Skip to content

The Renegade

By Ariel Toaff

Translated by Cristina Popple

On a morning in 1840, a young boy discovers, under an olive tree on the outskirts of Nablus, the body of David Ajash, an Italian rabbi and kabbalist of Algerian origin. Homicide or suicide? The doubt remains past the end of this captivating literary debut.

More than a fictionalized biography, The Renegade seamlessly merges historical questions and hypotheses into the fabric of a work of literary fiction. All of this, while portraying in vivid brushstrokes, the Jewish Nation of Livorno in the staggering vitality of its hay day: Hebrew printing, philosophical debates, sea-trade, as well as foods, smells, brothels, and shifting alliances.

“My descent into hell was already at a good point. Fate was offering me another chance.”

About the Author

Ariel Toaff is a rabbi and a historian. Born in Ancona, Italy, he lives in Tel Aviv, where he is professor emeritus of Medieval and Renaissance History at the Bar-Ilan University. He came to international prominence in 2007 with the publication of the first edition of his controversial book Pasque Di Sangue (Blood Passovers, Gyan Books Hong Kong, 2007).

Among his many works: The Jews in Medieval Assisi 1305-1487: A social and economic history of a small Jewish community (1979); “The Jews in Umbria”, 3 vols., Leiden, E.J.Brill, 1993-94; Il vino e la carne. Una comunità ebraica nel Medioevo (“Love, Work and Death. Jewish Life in Medieval Umbria”, The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 1996); Mostri giudei. L’immaginario ebraico dal Medioevo alla prima età moderna (“Jewish Monsters. The Jewish Imaginary from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern Era”, 1996 of which a new and expanded edition is forthcoming); and Mangiare alla giudia. La cucina
ebraica in Italia dal Rinascimento all’età moderna (Eating Jewish style. Jewish Cooking in Italy from the Renaissance to the Modern Age, 2000).

The Renegade is his first novel.

Author : Ariel Toaff

Translator: Cristina Popple
Title : The Renegade
Year : 2024
Series : The Arts

Paperback – ISBN 978-1-941046-37-1

Ebook: $9

Price paperback: $20

Publication date: June 1st, 2024.

Go to e-store



Libraries and Institutions



It is a sin to try to set certain men right. They wash up on foreign lands already deeply scarred by time and misadventures, having navigated dangerous waters at great length and having found themselves to be their own worst enemies. They choose a new place where they might try to be reborn, or at the very least live out what time they have left. Any attempt to save them, to correct their path in extremis, is perfectly useless. They have already tried to do so many times, and each time has resulted in an equal number of failures. Only the past can put an end to their existences, catching up with them one day to claim payment for their mistakes.

This is what happened to poor David Ajash, a rabbi who came from afar and had elected to live with us in Nablus, having emerged from the haze of a turbulent past of which he was loath to speak. No great intuition was needed to glimpse a life of rash choices in the darkness of those eyes and in the nervous fumbling of those fingers, but never did David open up the tome of his memories, at least not in my presence. During our long evening chats, he told me stories of travels, and courts, and seats of power, the likes of which I had only heard rumors, but when he came to the crucial parts, he became vague. He could guess my curiosity and, looking down, he waved a hand before his eyes, as if attempting to dispel an ancient fog he had no desire to confront again.

Back To Top