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The Spanish Ballad or the Jewess of Toledo - by Lion Feuchtwanger
It is a wonderful story of Jewish experience in Spanish Medieval
Diaspora - it was written with reference to ANY (including modern,
nowadays) Jewish Diaspora and teaches important lessons.
"It's Spain's Toledo in Castile at times of Reconquest
The pic of history entails both love and war along with Jewish people drama zest
My fellow Jews, who are advisers to the kings - to you I issue my advise
Please read this book and hide your daughters from king's eyes
Or otherwise so much to your surprise
In vanity pursuit and lack of humbling you will find your own family demise"
The most *critical* part of the plot is the conflict
of the opinions between Yehuda (the father of Raquel, adviser to the king) and
*Don* Ephraim (the leader of the Toledo Jewish community) re what Jew
should and should not do in the countries of Diaspora (actually
applicable to all past and current countries such as Rome,
Spain/Portugal, Germany, France, ..., Russia, USA).
Ephraim was of course right and Yehuda was wrong (and paid the heavy
price for it !).
The price was assimilation (into Christianity) of his son and the
humiliation of the fact that Yehuda's beloved daughter, Raquel, became
a mistress of the king of Castile/Spain. Moreover, in the end, Yehuda
was condemned to physical destruction of himself and his own family.
The even more severe and bitter price was paid by the entire Spanish
Jewish Diaspora three hundred years later (the action of the novel takes
place at about year 1197 time frame - concurrent with Saladin's
takeover of Jerusalem ) - I refer to the deportation of Jews from
Spain/Portugal in the years of 1492 - 1493.
The novel has also very strong anti-war pacifistic sentiment but it is
rendered from the very specific Jewish point of view. Feuchtwanger
points to the fact that though the war brings sufferings to all people
involved, yet Jews living in the Jewish diaspora communities always
become innocent unwilling victims in the military conflicts between
other people, religions, nations.