The Times of India: A Jewish past annihilated over time

PANAJI: The British preserved the urban heritage of the Jews in Bombay, but their counterpart’s legacy in Old Goa including ruins of their settlement have disappeared without a trace, Ivar Fjeld, a Norwegian writer said.

jewish-past

The release of the book: “The Jewish Martyrs of Old Goa”.

The Times of India. Feb 1, 2014.

Hundreds of Jews were living in Old Goa and had contributed, at one stage, to the building of the former capital during the brief rule of Yusuf Adil Shah (1498-1510). Later, it became famous as one of the largest cities on par with London of that era, Fjeld stated. “The Muslim ruler who was tolerant to people of all religious groups had invited Jews to participate in the construction of the city,” Fjeld said.

He was speaking at a function to mark the release of two books, Bombay, exploring the Jewish urban heritage by Shaul Sapir and Jewish martyrs of Old Goa. Fjeld has authored the second book.

Tracing the history of Jewish presence in Goa, he said that the commander of the fleet under the Muslim ruler was a Jew named Gaspar da Gama. “There were two Jewish diamond merchants named Martins,” he said.

A street in Old Goa was called Rua dos Judeus or the street of the Jews. “There were synagogues in the city, as acknowledged by historian, Jose Nicolau da Fonseca in his book A historical and archaeological sketch of the city of Goa,” Fjeld said.

Fjeld said Jews were burnt at the stake during the inquisition, which lasted from 1560 to 1812. Heretics and Christians who practiced ancestral religion or Jewish rites were brutally tortured and killed, he said. Among those who were burnt included famous botanist, Garcia de Horta’s sister.

Another researcher, Pius Malekandathil, has referred to the cruel annihilation of 84 Jewish converts over a time span of 31 years from 1560 to 1591. But Fjeld said that not only Christians who refused to give up Judaism but even Hindus were victims of the crimes and that we should pray for forgiveness for the perpetrators.

Fjeld suggested that a Judeo Christian heritage of west coast of India trust to be formed soon should ask the Portuguese government to tender an apology for the crimes.

Fjeld clarified that he is not a historian, but his findings are based on content in other works. “The knowledge of this dark chapter in our history is hidden and needs to be uncovered,” Fjeld said.

Deputy head of mission of Israeli consulate general, Mumbai, Mathan Zamir, Ralphy Jhirad and members of the Jewish community in India attended the function.

Source: The Times of India

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About ivarfjeld

Born in Bergen, Norway in 1965
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