Marlowe's Shade

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Part XI: New World

[I'm parking this post here temporarily until my editors at Discarded Lies return. If you want to read the whole series, start here]

Within minutes of setting off the smoke canister, the Harrier slid in over the tops of the trees and set down in the field. The Persian had set the lightweight ladder against the side and was already at the level of the pilot when the canopy opened. The pilot removed the respirator and barked in an authoritative female voice, "If you ding this plane, we're both dead!" She finally discouraged his ardent kisses with a whack in the temple with the spare helmet. She tossed a g-suit to the tall man. "Let's go, I have to get this thing back to Spangdahlem by 0200! From there you'll be a Czech doctor taking a military flight to speak a UN refugee conference!" Soon they were lifting off, while the Persian hopefully pantomimed holding a telephone to his ear.


The tall man slipped out of the airport conference area before the Czech doctor was missed and was soon ensconced in the Center for Jewish History on West 16th St. Spread out before him was an excerpt of correspondence between ben Israel and a chaplain of one of the princesses of Orange, regarding the Montezino reports of finding Jews in the New World and the book he would write on his theory of the American Indians being the lost Ten Tribes. This was also connected to his millenial belief that when the Jews were scattered around the globe, the Messiah would come.

By the occasion of the questions you propose unto me concerning this adjourned Narrative of Mr. Antonio Montezinos, I, to give you satisfaction, have written a treatise instead of a letter, which I shortly will publish and whereof you shall receive as many copies as you desire. In this treatise I handle of the first inhabitants of America which I believe were of the Ten Tribes; moreover that they were scattered also in other countries, that they keep their true religion, as hoping to return into the Holy Land in due time....

So then at their appointed time, all the Tribes shall meet from all the parts of the world into two Provinces, namely Assyria and Egypt, nor shall their kingdom be any more divided, but they shall have one Prince - the Messiah, the Son of David. I do also set forth the Inquisition of Spain, and rehearse diverse of our Nation, and also of Christians, Martyrs, who in our times suffered several sorts of torments, and then having showed with what great honours our Jews have been graced also by several Princes who profess Christianity. I prove at large, that the day of the promised Messiah unto us doth draw near, upon which occasion I explain many Prophecies....

Nearby was a copy of the Tanakh open to Devarim (Deuteronomy) 28:64-68, a terrifying passage that was key to Menasseh's Messianic beliefs:

Then Adonai will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other godsÂ?gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known. Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There Adonai will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, "If only it were evening!" and in the evening, "If only it were morning!"-because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see. Adonai will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.

There was also the account of Isaac Saravina. His parents, Maria Nunez and Duarte Saravina were the first Conversos married in Amsterdam. There is a story connected with his mother that she was on a ship captured by Sir Francis Drake but freed on the orders of Queen Elizabeth and was granted an offer to stay in England This would require conversion since Jews still weren't allowed in England, so Maria chose to keep her faith and sailed instead for the Netherlands.

Isaac was a trusted associate of Menassah ben Israel and helped him run his publishing business. He also shared the company of Rembrandt, Grotius and a collection of thinkers, both Christian and Jewish. Perhaps because his family history was permeated with romance, he agreed to take his new bride Rebekah, considered to be a great beauty like Isaac's mother, to the Dutch settlement of Recife. The Dutch had taken it from the Portuguese, and encouraged Sephardic Jews to settle there. When the Portuguese won it back the Dutch and the Jews fled in 16 ships, Isaac and Rebekah were among the refuges.

"We have taken what could. My beautiful Rebekah, bride of my youth is a pillar of strength for the other women and even some of us men. She cheers and encourages all and tries to make an adventure of the whole affair like she used to do with the children when they were cross. When the Spanish pirates boarded and threatened to steal all we had and turn us over to theinquisitionn, I could hear her reciting the Shema under her breath. I was about to tell her to be still for fear the it would enrage the Spaniards, but I held my tongue and it was then I saw the sail on the horizon. The pirates saw soon saw it too and fled in a great panic when they recognized the St Charles. While the crew and the French privateers were discussing our fate, it was Rebekah that finally convinced them to take us to New Amsterdam."

Another of Isaac's claims to fame was that he refers to a wedding present from Menasseh, which art historians have seized upon as evidence that Menasseh presented him with one of the original four etchings that Rembrandt did for ben Israel's book La Piedra Gloriosa. But the tall man strongly suspected that a different glorious stone was intended. This passage seems to indicate that the "wedding present" survived the attack of the pirates:

"After the tropical huts of Recife, I don't think any of us expected a little Amsterdam. When land was first sighted, all ran to the rail in excitement, but what hove into view as we approached drew a collective groan out of us. How could these tumbledown shacks protect from the cold and wind of winter? It was a hard rough place and the landmark that impressed us most was the gallows on the hill. Was this a bad omen?

It certainly seemed so. Once we arrived a lone Jew from Amsterdam, the righteous bar Shimon greeted us. He helped us sell the diamonds and gold we kept for these emergencies, but the local people knew we were in dire straits and we did not get the prices we hoped. It wasn't long before the French captain was threatening us with a suit, and we would be expelled or put in a debtor's prison to work until every guilder was paid. We auctioned everything we had except that which wasn't ours to sell. If bar Shimon hadn't kept us fed and found lodging we would have died in the streets."

The narrative then describes the governor's attempts to expel them. Thanks most likely to it's Jewish stockholders, the Royal Dutch West India Company ordered him to leave the Jews alone. They eventually prospered, and their fortunes continued to improve under the British. But Isaac loses his cherished Rebekah to smallpox soon after they are permitted to build the first synagogue. In his grief, his memoirs turn to more philosophical matters. He takes comfort in the Torah and starts to make veiled references to the Lurian Kabbalah and renews his interest in Menasseh's messianic theories.

"Without Rebekah, my only hope is HaMoshiach. Menasseh died before seeing his life work fulfilled, but now we enjoy freedom in England and the colonies and are one step closer. The auto de fes still burn and the Cossacks kill us in the Ukraine but there is hope. The Torah tells us that Adam and our sin is the cause of our suffering, the Kabbalah says it's the Kelippot. Whatever has caused this the solution is HaMoschiach. I believe that I should trust my oldest friend and do what he would have wanted me to do. Some of the younger men who have been studying with me have offered to join my quest. Like the sojourner in Menassahs printing seal, I will become the Wandering Jew in the New World. We will go to Appalachia, into the wild with an ancient gift and find the Lost Tribes."
papijoe 6:47 AM