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The Jews of Malta

Cecil Roth

<plain_text><page sequence="1">the jews of malta. 187 The Jews of Malta. By Cecil Roth. Paper read before the Jewish Historical Society of England, March 28, 1928. " Neither rats nor Jews can exist at Malta," once remarked the late Lord Fisher, with characteristic impetuosity. " The Maltese are too much for either." It would betoken an excessive sensitiveness to take the gallant Admiral's remarks too seriously : yet it is to be hoped, in the interests of scientific truth, that his zoology was more accurate than his history. The current works of reference would indeed bear out his views, since none of them devotes an entry to the subject. Yet, far from it being the case that Jews cannot live at Malta, their history on the island goes back to an immemorial antiquity, to be rivalled in very few places on the surface of the globe : and it has continued, without serious break, right down to our own day. Not that the record is in any way monotonous or commonplace. Almost every facet of Jewish history is reflected in it?possibly the Israelitish, certainly the Roman, the Arab, the Italian, the Spanish, the Catholic, and finally the British : with a romantic interlude when the com? munity was composed exclusively of slaves?a phenomenon assuredly unique. The tragic element is not wanting. The expulsion from the Spanish dominions did not overlook this remote dependency : and in recent times the Blood Libel raised its head even in such an out-of the-way spot. In earlier times, as we shall see, the island community could claim some personal connection with England. Later it was linked up with one of the most important productions of the Elizabethan drama : and finally it attained freedom and tranquillity under the British flag. Thus it is surely not out of place to present here, under the auspices of the Jewish Historical Society of England, a first complete sketch of the variegated stor