm and steady personality and the efficiency with which he managed the family’s wealth. This year we are in a drought and the three farm properties we still own are all going to show a loss. I remember my father discussing the uncertainty of agriculture. This year there was a general downturn in the economy and the losses from the farms is more problematic because our other sources of income are also down. I am told that although the harvest will be much less than usual the grape crop will likely result in a very high quality wine, but that will not be realized for at least two to four years.

King Badis seems more and more remote. Following the example set by his father, King Haddus, he has refused to name a successor from among his seven legal sons, or untold numbers of the sons of concubines. The tribal chiefs are beginning to align themselves with the pretenders and it seems clear that a civil war is in the offing when he dies, unless I can do something to prevent it. I have gone to Badis and told him of my concerns. I can repeat his responses verbatim:

“So Vizier, tell me which of my sons you are certain will make the best king and once he is named what will prevent him from getting rid of me to hasten his rise to power?”

“I’m afraid I haven’t had the opportunity to get to know them well enough to make a choice, Sire.”

“Well their mothers are always nagging me to make a choice, inevitably each’s eldest. I don’t know any of them well enough to choose and prefer the company of two or three of my concubines to any of my wives. I consider the lot of them, mothers and sons, a pain in the ass. All the sons are spoiled by their mothers and ignorant of what a king’s responsibilities and duties are.”

“Do you think it might be wise to separate a few of them from their mothers and start grooming them for responsibility? Perhaps that would be a way you can identify those with the necessary level of ability. Have you talked with their teachers about their progress?”

“I have not. That would be an excellent task for you Joseph. I authorize you to hold discussions with their teachers and make an assessment of their learning, willingness to learn and aptitude. Perhaps you can even develop an opinion. You can tell me about which of the worthies you would be willing to serve after I’m gone. Good idea. You do that Vizier, and report back to me in a month. Dismissed.”

So now I have maneuvered myself into another task, to make recommendations about the successor to my king. The only possible way for this to turn out well is that one of the Princes will be so far superior to his brothers that the choice will be obvious. That is most unlikely to happen but it’s the only scenario I can think of likely to gain the support of the tribal chiefs, not to mention the king’s. I have, I fear, made the overall situation worse, especially for myself. My father would never have allowed himself to be trapped into this position.

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