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Issues of the Day Days Five Through Eight in Spain: Discovering a Jewish Place

Following the PH conference in Barcelona (see my previous post, An International Community Fights Breathlessness), I visited Madrid for four days, included two day-tours outside of the city. The first excursion was a visit to the monastery and royal burial grounds of the Spanish monarchs at Escorial. We then continued to Toledo, a former garrison city of much historical drama and an eye-opener for me.

Toledo was the center of La Convivencia, the period of coexistence when Christians, Jews and Moslems resided in a spirit of tolerance and coexistence. That period came to a screeching halt in 1492 when the monarchs, Isabel and Ferdinand, were swayed by religious fanatics and began to uproot all non-Catholics in the kingdom.  Jews, whose communities had been residing in these lands for 1,500 years, were told that they could either convert  to Catholicism or they would be expelled or killed. This was the age of the Inquisition, Spain became judenrein, and the entire Jewish world would never again be the same. Murderous intolerance and bigotry won the day.  

In Toledo, I visited the Santa María la Blanca Synagogue, designed by Moslem architects in the Moorish style. As I walked through the former Jewish quarter, now nearly barren of Jewish communal life, I thought of how great a tragedy the Inquisition and the Expulsion had been, from a Jewish point of view. Our Spanish guide expressed similar sentiments, bemoaning the loss of the Jewish population of Spain, which had been an "abominable historical mistake" as he termed it.

Alas, I thought, for both Jews and Spaniards.

I felt the same thing in Sergovia, the site of the Alcazar palace, in whose shadow the former Jewish quarter, the Judería, houses a few relics of former Jewish life in the city.

Our guide there also expressed lament for the loss of the Jews in Spain.

It is a  feeling I share, for both Jews and Spaniards.

International Community Fights Breathlessness of the Day

© Yosef Gotlieb, . All rights reserved