The Black Jewish Messiah of the 16th Century

Given the remarkable career of David Reubeni, a mysterious figure who billed himself as the representative of a remote Jewish kingdom, it’s no surprise that his story spawned multiple works of fiction. Reubeni also left behind a diary, which has recently been published in a scholarly translation into English. Matt Goldish writes:

In the 1520s, a striking black man—the Italian-Jewish scholar Gedaliah ibn Yahya described him as “black as a Nubian (shaḥor k’kushi)”—showed up in North Africa, claiming to be the son of a certain late King Solomon and the younger brother of King Joseph, who ruled a Jewish kingdom in the desert of Habor, somewhere in Arabia. His name was David Reubeni, and he described the 300,000 Jews ruled over by his brother as descendants of the biblical tribes of Gad, Reuben—hence Reubeni’s name—and half of Manasseh. According to Reubeni, they were at constant war with their Muslim neighbors. Consequently, King Joseph and his 70 elders had dispatched Reubeni on a mission to meet with the pope and to form an alliance with European Christendom in a new crusade against the Muslims.

Five hundred years after his sudden appearance in Europe, nobody knows who David Reubeni actually was or where he came from. Historians have argued variously that he was Indian, Abyssinian, Sephardi, Yemenite, a Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jew, or perhaps not really Jewish at all.

Despite various troubles and opposition from both Jewish and Christian adversaries, Reubeni and the unruly retinue of Jewish supporters he had collected on his travels reached Portugal. . . . The final straw came when, in a moment of messianic fervor, a young converso courtier named Diogo Pires circumcised himself. Diogo declared himself a Jew under the name Solomon Molkho and fled the country for refuge in the Ottoman empire. In Turkey, he became a famous kabbalist who influenced, among others, Rabbi Joseph Karo, the great mystic and author of the classic code of Jewish law, the Shulḥan Arukh.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Conversos, Jewish history, Messianism, Portugal

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