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The Jew's Views

Thoughts on a Golden Age for Jews in Spain

“>Centuries after Inquisition and expulsion, Jews once again hear “Bienvenidos an Espana!”
IRENA KARSHENBAUM

Be warned, should you keep kosher – travelling in Spain will probably be tough, as escaping eating pork is an effort just for the vegetarian. You’re fortunate, if you’re able to endure yourself on potato omelettes, cheese sandwiches and olives. Otherwise, you’ll be going starving. The notion of kosher has vanished in the Spanish collective memory – after all, the expulsion of the Jews happened an incredibly long time past.

A good example of just one memorable bus tour lunch menu was cheese and ham sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, ham sandwiches, pork sandwiches and grilled pork sandwiches. Chicken noodle soup at another roadside cafe, on close examination, had touches of ham.

And it’s also not like everyone can warn the exhausted traveller. The Spanish make an endeavor to talk English, but their English isn’t good enough to give thorough food descriptions. Nor do they understand they should. That which we take for granted in Canada, a nation built on Judeo Christian values, becomes glaringly evident in a Catholic state. In Canada, the initial thing offered on most menus is chicken, never pork. But before we are able to value the yang we must be faced with all the yin.

Don’t expect Spain to go kosher, ever. Niche marketing wasn’t needed by them to draw more tourists. The tourists are coming in droves. Spain is the 2nd most visited state in the whole world after France. Their population of 44 million nearly doubles with 40 million yearly visitors.

Other oddities that deserve reference is there’s no apple juice, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, tomato juice or, worse, ginger ale, although not of a kosher variety. The Spanish eat little ham sandwiches and drink coffee along with a Coke for breakfast. Paradoxically, Spain has among the planet’s longest life expectancy speeds, 84 for girls and 77 for men.

In Spain, pig legs hang everywhere, in tapas bars, cafes, grocery stores and souvenir shops. Both said it was a likely explanation. And though, travelling through Spain, the narrative frequently starts with all the Jews.

The region was afterwards settled by the Visigoths, who came from what’s now western Germany; the Arabs arrived last. Under Moorish rule, Jews, Christians and Muslims resided there calmly side by side.

In its height, Toledo had 1 of the nation’s biggest Jewish peoples and 11 active synagogues, two of which have lived; the others fell casualty to conversion. We walked along the streets of what was once the Jewish quarter, a spot with almost no Jewish signs aside from ceramic plates in memorabilia stores with Magen Davids and chanukiyahs. It was here that we came across a boarded-up, pale yellow building in the Mudejar architectural style. Our tour guide told us this was among the two remaining synagogues of Toledo.

The Muslims didn’t do far better under the expulsion.

Spain’s second-largest city, Barcelona, is also haunted by Jews, although nowadays it’s mainly packed with Russians. Here is the most packed of Spanish cities and the 3rd official language after Spanish and Catalonian is Russian. On arriving in Barcelona, we were paired using a tall, fair-haired, definitely Slavic- appearing taxi driver. My mom promptly asked him if he talked only Spanish, to strive find out whether he talked Russian. He refused everything in Spanish. As the cab pulled towards our resort, around Placa de Catalunya in the center of the city and in the end point of Las Ramblas, the town’s most famous road, my mom eventually extracted the truth from him, he was Russian. Everywhere we struck Russian refusal; Barcelonian Russians are afflicted with the extremely terrible inferiority complex, it appears.

Monjuic, interpreted as Hill of the Jews, is Barcelona’s biggest park and is home to many of the town’s jewels. I walked from our resort along Gran Via de les Cortis Catalanes to Placa d’Espanya. Around the other side of Placa d’Espanya is the foot of Monjuic. Monjuic additionally includes the Monjuic Castle, Joan Miro Museum along with the Olympic Stadium.

Spain is spectacularly lovely but has been off limits to Jews for 500 years. In this foreign land, the bravest of the courageous are slowly returning. Barcelona now has Chabad.

Many cities possess a Jewish Quarter. I seen the wonderful Jewish Quarter in the old city walls of Seville. Nowadays, it’s full of outdoor cafes lining narrow streets and little plazas and stores selling occasionally kitschy, occasionally wonderful mementos. As we walked through the roads of the wonderful old city, we discovered ourselves competing for space with a different tour group. I listened attentively and heard Hebrew.