This is were my ancestors came from and were tortured killed by the Inquisitors in Spain

Spain’s Jewish ‘ghost towns’ seek a boost from living Jews

Historically Jewish towns in Spain look to Jewish tourism to revitalize their economies. But support for BDS may hamper those efforts.


 Old synagogue in the Spanish town of Ribadavia

Old synagogue in the Spanish town of Ribadavia

Cnaan Liphshiz

RIBADAVIA, Spain JTA – Overlooking the confluence of two rivers near the Spanish-Portuguese border, this small and picturesque town has more Jewish institutions than some European capitals.

In the historic Jewish quarter of Ribadavia, the sounds of nearby waterfalls echo among cobblestone streets featuring attractions that are found nowhere else in the northern region of Galicia, including a Jewish museum, a medieval synagogue, a kosher wine shop and even two Jewish bakeries.

Despite the municipality’s significant investment in its Jewish heritage sites, however, this scenic town is missing one crucial element that could make the effort financially viable: Jews, and Jewish tourists especially.

Located 43 miles from an international airport, Ribadavia, whose once-significant Jewish population disappeared centuries ago, is pulling in only about 20,000 tourists a year, most of them Spanish non-Jews. Even on sunny weekends its streets are often empty and its inexpensive street markets see few foreigners.

Part of Spain’s struggling Red de Juderias, a network of some 20 cities with Jewish quarters or major heritage sites, Ribadavia typifies both the potential for opening such culturally rich locales to wider audiences and the challenges that have obstructed plans to do so since the Red’s creation two decades ago.

A case in point is the synagogue, which was built in the 16th century by Jews who continued to practice their faith secretly after being converted to Christianity under duress during the Spanish Inquisition. Hidden inside the stone frame of the building’s only eastward-facing window is a cylindrical compartment where worshippers used to conceal their Torah scroll.

“This is a piece of their history, but it is also a piece of mine,” said Camilo Rodríguez Alonso, a non-Jewish lawyer, intellectual and Spanish aristocrat who bought the building to preserve it in 1982, some 15 years before the creation of the Red de Juderias.

The 80-year-old nobleman says he feared the building would be damaged in the real-estate free-for-all that followed the fall of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco in 1975.

“Everything here is historically priceless,” he said of his office, which has massive wooden floors so ancient that lower stories are visible from above through fine cracks along the grain.

Alonso, a jovial father of three who following his recent divorce moved into a bachelor pad with friends near Ribadavia, renovated the building while preserving it. He even had welders add handcrafted Stars of David decorations to the perimeter fence “so that this synagogue, which always operated in secret, would be secret no more,” he told JTA during a recent interview.

Alonso’s deep emotional attachment to Jewish heritage is shared by many Spaniards who even today are pained by the post-Inquisition destruction of one of the world’s most illustrious Jewish communities. Towns like Ribadavia, which once was one-third Jewish, were gradually rendered Jew-free amid persecution that drove away or wiped out Spain’s population of Sephardi Jewry, whose name means simply “Spanish” in Hebrew.

While Alonso is eager to share his love for the building and accommodates special requests to view it, under his ownership the average visitor to Ribadavia has been largely unable to see the synagogue, which is by far the most remarkable Jewish heritage site in the town.

“In my advanced age, it’s difficult to come here and show it,” said Alonso, whose bad hip prevents him from climbing up to the floor housing the ark.

Despite his passion, Alonso’s failure to leverage the synagogue he owns into a tourist asset is typical of efforts to further develop Spain’s Jewish heritage sites, according to Marta Puig Quixal, the newly appointed director of the Red de Juderias.

An intermunicipal organization, the Red, or network, has an annual budget of approximately $500,000. That needs to cover work in 20 cities in a country with a cash-strapped economy that is only now emerging from an eight-year recession with an unemployment rate of 21 percent.

“Each mayor is vying for a slice of the pie,” Quixal said, “but if we divide the money we’ll end up with sums too small to have any impact.”

Budgetary disagreements complicate efforts to buy out private owners like Alonso and develop their heritage, said Quixal, who assumed the directorship of the network earlier this year “in order to try and change the current situation,” as she defined it.

Private investors have largely stayed away from bankrolling Jewish heritage projects in Spain, partly because of the financial crisis and also no one seems to have statistical data on the economic potential of such sites.

“The truth is we don’t have the statistics, we have no reliable market research to offer private investors,” said Quixal, who added that obtaining such data is a high priority for her.

Some 350,000 Jewish tourists from Israel alone visit Spain annually, though most are believed to stay in Barcelona and other large cities. Many Israelis in Madrid visit a former synagogue in Toledo that is among Spain’s most popular museums, with some 300,000 visitors annually, half of them locals.

More anecdotal data can be found even in Ribadavia at the town’s first Jewish bakery, Tafona da Herminia, which 77-year-old Herminia Rodriguez opened 25 years ago. A non-Jew, Rodriguez began baking Jewish pastries 25 years ago as per a special request by Spain’s Center for Medieval Studies. Her riverside bakery has been featured by national publications such as El Pais and even got a mention in The New York Times.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t get customers here, and not a week goes by without me getting some sort of Jewish recipe in the mail,” she said proudly in her dark bakery, where a menorah and an icon of the Virgin Mary share a single shelf. (“They’re together so they’re not jealous,” Rodriguez said, adding, “They’re neighbors after all.”)

Rodriguez has gained fame for making breads and cookies in the shape of a Star of David. Shoppers can choose traditional Sephardic pastries like date-filled maamuls and mostachodus – a clove and walnut crumble — as well as Ashkenazi cookies like kichelach and kupferlins, all baked in her stone oven.

“People want to connect to Jewish heritage, and food is the most immediate way,” she said in explaining her unlikely success.

In Hervas, a town located 230 miles southeast of Ribadavia, Israel-born Abigail Cohen is seeing a similar boom with Candela, the Jewish bakery that she opened four years ago.

“The pastries are selling well because they are Jewish; it’s clear to see that this is the reason for this success,” she said, adding that only 20-30 Jewish tourists pass by her shop annually.

Awareness of the Jewish heritage of Spain and Portugal is doing more than help sell cookies.

Last year, both countries implemented unprecedented legislation offering citizenship to the descendants of Sephardic Jews in what some observers claimed was a bid to attract wealthy investors. Both governments said, however, that the law was the result of regret and guilt over the Inquisition. Some 5,000 Sephardim have already naturalized.

But disagreements over budget and politics continue to hold back the development of the sites connected to Sephardic Jewry, according to Quixal. Earlier this year, four cities from Catalonia, a region where separatist sentiment and politics are strong, broke from the network in a move that has affected its work adversely, she said.

And in a country that holds the European record for municipalities supporting the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement against Israel, some mayors are reluctant to work with Israeli businesses and tour operators because they find doing so “too politicized,” Quixal said.

“This is something that will have to change if we are to move forward from where the Red de Juderias is right now,” she said. “You can’t get Jewish tourists without working with the Jewish state. I mean, we can’t advertise Jewish quarters that don’t want any Jews.”


About urielperez

His leadership and television interviews have gone trough out the world Uriel has done close to 500 interviews in Israel Jerusalem, and many more to come our main goal is to educate the world about Israel and its right to protect herself from any form of terrorism .Israel is facing many challenges and dangers, and has been for a very long time. There is, an unprecedented propaganda campaign initiated by the Arab League to demonize, to discredit and delegitimize the Jewish people and its state, in its own land!. In order to achieve their goals, the Arabs have for more than 30 years resorted to a deliberate misinformation campaign.This propaganda campaign by the Arab League - both in their own countries and for the last three decades exported to Europe and North America - has caused to Israel what would seem irreparable damage and indeed, it was the main culprit in the reawakening of dormant European anti-Semitism Israel has suffered many terror attacks from terrorist .Israel should not bow down to any pressure imposed by the USA the EU. the Quartet nor the UN The current Obama administration continues to work behind the scenes by using John Kerry and others to fulfill their hidden agenda as I call it. The Obama administration is trying to force Israel to give up more land for false peace as we have seen in the past .Judea and Samaria and possibly the Jordan Valley are at the negotiating table and if the so called Palestinians obtain Judea and Samaria and possibly the Jordan Valley, Givat Haroe'eh in the Samaria community of Eli, Ramat Gilad and Giv'at Assaf (also in Samaria), and Mitzpeh Lachish, near Nehogot, outside Hevron. they can easily rain down rockets towards any city within Israel and Israel will be left without defensible borders . We say no land for false peace as we have seen in the past. Barrack Hussein Obama has a hidden agenda against Israel. Israel will face many difficult days ahead See Psalms 83' as we have seen what happened with Gush Katif were almost 9,000 Jews were forced out of their own Jewish land due to US pressure , now Bet El Almuna and Migron and Judea and Samaria face the same consequence .More than 17,000 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel over 11,000, just to Sderot by Islamist extremist who want the total destruction of my people Israel. Hamas terrorist who are supported by Iran and now Hamas has joined hands with Fatah.Iran Lebanon Hezbollah Syria want the total destruction of Israel and now Al Qaeda and ISIS who are operating in Syria Egypt and the Sinai Desert will do anything in their power to destroy my people Israel and all Jews. The Moslem/ Arabs in that area started calling themselves “Palestinians” nearly 40 years ago. “Palestinian” refers to people who live in Palestine: Arabs (“Arabic speaking peoples”), Bedouins, Druze, Christians, and Jews. No people or nation ever ruled as a sovereign national entity on this land there is no Palestinian language or culture in past history. Palestine, as a country does not presently exist. No Arab nation has their historical roots on the land and no one have cl...aim to this territory other than the Jews. The Jewish rule of this land extended over a period of over 2000 years. Israel became a nation in the land in 1312 BC. God gave them the land in a covenant (Deuteronomy 29:1-30:20) and they lived there See Quote from Quran', Death to the enemies of Allah Those that make war against Allah and His apostle and spread disorder in the land shall be slain or crucified or have their hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, or be banished from the land. They shall be held up to shame in this world and sternly punished in the hereafter: except those that repent before you reduce them. For you must know that Allah is forgiving and merciful.Al-Maidah The Table 5:33-34 This is what radical Islam say's about us Jews' "The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Muslim). Judea and Samaria also faces many challenges in the days to come as Abbu Massen will try to pressure the entire world and US President Barrack Hussein Obama the EU and the Quartet into giving more land for false peace we saw what happened after the Oslo Accords were signed more terror against Israel . Abbu Massen the PA. leader approached the United Nations this past November 2012 and has ask them to declare them a recognized nation within Israel known borders. The time has come to tell the entire world the real truth about the enemies of Israel .We speak on the Quran with a Power Point with videos. We have spoken on CNN TV and radio stations on the current issues of Israel, Uriel has a heart for his people Israel and will continue to inform the entire world the real truth as many News Media trough out the world are anti-Semitic and won't tell you the real truth. Born in the USA lives in Israel Jerusalem knows karate and Boxing played semi pro baseball married to Efrat and we have two children a girl and a son all three of them are born in Jerusalem . I discovered in 2004 that were possible Converso Marrano Jews from Spain who's ancestors were forced to convert to Catholicism during the time of the Inquisition in 1492 .Our family names Centeno and Perez are registered in El Libro Verde De Aragon in Spain were the catholic Inquisitors maintained all the names of all Jewish families who were forced to convert to Catholicism during that horrible time period in Spain.A former police officer who knows Karate boxing played semi pro Baseball studied at Temple University political science. Since 2004 we have been Flying back and forth from the USA speaking to the nations on the current issues of the the state of Israel see Psalms 83' as the nations gather against Israel.Have spoken on CNN AL Jazeera Al Arabiya Dubai TV Holland TV German TV also American Family Radio which links up with 700 radio stations .Our goal is to educate the entire world that Israel has the right to self determination and the right to defend itself from terrorism For Bookings call USA-1321-593-0960 Israel 972526357088 Support our work Via Paypal to Visit our Youtube News Channel directly from Israel Jerusalem י חָשַׂף יְהוָה אֶת-זְרוֹעַ קָדְשׁוֹ, לְעֵינֵי כָּל-הַגּוֹיִם; וְרָאוּ, כָּל-אַפְסֵי-אָרֶץ, אֵת, יְשׁוּעַת אֱלֹהֵינוּ. {ס} The LORD hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
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