The Great Jewish Cartographers of the 14th Century

Born in 1325 on the island of Majorca to a rabbinic family, Abraham Cresques created a Catalan-language atlas that was one of the most important geographical texts of his day. Ushi Derman writes:

From a young age, Abraham. . . was considered an artist among watchmakers and crafters of compasses and other navigational tools. But he invested most of his efforts in the field of cartography and stood out among the members of the trailblazing Majorcan School of Cartography. Documents from that period refer to Abraham as “Cresques the Jew.” [He] passed on his passion for mapping to his son Jehuda. . . .

Their place in history was sealed in 1375, when King Juan I of Aragon commissioned them to create a number of navigation maps of the world that would include greater detail than [existing] maps. The king’s command was simple: include all “the East and the West” and add “everything in existence west of the Gibraltar Straits.” The remuneration: 150 gold coins of Aragon and 60 Majorcan pounds. . . . Hunkered down in their home in the Jewish Quarter of Palma de Majorca, they completed the work a year later. The result was a masterpiece. . . .

The strikingly beautiful Catalan Atlas was made up of six, narrow, long, side-by-side maps packed with lovely illuminations, depicting Marco Polo riding a camel to China and other events and wonders of the world. The six maps mounted on wooden boards bound in leather included texts that enriched the reader with vast knowledge of cosmography, astronomy, and astrology. . . . The maps also gave sailors vital information about the ebb and flow of tides and how to [navigate] after dark.

Read more at Museum of the Jewish People

More about: Middle Ages, Sephardim

What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship