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Cultural Convergence in Al Andalus

Regarding Matti Friedman’s rigorous and scholarly article, Israel’s Secret Founding Fathers, based on his forthcoming book, “Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel, I wish to add an historical footnote. The modern assimilative world he refers to in Aleppo, Syria where its Jewish inhabitants adopted the language, social customs, food, and dress of the Arab population had its most intricate manifestation in the Arab, Jewish and Christian societies of the pre-Spanish world of Al Andalus(711-1492). There over time, complex, hybrid, and hierarchical social relations were forged between Moslems, Jews, and Christians. Friedman’s reference to the musta’arabin regarding the Jews who “… who become like Arabs” has an exact equivalent in the Spanish word mozárabe. These were Christians and Jews of Al Andalus who adopted the Arabic language, culture, and dress but not the Islamic faith. In addition to mozárabes, within Andalusian society there were also moriscos, Muslims who converted to Christianity; mudéjares, from the Arabic mudayyan, for those Muslims who remained or lived among Christians in the newly unified Christian Spain following 1492; and muladíes from the Arabic muwallad, meaning offspring of mixed Muslim and Christian parentage. Living with and amongst “the other” invariably creates new societal amalgamations.

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