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108 SHOFAR Some of the interpretations in the book strike me as implausible, but none as frivolous. Since literary criticism can be to literature as the mad scientist is to the captives in the basement, it is a pleasure to report that this splendid book, blessedly free of jargon,ยท is a work of rational love. I would have liked an index of first lines and a bibliography. Andras Hamori Near Eastern Studies Princeton University The LastJews on Iberian Soil: NavarreseJewry 1479/1498, by Benjamin R. Gampel. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. 226 pp. $37.50. The history of the Jews in the lberian peninsula has long been fraught with mythifications. These, in turn, have led to stereotypes about the nature of Jewish life in Iberia which, in spite of the plethora of excellent studies published over the last two decades, still distort our understanding of this complex and tragic hiStory. One of the hest of these recent books is Benjamin Gampel's 'lbe Las/Jews on Iberian Soil. Based upon a masterful command of archival sources and of the vast secondary literature, Gampe1 has written a lucid, sensible, and erudite account of the Navarrese jews on the eve of their final expulsion from Iberia in 1498. By his meticulous examination of the data and his superb use ofexamples drawn from the extant documentation, Gampel's book transcends the confines of Navarrese Jewish history, addressing broad historical questions as to the nature of Jewish life in the late Middle Ages. Tottering between powerful neighbors (France, Castile, and Aragon), the small and landlocked Pyrennean kingdom of Navarre, like other Iberian realms, had an important jewish community. At the end of the fifteenth century, violent civil connict plagued Navarre; together with the growing interference of the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and lsabella, these uncertainties threatened the independence of the realm and the survival of its Jewish community. Gampel begins by describing, illustrating with well-chosen and descriptive examples, the tenor of Jewish life in Navarre before the expulsion. He I(lcuses on the demographic distribution of the jews: they resided in juderias (Jewish neighborhoods, not ghettos) but also lived in close contact with Muslims and Christians. Gampel turns next to jewish economic activities. Jews engaged in a wide range of economic pursuits: Vol. 10, No. 4 Sumrner 1992 109 among them farming, commerce, finance, af)d service in the royal and ecclesiatic bureaucracies. This range of economic opportunities reflected the ease with which Jews related to Muslims and Christians in Navarre, as well as their integration into the general economy of the realm. Contrary to current historical opinion, Gampcl concludes that although the Jews of Navarre were ,. not at the pinnacle of their success compared to the thirteenth century, neither they nor Jews elsewhere were gasping their last breath" (p. 49). As he clearly shows, at least in Navarre, the Jewish community had a vital and significant role to play in the economic and political life of the kingdom on the eve of expulsion. In the next chapter Gampel examines the internal structure of the Navarrese Jewish communities , most of them enjoying a measure of communal self-government-how taxes were paid and collected. The author questions Baron's assertion as to the weakened condition of Jews in Navarre, showing, by revealing examples, their enduring vitality. Part Two of the book focuses on the events leading to the decree of expulsion. Gampel examines the nature of conversion, the role played by New Christians in Navarrese society, and their often conIlictive relations with their former coreligionists. Conversos did not constitute a monolithic category, and their location .in the social and economic hierarchy determined their subsequent success or failure. The consequences of conversion -families divided by religious strife, the underminingof]ewish culture and life-are brought to life by poignant Vignettes. In their dramatic SimpliCity, they capture the very heart of the conIlict and agony brought about by these events and by the dismemberment of the Jewish community . And where other scholars have failed in conveying the spirit of those last years before the expulsion, Gampel, by personalizing this history, by showing us the individual, by allowing the documents to tell the story, succeeds. The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 108-110
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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