Republican Spain’s Bullfight in Honor of Maimonides

In 1935, the city of Cordoba held a bullfight “in commemoration of the eighth centenary of the great Cordoban philosopher Maimonides.” The towering talmudist, philosopher, and theologian was born in that city in 1135, although thirteen years later his family fled to Morocco and from there relocated to Egypt, where he lived for the rest of his life. Janine Stein writes:

The bullfight itself was part of a five-day state festival in celebration of his life. It included receptions, cultural events, garden parties, society balls, the opening of a Maimonides museum at Madrid University, and the renaming of a square in Cordoba in his honor. Jewish representatives from around Europe were invited to attend the lavish affairs as honored guests. As part of the festivities, the centuries-old expulsion of the Jews was reversed—the Jews could now come back to Spain, and some did choose to return.

One of the Jewish visitors to the festival was a young man from northern England named Chaim Raphael. He reported that there were Jewish men from Lithuania, France, Greece, Yugoslavia, Italy, and even Palestine, in attendance. He noted how, despite their national differences, there was a palpable kinship among them.

Citing the reports of Raphael (later to become a prolific essayist and author of books on Jewish subjects), Stein suggests that the celebration, and the readmission of the Jews, were an attempt by the Spanish Republic, founded in 1931, to set itself apart from the old days of the monarchy. A year later, the civil war began that eventually brought about the republic’s fall.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at The Librarians

More about: Andalusia, History & Ideas, Moses Maimonides, Spain

 

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy