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On December 30, 1066 (9 Tevet 4827), a Muslim mob stormed the royal palace in Granadamarker, which was at that time in Muslim-ruled al-Andalusmarker, assassinated Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela and massacred most of the Jewish population of the city. According to scholars Richard Gottheil and Meyer Kayserling: "More than 1,500 Jewish families, numbering 4,000 persons, fell in one day."

Joseph ibn Naghrela or Joseph ha-Nagid (Hebrew: רבי יהוסף בן שמואל הלוי הנגיד Rabbi Yehosef ben Sh'muel ha-Levi han-Nagid; Arabic: ابو حسين بن النغريلة Abu Hussein bin Naghrela) (September 15, 1035 - December 30, 1066) was a vizier to the Berber king Badis al-Muzaffar of Granadamarker, during the Moorish rule of Andalusiamarker, and the leader of the Jewish community there.

Life and career

Joseph was born in Granadamarker, the eldest son of Rabbi Sh'muel ha-Nagid (Samuel ibn Naghrela).

Some information about his childhood and upbringing is preserved in the collection of his father's Hebrew poetry, which Joseph writes that he began copying at the age of eight and a half. For example, he tells how once (aged nine and a half, in the spring of 1045) he accompanied his father to battlefield, only to suffer from severe homesickness, about which he wrote a short poem.

His primary teacher was his father. On the basis of a letter to Rabbi Nissim Gaon attributed to him, in which Joseph refers to himself as R' Nissim's disciple, some claim that he also studied under R' Nissim at Kairwanmarker. Joseph later married R' Nissim's daughter.

On R' Shmuel's death, Joseph succeeded him as vizier and rabbi, directing at the same time an important yeshiva. Among his students were Rabbi Isaac ben Baruch ibn Albalia and Rabbi Isaac ibn Ghayyat.


Rabbi Abraham ibn Daud describes Joseph in highly laudatory terms, saying of him that he lacked none of his father's good qualities, except that he was not quite as humble, having been brought up in luxury.

The 1906 edition of the Jewish Encyclopedia states that "Arabic chroniclers strangely relate that he believed neither in the faith of his fathers nor in any other faith. It may also be doubted that he openly declared the principles of Islam to be absurd. Arabic poets also praised his liberality."

Further, the Jewish Encyclopedia reports that Joseph "controlled" the King and "surrounded him with spies." He was also accused of several acts of violence, which drew upon him the hatred of the Berbers, who were the ruling majority at Granada. The most bitter among his many enemies was Abu Ishak of Elvira, a fanatical Arabic poet who hoped to obtain an office at court and wrote a malicious poem against Joseph and his coreligionists. This poem made little impression upon the king, who trusted Joseph implicitly; but it created a great sensation among the Berbers. They spread a rumor to the effect that Joseph intended to kill Badis, deliver the realm into the hands of Al-Mutasim of Almeríamarker with whom the king was at war, then to kill Al-Mutasim and seize the throne himself.

Other sources report that Joseph attempted to ease the tension between the Berbers and the Arab population and prevent excesses against the local Arabs, which led to a civil war.

Death and massacres

On December 30, 1066 (9 Tevet 4827), Muslim mobs stormed the royal palace where Joseph had sought refuge, then crucified him. In the ensuing massacre of the Jewish population, most of the Jews of Granada were murdered. "More than 1,500 Jewish families, numbering 4,000 persons, fell in one day."

Joseph's wife fled to Lucenamarker with her son Azariah, where she was supported by the community. Azariah died in early youth.

According to historian Bernard Lewis, the massacre is "usually ascribed to a reaction among the Muslim population against a powerful and ostentatious Jewish vizier."

Lewis writes:
Particularly instructive in this respect is an ancient anti-Semitic poem of Abu Ishaq, written in Granada in 1066.
This poem, which is said to be instrumental in provoking the anti-Jewish outbreak of that year, contains these specific lines:
Do not consider it a breach of faith to kill them, the breach of faith would be to let them carry on.
They have violated our covenant with them, so how can you be held guilty against the violators?
How can they have any pact when we are obscure and they are prominent?
Now we are humble, beside them, as if we were wrong and they were right!

Lewis continues: "Diatribes such as Abu Ishaq's and massacres such as that in Granada in 1066 are of rare occurrence in Islamic history."

The episode has been characterized as a pogrom. Walter Laqueur writes, "Jews could not as a rule attain public office (as usual there were exceptions), and there were occasional pogroms, such as in Granada in 1066."



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