Yiddish in SPAIN


The Jews in Spain.


Jews in Spain

Spain has a long and illustrious Jewish heritage that dates back to the Muslim conquest of 711. There proved to be huge opportunities for Jews to thrive in a Muslim country. Jews contributed to Muslim Spain in a variety of ways, and the two faiths learned from each other, but particularly the Muslims learned from the Jews such things as craftsmanship as Jews were skilled tanners, metalworkers, goldsmiths, silversmiths, and jewellers.

Jews also excelled in the sciences, in particular medicine, and in particular the 10th century physician, Hasdai ibn Shaprut, who was probably one of the most influential people in Spain. Jews also excelled in scholarship, and they satisfied the Muslims hunger for knowledge by translating important Greek and Latin works into Arabic. Conversely, they allowed the rest of Europe to learn from the Muslims by translating Arabic texts into Hebrew and Latin. Not surprisingly then, there is a lot of evidence of the influence that Jews have had in Spain over the centuries.

The expulsion of the Jews.

The Jews thrived during the middle ages, until the time of the Spanish Inquisition in 1478. Many Jews were then forced to convert to Catholicism. In 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella ordered the expulsion of all Jews in Spain. There are still a number of towns that have evidence of Jewish occupation, and the attempts to eradicate them.

Barcelona’s Old City still has a lot of indicators that this was once a thriving Jewish community in the middle ages. For example, the street names include ‘Carrer de Montjuic’ or ‘Jewish Mountain Street’ and there are Hebrew inscriptions from eroded Jewish tombstones on walls. This Juderia is evidence of how the Jews were converted to Catholicism. Many of the street signs were changed in an attempt to catholicize them. For example, ‘Sant Domenec del Call’, is giving the Jewish Quarter a Catholic patron saint. There are a number of synagogues that survive, but they were built over during the expulsion. In fact, an 11th century example, the Synagogue Mayor, has been restored. It was found under the basement of a 17th century building within the Juderia.

Girona, has one of the best preserved Jewish Quarters in Spain and was once home to Spain’s largest Jewish population. It is also where the Kabbalah was first written down. There is a stunning museum; the Museum of Catalan Jewish History, that continues to have exhibits added to it as they are uncovered after being buried for over 500 years. Near to Girona is the town of Besalu that has one of the oldest mikvahs in Europe, dating back to the 12th century.

Tudela, near Zaragoza, was once an important Jewish cultural centre. It was home to a rabbinical school. In the Jewish quarter there is there is evidence of at least three synagogues and many other community buildings from medieval times.

Segovia is another medieval town that has evidence of Jewish daily life. However, it is for a far darker reason that this is worth a visit as part of any Jewish history quest. The fortress on the top of the hill is where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella signed the 1492 order to expel the Jews from Spain.

Toledo was another major Jewish cultural centre before the expulsion. However, unlike many other towns, the synagogues have survived with more of their beautiful adornments, and features intact. The two main synagogues to visit are the Transito (The Transit), and Santa Maria La Blanca (St Mary the White).

Cordoba was another major centre of learning during the Middle Ages. It had also been a capital city under the Romans and the Moors. In the Jewish Quarter there is evidence of the Jews and the Muslims living side by side in a number of the buildings, including a 14th century synagogue that is decorated in an Arab style that dates back to 1315 AD. However, it is most famous as the birth place of Maimonides, who was a great Jewish rabbi and renowned philosopher. He was born around 1135, and died in 1204.

It wasn’t until 1950 that Jews began to return to Spain. Since then, Jewish quarters have grown up in the majority of Spain’s larger towns and cities. Many of them are on the original medieval sites of the old Jewish quarters. You can now see newly built, or renovated synagogues, and thriving Jewish communities that have been rebuilt, after over 500 years of exile, all over Spain. Evidence of the medieval Jews is still being discovered.

There are an estimated 20,000 Jews in Spain.

“Anti-Semitism is clearly on the rise throughout the Western world. It is a comeback of the old virus in a new shape, focused against Israel,”

Violent anti-Israeli activity took place in June 2010 when a mob of roughly 200 anti-Israel activists assaulted Israeli businessmen at a renewable energy conference sponsored by the Spain-Israel Chamber of Commerce at Madrid’s Autonomous University.

David Hatchwell Altaras.

Jewish Community of Madrid

“You do not lie or exaggerate to defend Israel”

The president of the Jewish community in Madrid, David Hatchwell Altaras, assured the Jewish Agency for News (AJN) that the Jewish world must unite to fight the three battlefronts public-the media, political and legal- that “are being waged to delegitimize Israel, trying to become the Jew among nations, a sort of international pariah.”

“The good thing about this battle is that you do not lie or exaggerate to defend” the Jewish state, but enough to “know the reality.”

Hatchwell reported the existence of an “anti-Israel lobby that works systematically to political parties to demonstrate that the Jewish state no respect for the United Nations” and “creating a network of lawyers, anti-Israel, which met a few weeks ago in Turkey, “to claim to Jerusalem in different international tribunals for alleged crimes against humanity.

“The law is an instrument in the battle to delegitimize Israel,” and in that order “legal campaigns are taking place well-structured and financed from the State of Israel, also in Spain,” but “Israel has been advocating for courage and bravery of a number of lawyers who have been working consistently, “said the president of the Jewish community of Madrid, who warned that” this is only the beginning of a critical phenomenon of asymmetrical warfare to try to neutralize the enemy and grow stronger in the XXI century. ”

Regarding the media front, Hatchwell said “war of words and delegitimize” the Jewish state “that is going on following the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and “without a doubt, Spain is the place in Europe where the battle being waged so stronger. ”

House of Israel.

In this regard, the president of Madrid’s Jewish community said that “in Spain, as in large parts of the world, there is great ignorance of what the Jewish world and historical re-creation is the State of Israel” because “we lived 500 years without a Jewish presence, from the Inquisition, and it shows that there is an ideology of what the Jew without really knowing. ”

Thus, “recalls a wistful way that past of Jews that no longer exist and many people look in a fairly rarefied what is modern Judaism does not understand the values it has brought to humanity in the last few thousand years .

In this context, “the media give the public more of what he wants to hear, generating a view that is becoming far more radicalized” against Israel, analyzed Hatchwell, for whom the press “in Spain is not sufficiently objective and professional, and practical activism, whether right or left so open. ”

“Unfortunately, Israel and anti-Semitism many times, in this media battle.”

The president of Madrid’s Jewish community said that “overall, the coverage we see on the left-wing press in Spain is the worst in the Western world,” while “among the media center there are some who are involved with a lot of objectivity” .

The Arab-Israeli conflict is a complex and lengthy, and most viewers and readers do not have the knowledge to judge, but nevertheless it does and that’s part of the problem, “Hatchwell analyzed.

Ante this great battle of ideas being waged now and will go for more, the Jews of the XXI century we have risen “to” consolidate the State of Israel and teach the reality that there lives “, so it is very important that the various Jewish communities around the world to see what we mean well and work as a team because we are stronger together. ”

Hatchwell in front of House of Israel.

“When all is said and done, we are defending the freedom of human beings and be counted with the support of” our non-Jewish neighbors, “who are” great allies, by definition, in this way of life we have in Western countries where human rights are respected, “said the president of the Jewish community in Madrid.

Hatchwell accompanied the Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora of Israel, Yuli Edelstein, in the first leg of his South American tour in recent weeks.

The reason for his “successful trip” to Brazil and Argentina was “to know these important communities and collaborate, from Spain and the initiatives” of that ministry, “at a time not easy for Israel”, which is “crucial” that the ties between the Diaspora and the Jewish state “is increasingly strengthened.”


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