It has been a ver special weekend visiting SEGOVIA and TOLEDO with these two couples from Philadelphia. With a tight agenda we were visiting the cities, learning history, some shopping and some kosher local food…. a great combination.
Abarbanel House was also in our itinerary and we all enjoy with crossed stories.
Every year the Jewish Community of Ceuta invites to local authorities and representatives of the different cultures coexisting in this nice city(Hindu,Catholic and Muslim) to spend a Succa evening, enjoy and show to the rest of world what does coexisting consist of!!!
Anyone who has been visiting Spain has already realized about how typical are Fans here. You can find the from souvenirs stores to high end boutiques all across Spain (specially in the South of Spain, to be honest).
I found this street artist who decorated the fans with own hands as you can see in this video.
The Alcala Gate (La Puerta del Alcalá) is one of the most visited and iconic monuments in Madrid. Located in Plaza de la Independencia and just in front of the main entrance to Parque del Retiro (Retiro Park), this monument is the remaining of the Walls around city during the Kingdom of Felipe IV (Phillip IV) from 1625 to 1868. These were not defensive walls, but essentially served for fiscal and surveillance purposes: to control the access of goods to the city, ensure the collection of taxes, and to monitor who went in and out of Madrid. The materials used for construction were brick, mortar and compacted earth. From the arquitechtonical point of view it has a very singular construction as both sides are different.
It is always a special spot , full packed of tourists and locals trying to get a nice shot, and yesterday I was able to catch this image and wanted to share with you all.
Are you still thinking about visiting Madrid, Toledo and other cities? Come on, visit and you will be able to tell by yourself that you have visited one of teh most amzing cities in Europe!!
Those people visiting Madrid las weekend had opportunity to visit the Chocolate Fair (CHOCOMAD), a place for Chocolate lovers.
Personally, chocolate is not my favourite dessert (I prefer main courses more than desserts) but I have to say that it was a nice overview about how many different possibilities and World origins we may find for something like Chocolate, whcih is not so simple as we may think.
Last Saturday evening, motsae shabbat, the congregation Or Hayeladim of Madrid, commemorated the Hilula of Baba Sali.
The celebration stood with members of this congregation and some others in Madrid, who were able to enjoy about a tasty dinner and a surprise performance of the Tuna(university Music Band) of the Alcala de Henares University(Madrid).
When, after visiting Toledo, Cordoba or Girona, Jewish tourists arrive into Madrid, they often ask the locals where the Jewish quarter of the city was. Some respond with silence or an embarrassed “I do not know”. Others answer that in Lavapiés, the most widespread belief, but false. And is that, after centuries buried and unknown, the Jewish footprint in Madrid remains covered with a mantle of legend and mystery that historians, archaeologists and documentalists try to dismantle in recent years to a stroke of rigor.
“The reality is that even today, little is known about the Jewish past in Madrid,” says Enrique Cantera, a professor of Medieval History at UNED who specializes in medieval Judaism. What can be taken for granted? There is evidence of Jewish presence in the city at least since it was taken by the Christians in 1085. Alfonso VI had conquered just before the Muslim Toledo and from there they moved to Madrid Christians and Jews. That is why the majority of Jews from Madrid had origin in Toledo.
When they arrived, they installed themselves next to the Arab wall, in a small and poor suburb on which now rises – to the disgrace of the archaeologists – the Cathedral of the Almudena. It dictates the logic because the rest of Jewish of Castile were located physically near the royalty and, next to, was the famous Alcazar, burned down in 1734 in the space that now occupies the Royal Palace.
But, a few meters away, where the new Museum of Royal Collections stands today, the archaeologist who runs the excavations, Esther Andreu, has found three tracks of Hebrew presence. The first is a fragment of pottery with the drawing of a menorah, the Jewish seven-branched candlestick. The second, a jamb of a door, typical of Jewish homes, which serves to adhere a box with the mezuzah, a parchment with verses from the Torah. Andreu also discovered a system of closing of the houses that allowed to turn the zone into a watertight compartment and that already existed in Toledo in the zone of the sheds. “There is a medieval document that speaks of the ‘Castle of the Jews.’ We must understand that it was not a castle proper, but a place protected from the rest of the population,” Andreu says. What there are not are documents “with a description of the Jewry or the location of the synagogue”, says the director of the Archive of the Villa of Madrid, Maria del Carmen Cayetano.
The archaeologist Esther Andreu, before the Cathedral of the Almudena.
The archaeologist Esther Andreu, before the Cathedral of the Almudena. ÁLVARO GARCÍA
Were there Jews before, in the Muslim Magerit? “Without a doubt,” Rafael Gili, a professor at the Center for Documentation for the History of Madrid at the Autonomous University, was recently responding to a lecture on the Hebrew past of medieval Madrid. It seems to prove two documents from before the Christian conquest: a letter in which Simeon Ibn Saul announces to his brother the death of two Jewish friends and a missive sent from Syria to Egypt in which he asks for some known Jew in the city .
The Jews were mainly engaged in trade, finance and crafts. Its stores were located in Christian area. Very few did it to the agricultural activities (generally in the hands of Mudejar), although “some had own vineyards in the suburbs to be able to make kosher wine”, that must be elaborated by Jewish hands, explains Cantera. “There was even a trapper, but also a kind of Jewish elite, who was involved in lending and collecting taxes,” says Tomás Dilal, a doctor in Medieval History for UNED and a reference in the study of the city’s Hebrew past. They did not reach the rank of “neighbors” of the city and depended directly on the King, who protected them.
Baptized or die
All this collapsed in 1391, the year of the anti-Jewish pogrom started in Seville that left slaughters, looting and forced conversions of Jews and arrived in Madrid from the hands of enraged Toledo. They entered the Jewish quarter through the now-defunct Puerta de Valnadú, which the authorities had left open that night, and forced them to choose between being baptized or dying. There are no figures of victims or conversions, but ten years later the nuns of the convent that was erected in the Plaza de Santo Domingo (demolished at the end of the 19th century) complained to the monarch that they could not charge 3,000 maravedis of aljama Called the Jewry their own inhabitants) because the members who were still alive would have been baptized.
It was not quite like this. The Jewish community remained active in the fifteenth century. It dispersed to other places, such as Puerta Cerrada or Puerta del Sol, until in 1481 Jews and Mudejar people were forced to confine themselves in their own neighborhoods. It is estimated that there would then be more than 200 Jews in the city. Ten years later, the Catholic Kings forced them to convert to Catholicism or to leave. Some fled to Portugal, others were baptized, and not a few embraced the Christian faith in public while privately professing their true self. It was the end of the Jewish quarter. That is where the legend of Lavapiés appears. The neighborhood never hosted a Jewry because it was not built before the expulsion of the Jews. Nor is it true that the name of Lavapiés alludes to the ablutions made by the Jews before entering the synagogue in the fountain that occupied the place until the nineteenth century, especially since it is not the Jews, but the Muslims, who make a wash Ritual before entering your place of prayer. The historian Puñal believes that the extended and erroneous attribution of the Jewry to Lavapies comes from the romantic literature of century XIX, that looked for mythical origins to some districts, and the fact that enough of its inhabitants probably descended from converted Jews, as show some Trade union names.
“I am often asked if you can be Jewish in Spain. Of course, yes, without any difficulty.” This is expressed by Mario Javier Sabán, PhD in Philosophy and Anthropology and president of the Jewish cultural network Tarbut Sefarad, founded in Lleida, where he lives. He was born in Buenos Aires in 1966, but is nationalized Spanish. He is a Sephardic, a descendant of the Hebrews expelled in 1492. “My father was born in Smyrna, Turkey, there were 80,000 Jews and they all left.
How many Jews are there in Spain?
Today there will be about 30,000 but it is very difficult to calculate how many are descendants. There are no Spaniards without Jewish origins, almost all have some. At least about 25 percent, 10 million.
According to his calculations, how many Jews had to go in 1492?
The figures vary between 120,000 and 200,000. How many were there? Most probably became, nobody thought that the Inquisition would last 300 years, many became thinking that the policy would change. There were even Juderia where all became Christians. And it was not the first time. Those of 1492 increased the ranks of those who had already done so in 1391 and 1412. Perhaps there were 120,000 converts. In all, there would be half a million Jews, but the whole truth escapes us.
Many concealed their origins.
Yes, for fear of the Inquisition. Blood cleaning certificates were purchased. We know that in Toledo and Burgos were 40 percent of the population: the more Catholic a population, the more suspicious that there are converts because families tried to hide their origins. The parents of Teresa de Jesús or the mother of Fray Luis de León were Hebrews. In century XVI is given with the grandchildren of the conversos the last cultural element Jewish. Cervantes himself would have a Jewish imprint, but then who did not? The footprint is very large and now it is well valued.
Do you think there are still negative connotations?
No, I have never felt antisemitism in Spain, there are unintended phrases like ‘Judaized’, like ‘Sadduca trap’ or ‘You are a Pharisee’, but who says it does so without perceiving its meaning. The problem is ignorance: rather than negative predisposition, there are anti-Israel media, with negative information that affects the Jewish subject.
Is there hate and love between Spain and the Jews?
I think so. They often ask me out, people of Sephardic origin, if you can live as a Jew in Spain, and tell them of course, without problems. Because the memory they had is that they were expelled, but at the same time they kept the ladino, the old Castilian.
To what extent was expulsion a disaster?
I compared 1492 to an expulsion of Jewish Jews from the United States. This is what happened in Spain. They dominated finance, astronomy, cartography, philosophy, medicine in a very large cultural and economic development. In the United States Jews are less than 5 percent. In Spain they were more. It was a demographic and cultural catastrophe. There were cities that were left without doctors. It happened all over Europe, but not of this magnitude: there was less.
You are a cabalist. What is it?
It goes from the general understanding of the universe; On the one hand the Theosophical, which is equivalent to quantum physics, and studies the mystery of creation: why God created the universe and for what. As for the prophetic Kabbalah goes from the levels of consciousness and it would be psychology, what power of energy a person has and what he can grasp from reality. So on one side is the physical and on the other the individual.
The depressive Madrid of the first 40 was also a Madrid of secrets and intrigues, spies with monocle and clandestine activities. Under its privileged geographical situation, holding the interests of Nazis and allies, stories of alternative diplomacy are hidden; Double side of the exclusive Embassy. This confectionery of the Paseo de la Castellana, which brought together aristocrats, ambassadors and intelligence agents around tea, pastries and surveillance, closed its doors 86 years later.
The distinguished and exclusive British appearance of the place, founded in 1931, colored the city’s leaden landscape. It was the obsession of Margarita Kearney Taylor, owner of the same, who from the beginning tried to turn the area into an approximation of the elegant neighborhoods of London, such as Mayfair or Belgravia. Then, with the outbreak of World War II, he strove to give refuge and departure to those fleeing from the German Gestapo and SS.
The confectionery, also converted into a restaurant, was named “Embassy” because of its proximity to several embassies, especially the British and German embassies, the latter located a few steps away, next to the “Friedenskirche” IBM building. Their interests converged on the exclusive premises, witnessing a tense and superficial calm.
The Nazi deployment, led by Paul Winzer, head of the Gestapo, and Hans Lazar, head of propaganda in Spain, increased control and pressure in the area with the connivance of Francisco Franco. Germany, in this sense, even came up with an invasion to satisfy its strategic pretensions in the conflict. Kearney Taylor, along with the British ambassador Sir Samuel Hoare, turned his place into a refuge to alleviate the persecution suffered by anyone who was against the interests of the Nazis.
Embassy’s basement, which housed an oven for confectionery cakes, housed thousands of undocumented immigrants who received food, attention, and some money. It is estimated that the British embassy spent more than 1,000 pounds a day to undertake such an undertaking, which was eventually interrupted by several closures of the premises. Marguerite’s mood, Irish of elegant but firm appearance, did not waver.
Regarding the Jews, Embassy was constituted as their salvation and opportunity of flight. Franco never undertook a policy of persecution against them, but anyone who entered illegally into Spain was subject to arrest and deportation. About 30,000 people were evacuated, despite the harassment of the German embassy.
The Jewish community will celebrate next Saturday March 11th the Festivity of Purim, what some people calls “Jewish carnival”, with which they remember the salvation of the Hebrew people before the imminent annihilation in Babylon.
During this day, in all communities the story of Purim is told through public reading of the Book of Esther and fancy dress parties are organized as a Carnival.
The story goes back to the year 450 BCE, when King Ahasuerus, influenced by the slanders of his minister Haman, had decreed the end of the Jewish presence in his land for the same 14 of Adar; But Queen Esther, of Jewish confession, convinces Ahasuerus and the decree is revoked.
The origin of the word Purim, the Hebrew plural of the Persian Pers meaning “luck”, refers firstly to the fact that the date chosen for destruction was cast and, secondly, that the Jewish town.
From the Middle Ages, in the Jewish communities it is customary to represent the history of Purim in what is known as Purim Shpil. From this tradition has derived the celebration of Purim as a carnival.
Among the customs is the Mishloaj Manot, which consists of sending to friends and relatives of sweets such as Oznei Haman, biscuits characteristic triangular form, or Matanot the Evonim, which consists in offering charity and alms to the poor.
Jews living outside Israel gather in the synagogue where the reading of the Book of Esther is carried out three times in a row. During the reading, which is done in an entertaining and didactic, when naming the “evil Amán” is sounded a kind of rattle to “turn off the sound of that name.”