Weekend Book: "Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean" - ForumDaily
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Weekend book: Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean

American writer Edward Kritzler in his book “Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean” dwells on little-known pages of the history of the Jewish people. Kritzler, living in Jamaica, devoted many years to researching Jewish piracy. “How a generation of desperately brave Jews created their own empire in an effort to enrich themselves, gain religious freedom and quench their thirst for vengeance” - this subtitle to the book concentrated its thematic and ideological basis.

The book deals with Sephardic Jews who settled in Jamaica and made the city of Port Royal the capital of Jewish pirates, who eventually coordinated the Dutch, the British and the Turks, and brought the Spanish Empire to their knees, expelled the Jews.

The golden age of Jewish life in Muslim Spain ended with the expulsion of Muslims by Christians, and then by the Inquisition, forcing Jews to convert to the Christian faith, torture, harassment, auto-da-fe (burning at the stake) Jews who secretly professed Judaism. Many fled to Portugal, which soon also sent them out of the country.

Jews, who forcibly became Christians, were mockingly called by Spaniards Maranas, that is, “pigs”. Among them were many rich people who understood their vulnerability well. It was at this time, in the 1492 year, that Columbus (whom many historians, including Kritzler, consider to come from a family of marans, who fled from the pogroms to Genoa in 1391), sought the money needed for his trip to the West Indies, as he counted himself. Columbus found sponsors among the famous Marans, the main one being Luis de Santanel, among other things, the Minister of Finance and Advisor to the King and Queen. The Jews who gave Columbus money hoped that they would be able to settle on new lands that the navigator would open, and I must say that their hopes were largely fulfilled.

In 1494, Columbus landed in Jamaica, and in the same year received it as a gift from the Spanish king. Jamaica became a secret haven for Jews who fled from Spain and mainly from Portugal. In Jamaica, where the Jews prevailed then, they called themselves "Portuguese", which became the designation of the then secret Jews (for comparison: in the USSR there were also "French" and "Malanians"). Almost all of them lived in Port Royal, and some became the owners and captains of the corsair’s and pirate ships attacking Spanish sea caravans. Their ships had such names as “The Prophet Samuel,” “Queen Esther,” “The Shield of Abraham,” “The Beautiful Sarah,” and others. Among the most famous Jewish pirates are such names as David Ababanel, Jacob Kuriel, Samuel Palachi (in Russian literature more often under the name of Shmuel Falaji), Moses Cohen Enriquez, Sinan, Jean Lafitte. Some of them wanted to revenge the Spaniards for the Inquisition and the death of their relatives, others wanted to improve the lives of the persecuted Jews.

David Abarbanel, a native of the famous dynasty of Spanish rabbis, joined the British privateers, or corsairs (private individuals who seized the merchant ships of the Spaniards with the permission of his government), after his family was killed during the Inquisition. He commanded his ship called "Jerusalem" and was famous for discovering Easter Island with its large stone statues.

Jacob Kuriel, from the ancient noble family of Sephardic, was initially an officer in the Spanish royal fleet, but in 1492 he fled from the Inquisition and became a pirate. On his frigate with a crew mainly consisting of exiled Jews, he terrorized the Spanish galleons in the Caribbean. Later he became the commander of a small squadron of three high-speed ships, on which there was strict discipline, Shabbat and the laws of kashrut were observed. There were legends about his courage and luck. After taking revenge on the Spaniards, Curiel settled in Safed, became interested in Kabbalah and was buried alongside the great Kabbalist Arizal.

Shmuel Falaji, who was called Rabbi Pirate, was born in Morocco after his father, a rabbi from Cordoba, fled with his family from Spain. Shmuel was also preparing to become a rabbi, but instead in 1608, he became a merchant and diplomat, ambassador of the Moroccan sultanate in Holland. There he received permission from the Dutch Prince of Orange to engage in piracy and sell the goods thus obtained. He had 8 frigates robbing Spaniards at sea. In the 1614 year, Falaji captured the 2 of a Spanish ship, but, hitting a storm, was forced to enter the English port, where he was arrested for piracy at the request of the Spanish ambassador. Thanks to the intervention of the Dutch, Shmuel Falaji was quickly released and continued to engage in profitable pirate affairs.

Moses Cohen Enriquez conducted one of the largest pirate operations to seize the wealth transported in the Spanish courts. He acted with the Dutch admiral Pete Hein, who also hates the Spaniards, like Enriquez (Hein spent 4 in Spanish captivity, being a slave on galleys). In September 1628, Enriquez and Hein discovered 12 Spanish galleons in the sea near Havana, which had 92 tons of silver, 16 million Spanish gold coins, as well as many different jewels (according to modern calculations, about 1 billion dollars). The corsairs, who had 25 ships, attacked the Spaniards and seized all these valuables that enriched Holland, which by that time had a lot of Jews.

Enriquez created a Jewish colony on a small island near Brazil, where Jews could freely observe their religion. After the capture of Brazil by Portugal in 1654, these Jews moved to New Amsterdam, which later became New York. Moses Cohen Enriquez was also an adviser to Henry Morgan, one of the most famous pirates of all time.

Another famous pirate this time of the Mediterranean called Sinan was a refugee from Spain. He settled in Turkey and entered the team of the powerful Mediterranean pirate of the 16th century, Hayreddin, who received the name of Barbarossa II, unlike his elder brother, the equally famous pirate Barbarossa I. The brothers received the name of Barbarossa for their red beards. After the death of his elder brother Barbarossa II, he led a large pirate flotilla, proclaimed himself sultan and subordinated almost the entire northern coast of Algeria to his authority.

Sinan was an outstanding naval commander, and for his excellent command of maritime navigation he was even credited with acquaintance with black magic. The main naval battles of Barbarossa entrusted Sinan, who was called "the great Jew" or "the most famous Jewish pirate." In 1534, he and the squadron in 100 ships occupied the city of Tunisia, knocking out the Spaniards from it. In 1535, the Spanish king Charles V sent a powerful fleet against the pirates of Barbarossa II under the command of the famous naval commander Doria, but he was defeated by them, and after this defeat, the Spaniards of 30 could not muster the forces for a new struggle. In 1544, Sinan captured a Portuguese stronghold - the port of Suez in the Red Sea. On the flagship of Sinan, waving a flag with a six-pointed star.

In the 19th century, the famous pirate and corsair Jean Lafite robbed the Spanish and British ships in the Gulf of Mexico with the tacit consent of the American government. He was born in San Domingo in 1782, in a Sephardic family that fled Spain in 1765, after Jean's grandfather was killed for secret Judaism. Lafite captured the Spanish ship 32 and sold the loot through his brother Pierre’s trading company in New Orleans.

In 1814, England sent its fleet with an 8000 man to capture New Orleans and offered Lafite 30 000 pounds to promote it. After promising the English to help, Lafite immediately sent a letter to the governor of New Orleans, where he offered to defend the city. In response, the cunning governor, who had long wanted to get rid of the pirates, unexpectedly attacked their main forces in the Gulf of Baratariya and captured many. However, when the English armada approached New Orleans, General Andrew Jackson, who commanded the defense of the city and was not confident in his forces, gave the order to release the pirates of Lafitte ("hell gangsters" - as he called them) over the British.

Lafite returned to piracy, moving under pressure from the authorities of Louisiana on the Texas island of Galveston, where he founded his own pirate "state" called Campeche, which, however, did not exist for long. The American government, thanking Lafite for his contribution to the victory over the British, in 1821, presented him with an ultimatum demanding to leave the island, which he did, destroying houses and even flooding part of his ships.

During the Mexican independence war, Lafite attacked the Spanish ships several times with the permission of grateful Mexicans, leaving the booty to himself. In Louisiana for a long time there were legends about the exploits of Captain Lafite. In 1958, the feature film “Bukaner” was shot, where the famous pirate was played by Yul Brynner.

During the years of the American Revolution, at least a dozen Jewish corsairs aboard their ships captured about 600 British ships and seized various valuables for 18 million dollars.

As for the fate of the Jews in Jamaica, its pirate capital, Port Royal, was destroyed during a major earthquake in 1692. The surviving Jews migrated to other port cities of Jamaica, but the center was Kingston, which for a long time exceeded New York in terms of Jewish population. Until the beginning of the 19th century, the Jewish community of Jamaica was the most prosperous in the western hemisphere due to smuggling and export of sugar and vanilla. Since 1850-s began its decline. The smuggling stopped after the Spanish colonies in America gained independence, and there was no one to process the sugar plantations after the slaves were liberated. Most Jews moved to the United States.

Today, Jamaica lives around 300 Jews, who nevertheless maintain a leading position in the economy, politics and cultural life. It should also be noted that in Jamaica in the early 40 of the twentieth century, about 1000 Jews - refugees from Europe escaped from the Holocaust.

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