MembersThe Saga of Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi

The fascinating story of the woman who defied kings and led Jews to Israel

By Rachel Avraham |
It wasn't easy for Jewish women in the Middle Ages, but Dona Gracia rose through the ranks nevertheless.
It wasn't easy for Jewish women in the Middle Ages, but Dona Gracia rose through the ranks nevertheless. Photo: Dror Garti/Flash90

Down the street from the Tiberius Central Bus Station stands a historic museum and hotel that honors the legacy of Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi, a Jewish woman who fought bravely against the Inquisition. This is the fascinating story of one of the greatest Jewish women of Renaissance Europe.

The Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi Museum is housed in a Spanish-style palace, complete with antique furniture, historic collector dolls, Renaissance-era costumes, and other trinkets, which all tell the story her historic legacy.

According to Andree Aelion Brooks’ book titled The Woman Who Defied Kings: The Life and Times of Dona Gracia Nasi, Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi enjoyed a status among the Jews of the Ottoman Empire that resembled that of a head of state: “Indeed, there is evidence that she may have attained an official position equal to a nasi, or ‘ruling prince’ in pre-expulsion Spain or earlier still in the time of the Sanhedrin, the governing body of the Jews during the biblical era. It was an astonishing feat for a woman, and even more so, for a former...

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