Who is Dona Gracia
Dona Gracia Nasi was born in Lisbon in the year (1510) to a Marannos family whose roots came from Spain. When she was baptized she was given the name of Beatrice De Luna.
Her wealth came from her marriage to Francisco Mendes (1528) , He came from a very prominent Marannos Spanish family. Mendes was the greatest spice merchant in Europe and had a franchise from The Portuguese rulers.
His brother Diogo that married Brianda Dona Gracias sister, Build in Antwerp the Mandes Bank . Latter on it became the second bank in his size in Europe. After the death of the Mendes brothers Francisco and Diogo 6 years in between from each other, Dona Gracia accepted the control of all the vast business of the family.
Dona Gracia became a successful business lady in a total masculine environment. She was the backbone and the leader to develop organize and manage it with the determination to control big economic empire that crossed borders and nations in the new world of the eventful 16th century.
She did well and integrated herself in the business world of her time and became a competitor to the bank of Pogarim the biggest bank in Europe at that time.
In order to keep the family together and develope the family business, Dona Gracia was forced to move the family from one country to other through dangerous and risky journey and scheme from Lisbon to London and from there to Antwerp and then to Italy.
But the enormous and vast capital that she inherited from her husband and the wealth of the bank that was deposited to her, created a serious rift between
Dona Gracia and her sister Brianda. Brianda demanded half of the family wealth. The dispute reached its peak in Venice and was known as the "sister quarrel". As a result of the fruitless dispute left Dona Gracia the city and moved to Ferrara – Italy. In Ferrara she returns back to practice the Jewish customs and faith. In Ferrara she integrated in the flourishing printing business and organized the move of the entire family and business to Istanbul.
The place of the Suleiman the great .
Finally, in 1553 Dona Gracia arrived to her final station of her journey to Istanbul The capital of Othman empire, From documents that originated in the national archive in Istanbul we learn that Dona Gracia succeeded there too and expanded her business even more and became a monopole all around the
Othman empire with the export import of the Arrack wine and the production of Domagk, Minerals and other commodities of the period.
In every place that Dona Gracia spent time she established strong link with the king, the religious leaders and the local princes, and she was involved with intrigues and plot and had to protect herself from evil intents of taking parts of her profits and sending long hand to her business.
It seems like she was busy taking over her husband inheritance after his death, but it was not the case and she lived as Christian, and activly taken care of the Marannos and the Jews living under false identity and in hiding.
When she was stated in Ferrara, she declared her coming back to Judaism up front . By the time of living in Istanbul she extended her connections with the Jewish world and her influence there.
On the side, she established ramified chain of help to the persecuted Jews in varieties routes to rescue the Jews from the Inquisition and save as many Jews and Marrannos as she could.
She encouraged printing of valuable books and build up printing houses and donated with generosity and openhandedness to build synagogues and houses for learning the Torah.
She used her high position with The Sultan in Kustha to purchase a franchise
On Tiberius and the neighborhood settlements around. Here Dona Gracia appear as a leader and there is evidence for her and .widespread and visible vision and in that she was outstanding, unique, special and generosity, unusual and hardly fit to the state of women of her time
She had aspiration to build and create a national home for the persecuted Jews and called every Jew to go and establish a home in Tiberius Israel. She was practical in times that many other year after false messianic and immediate magical and false promises.
In the year of 1569, when she started to actually establish her dreams and vision she died in Istanbul.
Dona Gracia's economic and public performance in her adulthood reflects her vision of the new world of the beginning of the 16th century,
economical transformation as a result of The discovery of The America's and the opening of new water commercial routes. Also the tragedy that happened to the Portugal and Spanish Jews , were Dona Gracia courage to search for solutions
Journey in the shadow of the Catholic Church
In that phase in her life, Dona Gracia's life were changed dramatically.
Politic, intrigues , money and property, International commerce and vast business all around Europe, and religious conflicts began to be the main role of Dona Gracia's magical story.
The Catholic Church and the Pope as her head, who had the control of the deadly weapon of the Inquisition stood in front of the Islamic world and his head the Upper Gate the Turkish Sultan the conqueror of the world.
Between and among those dominant factors stood Dona Gracia as a Jewish woman. Her doing , her dedication to the Judaism and faith , while in the same time she was functioning as courage leader, wealthy business woman.
For 17 years , beginning at 1536 until 1553 Dona Gracia was forced to move from one county to another country all under great dangers, and secret movement.
From Lisbon she moved to London, And then to Antwerp and then to Venice and Ferrrara in Italy. Finally, in 1553 Dona Gracias made her final journey and arrived to Istanbul.
Every place she stayed she was among kings, religious leaders and princes that were involved in intrigues and wars that were intended to take over her treasures and be part of her business.
Dona Gracia's name was carried all over Europe and in all the escaped routes of the prosecuted Jews by the Inquisition.
The undercover and branched organization that Dona Gracia established to help and protect the prosecuted Jews were masterpieces and could compete in most of the underground institute of today. Hundred of hundred of agents moved around Europe and were ordered to assist the Jewish refugees, and be responsible for their wellbeing until they reach safety in city of refuge such as Ferrara, Salonika in Greece and around the shore of Turkey.
Dona Gracia became an admired leader, dominated and courageous in her actions until the representative of the Jewish communities imprinted a medal with the picture of Dona Gracia and address of "Gracia Nasi" " From Dream to Accomplishment".
The last journey
Whoever saw the royal reception for the imperial and majestic parade of Dona Gracia and her entourage arriving to Kushta on her way to the Sultan's palace in Topkapi, never saw a parade like this in his life.
In Kushta, the Capital of Turkey, Dona Gracia's palace or the "House of Dona Gracia" became the center for the Jewish communities of the world. All the leaders of the Jewish communities, messengers and delegates, Rabies and Torah learning scholars, came here. Here Dona Gracia began to find interest in learning the Torah. She encouraged printing important books, built printing houses and donated generously to build Torah's houses and synagogues and paid wages to the Rabies that learned the Torah and were welcomed in her house for accommodation and hospitality with generosity and openhandedness.
Dona Gracia acquired herself a high status with the Sultan in Kushta as a Jewish leader and a representative of the Jewish people. The city of Tiberius was given to Dona Gracia as a concession since she was the richest Jewish woman in the world and donated tremendous amount of money to the Sultan.
Dona Gracia decided to build a sanctuary for the prosecuted Jews in the land of Israel. Tiberius was the city that "from here Israel will seek salvation and as such it will be the spiritual center for all the Jewish communities of the Diaspora". Tiberius became a place, whose scholars wrote and sealed the Israeli Talmud, known as the "Jerusalem Talmud" that settled the "Tiberius punctuation system" of the Hebrew language being used until today.
Dona Gracia had a vision of building a state for the Jewish people as a national home with political recognition of the great ruler of the strongest empire at that time- the Turkish Sultan, about 300 years before Benjamin Zeev Herzl outlined his vision for a modern national Jewish state.
But for the anguish of all the Jews of the Diaspora Dona Gracia died in the year of 1569, while her agents completed 1500 meters of building the south wall of Tiberius, and prepared the ground to establish the "house of Dona Gracia in Tiberius.
Why Dona Gracia's life story and all her business operation and commercial activities were not mentioned in the proper manner and respect and honor she deserved in the history of the Jewish people?
We can find a hint for it in the next words: "when Joan Kelly put the question was there was a Renaissance for women? The problem is total disregard of women in the history of the world and it is not only ignorance, but also a way of changing the history. Different treatment of the human history in general to women could have changed the course written history.
It was taken from a paper written by Yael Azmon from Zalman Sazar Center for the Israel Jerusalem history, "Introduction to Judaism and implantation of women from the public arena"
Tiberius -the Spiritual Center of the Jewish Nation
- Did you know that Tiberius was the spiritual center of Jews in Israel and the Diaspora for 500 years since the destruction of the second temple?
- Did you know that Tiberius was one of the four holy cities (Jerusalem, Tiberius, Hebron and Safed), important to the Jews all over the world, and it is as holy and an important city in the present?
- Did you know there is a belief, that the Messiah will come from Tiberius and bring the salvation to the Jewish people?
- Did you know that the original Israeli Talmud was written and fixated in the holy city of Tiberius?
- Do you know that the Tiberius punctuation system originated in Tiberius, called after it, and used until today?
Yes, Tiberius was a highly influential and significant city in the Jewish history (After the holy city of Jerusalem) since it was founded.
Not only Dona Gracia requested Tiberius from the Turkish Sultan, Suleiman the Great and was given the franchised for the city. She did that for the reason of building a place for the persecuted Jews from Europe. And all the more she did it in 1564 - 350 years before Benjamin Zeev Herzl.