Spanish Armada

President Trump recently said that “We’re sending an armada” towards the Korean peninsula as a warning to the North Korean government following their recent missile testing. In fact, the so-called armada of American warships was heading in the opposite direction. The word “armada” is most often associated with the Spanish Armada that sailed against England in the late 16th century, with a goal of overthrowing Queen Elizabeth I. The attack was a failure, with the loss of more than 8000 men and more than half the Spanish fleet destroyed. What was the Jewish connection to the failed attack by the Spanish Armada against England in 1588?


A. Spain launched the Armada against England in response to England’s interference in the Spanish Netherlands, an area now comprising much of Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as parts of France and Germany. Recognizing that Spain was likely to attempt a military intervention, England began a program of military expansion which was largely financed by the Rothschild banking interests in London, led by Nathan Mayer von Rothschild, the third son of Mayer Amschel Rothschild, founder of the banking empire. It was because of this ship building program that England was able to defeat the Spanish fleet.

B. Hector Nuñez was a crypto-Jew, a Jew who publicly professed to follow the Christian faith to avoid persecution from the Portuguese Inquisition.  He eventually fled Portugal, arriving in England in 1546, where he went on to become a successful merchant, trading in wine, raisins, and other goods. Through his business and family contacts he was able to learn information about the Spanish Armada preparations to launch their assault, which he passed on to the English, giving them forewarning of the Armada’s position and plan of attack. This spying effort was instrumental in enabling England to successfully ward off the invasion.

CIt is commonly known that the journeys of Christopher Columbus to the New World were largely funded as a result of the seizure of jewels and other properties from the Jews who were expelled from Spain during the Inquisition under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. In fact, the wealth stolen from the Jews was also used to pay for the building of the fleet which became the Spanish Armada.

D. The early maps used by sailors in the Middle Ages were known as Portolan charts, which were based on compass points and distance estimates provided by ship captains. The first Portolan charts were created in the 13th century in Italy, with later maps created in Spain and Portugal in the 15th and 16th centuries. The charts used by the Spanish Armada when they sailed from Spain into the English Channel were created by Juan Oliva and hand-drawn on vellum. Oliva was a member of a prominent Jewish family of chart-makers in Catalonia.

E. In a situation that was strangely similar to President Trump’s “wrong-way” armada of last week, the Spanish Armada’s attack on England failed based on their “wrong-way” journey. In this case, the navigator for the Spanish Armada was a crypto-Jew named Diego Zevi. The Spanish Armada was approaching the English coast for their surprise assault when Zevi, having just closed his siddur after completing his secret morning davening, inadvertently looked at his map book from right to left instead of left to right. As a result, he gave the Armada commander backwards directions, leading the ships to turn left instead of right, enabling the British fleet to sneak up on them from behind and defeat them.

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