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Christopher Columbus: the 9th of Av, the blood-red moon and the discovery Of America - Bill Koenig

Christopher Columbus: the 9th of Av, the blood-red moon and the discovery of America

Wikipedia notes that on March 31, 1492, the Edict of Expulsion (also called the Alhambra Decree) was signed. Every Jew in Spain was forced to choose between conversion to Catholicism or leaving the country without his or her possessions. A total of 150,000 Jews left Spain; many first went to Portugal but were then driven out and went to the Ottoman Empire.

According to some sources, the last Jew left Spain on July 31 (the 7th of Av on the Jewish calendar). Other sources claim that it was Aug. 2 (the 9th of Av). Columbus sailed on Aug. 3, 1492. He insisted, however, that all of his crew be on board Aug. 2, which was not only the day all Jews had to leave Spain but also the 9th of Av.

The Jewish News of Phoenix wrote:

Columbus' first voyage was financed through a loan by Luis de Santangel (born Azaria Ginillo), the royal chancellor and converso, who succeeded his father as Farmer of the Royal Taxes. (Conversos were Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity during the Spanish Inquisition.)

Another converso, Gabriel Sanchez, was treasurer at the court of Ferdinand and Isabella. Of Columbus' four voyages, the second and largest (17 ships) was financed through the sale of confiscated Jewish property. Among the first ashore when Columbus landed in Cuba on Nov. 2, 1492, was the ex-Jewish interpreter Luis de Torres, baptized shortly before the expedition.

The eclipse that saved Columbus (Agence France-Presse)

The moon turned an eerie shade of red for people in the western hemisphere late on Wednesday, Feb. 20, and early Thursday, recreating the eclipse that saved Christopher Columbus more than five centuries ago.

And an eclipse is credited with saving the life of Christopher Columbus and his crew in 1504.

Stranded on the coast of Jamaica, the explorers were running out of food and faced with increasingly hostile local inhabitants who were refusing to provide them with any more supplies.

Columbus, looking at an astronomical almanac compiled by a German mathematician, realized that a total eclipse of the moon would occur on Feb. 29, 1504.

He called the native leaders and warned them if they did not cooperate, he would make the moon disappear from the sky the following night.

The warning, of course, came true, prompting the terrified people to beg Columbus to restore the moon — which he did, in return for as much food as his men needed. He and the crew were rescued on June 29, 1504.

This year’s blood-red moon

At the time of this year's "blood-red" moon, Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff General Ashkenazi were discussing the possible war with Hamas and Hezbollah, along with the boundaries of Jerusalem. Many believe a "blood-red" moon is a bad omen — an omen of a pending war.

Last year, I wrote of the two "blood-red" moons that occurred in 2000 and 2007 at the same time that sovereignty over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem was being discussed.

Here is the link: click here

Chronology: Jerusalem, earthquakes and another blood-red moon

The last two weeks of news in Israel has been focused on the boundaries of Jerusalem; talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas; the elimination of an internationally hunted Hezbollah terrorist; war talk from Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah and Hamas leaders; and the preparation of Israel for war in the event it is necessary.

There also were four earthquakes in the Western U.S. and two large ones in Israel. The latter two were interwoven around peace talks between Olmert and Abbas in Jerusalem — and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Washington, D.C.

Friday, Feb. 8

Magnitude-5.4 hits Baja California (U.S. Geological Service)

A moderate earthquake rocked Baja California in Mexico, shutting down factories near the U.S. border and leaving about 400,000 people without power, authorities said. No major damage or injuries were immediately reported. The quake that struck around 11:15 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8, had a preliminary magnitude of 5.4.

Monday, Feb. 11

Secretary of State Rice met on Monday with Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad in Washington, D.C.

Israel's vice premier said on Monday that the aim of U.S.-backed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians was to reach agreement on statehood principles this year rather than achieve an accord spelling out all the details.

Magnitude-4.9 hits Baja California (The Associated Press)

A moderate earthquake struck northwestern Mexico near the U.S. border Monday, Feb. 11, prompting authorities to evacuate schools and resulting in at least one minor gas leak. No major damage or injuries were reported from the temblor, which an expert said was likely an aftershock from a magnitude-5.4 quake on Friday, Feb. 8.

The magnitude-4.9 quake hit around 10:30 a.m. local time (1:30 p.m. EST). It was centered about 20 miles southeast of the border city of Mexicali and 24 miles southeast of the U.S. border city of Calexico, Calif., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The magnitude was revised downward from an initial calculation of 5.1.

Magnitude 4.0 earthquake shakes Israel (USGS)

A mild earthquake measuring 4.0 on the Richter scale was felt across Israel from Kiryat Shmona in the north to the Jerusalem area on Monday night, Feb. 11. No injuries or damage were reported. (Jonathan Weber)

Tuesday, Feb. 12

Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mughniyeh — wanted in dozens of terror attacks in Lebanon and one of the world's most wanted terrorists — was killed in a car bomb explosion in Damascus.

The claim that Jerusalem is one of the issues currently being discussed by Israeli and PA negotiators: the Palestinians say it's true, Israel says it isn’t true.

Hatem Abdel Qader, the Jerusalem affairs adviser to Palestinian Prime Minister Fayad, confirmed on Tuesday, Feb. 12, that Jerusalem is one of the issues currently being discussed by Israeli and PA negotiators.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Abdel Qader said Jerusalem "is not only on the table, it's also under the table."

Asked to explain the second part of his remark, he said: "This means that the negotiations with the Israelis are taking place both openly and secretly."

Barkat: secret agreement to divide Jerusalem reached

Israeli and Palestinian representatives have reached an agreement to divide Jerusalem, the capital's municipal opposition leader, Nir Barkat, said Wednesday.

"(Vice Premier) Haim Ramon and the prime minister are deceiving Israel's citizens," Barkat added after exchanging letters with Foreign Minister Livni on the negotiations with the Palestinians.

Barkat based his accusations on information from "senior sources" which he refused to reveal, claiming that Ramon and Palestinian tycoon Muhammad Rashid had agreed to Jerusalem's division in secret talks.

Thursday, Feb. 14

Olmert: Qurei doesn't decide talks' agenda (The Jerusalem Post)

The coalition crisis over Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's secret negotiations on Jerusalem with former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei ended on Thursday when Shas Chairman Eli Yishai received reassurances from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Livni that the capital's fate was not on the table.

Livni told Yishai there was no secret channel of meetings with Qurei, denying statements to the contrary to The Jerusalem Post by senior PA officials. "We are satisfied for now, but if secret negotiations begin tomorrow, we are leaving," a source close to Yishai said following his meetings with Olmert and Livni.

Thursday, Feb. 14

Hezbollah chief threatens Israel

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has warned that the militant group is ready for "open war" with Israel after the killing of one of its leaders in Syria.

Nasrallah made the declaration during a fiery speech at the funeral of Imad Mughniyeh in Lebanon's capital, Beirut.

He insisted: "The blood of Imad Mughniyeh will make them [Israel] withdraw from existence."

Hizbullah's leader vowed to wage "open war" against Israeli targets around the world after accusing Israel of assassinating the organization’s militant commander, Imad Mughniyeh.

"You have crossed the borders," Nasrallah said in a fiery eulogy at Mughniyeh's funeral in south Beirut. "With this murder, its timing, location and method — Zionists, if you want this kind of open war, let the whole world listen: let this war be open."

Iran: Mugniyah's death will lead to an earthquake in the Zionist regime (Islamic Republic News Agency)

"The despicable crime will increase the Zionists' disasters and strengthen the courage of those who will hit the Zionist regime," said Ahmad Moussavi, Tehran's ambassador to Damascus on IRNA, the Iranian state news agency.

"His pure blood, just like the blood of the other fighters, will claim a heavy price from the enemy," Moussavi threatened. "The death of Imad Mugniyeh will lead to an earthquake in the Zionist regime."

Rice and Livni discuss Gaza, Iran in Washington talks: Israeli official (AFP)

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipni Livni discussed the situation in Gaza and new sanctions against Iran in talks Thursday, an Israeli official said.

Rice and Livni released no statement after their afternoon meeting at the State Department. But a spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington, David Siegel, said they were to discuss conditions in the Gaza strip and peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority "which are very intensive."

Friday, Feb. 15

After enemies threaten Israel with "earthquake," 5.3 tremor terrifies Lebanese (AFP)

A day after Sheik Hassan Nasrallah warned of "open war" against Israel, and Iran's ambassador threatened an "earthquake" against the "Zionist regime," Lebanese and Palestinians were terrified by a real tremor.

The eastern Mediterranean trembled with a moderate quake just after noon, shaking buildings in Beirut and sending terrified Lebanese and Palestinians into the streets. The second tremor in a week, it was slightly stronger than Monday night's, which measured 4.0 on the Richter scale.

The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center said on its Web site that the quake Friday was 5.3 on the Richter scale and that its epicenter was in Lebanon, more than 10 times the strength of the earlier one, whose epicenter was about 4 miles east of Tyre, in the heart of Hezbollah's stronghold in southern Lebanon. The state-run National News Agency said it lasted several seconds and sent panicked residents to the streets.

The earth also shook in many parts of Israel at 12:37 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 15. The quake was felt mainly in coastline cities — including Haifa, Tel Aviv and Nahariya. The earthquake interrupted Muslim prayer services on the West Bank, AFP reported.

Sunday, Feb. 17

Bush's man Abbas has aide Dahlan trying to oust him (The Jerusalem Post)

Muhammad Dahlan, the former Fatah security commander in the Gaza Strip, is working to oust Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the veteran leadership of the ruling party, an Abbas aide told The Jerusalem Post.

Fatah central committee member Hakam Balawi, a former PLO ambassador to Tunis, said Dahlan was responsible for the defeat of the Fatah-controlled PA security forces in the Gaza Strip by Hamas last June.

"Dahlan is an opportunist who is spreading chaos, illusions and poison," Balawi said in a statement issued on behalf of the Fatah central committee in Ramallah. "Dahlan's actions and statements have long been based on intimidation, threats and ultimatums."

Monday, Feb. 18

Iran leader calls Israel cancerous germ (AP)

Iran's Republican Guards Commander-in-Chief Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted by the Fars News Agency on Monday as saying, "In the near future, we will witness the destruction of the cancerous germ of Israel by the powerful and competent hands of the Hezbollah combatants."

Jafari made the comment in a letter to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah; offering condolences after the killing of terrorist mastermind Imad Mughniyah, which Iran has blamed on Israel.

Tuesday, Feb. 19

Olmert and Abbas meet — followed by earthquake on California border

Prime Minister Olmert hosted Palestinian Authority President Abbas for two hours of talks at his Jerusalem residence Tuesday night. The leaders discussed the ongoing peace negotiations between the sides; but according to Israeli officials, the issue of Jerusalem was not raised.

According to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, the issue of Jerusalem did come up during the meeting, although he did not elaborate.

Magnitude-5.0 quake shakes California-Mexico border (USGS)

A 5.0 earthquake rocked portions of Baja and San Diego and Imperial counties on Tuesday. According to the USGS, the earthquake struck at 2:41 p.m. and was centered 15 miles southeast of Mexicali, 18 miles southeast of Calexico, and 99 miles east of Tijuana. The USGS said the jolt measured a magnitude 5.0. Tuesday's quake was the latest in a series of earthquakes that have rattled the U.S.-Mexico border.

Wednesday, Feb. 20

Blood-red moon

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world watched a total "blood-red" lunar eclipse on Wednesday and Thursday.

Ahmadinejad called Israel a "filthy germ" and "savage beast"

Ahmadinejad's remarks were broadcast on Iranian television on Wednesday, in which he called Israel a "filthy germ" and "savage beast" established by Western states in their bid to dominate Middle Eastern nations.

IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen Ashkenazi warns of war on the horizon

IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi warned the army on Wednesday to be ready for a new conflagration in the region.

"There are dangers to our survival on the horizon and great challenges to Israeli security. The IDF needs to ensure a rapid victory in any conflict, and I cannot guarantee that we won't need to act in the near future," Ashkenazi said at a graduation ceremony for a ground forces officers training course at the Officer Training School near Mitzpe Ramon.

Thursday, Feb. 21

Barak warns Hamas and Hezbollah (Al-Hayat)

Defense Minister Ehud Barak relayed a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad through the Turkish president that Israel plans to militarily escalate the situation with Hizbullah and Hamas, the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat reported on Thursday.

According to the report, Barak encouraged Damascus to take a different stance towards Hizbullah — and emphasized that such a move would be seen as a goodwill gesture and would open up the possibility for peace negotiations between the two countries.

Further, the report stated that the defense minister informed the Turks that Israel plans to launch a massive military operation in the Gaza Strip.

Worried Rice to discuss Gaza with Olmert in Japan (Ha'aretz)

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice while both are in Japan next week. The meeting was requested by Rice. It is particularly surprising because Rice is due to come to Jerusalem for a working visit the following week.

Government officials predicted that the meeting would focus on the situation in the Gaza Strip, and said that Rice probably wanted to express her concern over the humanitarian situation there.

Magnitude 6.1 earthquake shakes Nevada (USGS)

A 6.0-magnitude earthquake hit northeast Nevada on Thursday, causing at least one building to crumble, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake was reported about 6:16 a.m. local time near Elko, about 430 miles north of Las Vegas, according to wire reports. It was originally estimated at 6.3, but downsized later to 6.0.

"Definitely a lot of people felt this; and if they were sleeping, they were awoken [sic]," said USGS geophysicist Carrieann Bedwell. Elko County Undersheriff Rocky Gonzalez said there were reports of some damage to buildings. At least one building collapsed, he said, and a Flying J truck stop was evacuated because of a propane leak.

Gold, platinum hit record highs on dollar, oil (Reuters)

Gold and platinum set historic highs in choppy trade on Thursday, with strong oil prices, a struggling dollar and supply worries boosting investor interest.

Silver hit a 27-year high above $18 an ounce, a spike of 22 percent this year, while palladium jumped more than 9 percent to a 6-1/2-year high before paring gains.

"The outlook for gold remains positive given the expectations for continued dollar weakness, further Fed rate cuts and inflationary and macroeconomic concerns," Suki Cooper, precious metals analyst at Barclays Capital, said.

"Although speculative length remains elevated, we would expect further safe-haven buying to buoy prices," she said.

Spot gold hit a high of $948.60 an ounce and was quoted at $944.70/945.50 at 10:05 a.m. EST, against $934.80/935.60 late in New York on Wednesday.

Oil prices fell but traded not far from this week's record highs above $100 a barrel.