THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME ‘BENVENISTE’
From the Jerusalem Post , December 7, 1988, a Ladino
translation of this also appeared in the summer 2002 issue of Aki Yerushalaym.
It is from an interview with Miron Benveniste the former vice Mayor of Jerusalem
When our forbearers
dwelt in Spain, one of the kings - Alfonso or Pedro - had a Jewish finance
minister who also served as royal physician. He was also known as an expert
in flora, particularly medicinal plants.
the king, accompanied by his Jewish minister, went for a stroll in the fields
near the palace. The minister told the king about every plant. The king was
especially fascinated by the malva and its pink and violet blossoms. When
the king asked what the flower was called and what it was used for, the Jewish
minister replied that its petals were cooked and eaten, and it was called
this time one of the ministers, a sworn enemy of the Jewish minister, burst
into laughter, and said to the king: "Your Majesty, that Jew-minister expert
in our country's flora was making fun of you. He deliberately gave you a
wrong name for that flower in order to embarrass you before your ministers
and viziers. That is not a ‘bienva,’ but a ‘malva’."
The king angrily asked
the Jewish minister to explain, threatening him with dire punishment. The
Majesty, I am ready to accept your judgment. But first, I beg you, hear me
out carefully. Your Majesty, when we were out in the field, you asked me
to tell you the name of that plant. There you were, standing before me, Royal
Highness, and I thought: By no means am I going to offend Your Majesty by
telling you the plant's true name, ‘malva’ – ‘ill-going’! So I told you that
the plant is called ‘bienva’ ‘well-going’:”
king was mollified, and he said to the Jewish minister: “You have vanquished
those of my ministers who wish you ill. I am pleased with your explanation.
And to commemorate this occasion, I hereby; dub you ‘Benveniste’ or 'welcome.'”