Medieval Spain’s Great Jewish Poet, Philosopher, General, and Politician

Few figures in Jewish history both confirm and confound stereotypes as does Shmuel ibn Naghrillah (993–ca. 1056), known as ha-Nagid, “the statesman.” Shmuel was a communal leader and talmudic scholar who married his son to the daughter of one of the great rabbis of his day; he was also a cosmopolitan courtier who wrote Arabic poetry. In addition to his impressive literary career, he was a successful military commander. And his position as an adviser to a Gentile ruler would invite a familiar anti-Semitic backlash that, after his death, would turn bloody. Tamar Marvin writes:

Shmuel’s family hailed from Merida, a Spanish city, claiming Davidic descent, but he was raised in Córdoba, the New York City of Muslim Spain. His teacher was a renowned scholar of the previous generation, and his father saw to it that he received an excellent general education. From extant polemical writings, it is evident that Shmuel was thoroughly knowledgeable in the language and law of the Quran and in contemporary currents of Muslim thought. These caught the attention of the great Muslim jurist and philosopher Ibn Hazm, who wrote a fierce counter-polemic against Shmuel’s work against the Quran. Shmuel thus began making a name for himself while still a young man in Córdoba.

When, in 1038, the king of Granada, Habbus, died, his sons vied for the throne. With Shmuel ha-Nagid’s assistance, his son Badis emerged the victor, helping Shmuel rise to even greater power. In his new capacity as advisor to Badis, Shmuel was tasked with heading the Granadan forces, which were in constant battle, especially with the nearby [principality] of Seville. This unusual experience as a Jew leading a Muslim army was captured in Shmuel’s many military poems.

Twenty-one when his father died, [Shmuel’s son] Rabbi Yehosef ha-Nagid was given his father’s position in Badis’s court and proved skillful in forging alliances against Seville. However, the glittering life of the Nagids came to a halt in 1064, when Yehosef was accused of poisoning the crown prince (Badis’s brother and competitor for the throne). This accusation mushroomed into another, which claimed that Yehosef had assassinated Badis, who had stopped making public appearances. (Yehosef had not.)

Though Shmuel did not live to see it, his son was murdered and the Jews of Granada subjected to violence in the wake of these accusations. Even the mighty, even in the “Golden” Age, were subject to the vagaries of power and prejudice.

Read more at Stories from Jewish History

More about: Anti-Semitism, Jewish literature, Jews in the military, Medieval Spain, Poetry

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security