I felt so honoured to have the possibility of spending a beautiful with a Shoa survivor and her charming family.
All things religious aside, the star of Holy Week in Spain is pastry. Ask tourists and the first thing many remember about a Spanish Easter is its pastries; the unmistakable smell of freshly baked cakes that brings to mind good ol’ traditional grandma’s cooking and that impregnates any street in the old quarters of cities and towns. A mixed smell of musk, incense, orange blossom, honey and baked puff pastry and fried dough in olive oil.
For the majority of tourists arriving in Spain in Easter, those pastries are an exquisite and calorific novelty that they can’t seem to stop eating but for Spaniards – whatever their religious denomination – that kind of sweet culinary art makes them, for a few days a year at least, relive the memory of the flavours of their childhood. It’s 100% authentic gastronomy, guaranteed by the legacy of the recipe books implanted in Spain over many centuries by the three major cultures and monotheistic religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. In fact, everything in Spanish gastronomy is nothing more than a great puzzle of Arabic, Hebrew and Christian-Latin pieces that have evolved together.
And Holy Week in Spain unites many elements: tradition, religion, history, the change of season marked by the arrival of spring and, of course, gastronomy.
This particular branch of gastronomy is essentially embodied in cakes and pastries. Dried fruits, honey, sugar, cinnamon, oil, sesame, green anise; they are ingredients from three different culinary cultures and three different civilizations covering the two shores of the Mediterranean, from the Middle East to Southern Europe, passing through North Africa.
These traditional pastries (torrijas, pestiños, hornazos, gañotes, roscos, buñuelos), although consumed in Spain over the Christian festival of Easter, do not have a Christian origin, but rather Jewish and Muslim beginnings. Moreover, many of these pastries and their ingredients are shared in the major festivities of the three great religions (Holy Week, Jewish Passover and Ramadan). Not to mention the fact that often the best cake shops and bakeries of the Holy Week are located in the old Jewish quarters and in the areas with more apparent Muslim vestiges.
Toledo is known as ‘the city of the three cultures’ because for more than 1,000 years it has been home to Christians, Jews and Muslims. The same can be said for other Spanish towns such as Seville, Granada or Cordoba, with similar historic periods of coexistence.
In Toledo, Baker Abderrahman Cañabate is currently in charge of the quality control department of the Horno de Santo Tomé, hailed by many of the most famous international gastronomic guides as “the best pastry shop in the city”. Its prestige relies on its technique, as its pastries and marzipan are prepared in the traditional way and using only the same original ingredients as were to be found almost two centuries ago.
Cañabate’s boss is Ana de Mesa Gárate. She is the seventh generation to wear the white clothes and apron in her typical Christian family, “although it is possible that the origin of the surname De Mesa originates from Converted Jews”, she thinks aloud.
Young Ana, however, is more than just a bakery owner. With a university degree in History, she has good knowledge of the past “and of its influence in the present”, she explains. Horno de Santo Tomé is located in the Jewish quarter of the town, which is accessible via a meandering labyrinth of ascending and descending stone alleys, including Santo Tomé Street itself, next to the Catholic church of the same name. The Christian temple (which even in the early hours of the morning is crowded by tourists visiting ‘The burial of the Count of Orgaz’, one of the most famous paintings of El Greco and exhibited inside) is actually built on the site of a Muslim mosque, and a few meters away from probably the most famous Jewish synagogue in Spain, the Transit Synagogue.
The case of Baker is even more characteristic and striking. He comes from Granada, but has been living in Toledo for many years. He is a Muslim, son of a Jordanian father and a Spanish mother of a Christian family. “You see, and even funnier: my name is Baker,” he tells us, laughing uncontrollably at the reference to the translation of his name into Spanish.
“I am a religious person in my own way… I observe the month of Ramadan, but that’s all. I don’t pray all day, every day. Because here every religion retains its values, and then you get to make pastries and you realize that it is ridiculous to believe that you are exclusive and different, and that you have the absolute truth. Everything is much simpler, it is about mutual respect, nothing else.”
“Here’s a simple example,” he explains. “One of our star products here in the shop is what we call anguila” (a cake shaped like an eel with the face of coiled dragon, made of marzipan and stuffed with seasonal fruit jam and candied spaghetti squash). “It´s quite a popular cake here in Toledo during Holy Week, but as Easter coincides with the Jewish Passover and many Jewish clients order it, on these days we draw a few scales on it with marzipan before putting it in the oven. Why? To turn it into a kosher cake: the Torah prohibits the consumption of fish without scales “.
There are two coexisting theories about the very origin of the name of the most recognized pastry of Toledo, the marzipan. According to one, the word marzipan comes from the Arabic term ‘mautabán’, which means ‘seated king’. The truth is that the shield of the city of Toledo is composed of a two-headed eagle and two kings sitting in an armchair. The other theory takes us to the Christian convent of San Clemente, also in the Jewish quarter and located only 200 meters from the Horno de Santo Tomé. The Christian tradition affirms that during a terrible famine in the 12th Century, the nuns of this convent gave the poor the only thing they kept in their pantries, almonds and sugar, which they milled with a mallet to make a kind of sweet bread (hence the Spanish name ‘mazapán’: bread made with a mallet or ‘pan de mazo’). However, the almonds were introduced to Spain by Arabs, and the term marzipan is also already mentioned in ‘The Thousand and One Nights’.
Millions of tourists flock to Spain every year from all over the world to witness for themselves the distinctive features of Spanish Easter, whose peculiarity and appeal is not only due to the most striking and somehow folkloric elements that compose it (the Nazarenes, flamenco music and military marches or religious pieces of art), but also to the intertwined vestiges of what Moors, Jews and Christians left behind in the form of buildings, art, music and, of course, food.
The history of pre-existing civilizations often behaves like an air bubble trapped in the depths of the Earth. As more sediments layover them, they will usually end up emerging to the surface in some way.
This is what happens in Spain with the three great monotheistic cultures and religions that for almost a millennium reigned over a region that was more territory than country per se. Three different religions with origins so close that it is often impossible to dissociate them.
In present-day cities like Toledo, Seville, Granada, Cordoba, Caceres or Valencia (to mention but a few), hiding the cultural heritage of centuries of shared lives, peaceful coexistence and bloody clashes between Jews, Moors and Christians does not only deprive these cities of chances of economic development and social progress in the 21st century, but, fundamentally, it is impossible to do so, given history’s winning habit of constantly re-emerging and re-inventing itself.
In one episode of The Simpsons, the family travels to Israel, and thus spoke Homer to a multitude of Christians, Jews and Muslims congregated around him: “Some of you do not eat pork. Others do not eat shellfish. But there is something that links us. We agree that we all love chicken. Chicken is our point of union “.
Juan Pedro Manzano for euronews
The president of Castilla-La Mancha, Emiliano García-Page, announced on Tuesday afternoon that, “very soon, before the summer”, will open to the public the “Taller del Moro”(Workshop of the Moor), XIVth-century ceremonial hall “unequaled” As Center of Interpretation of Mudéjar Art in Spain.
The Mayor of Toledo, Milagros Tolón, was also present during the presentation of the book “Toledo, Jews, Curiosities, Myths and Enchantments”, in addition to its author, José Ignacio Carmona.
Precisely, it has been directed by García-Page to announce that the Museum Workshop of the Moor of Toledo, the only civil monument of the first half of the fourteenth century that has been preserved and that has been closed for more than a decade, will open before the summer As a center of interpretation of Mudejar art in Spain, which will be an even greater incentive to visit the city.
The head of the regional government has highlighted in his speech the close relationship between Toledo and the Jewish world throughout history, not to overlook that it was in this city where he was expelled, although he has emphasized this expulsion “do not Expelled from our soul “.
Pride of Toledo
That said, the regional president has proudly emphasized that Toledo is known as the Jerusalem of the West, which houses the two most important synagogues in Europe – the Transit and Santa María la Blanca – and that the models of these two Buildings are present in the Museum of Jewish History of Tel-Aviv.
Garcia-Page has emphasized that this is another sign that Toledo is a “unique city for the Jewish world,” which has been present in the history of Europe for the last two thousand years and feels “spiritually united” to Jerusalem, Where 40 percent of the Jewish rite is Sephardic.
In this context, he also stressed that the Palace of Fuensalida, which today houses the presentation of the essay “Toledo: Jews, curiosities, myths and enchantments”, is 500 years older than the political capital of Israel.
Referring to the book, the head of the autonomous government has augured “a great success,” because, as he said, “everything that means to delve into the legend, the rites, in history and in the wealth that means believing in something, In a world that often does not believe in anything, is extraordinary. “
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.
Casa Sefarad-Israel hosted an event organized by the Association of Friends of Israel. The event was attended by personalities such as Israel’s Ambassador for Spain and Andorra, Daniel Kutner; The Secretary of State for the Middle East, Manuel Gómez-Acebo or the mayor of Jaén, Javier Márquez.
It was an attempt to give an account of the work done during the last year and to present two more associations. The event was enlivened by the musical intervention of Dani Toledano, Víctor Monge and José Antonio Cano “Chiki”. Juan de la Torre and Eva Garcia-Ron, co-founders of the Association of Friends of Israel in Spain, presented the participants, after reviewing the activities they have organized throughout 2016. Juan de la Torre thanked the newspaper LA RAZON the possibility that they have been given to publish in our blogs.
The first association presented to the two hundred people who filled the halls was the Andalucía-Israel Friendship Association. A long run that was run by its president, Erik Domínguez, deputy mayor of the municipality of Guarromán, and the councilman of the city of Seville, Rafael Belmonte. His aim, he said, is “to foster relations between Andalusia and Israel, to value the Jewish legacy in Andalusia, to combat anti-Semitism and Judeophobia and to honor the memory of the Shoa,” said Domínguez, who also pointed out that Andalusia and Israel “Share their love of culture.” In addition, Domínguez wanted to make clear that the BDS association, which advocates a boycott of Israel and its products and companies, can not be accepted by any public administration, since the Spanish Constitution “does not discriminate on grounds of origin.”
The Israel-Spain friendship, like an old and large leafy tree
For his part, the president of the Basque Association of Friends of Israel (AVAI ILEE), Jon Gotzon Laburu, toured the history of the friendship between the Basque Country and Israel and initiatives that have been carried out, such as calling To a “Plaza Sefarad” square, as well as having a souvenir for those “Basque heroes who helped save Jews”, in whose memory there is even a commemorative plaque in the port of Haifa.
“Putting a flag of Israel in an act in the Basque Country is not easy,” he explained to the audience, who interrupted this degree in Information Sciences and a master’s degree in Business and Communication Management on numerous occasions.
The Israel-Spain friendship, like an old and large leafy tree
The Secretary of State for the Middle East, Manuel Gómez-Acebo, affirmed that “the relationship between Spain and Israel is not only the relationship between two governments, but that it is between societies” and called them “rich and varied”. He also pointed out that “they are sometimes overshadowed by the more political aspect of the matter”. For Gómez-Acebo “there is still much to do, especially to make themselves known to each other.” Thus, the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated that “in Spain has to shed more and more the image of Israel as a democratic country that is.” He also recalled the regional forum of foreign ministers that took place in January in Barcelona, attended by 43 countries, including Israel. “In Spain we continue working for the idea of respect for the memory of what Sefarad was,” he added.
Israeli ambassador Daniel Kutner said: “Friendship with Israel, which spreads throughout Spain, is like a large, ancient tree. It has roots that at first glance can not be seen, but it also has a trunk Strong and large and small branches. It is a tree to be taken care of, to provide water and fertilizers. “
The Archbishopric of Toledo will not give up, for the time being, the Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca – one of the most visited monuments in this city -, to the Federation of Spanish Jewish Communities as it has requested. A petition that the Spanish Jews have been formulating since 1992, when the Vatican ordered the then archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Marcelo González Martín, to start talks with the State of Israel that did not fruition.
The last contacts between the current archbishop, Braulio Rodríguez, and the president of the Federation of Spanish Jewish Communities, Isaac Querub, were in November 2016. Since then, Querub has been making public statements claiming this historic building built in the century XII.
The Archbishop of Toledo has settled the matter on Thursday with a communique in which it suggests to the Jewish Community to go to the State to request the transfer of another important synagogue of Toledo, the one of Tránsito, very close to the one of Santa Maria the White.
Tickets, Franc and women of bad life
The Archbishopric of Toledo also wanted to clarify that this synagogue, transformed into a Christian temple in the fourteenth century, became part of the assets of the Catholic Church in 1929 during the reign of Alfonso XIII, reason why denied that it was General Franco Who gave it to her. In addition, the church hierarchy of Toledo declines to maintain the ownership of the synagogue for a collection purpose.
The entrance costs 2.5 euros but various groups and tourist agencies benefit from discounts. In addition, according to archbishopric data, the income obtained serves to maintain the synagogue itself, to pay for works in other temples and to pay religious figures.
The Santa María Blanca Synagogue, which over the centuries has also been used as a refuge for women repentant of their bad life, barracks and warehouse of the Royal Treasury, will remain a tourist attraction more than Toledo but in the hands of the Church , Not the Jewish Community. Curiously, it was Muslim and non-Jewish masons and masons who built it.