Jun 27, 2022
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The more historians research Christopher Columbus, the more they question the true origins of the great explorer credited for discovering America. In fact, there is growing speculation that Columbus was a Jew fleeing the Spanish Inquisition rather than an Italian hired by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to find riches in Asia.

“There is a lot of evidence that Christopher Columbus was a man of faith seeking to help his brethren escape certain death or conversion in Spain and even that he dreamed of rebuilding the third holy temple in Jerusalem,” noted Roni Segal, academic adviser for The Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, an online language academy, to Breaking Israel News.

“For starters, Georgetown University linguist Estelle Irizarry has analyzed hundreds of Columbus’s handwritten letters, diaries and documents. She found that Columbus’s primary language was Castilian Spanish, the ‘Yiddish’ of the day for Spanish Jews, otherwise known as Ladino.”

Portrait of a Man, said to be Christopher Columbus, Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. (Wikimedia Commons)

Ladino is a language spoken by Jewish people from Spanish countries. Its vocabulary is made up of words from Spanish, Turkish, Greek and Hebrew. When Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, their Spanish language went with them, binding them to their heritage and Spanish origins. Today, it is estimated that between 160,000 and 300,000 Sephardic Jews (Jews of Middle Eastern or Spanish origin) worldwide have some knowledge of Ladino.

Also striking is that at the top left-hand corner of all but one of 13 letters Columbus wrote to his son, he included the Hebrew letters beit-hay (ב”ה). “Even today, observant Jews put these Hebrew notes on their documents,” continued Segal. “It stands for b’ezrat Hashem (בעזרת השם), which means ‘with God’s help’. Columbus did not include these Hebrew letters when writing to outsiders and certainly omitted them from the letter he wrote to King Ferdinand.”

It has long been assumed that Columbus was an Italian explorer from Genoa who set sail for Asia in 1492 to supply the Spanish monarchs with gold and spices. However, the the new theory holds that Columbus’ actual name was Cristóbal Colón, the name signed on his letters.

It is believed that he was from Spain, the child of Domingo de Colon and Suzana de Fonterosa, Jews forced to convert to Christianity, referred to as Marranos, who were makers and sellers of nautical maps. Many Jews at the time feigned conversion to save their lives. They practiced Catholicism in public and Judaism in private.

Several Spanish scholars, including Jose Erugo, Celso Garcia de la Riega, Otero Sanchez and Nicholas Dias Perez, believe that Columbus was actually a Marrano seeking to escape persecution.

His famous voyage left Spain the day after Tisha B’Av (the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av, or August 3, 1492). Historians believe that Columbus was scheduled to sail on Tisha B’Av but put it off in order not to leave on the tragic day in Jewish history when both the first and second Temples were destroyed. The auspicious date also coincided with the four-month deadline proposed by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella for the Jews in Spain to either convert to Catholicism or be killed.

There are several other interesting factoids related to Columbus which highlight the strong possibility that the explorer was Jewish. In his last will and testament he asked that a tithe of one-tenth of his income go towards the poor and provide a dowry for needy brides. This is a common Jewish custom. Additionally, he left money to a Jew who lived in the Lisbon Jewish Quarter, something that would have been unheard of from a Catholic Spaniard.

Columbus also left money to other explorers with the belief that his successors would eventually liberate the Holy Land. Simon Weisenthal writes in his book “Sails of Hope” that Columbus’ voyage was motivated by a desire to find a safe haven for the Jews suffering from the Spanish Inquisition. Echoing this sentiment, Carol Delaney, a cultural anthropologist at Stanford University, believes that Columbus was a deeply religious man who sought riches in order to finance the return of Jerusalem to the Jewish people and the rebuilding of its holy Temple.

The signature of Christopher Columbus. (Wikimedia Commons)

Perhaps even more telling, Columbus signed his last will and testament with a triangular signature of dots and letters similar to what is inscribed on gravestones in Spanish Jewish cemeteries. In fact, he ordered his heirs to use this symbol in perpetuity.

Though history claims that Columbus’ voyage was funded by Queen Isabella, in actuality it appears that Jewish Conversos (those who converted by force to Catholicism) and prominent Jews gave the explorer an interest-free loan. These investors included Louis de Santangel, Gabriel Sanchez and Rabbi Don Isaac Abrabanel, a known Jewish statesman. Indeed, Columbus’ initial letters discussing his journey were sent to Santangel and Sanchez, thanking them for their support and telling them what he had found.

“Irizarry also notes that Columbus occasionally included Hebrew in his writings and references the Jewish High Holidays in his journal during his first voyage,” continued Segal to Breaking Israel News. “Wiesenthal postulates that Columbus sailed west to reach the Indies because of his Biblical faith, including from the Book of Isaiah, which he repeatedly cited in his writings.

For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. Isaiah 65:17

Surely the isles shall wait for Me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, for the name of Hashem thy God, and for the Holy One of Yisrael, because He hath glorified thee. Isaiah 60:9

Given these facts, Columbus’ discovery of America, a country symbolized by religious tolerance and freedom, goes hand in hand with his Jewish heritage.

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