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In Orange-Tawny Bonnets

David Nirenberg: ‘The Story of the Jews’, 8 February 2018

Belonging: The Story of the Jews 1492-1900 
by Simon Schama.
Bodley Head, 790 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 1 84792 280 9
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... preached a Jewish return to Zion. Chapter 1, ‘Could It Be Now?’, begins with the appearance of David the Reubenite in Venice some time around Hanukkah in 1523. Calling himself ‘son of Solomon and brother to King Joseph’, ruler of the lost tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh that dwelt in the far east of myth, beyond the Sambatyon (‘a river so Jewish ...

Double Game

David Nirenberg: Maimonides, 23 September 2010

Maimonides in His World 
by Sarah Stroumsa.
Princeton, 222 pp., £27.95, November 2009, 978 0 691 13763 6
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... In 1979, shortly after the signing of the peace treaty between their two countries, President Navon of Israel presented President Sadat of Egypt with a copy of The Guide for the Perplexed, composed in Egypt in the 12th century by the Jewish scholar Maimonides. Navon remarked on the book’s language – it was written in Arabic, but in Hebrew script – and stressed the kinship between Hebrew and Arabic, while Sadat spoke of the long history of co-operation between Arabs and Jews, and noted that Maimonides had drawn inspiration from Muslim philosophers ...

Unrenounceable Core

David Nirenberg: Who were the Marranos?, 23 July 2009

The Other Within The Marranos: Split Identity and Emerging Modernity 
by Yirmiyahu Yovel.
Princeton, 490 pp., £24.95, February 2009, 978 0 691 13571 7
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... Shortly before Holy Week in 1391, a crowd of armed Christians gathered outside the Jewish quarter of Seville. They were dispersed by hired guards and government officials, but encouraged by a local archdeacon called Ferrán Martínez, the mob gathered again on 6 June. This time the quarter was destroyed, and most of its inhabitants killed or, at the least, forced to convert to Christianity ...

‘We hear and we disobey’

Carlos Fraenkel: Anti-Judaism, 21 May 2015

Anti-Judaism: The History of a Way of Thinking 
by David Nirenberg.
Head of Zeus, 624 pp., £25, July 2013, 978 1 78185 113 5
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Neighbouring Faiths: Christianity, Islam and Judaism in the Middle Ages and Today 
by David Nirenberg.
Chicago, 320 pp., £31.50, October 2014, 978 0 226 16893 7
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... In​ scope and ambition David Nirenberg’s Anti-Judaism: The History of a Way of Thinking is reminiscent of Edward Said’s Orientalism. Both offer a strident critique of Western civilisation. For Said, the West’s representation of the Orient is an ideological distortion in the service of Western imperialism ...

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