1492 the king of Spain seized the great city of Granada,
together with the whole kingdom [of Granada]. His haughtiness
brought change of character; his power led him to sin against
his God. He thought to himself: "How can I better show my
gratitude to my God, who gave victory to my army and put
this city into my power, than by bringing under His wing
the scattered flock of Israel that walks in darkness: How
shall I better serve Him than to bring back to His faith
the apostate daughter? Or, if they remain stiff-necked,
to drive them to another land so that they will not dwell
here nor be seen in my presence?" Consequently the king
decree as fixed as the law of the Medes and the Persians.
He commanded that the children of Israel could remain in
the country only if they submitted to baptism; but if they
were unwilling to embrace the Christian faith, they must
leave the territories of Spain, Sicily, Majorca, and Sardinia.
"Within three months," he decreed, "there must not remain
in my kingdoms a single Jew."
I was at court when the decree was proclaimed. I was disconsolate
with grief. Thrice I addressed the king, imploring his mercy:
"O King, save your loyal subjects. Why do you act so cruelly
toward us? We have prospered in this land, and we would
gladly give all we possess for our country." I begged my
noble friends at court to intercede for my people. The king's
most trusted counselors pleaded desperately that he revoke
the decree and turn from his design to destroy the Jews.
But his ears were closed as though he were stone deaf. The
queen, seated at his right, opposed revoking the decree;
she pressed him to complete the task he had begun. Our exertions
were therefore without effect. Despite the fact that I neither
rested nor relaxed, the thunderbolt struck.
. . . When the dreadful news reached the people, they mourned
their fate; and wherever the report of the decree spread,
Jews wept bitterly. The terror and lamentation were greater
than at any time since
the expulsion of our forefathers from their own soil in
Judah to foreign strands. However, they bravely encouraged
each other: "Let us cling unflinchingly to our faith, holding
our heads with pride before the voice of he that taunts
and blasphemes. If they let us live, we will live; if they
kill us, we will perish. But we will not break our Divine
Covenant nor shall we turn back. We will go forth in the
name of the Lord our God."