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Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 812

In The Ornament of the World by María Rosa Menocal, the author explains how Christians, Jewish people, and Muslims used to live side-by-side. Their cultures informed and complemented those of the people around them. They had a symbiotic relationship. While these communities later fell apart, there is still evidence of them in things such as texts and architecture. Menocal writes:

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But if we retell the story beginning with the narrative of that intrepid young man who miraculously evaded the annihilation of his line and migrated from Damascus to Cordoba, which he then made over into his new homeland, we end up with an altogether different vision of the fundamental parameters of Europe during the Middle Ages. This is a vision still evident today, in the lasting influence of this complex, rich, and unique civilization.

It's a history of Europe that has a different focus and in that way shows a new side of the time. She tracks various cities and cultures through their writings and the way they blend different religious beliefs and habits together. She explains,

Hebrew’s redemption had come at the hands of writers who were masters of Arabic rhetoric, the Andalusian Jews, men as thoroughly and successfully a part of the cult of Arabic grammar, rhetoric, and style as any of their Muslim neighbors and associates. A century before Halevi took his final leave to find Jerusalem, Samuel the Nagid had first made Hebrew perform all the magic tricks that his native tongue, Arabic, could and did. He had been made vizier because his skill in writing letters and court documents in Arabic surpassed that of all others. He then went on to write poems in the new Hebrew style, among them verses recounting his glories leading his taifa’s armies to victory. In one fell swoop, Samuel’s Hebrew poetry, with its Arabic accents and prosody—the features essential to making it alive for the Arabic-speaking Andalusian Jews—vindicated and completely exceeded all the small steps that others had taken in the centuries before him to revive the ancestral language, to reinvent it as a living tongue.

Though many texts were lost and traditions that joined various people together were ended through war and betrayal, one of the problems was that people were kept from speaking languages or practicing their faiths. This ended an awareness of the traditions and languages that flourished in cultures that were friendly and allowed a degree of freedom. When people moved from one place to another as unfriendly governments sent them away, these traditions and cultures spread. She writes:

The new regime was measurably worse: these Islamic fundamentalists imposed dramatic changes on their Andalusian province, none perhaps more transforming than the immediate expulsion of Jews from many of the Andalusian cities.

The fallout from this expatriation of a central part of the Andalusian community was widespread; in one sense, it amounted to a paradoxical series of gifts to other parts of the Muslim world, as well as to the Christian kingdoms to the north. In the northern Christian cities, many of which had not long before been taifas, and before that cities of the caliphate, Jewish immigrants found a society where they...

(The entire section contains 812 words.)

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