Bringing the Lost Prayer Book of Catalonian Jewry Back to Life

In the Middle Ages, the Jews of Catalonia had a distinct liturgy, shared by their brethren in nearby Valencia and the island of Majorca. Using partial manuscripts, the Israeli scholar Idan Perez has reconstructed a complete prayer book reflecting this liturgy, writes Chen Malul:

Perez, now head of the rare-books department at the National Library of Israel, worked on the restoration project for three years. The prayer book, which had never been printed in its entirety . . . was recreated based on six separate manuscripts. The earliest, preserved in the Ginzburg collection in Moscow, dates to around 1352, more than 100 years before the expulsion [of the Jews from Spain]. The latest of the manuscripts, preserved in Rome in the Biblioteca Casanatense, was copied in the year 1507, less than twenty years after the expulsion. “I didn’t add a single word of my own, everything came from the manuscripts,” he explains.

Perez elaborated further on the origins of the Catalan rite:

As we know, this ancient prayer style did not survive because the communities of the Catalan Jews did not survive centuries of [persecution]. Today, there is no community that prays according to this [liturgy]. I began my historical research about the Jews who fled Catalonia after the riots of 1391 and the expulsion in 1492 and reached important findings about the communities of expelled Catalan Jews in Italy, the Ottoman empire, and Algiers.

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Read more at The Librarians

More about: Catalonia, Prayer books, Sephardim, Spanish Expulsion

Gaza’s Quiet Dissenters

Last year, the Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya, the Times of Israel, and several other media organizations worked together to conduct numerous interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip, taking great pains to protect their identities. The result is a video series titled Whispers in Gaza, which presents a picture of life under Hamas’s tyranny unlike anything that can be found in the press. Jeff Jacoby writes:

Through official intimidation or social pressure, Gazans may face intense pressure to show support for Hamas and its murderous policies. So when Hamas organizes gaudy street revels to celebrate a terrorist attack—like the fireworks and sweets it arranged after a gunman murdered seven Israelis outside a Jerusalem synagogue Friday night—it can be a challenge to remember that there are many Palestinians who don’t rejoice at the murder of innocent Jews.

In one [interview], “Fatima” describes the persecution endured by her brother, a humble vegetable seller, after he refused to pay protection money to Hamas. The police arrested him on a trumped-up drug charge and locked him in prison. “They beat him repeatedly to make him confess to things he had nothing to do with,” she says. Then they threatened to kill him. Eventually he fled the country, leaving behind a family devastated by his absence.

For those of us who detest Hamas no less than for those who defend it, it is powerful to hear the voices of Palestinians like “Layla,” who is sickened by the constant exaltation of war and “resistance” in the Palestinian media. “If you’re a Gazan citizen who opposes war and says, ‘I don’t want war,’ you’re branded a traitor,” she tells her interviewer. “It’s forbidden to say you don’t want war.” So people keep quiet, she explains, for fear of being tarred as disloyal.

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Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian dissidents, Palestinian public opinion