The Sephardic heritage of Spain was scattered by the cruel implementation of the Alhambra Decree, forcing the Jewish population of the Iberian Peninsula to flee their homeland, lest they be killed or forcibly converted. Our Jewish heritage tours aim to explore the legacy of the Jews who bravely hid their faith while remaining in the lands of Portugal. Outside of Iberia, the Sephardic Jews that fled found refuge in other lands, such as Morocco. During the Age of Exploration, Spain had many rivals and enemies, nations that encouraged pirates and privateers to plunder Spanish trade ships. A few Sephardic Jews took advantage of this, becoming pirates and privateers to raid Spanish galleons as revenge for the previous and continuing persecution of their brethren. Indeed, there are plenty of stories concerning Jewish pirates and privateers, some of which are embellished and romanticized. One of the figures of these stories is Morrocan Jew Samuel Pallache, envoy, merchant, and privateer.
From Cordoba to Morocco
Samuel’s family originally lived in Cordova, the birthplace of Maimonides before the latter’s family had to leave due to outside tension. Samuel’s family also had to leave Cordova, this time due to the aforementioned Alhambra Decree. Born in Fez, Morocco, Samuel would grow up to become a merchant and prominent envoy for his birth nation.
Career Over The Seas
Skilled in finance and linguistics, Samuel was chosen to be Morocco’s envoy in Holland. He helped negotiate a treaty between Holland and Morocco against Spain, continuing his trade in the meantime. He was granted permission to go on privateering ventures, targeting Spanish ships. He even led a small Moroccan fleet on a raiding mission, their efforts yielding much gold and other bounty. However, after the conclusion of a rich privateering venture, a storm interrupted his return journey and he had to set the port in Plymouth harbor in England. Here, he was almost executed due to the political maneuvering of London’s Spanish ambassador. With his skillful defense and the aid of Prince Maurice of the Dutch Republic, he was released and briefly continued his stint in privateering. Unfortunately, illness from his arrest caught up with him, and he died in Holland, 1616. His funeral was well-attended, both by the Dutch and Jewish communities.
Samuel’s story, like that of other daring Jewish privateers and pirates, was subject to much embellishment and extrapolation. One of his epithets was the “Rabbi Pirate”, and although his father was rabbi and he most likely had a rabbinical education, it is uncertain whether he was truly a rabbi himself. Other parts of his life might also be scrutinized for accuracy. Nevertheless, his legacy endures, and his grave can be found in the oldest Jewish cemetery in Holland. Holland will be one of our future cruise destinations, a great locale for your Glatt Kosher Holidays.