What about leaving the country where your family lived for fifteen centuries? Sephardic Jews had never imagined that they should leave even though it was not easy to be a Jew in Spain, everyone knew the limits to freedom and dreamed that the day would come In which they could overcome them. But an expulsion, they had never contemplated that terrible possibility.
Community leader Don Yitzhak Abarvanel fought fervently for kings to review the tragic measure without success. He tried to prove that the Jews were true Spaniards, who had come before the Christians to the Iberian peninsula and that Spain was their true home, their home.
The arguments of Abarvanel were certain, the presence of the Jews in Spain goes back to the first centuries of the common era. The epigraphic demonstration of the origins is obtained through the tombstone with trilingual inscriptions, Latin, Greek and Hebrew, of the 2nd and 3rd centuries found in Tortosa, during the Roman Empire. The tombstones abound in Jewish symbols of the time and prayers in Hebrew.
But there are other sources that relate that in the year 953, the Jews of Pumbedita, place of high Talmudic studies of Babylon, sent a letter to the Jews of Spain, that has been found in the “Guenizá”, place that are saved Texts and sacred symbols so as not to deteriorate, in which it was stated that the Jews of Babylon were aware of the existence of Jewish communities in Spain and praised their knowledge and wisdom.
Other comments tell that from even older times, some believe that it was necessary to go back to the times of King Solomon, the Jews went from the east to the extreme west known at that time. These theories are related to the trips made by the Phoenicians in the Mediterranean Sea for commercial purposes. In these periods, which even reached the port of Barcelona, the Hebrews took part in these voyages because of the excellent political and commercial relations that the kingdom of Israel had developed with the rulers of Phenicia.
The Jews who arrived in Spain in Roman times were merchants and others arrived as slaves. As soon as they settled they began to build their small communities, their eyes witnessed how the great Roman empire succumbed until the Visigoths obtained the final victory. They lived with pagan society, then with Arian Christianity, who at first accepted the Jews without major problems, but at the end of the sixth century, with the spread of Catholicism began the persecutions. It was a difficult century for the Jews, their customs and beliefs were constantly attacked and even declared illegal, many opposed with stoicism, others had to flee.
The irruption of the Muslim armies from the south in the eighth century drastically changed the situation, quickly dominated the peninsula, cornered the Visigoths in the north and did not oppose the freedom of the Jews; On the contrary, they were invited to be part of the new administration, in the conduct of cities, to enter the academic field, and to their institutions. A new world was opened for the Jews, they could freely live their lives without oppression, it was on the eve of one of the great events of humanity, the “Spanish Golden Age.”
Prof. Yehuda Krell