Family ben David, December 2, 1624

Protocol of Moses ben David III, Son of Moses ben David, notary public for the city of Alexandria , kept for the purpose of accounts , personal business, and all other details related to the job of a notary public within the jurisdiction of Alexandria. Kept for the purpose of providing evidence and facts when disputes arise.

December 2, 1624- Trade in Alexandria has been going well. But it has certainly become more complicated since my father’s time. When he was a notary for the city of Alexandria it was simple to tell who a person was. Where they were from, their religion, their culture all one needed was to ask. This difficulty in distinguishing identity is largely in part to my own people I am sorry to say. Since the Jewish diaspora, the Jewish people have been forced to fan out and often change their identities as the need arises in order to live and trade in areas they would not be normally allowed to take part in. A prime example would be the merchant I met in the port of Alexandria today. He is a Marrano Jew, at least that is what I have been led to believe. He gave me the name Abraham Benvenisti.[1] After I finished recording the goods that his ship contained I went on my way to discuss the day’s events with my fellow notaries. I was told something of great interest by a fellow notary who is of Portuguese decent. This fellow subject of the sultan informed me that he had dealt with the same merchant earlier in the year and that he had given him the name Anriquez Nunez.[2] Although this appeared fairly strange at first it readily became clear in a matter of seconds, he had given my friend, the Portuguese notary, a Portuguese name, and me, a Jew, a Jewish name. Clearly he hoped that this would create an emotional state of kinship upon us in hopes of attaining a better deal in the port. Perhaps he believed we would not charge him as much if we had a cultural connection with him. This is the crutch of the problem that we in the service of the sultan are facing now. It is near impossible for notaries and other members of the state to know what is truth and what is merely a façade.

However this is not only creating a problem for me in my official position it is also creating problems in my personal life. Many people feel that the Jewish people are changing their identities merely to avoid paying their due taxes and duties in ports to the nation. I have received word that the Baili[3] in Constantinople has made an official complaint to the sultan about this very issue with merchants in the ports of Constantinople. This mistrust of the Jewish people has even reached the ports of Alexandria. I see day in and day out the people becoming more and more untrusting of people they suspect of being Jewish , whether they are or not. Even with my role as a notary for the state I have seen distrusting looks by those who are not aware of who I am. Although, they quickly change once they are made aware of who I am. I fear that as long as a few continue to work the system that all Jewish people will suffer from it. All that I can do is try and catch these people in the act before they can become to big of a problem. And hopefully restore trust in my people. I will have to wait and see I guess.[4]


[1] Dursteler,Eric R., “Venetians in Constantinople: Nation, Identity, and Coexistence In The Early Modern Mediterranean.”(John Hopkins University Press,2006 )Pg106

[2] Ibid

[3][3] Pages used 7-12

[4] For more information on the current political situation within the Mediterranean and how it has changed since the time frame of this blog go to this website and read the article by Moratinos.

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