At last, the auction is behind us. I must admit to feeling somewhat anxious as the hour approached. Having succeeded in attracting the donation of 82 lots, plus a lot of bits and pieces that were not really suitable for auction and which we put onto a stall “Everything 1€”, my concern turned to whether anyone would actually turn up on the night. Well they did. And they brought their money with them and a huge sense of generosity. My wife manned the 1€ stall and found that lots of people insisted on paying more than 1€ for the items. Indeed one lady paid 10€ for a crucifix, then having thought about it over the weekend, decided that she would prefer to pay 50€, and so she has paid over another 40€. Two men caught the spirit of the evening to such an extent that they got into a bidding battle over a childs’ bath set worth around 4 or 5€. The winner got it for 50€! More cash donations have come in today from people who weren’t able to be there on Saturday. The outcome is that we raised more than enough money for Yolanda to book her next visit to the UK with Pablo for another course of treatment at the clinic. Already improvements in Pablo’s functioning are evident. He can move his fingers and his legs. He can smile. He can vocalise. And he is more relaxed generally. We all look forward to seeing the results of another visit to East Grinstead.
There is a third name by which the Iberian Peninsula has been known; Sepharad, the name given by the Jews.In the fifth century BC, one of the minor prophets of the bible, Obadiah, prophesying the structure of the new Israel when the Jews return to the Promised Land from exile, makes an interesting reference in verse 20. “...and the exiles from Jerusalem now in Sepharad will occupy the towns of the Negeb.” So before either the Christian or the Muslim religions existed, Jews were living in Sepharad, and continued to do so for more than a thousand years. Indeed, the territory gave rise to the name of one of the two main branches of Judaism in Europe, the Sephardim, descendants of the Jews of what is now known as Spain and Portugal; the other branch, the Ashkenazim, are the descendants of Jews of Germanic and Russian lands. Why do the Jews not feature more prominently in the history of Spain? Possibly because the Jews did not come as an invading army; they came as merchants and traders. They were also skilled craftsmen working in gold, silver, leather and fabrics, serving their wealthy neighbours. Later they became bankers and in the days of Al-Andalus, they were trusted by both Christians and Muslims as diplomats, ambassadors and negotiators. In addition, then as now, the Jews set great store by learning and so they also excelled as teachers, philosophers, doctors and translators. Jewish quarters thrived in the main cities of Al- Andalus, especially in Toledo, Córdoba, Sevilla and Granada. There were Jews who spoke the languages of the east, Arabic, Greek, Persian, Egyptian in addition to Hebrew, and there were Jews who spoke Latin as well as Hebrew. So, especially in Toledo, there were Jews translating the classical texts into Hebrew and other Jews translating the newly translated Hebrew texts into Latin, after which they could be, and were, disseminated widely across Christian Europe. They were the vital link between east and west.
Tariq and his immediate successors, who together form the Umayyid dynasty, recognised the authority of the Caliph in Damascus, and ruled their territory as an Emirate, but in the ninth century Abd-ar-Rahman III renounced the authority of Damascusdeclared the establishment of a second, western Caliphate based on Córdoba, the Umayyid Caliphate, with the city of Sevilla being the major commercial port. Al-Andalus (The Land of the Vandals), and especially the cities of Córdoba and Toledo, flourished as the home of culture, science, philosophy, literature and learning in medieval Europe. The importance of Toledo was particularly great, and also provided a model of religious tolerance and cooperation. Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars worked together on the translation of the ancient texts of classical Greece and Arab texts into Latin for dissemination across Eurpoe which was then in the throes of what we now call the Dark Ages. As an aside, it is worth noting that an Arab contribution of enormous significance was to have brought back from their trading activities in the East, the Chinese secret of paper-making. A cheap, easy-to-manufacture medium for the written word as an alternative to vellum, meant that the production of books was able to expand exponentially. It was a change as profound in its implications for the future of communication as is the fact that I can write these words on my computer, upload them onto a website, and make them available for immediate reading by anyone anywhere in the world who knows their way to my blog. I am talking, of course, only about the technology; the content is another matter! Nothing lasts forever, however, and upon the death of the Caliph al-Mansur in 1031, al-Andalus was left in a politically and militarily weakened state. The Christians of the north of Spain seized the opportunity and the Reconquest began in earnest. During the period from 1037 to 1065 a string of defensive castles were built up along the frontier (Castilla La Vieja). With their defences secured, the Christian armies then began their advance. In 1085 Toledo fell to the Christians and in 1095 El Cid had a series of major victories for the Christians around the Valencia region. In response, in 1086 the Muslim rulers appealed to the leaders of the Almoravid Dynasty of North Africa for assistance. They came to Spain, stabilised the Muslim kingdom and stemmed the advance of the Christian armies. However, they liked what they found on this side of the Mediterranean so they then took over and ruled Al-Andalus themselves. They ruled sufficiently harshly that eventually in 1147, the people called on the Almohads, the North African successors to the Almoravids, for help in ousting the Amoravids which they did, liked what they saw and took over themselves. Unfortunately, the Almohads were the Taliban of their day, and as such were perceived as a serious threat by the Christians and so once again the Reconquest resumed. In 1212 Tolosa fell, swiftly followed by Úbeda. The advance continued, Córdoba was taken in 1236 and Sevilla in 1248. This left just the rump kingdom of Granada, ruled by the Nasrids and extending from west of Málaga to Almería, its northern limit pretty much in line with the Granada to Sevilla road of today. The Nasrids survived for a couple of hundred years, paying tribute to the Christian powers and posing no threat to anyone, until following the marriage of Fernando V of Aragón and Isabela I of Castilla, the Catholic Monarchs, as they styled themselves, sought favour with Rome by ousting the Nasrids and expelling Muslims and Jews in order to proclaim a united, wholly Catholic Spain.