Rediscovered after a Mysterious Theft: the Oldest Document of Jewish Life in the New World

Currently on display at the New-York Historical Society is a tiny diary composed by Luis de Carvajal the Younger, a Spanish-born crypto-Jew who settled in Mexico as a teenager. The diary was stolen from the Mexican National Archives in 1932, resurfaced in late 2015, and was purchased by an American Jewish philanthropist who has restored it to the Mexican government following an agreement first to allow it to be exhibited in New York. Joseph Berger writes:

De Carvajal, a trader, was arrested [by the Mexican Inquisition] around 1590 as a proselytizing Jew and, while in prison, began writing a sometimes messianic memoir . . . on pages roughly four inches by three inches. In it, he called himself Joseph Lumbroso—Joseph the Enlightened. [The surname Lumbroso was used by his relatives in Salonika, who practiced Judaism openly.] It begins, “Saved from terrible dangers by the Lord, I, Joseph Lumbroso of the Hebrew nation and of the pilgrims to the West Indies, in appreciation of the mercies received from the hands of the Highest, address myself to all who believe in the Holy of Holies and who hope for great mercies.”

The memoir tells how he learned from his father that he was Jewish, circumcised himself with an old pair of scissors, secretly embraced the faith, and persuaded siblings to embrace it.

He was freed for a time—possibly so that the authorities could track his contacts with other secret Jews—and finished his autobiography, stitching it together with a set of prayers, the Ten Commandments, and the thirteen principles of the Jewish philosopher Maimonides. Scholars believe he made it miniature so he could conceal it inside a coat or pocket. In 1596, after having been found guilty again of observing Jewish practices, he was burned at the stake. He was thirty years old.

Read more at New York Times

More about: History & Ideas, Inquisition, Marranos, Mexico, Sephardim

Hamas Won’t Compromise with the Palestinian Authority, and Gazans Won’t Overthrow Hamas

July 24 2017

Since the terrorist organization Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, much of Israeli strategy toward it has stemmed from the belief that, if sufficient pressure is applied, the territory’s residents will rise up against it. Yaakov Amidror argues this is unlikely to happen, and he also doubts that improved living conditions for ordinary Gazans would deter Hamas from terrorism or war:

The hardships experienced by the Strip’s residents, no matter how terrible, will not drive them to stage a coup to topple Hamas. The organization is entrenched in Gaza and is notorious for its brutality toward any sign of dissidence, and the Palestinians know there is no viable alternative waiting for an opportunity to [take over].

[Therefore], it is time everyone got used to the idea that Hamas is not about to relinquish its dominant position in the Gaza Strip, let alone concede to the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas. . . . [Yet the] assumption is also baseless that if Gaza experiences economic stability and prosperity, Hamas would refrain from provoking hostilities. This misconception is based on the theory that Hamas operates by governmental norms and prioritizes the needs and welfare of its citizens. This logic does not apply to Hamas. . . .

[Hamas’s] priorities are to bolster its military power and cement its iron grip. This is why all the supplies Israel allows into Gaza on a daily basis to facilitate normal life have little chance of reaching the people. Hamas first and foremost takes care of its leaders and makes sure it has what it needs to sustain its terror-tunnel-digging enterprise and its weapon-production efforts. It then sees to the needs of its members, and then—and only then—what little is left is diverted to rehabilitation efforts that benefit the population.

This is why the argument that Israel is responsible for Gaza’s inability to recover from its plight is baseless. Hamas is the one that determines the priorities by which to allocate resources in the enclave, and the more construction materials that enter Gaza, the easier and faster it is for Hamas to restore its military capabilities. Should Israel sacrifice its own security on the altar of Gazans’ living conditions? I don’t think so.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security