So chanted the crowds as Ferdinand and Isabella marched victoriously into Granada. Banners were waving; bells were ringing; people were shouting: "Down with the Moors! Down with the Jews!" And soon a proclamation was sent throughout the whole of Spain which read:
"By the thirteenth of July not a Jew shall be found in any part of Spain."
"Have you heard the proclamation?" Don Caesar, a very rich Jew, asked Don Pedro.
"Which proclamation?" Don Pedro asked, rather ashamed that he wasn't keeping up with the times.
"Don't you know that in four months we Jews shall have to leave Spain?" Don Caesar replied.
"Oh! I can't believe it. It isn't possible. It can't be true. Don't Ferdinand and Isabella know that Halevi, Ibn Gabirol, Maimonides, and Ibn Ezra were all Jews? Don't they know that their greatest philosophers and poets were Jews? What can the King and Queen be thinking of?" Don Pedro was getting more and more excited.
"Why, our ablest financiers, our greatest business men are Jews. Even at this very moment Isaac Abravanel, a Jew, is holding a very high position at the court," added Don Caesar.
But in a few days the King's messengers were calling throughout the land:
"Jews! Hear ye. All you who do not accept Christianity must leave this realm--or die."
Now, only one who has lived in Spain knows how beautiful that country is. Only one who has lived in Spain knows how difficult it is to leave it. The Jews had lived there for hundreds of years. They had made Spain rich, and, as a result, they themselves had become rich. They loved the country and they could not bear to leave it now. Over and over again they said to one another:
"We shall not go. We shall refuse to leave!"
Don Caesar Arobio and Don Pedro were chosen to write a letter to Abravanel, who was at the court. Don Caesar and Don Pedro ended the letter with these words: "Don Abravanel, you have power. You know how much the Jews have done for Spain. You know how they hate to leave it. Our fate is in your hands. You must appeal to the King and Queen. We look to you to save us!"
What could Abravanel do? He was sorry for his brother Jews. He tried to argue and plead with the King, but it did not help. At last Abravanel took money, hundreds, thousands, even millions of ducats and heaped up great piles of gold before the King. Abravanel knew that the King liked money more than anything in the world, better than his religion, and better even than his God.
At the sight of the money Ferdinand softened. He began to smile and asked:
"Perhaps; but how much will you pay?"
"You can set your own price," said Abravanel.
Ferdinand was about to answer when in walked the cruel Torquemada, one of the heads of the Catholic Church.
"Will you sell the Church for money?" he shouted. "Remember, the curse of the Church will fall on your head."
Everyone feared Torquemada, even the King himself. This decided it for Ferdinand.
"I'm sorry, Abravanel," he said to his Jewish financier, it the Jews must leave Spain. And neither gold nor silver will they be allowed to take with them." Then in a low tone he said to Abravanel:
"Of course, Abravanel, you are welcome to stay here as long as you live." Abravanel bowed and politely said:
"Thank you, we shall see about that later."
Soon the date for the expulsion came. It happened to be the ninth of Ab, the same day on which the Temple in Jerusalem had fallen. Long and loud was the wailing of the Jews. Not only were they being driven out of their beloved country, but they were being sent away penniless. They were not allowed to take gold or silver with them, so they had to exchange their belongings for almost nothing. For many acres of land they had to accept a few sheep; for their beautiful houses, a few horses.
Left without a home, without a country, without their wealth, old and young had to go. Some were sick and some were dying of grief. But Torquemada did not want Spain to be filled with "unbelievers." So the Jews had to go.
Many were robbed and murdered on the sea.
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[paragraph continues] Many never lived to see the land to which they were fleeing for protection. Some were captured by sea vessels, and when they had no money to give to the captain they were thrown into the sea. Others, who were allowed to live, were sold as slaves.
And where were they going? One group with Isaac Abravanel as its leader went to Italy, for you surely did not think that Abravanel would remain in Spain, while his brother Jews were driven to strange lands. Abravanel was very famous, not only in Spain but also in many other countries of Europe. So he and the group of Jews who went with him were welcomed in Italy.
Some Jews went to Africa, and still others went to Turkey. Many were sold as slaves, and parents had to be separated from their children.
And so Spain was cleared of her Jews. But at the same time that the Jews were driven from Spain, Columbus started on his voyage to East India. The Jews had given their money not knowing that it would help Columbus discover a new land--a land of refuge for all the suffering Jews, as well as for other people. Into this land the Jews would bring their Bible and their Talmud. Forgetting their troubles, they would carry over their high ideals, and live on as a great people for centuries to come.
Now Spain became less and less important, while this new land, which granted religious freedom to its people, became one of the greatest countries in the world. Some day we shall see how the Jews came to America and how they lived in this new land of freedom.