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.

Hope to see you soon here.

The #Angel of El Cairo: Angel Sagaz

Spain flag press

The #Spanish government saved 1,500 Egyptian Jews after the Six Day War. Made well known, but little publicized, it deserves a memorial on the fiftieth anniversary of this crucial Arab Israeli contest.

At the outbreak of hostilities (June 1967), Spain was discreetly required from various Jewish organizations to mediate for the Hebrews of belligerent Arab nations. The move made sense: to go to a country close to the Muslim and that did not recognize the State of Israel, but contrary to the Soviet Union and in which the situation of the Jews evolved favorably.

Thus, Franco temporized. And while declaring himself in favor of the Arab position and the return of the Palestinian refugees, he instructed his embassies in the area to assist the Jews who demanded protection from them, as well as providing them with documentation to expatriate upon request. Solidarity not restricted to Spanish Jews, as in the 1956 Suez conflict, but open to any Israelite.

A strictly humanitarian aid, which would be agreed with the local authorities. Spain did not alter its policy. And the refugees would use it as a transit point, with a visa for two years and with the commitment not to travel to Israel immediately.

The operation was especially successful in Egypt, the most affected place of this crisis. Since President Nasser, the leader of Pan-Arabism, was leading the offensive against Israel. But the Spanish ambassador in Cairo, Angel Sagaz, honored his name and surname.

Sagaz succeeded in improving the conditions of many Jewish returnees, and permission to leave the country of all those who requested it; Hundreds of these, after being released from prison thanks to their efforts.

More than six hundred and fifteen Jewish families left Egypt. Bureaucracy and transport were initially financed by Spain. And when Sagaz saw that the expatriates were forced to discard even their jewels, he offered the embassy as a depository of personal effects, then invoiced them by diplomatic pouch.

Even some local synagogue objects were sent to Madrid with the help of the embassy; Although Sagaz declined the request to take refuge of certain pieces of singular historical value, to avoid a patrimonial litigation with the Egyptian government.

The gesture was grateful for Jewish organizations around the world, and recognized by the US administration. And although the intervention had to be reserved, it was glossed in the main headlines of the Yankee press; Whose echo picked up in Spain the ABC.

It was not the first time that the Jews were aided by the Franco regime. That after the independence of Morocco it even favored the Zionist cause unexpectedly through Operation Yakhin, by which 25,000 Moroccan Hebrew were received in Spain way of Israel.

History, as we see, has its folds. Same as the fifty years of headlines who still carry those six days of war. Today Israel celebrates its resounding victory, and with it the “50th Anniversary of the Liberation and Reunification of Jerusalem”. But they know full well that this was a triumph as imperative as it was poisoned.

In 1967, the Israelites moved from persecuted people to an imperialist state, with a million pariahs in their new territories. This made military success a political stigma. So reasonable is the euphoric memorial documentary In Our Hands, like the self-critical Censored Voices of two years ago.

Reasonable would also be a good film about Sagaz, Angel of Cairo; Although his help started from the Franco regime. Would it breach the Law of Historical Memory? Let us listen, meanwhile, to the interview with historian Isidro González on the subject. And let’s read the monograph by Professor Raanan Rein. Or to Jacobo Israel Garzón, who in 2005 signed:

“As in the case of the transit of Moroccan Jews through Spain, it is necessary to study in detail the important role played by the Spanish Government in improving the situation of Jews in the Arab countries. Within the context of the Franco regime’s controversial relations with the Jews over forty years, the role of the Spanish Government in saving or improving the living conditions of Jews in Egypt, Iraq or Libya is a positive and demonstrable”.

And if, since the Spanish dictatorship, more could be done, the Western democracies did less to their shame. Something of what still must have hurt, as Ortega bravely grieved in 1910 for not having defended the old Jewish watchmaker on that train to Berlin.

Anti-Semitism, Ortega recalls, is a serious scourge of history. Because everything, in fact, has the right to be what it is: the Jew with his Bible, the Moor with his Koran, we are something else and even the Syrian refugees who embarrass us today with his ordeal. Even Spain has the right to be what it is. let’s have #Hatikvah.


Commemoration of Yom Hashoa in Madrid

YOM HASHOA 2017 MADRIDThe emotional act was celebrated before the Holocaust Memorial, which was erected 10 years ago by the architect Alberto Stisin and the author of the work Samuel Nahon, representing the will to defend freedom and human rights.

The installation of the laurel wreath by the Deputy Mayor of Madrid, Marta Higueras, Daniel Kutner, Israeli Ambassador and Eva Benatar, a relative of the survivor of the Shoah, began the ceremony accompanied by the choir singing of the CJM.

Then the children of the Talmud Torah (Jewish school) have read in Spanish and Hebrew the poem ‘Every man has a name’, which appeals to the honor of the dignity of the Jewish people in the Holocaust and has continued to read testimonies Of Jews who lived the years of repression.

In the presence of councilors, government delegates, presidents of Jewish organizations, Holocaust survivors and members of the Jewish Community of Madrid, Raphael Benatar, Secretary and Spokesperson of the Jewish Community, stated that “Nazism was the closest thing to Nightmare that we can try to imagine as hell on earth, so, despite the passage of time we have an obligation to remember never to forget.

He also stressed that “the Jewish community will continue to stand firm against anti-Semitism, but faithful to the values ​​that our heroes, the survivors have left us: love, unity, work, study, memory and above all a bit of resentment and vengeance” .

Isaac Revaah, a survivor of the Holocaust, and saved by the hero Sebastián Romero Radigales, Spanish Consul in Athens, was present at the event, excited to remember the hundreds of millions who lost their lives 74 years ago.

After the reading of the prayer Malé Rajamim (Lord Merciful) on the part of the Great Rabbi of Spain Moshe Bendahan, and after keeping a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the tragedy, the act finished with the intervention of young people of the Center Ibn Gabirol and the interpretation of the theme “Elí Elí” by the choir.

Spain aided to thousands of Jews to save their lives

ESPANA-AYUDO-JUDIOS-CLANDESTINA-MELILLA_EDIIMA20170409_0114_4There was a few years ago, when the clandestine passage to the land promised through Melilla was consented by Spain, instead of curbing it with a fence, because then what it was about was to help those fleeing from neighboring Morocco : An exodus of at least 5,000 Jews.

A story that until recently was almost unknown even in Melilla itself, as told to Efe the president of the Socio-Cultural Association “Mem Guímel”, Mordejay Guahnich, and the historian who coordinates the Sephardic Project in Melilla (Sefamel), Maria Elena Fernández.

Spain allowed some 250,000 Jews to flee clandestinely from Morocco through Ceuta and Melilla in the middle of the last century.

“Something we have uncovered now to make it known” in Melilla, explains the president of this association on Sephardic Jewish culture.

The regime of Franco was little friend of the newly created State of Israel, but also did not see anything well to Morocco after its independence of Spain and France, reason why it did not persecute these Jews, whom in Ceuta they were even applauded to them when they arrived .

But in Melilla, the other Spanish city in North Africa, “it was a very quiet step” and not even the Jews of the city “knew they had arrived,” explains Mordejay Guahnich.

“That clandestine passage for Melilla was totally secret”, he emphasizes.

The Moroccan Jews arrived at night and on the following day departed for Gibraltar, by boat mainly, from there to continue their journey to Marseilles (France) and finally to the Israeli port of Haifa.

The dates of that exodus and the names of its protagonists are recorded in military archives in Melilla, where “Mem Guímel” has been working, looking at about a hundred declassified documents, although now many have been re-classified.

Through them he has discovered that there were at least 5,000 who passed through the city.

The documents themselves, although detailing names and dates, qualify this step of clandestine, underlines Fernandez.

The historian remembers that as now with the subsahariana immigration on the fence, also then “the pressure was very much” in the border.

Only at that time there was a kind of “tacit agreement” and instead of impeding the passage, the security forces allowed.

“Possibly we did not bother because they were not going to stay here,” he says, and even in those documents there are testimonies of thanking the support of the Civil Guard.

At the beginning, around 1955, Morocco let them leave with a passport, but then realizes that it is losing a lot of people and decides to cut off that migratory flow “of people who went on vacation and did not return”, comments the researcher.

He stops giving passports and it is the Mosad, one of the Israeli secret services, that comes to the rescue of the Hebrews who want to leave at all costs.

They left behind pots on the fire, pretending that they had not left their houses, but in fact they had left alone with what was left in a suitcase.

Other families were divided not to leave all together and not to raise suspicions.

They arrived in groups of 30 to 40 from Casablanca, Tangier or Fez the majority, traveling hundreds of kilometers in buses that left them near Melilla “with great danger, because to be in those moments stopped in Morocco it was equivalent to him to spend several years of jail” , Reveals the historian.

They said they came to weddings, religious holidays or to visit relatives, in a drip that from 1956 to 1962 saw at least 5,000 per Melilla.

“In Melilla there were none left, they spent 24 hours sparingly,” in Fernandez’s words, because their goal was Israel, although afterwards life would take them to some even to America.

“Mem Guímel” has contacted them in Israel, but others have found them in Panama, Venezuela or Argentina.

A misfortune had to come, the tragic sinking of Price in 1961, one of the ships fleeing from Melilla, to break the news of this irregular immigration and unleash the wrath of Morocco, with the consequent conflict with Spain for consenting to it .

The Price is still not clear and that is why Semafel is still investigating his story, as well as the thousands of Jews who once had a pleasant step in Melilla to their dreams.

The end of Embassy”, the confectionery in Madrid that saved 30,000 Jews in IIWW

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.