When the Judge Ruled Against the Caliph

When [the fourth Caliph] Ali was setting out to Siffin, he found that he was missing a coat of armour of his. When the war was over and he returned to Kufa, he came across the armour in the hands of a Jewish man. He said to the Jew, ‘The armour is mine; I have not sold it or given it away.’ The Jew said, ‘It is my armour and it is in my hand.’ He replied, ‘Let us go to the qadi [judge]!’

Bernard Lewis on How the Ottomans Treated Jews

More than a century later Samuel Usque, a Portuguese Jew who wrote a famous book called The Consolation for the Tribulations of Israel, expresses a similar view. Usque sets forth these consolations in two categories, the one human, the other divine. Among the human consolations the “most signal is great Turkey, a broad and spacious sea which God opened with the rod of His mercy as He opened the Red Sea at the time of the exodus … here the gates of liberty are always open for the observance of Judaism.” This must have come as a considerable surprise to a traveller from sixteenth-century Portugal.