Jewish navigation device in the hands of the Institut du Monde Arabe
An artifact reminding us of this history is an astrolabe, a maritime navigation device, with Hebrew letters clearly visible around the rim. Yet, this device is not in the possession of Jews nor in any sort of Jewish museum nor in a maritime museum. It is in --you guessed it-- the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. The device has a long inscription in Hebrew letters -- while it has no inscription in any other alphabet. Yet, it is claimed as part of "Arab civilization" purely because the language of the inscription is Judeo-Arabic, a language spoken and sometimes written by Jews living in Arab-ruled lands. This language combined an Arabic and Hebrew [and sometimes Aramaic] vocabulary. Likewise, Jews in northern and eastern Europe usually spoke and often wrote in Yiddish, a language combining in its vocabulary medieval Germanic words with Hebrew, Aramaic, Slavic and Romance words. About 30% of the Yiddish vocabulary is estimated to be Hebrew-Aramaic in origin. By writing their inscription on the astrolabe in Hebrew letters, the Jews for whom it was made were clearly stating their Jewish identity. Even if the letters were Arabic, the mixed vocabulary would still indicate a Jewish identity for the owners of the piece and the piece itself.
To take another example, likewise, an Irish product would still be considered Irish even if it bore an English inscription. The Irish haven't lost their national identity just because almost all of them today speak English. The Spanish Jew Abraham Zacuto was famous for his work on navigation instruments and maritime charts, by the way.
Aeroports de Paris [no. 7 / 02/06]
Despite the identity of the owners and users and probable makers of the astrolabe, the Institut du Monde Arabe [Arab World Institute] insists that it is "Arab" and part of "Arab civilization." Likewise, Arab nationalist intellectuals sometimes like to boast of the Jewish philosopher Maimonides [Rambam] as part of "Arab civilization" despite Maimonides' opinion that Ishmael [the Arabs/Muslims] had treated the Jews worse than any people had treated them. See here.
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