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David Reubeni (1490–1535/1541?) was a Jewish political activist, described by the Shengold Jewish Encyclopedia as "half-mystic, half-adventurer."


Daoud Roubani is a folk hero of the Pushtun tribes in Afghanistan, and a positive role model for the Jewish Nation.

Biographical Data[edit]

Reubeni stated that be was born around 1490 in Khaibar in central Arabia. He left Khaibar on December 8, 1522, and went to Nubia in Egypt, where he claimed his heritage as a descendant of Muhammad; to the Jews he spoke of large Jewish kingdoms in the east, possibly referring to the Jewish community at Cochin, which had just attracted attention owing to the Portuguese conquest of Goa.

Reubeni traveled in the Ottoman_Empire in the spring of 1523 and to Venice by way of Alexandria in February 1524. Here he reported about a mission from the Jews of the east to the pope, Clement VII, and interested a Jewish painter named Mose, and Felice, a Jewish merchant. They provided him with means to travel to Rome, which he reached in the same month, entering the city on a white horse.

Reubeni obtained an audience with Cardinal Giulio and Pope Clement VII. To the latter he told a tale of a Jewish kingdom ruled over by his brother Joseph Reubeni in Arabia, where the sons of Moses dwelt near the Sambation River. He brought letters from Portuguese captains confirming his statements, and the Portuguese minister, Miguel da Silva, reported to his court the possible utility of Reubeni's mission in obtaining allies in the struggle of the Portuguese against Selim I, who had seized Egypt in 1521 and diverted the spice trade. Reubeni was provided by Benvenida Abravanel, wife of Samuel Abravanel, and the heirs of Jehiel of Pisa with means for going to Almeirim, the residence of King John III of Portugal, which he reached in November 1525, who at first promised him a force of eight ships and 4,000 cannon. But the king, who was at that time engaged in persecuting the Marranos, found it difficult to enter into an alliance with the Jewish king, though for a time during the negotiations he refrained from interfering with the Marranos.

Reubeni's striking appearance–a swarthy dwarf in Oriental costume–and Messianic predictions attracted the attention of Diego Pires, a Marano youth of noble birth, who took the name of Solomon Molcho. Jewish ambassadors from the Barbary States visited Reubeni at the Portuguese court, and much excitement followed among the Maranos, some of whom even ventured to rise in arms near Badajoz. This appears to have opened the eyes of the Portuguese authorities to the dangers inherent in Reubeni's mission. Reubeni then went to Avignon to bring his cause before the papal court, and afterward to Milan, where he again met Molcho, who had meanwhile traveled to the East and had made Messianic claims. In Milan the two adventurers quarreled, Reubeni going to Venice, where the Senate appointed a commission to inquire whether his project for obtaining assistance from the Jews in the East in its plans of conquest were practicable. He received, however, a hint to leave Venice, and, joining once more with Solomon Molho, traveled with streaming banner to Bologna and Ratisbon (Regensburg) to meet the Emperor Charles V and to offer him the alliance of the Jews of the East against the Ottoman Empire. In Ratisbon they met Josel of Rosheim, who warned them against arousing the suspicions of the emperor and raising the Jewish question in the empire. They nevertheless persisted, and were put in chains and taken by the emperor to Mantua, where both Molcho and Reubeni were examined and the former was condemned to burning at the stake in December 1532. Reubeni was carried to Spain and placed in the Inquisition at Llerena, where probably he died, as nothing more is heard of him, though "a Jew who came from India to Portugal" is reported by Herculano to have been burned at an auto de fé at Evora, 1541 (see Jew. Encyc. vi. 598b, s.v. Inquisition, also Evora). Another source says he died in Llerena, Spain, after 1535. His diary still exists in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (a copy at Breslau also); parts of it have been published by Heinrich Grätz in the third edition of his "Geschichte der Juden" (vol. ix.), and the whole by Neubauer, in "M. J. C." ii.

See also[edit]