The Song of the Distant Dove: Judah Halevi's Pilgrimage

By Raymond P. Scheindlin | Go to book overview

2
The National Problem

Political Plight

The political conditions of Halevi’s times undoubtedly nourished the thinking that led to his pilgrimage. Halevi lived through the collapse of the taifa kingdoms and the coming of the Almoravids; important events of the Reconquista; the First Crusade; and the rise of the Almohads in North Africa.1 Castile, which had been notably hospitable to Jews when it first returned to Christian control in Halevi’s youth (1085), became less so in the course of his lifetime, with the murder of the Castilian Jewish courtier Joseph ben Ferruziel in 1108 and the anti-Jewish riots that broke out upon the death of Alfonso VI, conqueror of Toledo, in 1109. In alAndalus, the Almoravid takeover beginning in 1190 displaced Jewish courtiers formerly in the service of the taifa rulers and introduced a more austerely Islamic regime. Halevi must also have observed the religious fanaticism of the Almohads as their movement burgeoned in northwest Africa beginning in 1130; given their religious extremism and dynamism, he might well have anticipated their expansion into al-Andalus and the disruption it might cause, events that actually came to pass a few years after his death. Within Iberia, the wars between Christians and Muslims must have contributed to a general feeling of instability and uncertainty. Perhaps this situation is what led Halevi to write:2

-53-

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The Song of the Distant Dove: Judah Halevi's Pilgrimage
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Introduction 3
  • Part I- A Portrait of the Pilgrim 9
  • 1- Halevi’s Religious Development 11
  • 2- The National Problem 53
  • 3- The Visionary 70
  • Part II- The Pilgrimage 95
  • 4- Alexandria 97
  • 5- Cairo 119
  • 6- Alexandria Again 141
  • Part III- The Pilgrim Speaks 153
  • 7- An Epistle 155
  • 8- In Imagination 163
  • 9- Argumentation 182
  • 10- The Voyage 215
  • Epilogue 249
  • Notes 253
  • Poem Sources 285
  • Bibliography 291
  • Index of Poems 299
  • Index of Names and Subjects 303
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