As The Jews, used by the small invading

As the Reconquest of Muslim Spain by the Christians began in earnest in the twelfth century and continued throughout the thirteenth, Jews served not only in administrative and diplomatic positions, but in large numbers as soldiers fighting in both Muslim and Christian armies. Along with Christians, Jews were rewarded with substantial grants of lands and houses in reconquered areas such as Seville, Jerez, and elsewhere. During the centuries prior to and after the Almohad occupation, Christian immigration from France and elsewhere enabled the gradual development of Christian kingdoms in northern Spain. Jews also lived in these areas and their numbers were augmented by a steady migration of Jews from Almohad-controlled provinces. Jews in Christian Spain were completely integrated into normal daily society not only as merchants, but also in agriculture and crafts. Jews brought a sophisticated culture and valuable knowledge of science technology as well as literacy in Hebrew, Arabic, and Spanish, which was almost nonexistent among the general Christian population. They also rose to important positions in Christian governments. The situation took a turn for the worse with the Almohad invasion of Andalusia at the end of the twelfth century, although claims by modern historians of the total liquidation of Jewish settlements and the compulsory conversion of all Jews and Christians to Islam are greatly exaggerated. Nevertheless, many Jews and Christians were converted to Islam, while the great scholar Maimonides (b. 1135-d. 1204) and his family fled the country never to return. However, Maimonides continued to be proud of his Spanish origins, like many other Jewish exiles, and always referred to himself as ha-Sefardi (the Spaniard).2 The possible end of the Jewish presence on the Iberian Peninsula was prevented by the Muslim invasion of North African Berber tribes in 711. The Jews, used by the small invading Muslim forces to garrison conquered cities, soon became integrated into Muslim society. Increased immigration of both Muslims and Jews from Islamic lands rapidly built Spain into a major political and cultural center, from Andalusia in the south to Barcelona in the north. Muslims established an independent caliphate at Cordoba, where Jews played a key role in the cultural renaissance that followed. From government service to the marketplace, Jews and Muslims interacted with little or no tension.1 Spain was home to Jews longer than any other country, including even the Jewish homeland of ancient Palestine. Although it is not known when Jews first arrived in Spain, there is definite proof of significant Jewish settlement by at least 300 C.E. and undoubtedly much earlier. Documentary sources from that time already demonstrate that cordial interaction existed between Jews and Christians. However, that situation soon changed when invading Visigoths established their theocratic government. Following their conversion to Roman Christianity (Catholicism), they began to impose ever more severe restrictions on Jews aimed at their compulsory baptism.


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