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A Look at Spain’s Golden Age Encourages Efforts Toward Future Muslim-Jewish Understanding

Allan C. Brownfeld
Summer 2006

Throughout the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, dialogue between Jews and Muslims is increasing. While some speak of a “clash of civilizations” and argue that enmity between Jews and Muslims is deep and of long standing, the evidence to the contrary is growing. A look at both the present time and the past illustrates this reality.  
According to The Jerusalem Report, “Both 9/11 and four years of intifada chilled relations between American Jews and Muslims, which had warmed notably during the Oslo period. Now dialogue is showing new signs of life. ‘And as the situation in the Middle East improves — which I think it will do now, please God,’ says Rabbi David Rosen, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, ‘there will be greater willingness on the part of the Jewish community to take more risks.’”  
Dialogue Has Resumed  
Dialogue has resumed, often sparked by individuals or groups not in leadership positions in either community, according to the Report: “After Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was killed by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002, his father, Judea Pearl, began a series of unscripted public dialogues with Akbar Ahmed, a professor of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, D.C. Since an initial dialogue in Pittsburgh in October 2003, the two have appeared at gatherings around the U.S. and the United Kingdom ... Audiences are typically one-third Muslim and most of the rest Jewish, according to Pearl, an Israel-born professor of computer science at UCLA.”  
Pearl says: “My main reason is to convince Muslims that we are not their enemies. We try to stress commonalities, though we don’t shy away from friction.”  
Groups are being formed around the country to foster Muslim-Jewish understanding. The Children of Abraham was co-founded by a Jewish man and a Muslim woman in 2004 in New York and London to offer “internships” to Jewish and Muslim young people around the world. The interns’ task is to photograph Jewish and Muslim life in their communities and then dialogue with each other via the Internet. The first group of 60 interns from 27 countries took about 2,000 photographs in the summer of 2005 and posted 3,000 messages on the organization’s Web site in discussions that continued after the internships ended.  
In the Boston area, Judith Obermayer, a retired mathematician, hosted the first meeting of a Jewish-Muslim dialogue group about two years ago. From a handful of organizers brought together by the head of the local branch of the American Jewish Committee, the group — which includes academics, doctors, businesspeople and ordinary Muslims and Jews — has grown to the point where 75 people attended a recent dinner.  
The American Jewish Committee’s Rabbi Rosen declares:“The Talmud asks, ‘Who is a hero?’ and answers: ‘He who makes his enemy into a friend.’”  
Tied Together by History  
In September, 2005, Jordan’s King Abdullah told a gathering of American rabbis in Washington, D.C. that Jews and Muslims are irrevocably “tied together by culture and history” and that he is willing to take radical measures to combat Muslim extremists. He declared: “We face a common threat: extremist distortions of religion and the wanton acts of violence that derive therefrom. Such abominations have already divided us for far too long.”  
Recently, Rabbi Arthur Schneier was in Dakar, Senegal for meetings of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations High-Level Group, which was working to close the gap between the West and the Muslim world. The U.S. ambassador, Janice Jacobs, arranged a reception in his honor at her residence. Among those attending, recalls Schneier, was “... a white-bearded imam, dressed in robes and leaning on a cane, named Thierno Racine Dia, who had journeyed from the provincial city of Mbouna for the reception. Gazing intently into my eyes, he stated: ‘I am convinced that this meeting was arranged by God. All religions in our world share the same sky, and all prophets come from the same source. Building alliances across religious lines is a very important worthy cause, and we are committed to working with you to achieve it.’”  
Rabbi Schneier writes that, “As president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, I have traveled the globe for 40 years in the pursuit of religious liberty and human rights. I have met and dialogued over the years with tolerant and erudite imams and sheiks in places like Sarajevo, Istanbul, Almaty and Tashkent. Until then, however, I had been unaware of the Sufi-influenced brand of moderate Islam that is the faith of Senegalese Muslims. The Senegalese clerics I met impressed me with their spontaneity, kindness and respect. ... While in Dakar, I was invited to the presidential palace for a 50-minute meeting with President Abdoulaye Wade, an 80-year-old pro-Western moderate, to discuss ways to increase inter-religious dialogue, including that between Muslims and Jews ... This is a Muslim country that has something to teach about tolerance; while 95% Muslim, it honors a Catholic, Leopold Sedar Senghor, as its founding father — and has elected him president five times.”  
Course on Muslim-Jewish Relations  
This Spring, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pennsylvania offered a course on Muslim-Jewish relations, becoming the first and only rabbinical college to require its students to take courses in religions other than Judaism. The course, Contemporary Manifestations of Islam, included a service-learning component so that students could supplement book learning with community work that teaches them how to improve Jewish-Muslim relations.  
The new offering was conceived by Associate Professor Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer and was team taught with Adnan Ahmad Zulfiqar, a student in his final year of a joint J.D./Ph.D program at the University of Pennsylvania. His doctorate will be in Islamic jurisprudence.  
According to Fuchs-Kreimer, “My job is to train students to go out and be responsible leaders of the Jewish community living in a multicultural world. Understanding Islam is important for American Jews, both as Americans and as Jews. As Americans, we need to understand both the growing Muslim population in our country and worldwide Islam as a force in international affairs. As Jews, the stakes are even higher. Israel exists in the heart of the Muslim world, The bottom line is that American Jewish religious leaders ought to make it our business to learn and to teach about Islam.”  
Officials at the World Jewish Congress are calling for Jews and Catholics to establish joint, high-level discussions with moderate Muslim leaders. The chairman of the Congress’ policy council, Rabbi Israel Singer, has raised the issue of Muslim- Jewish dialogue at meetings with Vatican officials, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and in a speech in February at the University of Heidelberg.  
Visit to Rome Mosque  
In March, Ricardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, paid a visit to the capital’s main mosque, the first time a chief rabbi has visited the 11-year-old mosque and cultural center, the largest in Western Europe. The New York Times reports that, “Dr. Segini was met by Abdellah Redouine, the secretary general of the center, and Mario Scialoja, the president of the Muslim World League in Italy. He expressed solidarity and encouraged Muslims to strive harder to become full members of Italian society. ‘As Italian Jews who have been here for 20 centuries, we had a very long relationship with Italian authorities and we have managed to find solutions and models of coexistence,’ he said. ‘We think our experience can be very useful to you in this very difficult process of integration.’”  
The historic record of Muslim-Jewish cooperation is an extensive one. Indeed, when Jews were being harshly persecuted in Christian Europe, they often found a Golden Age in Muslim lands.  
In her book, The Ornament of the World, Professor Maria Rosa Menocal of Yale University explores the history of Jews under Muslim rule in Spain: “Throughout most of the invigorated peninsula, Arabic was adopted as the ultimate in classiness and distinction by the communities of the other two faiths. The new Islamic polity not only allowed Jews and Christians to survive but, following Qur’anic mandate, by and large protected them, and both the Jewish and Christian communities in al-Andalus became thoroughly Arabized within relatively few years of Abd al-Rahman’s arrival in Cordoba ... In principle, all Islamic polities were (and are) required by Qur’anic injunction ... to tolerate Christians and Jews living in their midst. But beyond that fundamental prescribed posture, al-Andalus was, from these beginnings, the site of memorable and distinctive interfaith relations. Here the Jewish community rose from the ashes of an abysmal existence under the Visigoths to the point that the emir who proclaimed himself caliph in the 10th century had a Jew as his foreign minister.”  
Maimonides, A Native of Cordoba  
Living in the heart of the Arab world, Jews first served their apprenticeship in the sciences with Islamic intellectual masters and, in time, became their collaborators in developing the general culture of the region. A striking example of this breadth of interest was Maimonides (Rabbi Moses ben Mairnon, 1135-1204), a native of Cordoba. What chiefly characterized Jewish thought in this period was its search for unity — the attempt to reconcile faith with reason, theology and philosophy, the acceptance of authority with freedom of inquiry. In Arab countries in the Near East and North Africa, where there existed this free intermingling of cultures, there blossomed a rich and unique Jewish intellectuality in Arabic.  
Beginning with the 10th century, especially in the kingdom of Cordoba under the enlightened Omayyad caliphs Abd al-Rahman and his son, Al-Hakin, there appeared a galaxy of Jewish scholars, historians, philologists, grammarians, religious philosophers, mathematicians, astronomers, doctors and poets. During the 11th century, Ubn Usaibia, a Muslim scholar, listed 50 Jewish authors writing in Arabic on medical subjects alone.  
The Golden Age of the Jews in Islamic North Africa, Babylonia, and Southern Spain may be said to have taken place from the 9th to the 13th centuries. One of the earliest and most gifted mathematicians and astronomers in Spain, for example, was Abraham bar Chiyva (d.c. 1136) who became known to the learned Christian world as Abraham Savasorda. He was considered the foremost mathematician of the 12th century in Europe. He was the first writer to introduce the scientific method of the Greeks and the Arabs into Europe.  
Jewish Astronomers  
The knowledge of astronomy found a practical outlet in the service of navigation. The Alfonsine Tables, widely used by navigators and also the astronomers Kepler and Galileo, were arranged in 1272 for King Alfonso by two astronomers of Toledo, Judah ben Moses and Isaac ibn Sud. Astronomical tables in a later period were also drawn up by Abraham Zacuto (1450-1510) and Joseph Vecinho, the chief astronomers and cartographers to Manuel the Great of Portugal, and were consulted by Columbus, on his voyage. The foremost cartographers in Europe for many centuries were Jews, most famous being Yehuda Cresques of Mallorca who was employed by Henry (“The Navigator”) of Portugal.  
One of the greatest doctors of the Middle Ages — court physician to two Fatimid caliphs and a noted philosopher as well — was Isaac Israeli (b. Egypt, c. 844, d. Tunis, c. 955). His medical and philosophical works, written in Arabic, were subsequently translated into Latin as Opera Omnia Isaci and were carefully studied and admired by Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas. His treatises “On Fever” and “On Diet” remained authoritative in medical practice in Europe for five centuries.  
Special Relationship  
Professor Menocal writes that, “From its beginning, Islam explicitly recognized its special relationship with Judaism and Christianity. Muhammad had been asked to perform miracles like earlier prophets, but he refused. For him, and for believers, the Quran, the book of God’s revelations, was the ultimate and undeniable miracle. He understood that it was the existence of this book that made Muslims the scriptural equals of Jews and Christians, who had their own sacred books. In the Quran’s understanding, and so a fundamental part of Islamic belief, Moses and Jesus had both been given books, which became the foundation of their communities. Thus it was that the expression ‘Peoples of the book’ came to be used of Jews and Christians, a phrase that is itself an explicit recognition of the genuineness of those earlier revelations. Indeed, while pagans were treated mercilessly by the Muslims and were required to convert to the new faith, Jews and Christians were dealt with under the special terms of a dhimma, a ‘pact’ or ‘covenant’ between the ruling Muslims and the other book communities living in their territories and under their sovereignty.”  
The dhimmi, as these covenanted peoples were called, were granted religious freedom, not forced to convert to Islam. They could continue to be Jews and Christians and could share in much of the Muslim social and economic life. In return for this freedom of religious conscience, the Peoples of the Book were required to pay a special tax — no Muslims paid taxes — and to observe a number of restrictive regulations.  
“Sefarad in the Holy Tongue”  
Consider the case of Hasdai ibn Shaprut, born in Cordoba in 915. In a letter he wrote to a perhaps mythical king of a far-off land, he declared: “Let it be known to you, My Lord, that our land is called Sefarad in the Holy Tongue, while the Ishmaelite citizens called it al-Andalus, and the kingdom is called Cordoba.”  
Hassdai was the “nasi,” the prince of his own religious community. At the same time, he was a vizier, the right-hand man to the ruler of “the Ishmaelite citizens,” the caliph Abd al-Rahman III. This al-Rahman, who ruled successfully between 912 and 961, was the descendant of his namesake founder of al-Andalus.  
According to Professor Menocal, “The caliph had elevated Hasdal to higher and higher offices throughout his lifetime largely because Hasdai spoke and wrote with elegance and subtlety, and because the vizier possessed a profound knowledge of everything in Islamic and Andalusian culture and politics that a caliph needed in his public transactions. So it was that the prince of the Andalusian Jews bad become the prestigious and powerful foreign secretary to the caliph. And this was no small-time caliph: during the lifetime of Abd al-Rahman III and Hasdai, the Ummayyad caliphate of Cordoba made its sweeping and plausible claim to absolute primacy within the house of Islam. Although for us it may seem astonishing that one of the most public faces of this Islamic polity, at its peak of power and achievement, should be a devout Jewish scholar, famously devoted to finding and aiding other Jewish communities in their scattered, worldwide exile, such suppleness was a natural part of the landscape of this time and place.”  
Elevated Status Under Islam  
Under the rule of the Visigoths, which preceded Islamic control of al-Andalus, Jews were at the lowest end of the social and political spectrum. With the arrival of Islam, they were automatically elevated to the covenanted status of People of the Book, which granted them religious freedom and the ability to participate freely in all aspects of civic life. The Andalusian Jews assimilated into the Islamo-Arabic culture of the Umayyads, but also remained a devout and practicing religious community.  
Another important figure in this era was Samuel Ibn Nagrila. Born in 993, during the last years of the caliphate, and in 1013, just a few years after Madinat al-Zahra had been turned into a memory palace, Ibn Nagrila’s family, like many others, was part of the general exodus from the increasingly violent and dangerous precincts of Cordoba. Samuel ibn Nagrila was transformed from a prosperous merchant to powerful vizier of the taifa of Grenada. By the time he was 34, Samuel was appointed nagid, the head of the venerable Jewish community of Grenada, a city at times referred to in Arabic as Gharnatat al-Yahud, “Grenada of the Jews.”  
The Jews had for some time been settled mostly on the hill dominating the river valley, a breathtaking place where one side rises up cliff-like, on top of which stood an old castle. That stronghold was marked by the distinctive red clay from which it was built, and it was already known as the Hisn al-Hamra, “the Red Fort,” or al-Qala al-Hamra, “the Red Castle.” It was the tag of hamra, “red,” that would remain, and the place would be known eventually as the Alhambra.  
Hebrew Leaves the Synagogue  
Under the leadership of men such as Samuel ibn Nagril, who rode at the head of a Muslim army and was the hero of his taifa, Professor Menocal reports, “For the first time in a thousand years, Hebrew was brought out of the confines of the synagogue and made as versatile as the Arabic that was the native language of the Andalusian Jewish community. Almost miraculously, Hebrew was once again used as the language of a vibrant, living poetry, what we call secular, because the immensely successful Jews who had been satisfied with being a part of the Arabic universe of the caliphate found themselves in an altogether different world. On the other side of the divide that is the exile from the Cordoban caliphate, they rediscovered the long-masked aspects of their own heritage, and they came to believe that the language of their God, like the language of the Muslims, which they had long shared and continued to share, should be great enough to transcend prayer. Ironically, perhaps because devout Jews had learned to love the heterodox Arabic love poetry that pious Muslims loved to recite, it became possible in the 11th century to once again read a biblical text like the Song of Songs with its full complement of erotic charges, and even to appreciate that what had once made Hebrew great was that it could be used to write poetry that not only lay outside the synagogue but might well contradict its teachings.”  
In the view of Moslems, Jewish monotheism was as pure as Islam’s. None of the Jewish dogmas were offensive and their laws on cleanliness and diet were similar. The anti-Semitism which had existed in the pagan world was not inherited by the Arabs. Indeed, writes Karen Armstrong in A History of God, “Muhammad had adapted his religion to bring it closer to Judaism as he understood it. ... He prescribed a fast for Muslims on the Jewish Day of Atonement and commanded Muslims to pray three times a day, like the Jews, instead of only twice as hitherto. Muslims could marry Jewish women and should observe some of the dietary laws. Above all, Muslims must now pray facing Jerusalem like the Jews and Christians.”  
Sons of Abraham  
The failure of Jews to accept Muhammad, Armstrong declares, “was probably the greatest disappointment in his life, and it called his whole religious position into question. But some of the Jews were friendly and seem to have joined the Muslims in an honorary capacity. They discussed the Bible with him and showed him how to rebuff the criticisms of other Jews, and this new knowledge of scripture also helped Muhammad to develop his own insights ... From the friendly Jews of Medina, Muhammad also learned the story of Ishmael, Abraham’s elder son ... Ishmael had become the father of the Arabs, so, like the Jews, they too were sons of Abraham ... In January 624, when it was clear that the hostility of the Medinan Jews was permanent, the new religion of al-Lah declared its independence. Muhammad commanded the Muslims to pray facing Mecca instead of Jerusalem.”  
In Spain, under the Christian Visigoths, Jews were often beaten and executed. Throughout the 7th century, they were subjected to ruinous taxes and often were forced to convert to Christianity. With the Moslem invasion of Spain in 711, Jews participated in their success. They were called upon to garrison captured cities behind Arab armies. This occurred in Cordoba, Grenada, Toledo and Seville. Later Arab geographers referred to Grenada, as well as Lucena and Tarragona, as “Jewish cities.”  
Cordoba became the leading center of Jewish culture in the world. During the reign of the Ummayid caliph Abd al-Rahman III (912-61), his Jewish court doctor, Hisdai ibn Shaprut, brought Jewish scholars, philosophers, poets and scientists to the city. Many compared the rapport the Jewish community established with the liberal caliphs to the age of Cyrus.  
Eight Peaceful Generations  
Professor Antonio Pinero Saenz of Madrid Complutense University writes of Spain under Muslim rule: “... a more placid life with no specific persecutions or problems had succeeded the former period in the iron grip of the Visigoths. The new situation was to last more than eight generations and meant the longest longest lapse of time in all its history that a Jewish diaspora would enjoy such tranquility.”  
In her book The Jews of Spain, Jane S. Gerber writes that, “Judaism flourished in an unusual, indeed unique, environment as one component of the medieval Iberian scene that included Muslims and Christians. It was precisely because of this interaction that special sparks and creative energies were generated. In all of medieval Europe, only in Spain were Jews not the sole minority in a homogeneous Christian state. Consequently, Jews experienced two overlords on one soil as Iberia remained home to all three faiths from 711 to 1492. ... A Jewish culture that did not adapt to new waves of thought would have become frozen in an ancient mold. To a large extent, then, the story of Jewish history is the story of creative cultural adaptation, and nowhere was this process more thoroughgoing than in Spain. Jewish encounters with Islam and Christianity were more profound and enduring, their fruits more varied and rich.”  
“Protected Status”  
In general, the “protected status” of dhimmi offered the Jews of Spain several important freedoms. Jane Gerber notes that, “They could freely practice their faith, they could nurture their religious and communal institutions, they were permitted to engage in a wide variety of professions, and they could settle more or less where they chose and move freely throughout Muslim territories, except in the Arabian peninsula. Compared to these essential privileges, disabilities involving social status and prestige were minor, In fact, the blend of religious guarantees with subtle discriminations did not strike Jews as particularly menacing, especially in relation to the conditions they had faced in Visigothic Spain or in Byzantium. In other words, the comparatively mild limitations of Islamic Spain held out great promise for Jewish settlement ... Forever afterward, the 10th and 11th centuries would be remembered by Jews as the nation’s ‘Golden Age,’ an epoch in which they enjoyed unusual political power and could participate actively in the dominant culture.”  
As Karen Armstrong writes in A History of God, “The destruction of Muslim Spain was fatal for the Jews. In March 1492, a few weeks after the conquest of Grenada, the Christian monarchs gave Spanish Jews the choice of baptism or expulsion. Many of the Spanish Jews were so attached to their home that they became Christians though some continued to practice their faith in secret ... Some 150,000 Jews refused baptism, however, and were forcibly deported from Spain; they took refuge in Turkey, the Balkans and North Africa. The Muslims of Spain had given Jews the best home they ever had in the diaspora, so the annihilation of Spanish Jewry was mourned by Jews throughout the world as the greatest disaster to have befallen their people since the destruction of the Temple in CE 70.”  
Christian Intolerance  
While Muslims were seeking understanding with people of other faiths, declares Armstrong, “The Christian West had demonstrated in 1492 that it could not even tolerate proximity with the two other religions of Abraham. During the 15th century, anti-semitism had increased throughout Europe and Jews were expelled from one city after another; from Linz and Vienna in 1451, Cologne in 1424, Augsburg in 1439, Bavaria in 1442 (and again in 1450) and Moravia in 1454. They were driven out of Perugia in 1485, Vicenza in 1486, Parma in 1488, Lucea and Milan in 1489 and Tuscany in 1494. The expulsion of the Sephardic Jews of Spain must be seen in the context of this larger European trend.”  
When the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, it was the Moslem world that welcomed them. Jane Gerber writes: “In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries ... it was the Ottoman Empire, then at the zenith of her power, that alone afforded the exiles a place where ‘their weary feet could find rest.’ The Ottomans initially established a bridgehead in Anatolia around 1300, then expanded relentlessly from there through southeastern Europe all the way to the Danube. They had bypassed Constantinople but under Mehmet II finally conquered the Byzantine capital in 1453, continuing their campaigns ... with the capture of Syria and Egypt. The last of the conquering sultans, Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-66), captured Hungary in 1526, besieging Vienna in 1529. In the East he took Iraq and most of the Caucasus in 1535, while also extending Ottoman control over most of North Africa. At its peak of expansion, the Empire encompassed approximately 250,000 Jews.”  
Farsighted Rulers  
In Gerber’s view, “Her sultans — Bayezid II, Mehmet II, Suleiman the Magnificent — were dynamic, farsighted rulers who were delighted to receive the talented, skilled Jewish outcasts of Europe. The artisans and craftsmen among them were recognized as a vital force for an expanding empire. The merchants were seen as a valuable supplement to the existing warrior and agrarian classes, for they were a people capable of taking risks, knowledgeable about prices and economic conditions in far-off places, and eager to retain or renew their contacts all over Europe. In addition, these former Europeans were not at all interested in advancing the military designs of their erstwhile rulers. Bayezid II, responding to the expulsion from Spain, reportedly exclaimed, ‘You call Ferdinand a wise king, he who impoverishes his country and enriches our own.’ He not only welcomed the Sephardic exiles but ordered his provincial governors to assist the wanderers by opening the borders. Indeed, the refugees would find the Ottoman state to be powerful, generous and tolerant.”  
The desire of the immigrants to retain their distinctive language and modes of organization was compatible with the decentralized structure of the Ottoman Empire. Each Ottoman town was autonomous. Within its walls, every religious and national group was organized in a separate congregation. It was thus quite natural for the Jews to preserve and cultivate a variety of suborganization and subdivisions. Ottoman authorities cared only for the maintenance of public order and the timely remittance of taxes. The 16th century Salonika rabbi Joseph ibn Keb explained how this worked: “In Salonika, every (Jewish) man speaks his own native tongue. When the exiles arrived, each vernacular group founded an independent congregation, there being mobility from congregation to congregation. Each congregation maintains its poor; each congregation is entirely separate in the Crown register. Thus each congregation appears to be an independent city.”  
Knowledge of Munitions  
To the horror of some European observers, refugees were able to bring their knowledge of how to make gunpowder and munitions to the arsenals of Istanbul, Fez, Maerakech, and Cairo. In 1551, a European visitor to Turkey described the Sephardim there as “not long since banished and riven from Spain and Portugal, who, to the great detriment and damage of Christendom, have taught the Turk several intentions, artifices and machines of war, such as how to make artillery, arquebuses, gunpowder, cannonballs and other weapons.” A Spanish visitor remarked ruefully, “Here at Constantinople are many Jews, descendants of those whom the Catholic King Ferdinand ordered to be driven forth from Spain, and would that it had pleased God that they had drowned in the sea in coming hither! For they taught our enemies the most of what they know of the villanies of war, such as the use of brass ordnance and firelocks.” Similar complaints were voiced by Spanish diplomats in Morocco.  
The uniqueness of the Jewish experience in the Muslim world, particularly among the Muslims of Spain in the Golden Age, is often forgotten. Jane Gerber writes: “The biblical book of Obadiah itself spoke of ‘the exile of Jerusalem that was in Sepharad,’ and the Sephardim believed themselves to be descendants of Judean royalty, tracing their lineage back to King David. For hundreds of years theirs was a community of shared vitality and unbroken creativity, admired by all of world Jewry. Spanish Jews were especially proud of their long line of poets, whose secular as well as religious songs continued to be recited. Their philosophers had been influential even among the scholars of the West, their innovative grammarians had earned a lasting place as pioneers of the Hebrew language, and their mathematicians, scientists and innumerable physicians had won acclaim. The resourcefulness and public service of Sephardic diplomats also filled the annals of many Muslim kingdoms. In fact, they had not just resided in Spain; they had co-existed side by side with Muslims and Christians, taking the notion of living together (la convivencia) with utmost seriousness ... At the heart of Sephardic self-definition lies the memory of a Jewish Golden Age of philosophy, poetry and science in the tenth and eleventh century Andalusia that predates the Spanish Golden Age by 500 years. Sepharad also denotes the reality of a degree of integration unknown elsewhere in medieval times.”  
Not Quite in Exile  
Indeed, according to Gerber, “... their exile in Sepharad was not only comfortable but not quite an exile. In the minds of her sons and daughters, Sepharad was a second Jerusalem. Expulsion from Spain, therefore, was as keenly lamented as was exile from the Holy Land. The sense of being doubly exiled gave Sephardic history both new dynamism and a heightened sense of despair after 1492 ... There are no other instances in Jewish history of such a close and enduring identification of the Jews with a land outside the Holy Land. Jews have lived in every corner of the globe, yet only Sepharad has lent its name to a division of world Jewry. Even today, refugee Sephardic congregations in contemporary Canada call a new synagogue kehillat anshei Castilia (the congregation of the people of Castile), though it was established in the 1980s by emigres from Israel whose ancestors have lived for centuries in Morocco and had last stepped on Castilian soil 500 years ago. Remarkably, during the turmoil of the early 1990s in Serbia, 57 Sephardic Jews of Sarajevo sought to return, not to the land of Israel but to Spain, and successfully sought asylum from King Juan Carlos.”  
It is time for us to move away from the tendency to speak of a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West and, in particular, between Islam and Jews. It is in the interest of Moslems, Christians and Jews to isolate those extremists who have emerged within Islam and recognize them for the minority that they are.  
The prince of Wales recently has taken on this debate over the clash, or non-clash, of civilizations. Prince Charles has written the inaugural work in a new series being published by the University of Maryland, “Essays on the Alliance of Civilizations.” The series is part of a U.N. initiative proposed by the prime ministers of Spain and Turkey.  
“Universal Truths”  
In his essay, “Religion — the Ties that Bind,” the heir to the British throne rejects as “dangerously simplistic” the notion of a clash of civilizations. He cites destructive and fanatical tendencies on all sides that make the world increasingly dangerous, and recognizes “universal truths” shared by the major faiths.  
“I know only too well how one’s faith can be challenged, having lost a much-beloved great uncle, Lord Mountbatten, in an I.R.A. terrorist bomb in 1979,” he wrote. “But I remember how it gradually dawned on me that thoughts of vengeance and hatred would merely prolong the terrible law of cause and effect and continue an unbroken cycle of violence.”  
Suheil Bushrui, a University of Maryland professor who is co-directing the project, said that “the daily violence of words and actions spreads like a fever across cultures and borders. Yet academic and international dialogues seem too often to focus on mere symptoms and not the infection. We need to change the tone and look for ways to harmonize and integrate cross-cultural discussions.”  
Bridging Divides  
The U.N. initiative was conceived with a mandate to “bridge divides and overcome prejudice, misconceptions, misperceptions and polarization which potentially threaten world peace.”  
For Jews and Moslems, in particular, a review of history should be encouraging. On a recent visit to Andalusia — Cordoba, Seville and Grenada among other places — this writer observed the many remaining reminders of the Golden Age of Muslim-Jewish cooperation and amity. They serve to illustrate the lack of historic understanding of those who present the current impasse over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the latest in a long history of strife and conflict. The real story is far different — and far more hopeful. It may provide us with a genuine road map for the future.

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