History of the Jews in Spain – Wikipedia, the free …

Posted By on August 11, 2015

Spanish Jews once constituted one of the largest and most prosperous Jewish communities in the world. This period ended definitively with the Alhambra decree of 1492, as a result of which they were forced to convert to Catholicism, go into exile, or be killed. The Castilian Muslims suffered the same fate in 1500, and a generation later those of Aragn and Valencia.

An estimated 13,000 to 40,000 Jews live in Spain today.[1][2] The remnants of the Spanish (and Portuguese) Jews, the Sephardic Jews, though the worldwide figure is extremely hard to attain[3] specifically for Jews coming from countries where there was a monetary and social disincentive for having a Jewish background (see Marranos for one example), and for various other reasons, on the other end because there are those who just choose the Sephardic set of customs or Hebrew pronunciation. The number of Jews of Sephardic lineage in Israel was put just over 60% of the overall Israeli Jewish and non-Jewish populations in 1990[4] and Sepharadi Jews tend to have a much higher birth-rate than the more secular oriented Ashkenazi classification of Jews.[citation needed] The Jews of Spain spoke Ladino, a Romance language derived mainly from Old Castilian, Judeo-Catalan and Hebrew[citation needed]. The relationship of Ladino to Castilian Spanish is comparable to that of Yiddish to German[citation needed]. Nowadays, Jews in Spain speak Spanish, while Ladino is still used in Israel[citation needed].

Some associate the country of Tarshish, as mentioned in the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, I Kings, Jonah and Romans, with a locale in southern Spain.[citation needed] In generally describing Tyre's empire from west to east, Tarshish is listed first (Ezekiel 27.1214), and in Jonah 1.3 it is the place to which Jonah sought to flee from the Lord; evidently it represents the westernmost place to which one could sail.[citation needed]

The link between Jews and Tarshish is clear. One might speculate that commerce conducted by Jewish emissaries, merchants, craftsmen, or other tradesmen among the Semitic Tyrean Phoenicians might have brought them to Tarshish. Although the notion of Tarshish as Spain is merely based on suggestive material, it leaves open the possibility of a very early, although perhaps limited, Jewish presence in the Iberian Peninsula.[citation needed]

More substantial evidence of Jews in Spain comes from the Roman era.[citation needed] Although the spread of the Jews into Europe is most commonly associated with the Diaspora, which ensued from the Roman conquest of Judea, emigration from Eretz Yisrael into the greater Roman Mediterranean area antedated the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans under Titus. In his Facta et dicta memorabilia, Valerius Maximus makes reference to Jews and Chaldaeans being expelled from Rome in 139 BCE for their "corrupting" influences.[5] According to Josephus, King Agrippa attempted to discourage the Jews of Jerusalem from rebelling against Roman authority by reference to Jews throughout the Roman Empire and elsewhere; Agrippa warned that "the danger concerns not those Jews that dwell here only, but those of them which dwell in other cities also; for there is no people upon the habitable earth which do not have some portion of you among them, whom your enemies might slay, in case you go to war..."[6]

The Provenal Rabbi and scholar, Rabbi Abraham ben David, wrote in anno 1161: A tradition exists with the [Jewish] community of Granada that they are from the inhabitants of Jerusalem, of the descendants of Judah and Benjamin, rather than from the villages, the towns in the outlying districts [of Palestine].[7] When exactly these Jewish immigrants first settled in Spain is not clear, as there are references to two Jewish influxes into Spain, one following the destruction of Israels First Temple and the other after the destruction of the Second.

The earliest mention of Spain[citation needed] is, allegedly, found in Obadiah 1:20: And the exiles of this host of the sons of Israel who are among the Canaanites as far as arfat (Heb. ), and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad, will possess the cities of the south. While the medieval lexicographer, David ben Abraham Al-Alfs, identifies arfat with the city of arfend (Judeo-Arabic: ),[8] the word Sepharad (Heb. ) in the same verse has been translated by the 1st century rabbinic scholar, Yonathan Ben Uzziel, as Aspamia.[9] Based on a later teaching in the compendium of Jewish oral laws compiled by Rabbi Judah Hanasi in 189 CE, known as the Mishnah, Aspamia is associated with a very far place, generally thought of as Hispania, or Spain.[10] In circa 960 CE, isdai ibn apr, minister of trade in the court of the Caliph in Crdoba, wrote to Joseph, the king of Khazaria, saying: The name of our land in which we dwell is called in the sacred tongue, Sepharad, but in the language of the Arabs, the indwellers of the lands, Alandalus [Andalusia], the name of the capital of the kingdom, Crdoba.[11]

According to Rabbi David Kimchi (11601235), in his commentary on Obadiah 1:20, arfat and Sepharad, both, refer to the Jewish captivity (Heb. galut) expelled during the war with Titus and who went as far as the countries Alemania (Germany), Escalona,[12] France and Spain. The names arfat and Sepharad are explicitly mentioned by him as being France and Spain, respectively. Some scholars think that, in the case of the place-name, arfat (lit. arfend) which, as noted, was applied to the Jewish Diaspora in France, the association with France was made only exegetically because of its similarity in spelling with the name (France), by a reversal of its letters.

Spanish Jew, Moses de Len (ca. 1250 1305), mentions a tradition concerning the first Jewish exiles, saying that the vast majority of the first exiles driven away from the land of Israel during the Babylonian captivity refused to return, for they had seen that the Second Temple would be destroyed like the first.[13] In yet another teaching, passed down later by Moses ben Machir in the 16th century, an explicit reference is made to the fact that Jews have lived in Spain since the destruction of the First Temple:[14]

Similarly, Gedaliah ibn Jechia the Spaniard has written:[15]

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