Joseph ibn Naghrela (1035 – 1066) was only 21 years when he succeeded his father, Samuel (Shmuel Hanagid), as the vizier of Granada, Spain. Shmuel Hanagid had assumed this position after a lifetime of dedicated work, including entering political life as a tax collector after he met the vizier Abu al-Kasin ibn al-Arif, for whose maidservant Samuel ibn Naghrela had been writing letters. Joseph, on the other hand, stepped into the position with far less experience.
Like his father before him, Joseph ibn Naghrela was well-educated in Jewish law. He supported the Jewish community and succeeded his father in many community leadership roles as well.
It is reported that the younger ibn Naghrela inherited his father’s intelligence and talent, but not his humility. In fact, he was noted for living rather opulently.
During his 20 years in office, he had the full support of King Bodis. Indeed, King Badis seems to have outrightly dismissed rumors that ibn Naghrela was working with the king’s enemies and sought to kill the king. These rumors were spread by ibn Naghrela’s great Berber rival, Abu Ishak of Elvira, who had his own aspirations for the viziership.
The king may not have taken the threat seriously, but many of his Berber citizens did. Abu Ishak wrote an inflammatory anti-Semetic poem, that was widely read. On Shabbat December 30, 1066, a riot started and the palace was stormed. Joseph ibn Naghrela was crucified (his wife and son escaped) and many other Jews were killed. The Jewish Quarter of the city was destroyed.
Ibn Nagrhrela’s fall was, perhaps, a warning of dire things to come. This was the beginning of the era when Moorish (Muslim) rulers became less benevolent toward their Jewish citizens. Not long after, the southern region of the Iberian peninsula was overtaken by the more fanatical Almohads, ending the Golden Age of Jews in Muslim Spain.
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