Elia ben Oso-Pardo looked like a big brown angry bear, hungry for power. With all the elegance that the professor could muster in his ivory colored evening gown he invited his unexpected guest at the table and told the angelic butler to bring out another plate of food for the interim mayor. We all looked at him expectantly and watched him eat and drink. Moshe Cohen started a monologue on the Romantic Poets that nobody listened to. We all waited for Elia to speak. At last he pushed his plate away and leaned back in his chair, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
“I'm the mayor of Virgen de la Epifanía,” he announced. We all nodded. “I come in peace,” he growled. In the silence that followed Moshe Cohen remarked with a smile: “Well, that's a relief, for a minute I thought you had come to tear the place down.”
“I will tear your roundabout down, that's for sure. Apart from that you have nothing to fear.” Now it was Elia's turn to smile. Nobody said anything. Elia continued by praising the professor's plans for the expansion of the village, the golf course and the hotel. He wanted peaceful coexistence between Jews and Christians.
“That's a contradiction in terms, Elia,” Moshe Cohen interjected. “The convivencia, was seldom peaceful. Muslims, Christians and Jews hardly could get along. Needless to say the Jews suffered the most.”
“The real contradiction in terms, my dear Moshe Cohen, is your remark coming from the mouth of a Jewish monk,” was Elia's venomous response. “You are really not qualified to point out the hardships we suffered to a man who comes from a family of conversos, who had to hide their true religion behind closed shutters while in public professing the Christian faith.” In the ensuing silence you could hear a pin drop. Professor Hubnoth's jawline hardened into something like made out of stainless steel. After a while a big white smile appeared in the thick dark beard of the interim mayor. “But that was then and this is now. My aim is to be a mayor for all the people, whether Jew or Christian, monk or transvestite.”
“Tell me about your plans,” the professor said.
“Tourism!” Elia sounded enthusiastic. “We need to develop a new narrative for this village that will include both Jewish and Christian heritage and history. We will promote the chapel of the Virgin by telling the story of my ancestor Izik ben Dov who saw the apparition of Maria in 1389. At the same time we will tell the story of Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, commonly known as the Rambam or Maimonides, who hid in this village 220 years earlier when he and his family were running from the Muslim overlords.” Elia told the story of Maimonides, how he roamed the countryside for ten years, trying to avoid a forced conversion, how he fled to Fez in Morocco and later to Cairo in Egypt.
“What proof do you have that he stayed in this village?”, Moshe Cohen asked. “Does the house he stayed in still exist? How do we know that you are not making it all up?”
“On the edge of the village there is a ruin, some tumbled down walls and the remains of the foundation that is believed to be of the house where he lived. An old oral tradition was put on paper in the 15th century and those documents are in our archives. And there we also have documentation of the apparition of Maria.”
“That sounds very interesting, Elia,” the professor said, visibly warming to the idea. “We could put these old documents on display, build a small museum over the remains of Maimonides' dwelling, maybe even reconstruct it to some extent, sell tickets, postcards, sweat shirts, baseball caps, Christian and Jewish artifacts, books.”
“The people will come in droves, I am telling you. If we work together as a team we could show the world what convivencia stands for today, in the 21st century.”
“First we will show them our amazing roundabout and then take them on a tour of Rambam's house, to the synagogue where he prayed and then, last but not least, to the chapel of the Virgin. It's wonderful!”