The Legacy of the Portuguese Child of Converted Jews Who Tried to Start a Joint Jewish-Christian Crusade

In 1520s, a man named David Ha-Reuveni traveled through Europe purporting to be the son of a Jewish king in a distant land who ruled over three of the ten lost tribes of Israel. Reuveni was received in European courts, and his grandiose plans sparked messianic fervor among Jews, as well as the conversos of Iberia and their children—children like Solomon Molcho, who became Reuveni’s most devoted follower. Joel Davidi Weisberger writes:

[Reuveni] first made his appearance in Venice in 1523, claiming to be the commander-in-chief of his father’s army, and requested aid from the local Jewish community. Although most regarded him with suspicion and even derision, he did gain a measure of support among notable members of the community who helped him gain an audience with the Pope Clement VII at Rome. His proposition was nothing short of astonishing: an alliance between the forces under his command and those of Western Christendom—in other words, a joint Jewish-Christian Crusade to liberate the Holy Land from Islamic rule.

[In] 1525 Reuveni was in Portugal where King John III received him as an official ambassador. Reuveni’s appearance in the city spread like wildfire and fired the imagination of Jews and Christians alike. Particularly smitten by him were the so-called marranos, those Jews who had been forced to live outwardly as Christians but secretly held on to their Jewish heritage. One of them, Diogo Pires, met Reuveni and asked to be circumcised. Reuveni, probably fearing for the success of his mission, dissuaded the young man.

But Pires circumcised himself and took on the Hebrew name Solomon Molcho. Reuveni, aghast at the young man’s audacity, urged him to flee the country, which he did. Most scholars agree that he studied Kabbalah for a time in Salonika, [then part of the Ottoman empire], under the tutelage of Rabbi Joseph Taitazak. There . . . Molcho gathered a group of devotees and it was there that he published his first book of sermons.

Molcho later returned to Christian Europe and, in 1532, was burned at the stake in Mantua. While the rabbinic scholar Yosef Shlomo Delmedigo of Crete and the German Jewish communal leader Josel of Rosheim remembered Molcho as a dangerous crank, the greatest halakhist and mystic of their day, Rabbi Joseph Caro—who may have met Molcho in Salonika—viewed him as an inspiration and a model of righteous martyrdom,

Read more at Jewish Link of New Jersey

More about: Conversos, Joseph Karo, Messianism

How to Turn Palestinian Public Opinion Away from Terror

The Palestinian human-rights activist Bassem Eid, responding to the latest survey results of the Palestinian public, writes:

Not coincidentally, support for Hamas is much higher in the West Bank—misgoverned by Hamas’s archrivals, the secular nationalist Fatah, which rules the Palestinian Authority (PA)—than in Gaza, whose population is being actively brutalized by Hamas. Popular support for violence persists despite the devastating impact that following radical leaders and ideologies has historically had on the Palestinian people, as poignantly summed up by Israel’s Abba Eban when he quipped that Arabs, including the Palestinians, “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Just as worrying is the role of propaganda and misinformation, which are not unique to the Palestinian context but are pernicious there due to the high stakes involved. Misinformation campaigns, often fueled by Hamas and its allies, have painted violent terrorism as the only path to dignity and rights for Palestinians. Palestinian schoolbooks and public media are rife with anti-Semitic and jihadist content. Hamas’s allies in the West have matched Hamas’s genocidal rhetoric with an equally exterminationist call for the de-normalization and destruction of Israel.

It’s crucial to consider successful examples of de-radicalization from other regional contexts. After September 11, 2001, Saudi Arabia implemented a comprehensive de-radicalization program aimed at rehabilitating extremists through education, psychological intervention, and social reintegration. This program has had successes and offers valuable lessons that could be adapted to the Palestinian context.

Rather than pressure Israel to make concessions, Eid argues, the international community should be pressuring Palestinian leaders—including Fatah—to remove incitement from curricula and stop providing financial rewards to terrorists.

Read more at Newsweek

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion