Jewish-themed Passover celebrations are increasingly tourist draws in Iberian towns that have not had Jewish populations since the 1492 murders and expulsions.
In the center of the medieval Portugese town of Medelim, two newlyweds in Sephardic wedding clothes are serenaded by a musical ensemble performing Ladino (Sephardic language) music. Nearby several members of the knights Templar march in white capes and chain mail while a harlequin on stilts prances around carrying a pole topped with a Star of David.
The scene may have been familiar to someone living in Medelim 500 years ago, when the town had a large population of Sephardic Jews. But today there are no Jews in Medelim, their memory evoked solely by actors hired to play period roles during the municipally organized “Jewish and Christian Passover,” an annual cultural event held for the second time last month.
Occurring just months after both Portugal and Spain introduced legislation to naturalize Sephardic Jews, the festival is part of a growing embrace of Iberian Jewish heritage. Both countries have seen a surge in festivals celebrating Jewish culture, often timed to Jewish holidays such as Passover and Sukkot.
“In Portugal, there is much ignorance on how important Jews have been to our cultural roots, so events that familiarize people with Jewish traditions are welcome,” said Jose Antonio Oliveira, a geography lecturer at the Lusophone University of Humanities and Technologies in Lisbon who participated in a panel discussion at the Medelim event.
But there is also a financial aspect to the embrace of Jewish heritage. Local officials hope the events will raise the town’s profile and attract tourists.
Medelim’s tourism department hired Mor Karbasi, an Israel-born rising star on the world music scene, to perform in Ladino. Kosher wine, cheese and matzah were on sale in several stalls of the medieval-themed market set up around the festival compound. A boutique hotel called Sefarad had its grand opening. “This Jewish holiday and the popularity of restaurants and artisans are ideal for distinguishing Medelim in the region, which will generate economic value for our populations,” Albano Pires Marques, the president of Medelim’s local council, told Portuguese media at the event.
Medelim’s Passover event was one of several Jewish-themed celebrations held recently in Iberian towns with no Jewish populations. In October, the towns of San Juan and Rio Jerte in northwestern Spain held their first Sukkot festivals featuring Jewish foods, a crafts market and a fake Jewish wedding.
Last year, the Spanish town of Ribadavia hosted its first kosher Passover seder in centuries. Led by a Jewish historian, the dinner was attended by a mostly non-Jewish crowd and organized by local tourism officials who charged guests $40 a plate.
In February, lawmakers from the Spanish ruling party submitted a bill to the parliament of the Andalucia region that would encourage Jewish weddings at the 14th-century Cordoba Synagogue. The bill said the goal was to boost local tourism. But not everyone is happy with the embrace of Jewish heritage.
Rabbi Daniel Litvak of the northern Portuguese city of Porto said the Medelim event was born of a “desire to spread the idea that Portuguese people retain Jewish customs,” while in reality the festival “has nothing to do with Pesach and nothing to do with Jews.”
Abigail Cohen, an Israel-born bakery owner from the northern Spanish town of Hervas, said organizers of Jewish-themed events are more cash-hungry than interested in Jewish heritage.
“Recently, there has been a serious boost in interest by municipalities and other groups in Jewish-themed festivals, particularly during Jewish holidays,” said Cohen, who has lived in Spain for 30 years. “Simply put, it’s because it pays off and brings in the crowds.”
Her town was among Spain’s pioneer municipalities in the field. Each summer since 1996, Hervas has hosted The Feast of the Converted, a four-day event celebrating the cultural contributions of Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity during the Spanish Inquisition. “The town turns into a medieval Jewish village for four whole days,” Cohen said.
And while fun activities with a Jewish flavor are welcome, she said, organizers were not open to her offers to provide more in-depth explanations about Jewish holidays and customs during the festival. “They were not interested,” Cohen said. “The only part that they find important is the touristic element.”
Oliveira, the Portuguese university lecturer, said the Jewish festivals are a result of several factors beyond the economic one, including the gradual lifting of cultural taboos in place during decades of dictatorial rule. Oliveira also pointed to a growing realization that millions of Iberians are “in some form descended from Jews.”
Jose Carp, the president of Lisbon’s Jewish community, noted that about 20 percent of the Portuguese population in the 16th century was made up of Jews who, for the most part, converted and stayed in Portugal. “The Jewish genetic memory,” Carp said, “is the main reason Jewish festivities are celebrated throughout the year by Portuguese non-Jews.” But Medelim also has a potential tourist windfall in mind. The town is seeking membership in Rede de Judiarias de Portugal, a network of 19 Portuguese municipalities established in 2011 to help promote Jewish heritage tourism in the country.
A similar effort, Red de Juderias de Espana, is underway among 24 Spanish municipalities. Spain attracted 105,000 Israeli tourists in 2013 who spent an estimated $235 million. To be accepted, mayors must invest in their Jewish patrimony and tourism infrastructure. As a member, they can expect national and European grants along with free publicity from the tourism ministry.
Last year, the Portuguese network clinched nearly $7 million in special funding from European countries, a welcome addition to the budgets of municipalities hit hard by the financial crisis gripping Iberia. The network’s bosses estimate it has the potential to attract 300,000 tourists a year, yielding an income of $83 million.
But despite these obvious financial incentives, not everyone was quick to write off the efforts. Michael Freund, the chairman of the Israeli nongovernmental organization Shavei Israel, runs a Jewish heritage center in the Portuguese city of Trancoso as part of his outreach efforts to descendants of Jews. “Even if there is some economic motivation involved, I don’t think we should dismiss it,” Freund said. “For the most part, what Spain did to our people has been swept under the rug there. So when there’s a new effort to better understand the Jews who contributed so much to Iberia’s cultures, we should encourage and facilitate it.”
See pictures of gentiles playing the role of Jews
Spanish town with the name Kill the Jews is considering changing its name
The village of Castrillo Matajudios near Leon in northern Spain will convene its 60 resident families at a town hall meeting next week to discuss and vote on the first formal proposal to change the village’s name, the regional daily Diario de Burgos reported Friday. was changed during the Spanish Inquisition.
Bankrupt Spain in serious need of money and investments grants citizenship to Israelis who are descendants of expelled Sephardic Jews.
ALL EUROPEAN LIFE DIED IN AUSCHWITZ
The following article was written under the name Sebastian Vilar (or Vivar) Rodriguez and published in a Spanish newspaper a few years ago. The name is a pseudonym, and there is no record of who the real writer was.
I walked down the street in Barcelona, and suddenly discovered a terrible truth, Europe died in Auschwitz . . .
We killed six million Jews and replaced them with 20 million Muslims.
In Auschwitz we burned a culture, thought, creativity, talent. We destroyed the chosen people, truly chosen, because they produced great and wonderful people who changed the world.
The contribution of this people is felt in all areas of life: science, art, international trade, and above all, as the conscience of the world. These are the people we burned.
And under the pretense of tolerance, and because we wanted to prove to ourselves that we were cured of the disease of racism, we opened our gates to 20 million Muslims, who brought us stupidity and ignorance, religious extremism and lack of tolerance, crime and poverty, due to an unwillingness to work and support their families with pride.
They have blown up our trains and turned our beautiful Spanish cities into the third world, drowning in filth and crime.
Shut up in the apartments they receive free from the government, they plan the murder and destruction of their naive hosts.
And thus, in our misery, we have exchanged culture for fanatical hatred, creative skill for destructive skill, intelligence for backwardness and superstition.
We have exchanged the pursuit of peace of the Jews of Europe and their talent for a better future for their children, their determined clinging to life because life is holy, for those who pursue death, for people consumed by the desire for death for themselves and others, for our children and theirs.
What a terrible mistake was made by miserable Europe .
Approximately 1,200,000,000; that is ONE BILLION TWO HUNDRED MILLION or 20% of the world’s population are Muslims.
The Jews are NOT promoting brain washing children in military training camps, teaching them how to blow themselves up and cause maximum deaths of Jews and other non Muslims. The Jews don’t hijack planes, nor kill athletes at the Olympics, or blow themselves up in German restaurants. There is NOT one single Jew who has destroyed a church. There is NOT a single Jew who protests by killing people.
The Jews don’t traffic slaves, nor have leaders calling for Jihad and death to all the Infidels.
Perhaps the world’s Muslims should consider investing more in standard education and less in blaming the Jews for all their problems.
Muslims must ask ‘what can they do for humankind’ before they demand that humankind respects them.
Regardless of your feelings about the crisis between Israel and the Palestinians and Arab neighbors, even if you believe there is more culpability on Israel's part, the following two sentences really say it all:
‘If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel .” Benjamin Netanyahu
General Eisenhower Warned Us: It is a matter of history that when the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, found the victims of the death camps he ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead.
He did this because he said in words to this effect: ‘Get it all on record now, get the films, get the witnesses, because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.’
Recently, the UK debated whether to remove The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it ‘offends’ the Muslim population which claims it never occurred. It is not removed as yet. However, this is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it.
It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended. This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the, 6 million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians, and 1,900 Catholic priests who were ‘murdered, raped, burned, starved, beaten, experimented on and humiliated’ while the German people looked the other way.
Now, more than ever, with Iran , among others, claiming the Holocaust to be ‘a myth,’ it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.
Ominous signs in European culture
ORWELLIAN HISTORICAL FALSIFICATION NOW DEEPLY EMBEDDED IN OUR CULTURE - VICTIMS SEEN AS NAZIS, PERPETRATORS AS FREEDOM FIGHTERS
THE HISTORY OF JEWS IN SPAIN before the 1492 expulsion
THE EXPULSIONS - The Jews' expulsion had been the pet project of the Spanish Inquisition, headed by Father Tomas de Torquemada. Torquemada believed that as long as the Jews remained in Spain, they would influence the tens of thousands of recent Jewish converts to Christianity to continue practicing Judaism. The entire Jewish community, some 200,000 people, were expelled from Spain. In Portugal only eight Jews were actually expelled; tens of thousands of others were forcibly converted to Christianity on pain of death.
THE INQUISITION. While many people associate the Inquisition with Spain and Portugal, it was actually instituted by Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) in Rome. Thousands of Jews came to Portugal after the 1492 expulsion. A Spanish style Inquisition was constituted and tribunals were set up in Lisbon and other cities. (Many notable Jews) died at the hands of the Inquisition The Inquisition never stopped in Spain and continued until the late 18th century.