'Roots of the Jews in Portugal "


By © Inacio Steinhardt

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

'Roots of the Jews in Portugal "is the title of a book in Portuguese I have just written, and which I hope will be published before the end of 2011. It Is subtitled "Between Goths and Saracens.".  First I thought it called "Jews before the existence of Portugal."
I hope that it will be of interest to people who wish to learn more about the subject, as well as to students of history and to young historians who will find there some rarely explored themes that they might want to explore further in their researches.
Among these issues, I have some additional details about the first Jews who arrived in the Iberian Peninsula and about the origins of Yahiya Ben Yaish, the forerunner of the dynasty of Bnei Yahiya, who was Chief Rabbi of D. Afonso Henriques, the founder and first king of Portugal. Where he came from and why did he come to Coimbra? How and why the king honored him with the lordship of the three villages: Unhos, Frielas and Aldeia dos Negros (Village of the Blacks)? Where was ultimately the Village of the Blacks? Some of his descendants who entered the history of Portugal and Europe, after converting to Islam or Christianity?
And other tales of the  history of the Jews in Portugal about which very little has been spoken or written .
The themes treated in this work represents a challenge that I set to myself.
The documentary sources on the Jewish presence in the Portuguese territory, in the period preceding the birth of the nation, are quite scarce. Maybe that's why few historians have been poring over this issue.
Nevertheless,  there is information scattered in some sources in Portuguese, Hebrew and Arabic, which I considered useful to gather, analyze and combine, to form a view as much as possible consistent, of the Jewish experience, in the times and places under study
The goal that I set out to achieve was to outline, in general, the history of Jewish presence in the territory which became Portugal, in the period preceding the formation of the Condado Portucalense and characterize the relationships among the Jewish people and the Portuguese people, focusing on the reciprocal contributions to  the history of each other.
Professor José Matoso wrote in the introduction to his work on D. Afonso Henriques: "It does not take a professional historian to realize that no one can trace the biography of a medieval character without a great deal of imagination. The documentary evidence is often scarce and fragmentary."
The same can be said of a medieval historical account. I used my imagination as much as it seemed valid for the interpretation of the facts reported by sources often compromised and biased. From that point, I tried to confirm my findings. However, there is always room for the reader to use his imagination and analytical mind to draw his own conclusions.
It is therefore, a compilation of published sources, placed in a logical and coordinated approach, that I offer to the reader.


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